Sarandë, the gateway to the southern Albania, is a small town of about 33,000 inhabitants, situated on a beautiful horseshoe bay between the mountains and the Ionian Sea. The name Saranda is derived from an early Christian monastery dedicated to Agioi Saranta (Forty Saints). In antiquity, Saranda was known as Onchesmus.
Opposite the Greek island of Corfu, Saranda is characterized by a Mediterranean climate and warm sea waters. Saranda typically has over 300 sunny days a year. Due to its location and warm weather, Saranda is one of the most attractive tourist towns on the Albanian Riviera, where honeymooners traditionally spend their holidays. Fronting the sea and along the main promenade, there are some hotels and restaurants.
- 1 Saranda Tourist Info Center (Glass sphere building), Shetitorja Naim Frasheri (near the Molo by the beach). There are two Tourist Info Centers (one yellow-domed building on the boardwalk, another more traditional office near the bus center). Both are excellent resources for bus timetables. An added bonus is that the employees speak good English.
- 2 Ferry Port.
To the nearby Greek island of Corfu (New Port). The daily ferryboats are at 10:30; 13:00 and 16:30 (fewer out of season - check with the ticket office at the port). The 10:30 passage is a hydrofoil which takes about 25-45 minutes. The 16:30 is a car ferry. Corfu is one hour ahead of Albania. One way costs €19, return €38.
Buses to/from Tirana can be travelled with the bus lines, taxi vans or taxis. There are two itineraries: Tirana-Durres-Fieri-Vlora-Dhermi-Saranda or Tirana-Durresi-Fieri-Mallakastra-Tepelena-Gjirokastra-Saranda. If you travel through the Riviera (the first) you should pay more attention as the way is narrow.
There is also a Tirana-Sarandë bus line by RivieraBus.com. Their route connects all main Albanian resorts such as Durres, Vlore, Dhermi, Jale, Himara, Borsh and Sarandë.
There are lines to/from Vlore that go through the Riviera or "Bregu" (a line of picturesque, gorgeous Mediterranean beaches and villages; Bregu is the summer hostel of the Prime Minister and President). The line from Gjirokaster to Tepelene, Fier and Tirana also passes Sarandë. From Ioannina to Kakavi takes around 40 minutes by bus or taxi. When you reach Kakavi, you follow this itinerary: Kakavi-Gjirokaster-Jergucat-Qafe e Muzines-Sarandë.
It is connected with Greece by land: (i) By the border of Qafe Bota with Igoumenitsa; (ii) By the border of Kakavi with Ioannina.
The tourists, who come here from Greece, reach the border of Kakavi in two ways: from Ioannina and Igoumenitsa. From Ioannina to Kakavi takes around 40 min. When you reach Kakavi, you follow this itinerary: Kakavi-Gjirokaster-Jergucat-Qafe e Muzines-Sarandë. Though Qafe-Bota, the itinerary is Igoumenitsa-Qafe Bote-Sarandë, but the roadway is narrower.
A Greek taxi from Igoumenitsa costs €105 (August 2022). Travellers report that there are KTEL busses on the Greek side (from the border to Igoumenitsa, a Greek taxi is €40). Neither the fastest nor the cheapest but maybe the prettiest option for Igoumenitsa is a speedboat Sarandë/Corfu (25€, pedestrians only) and a ferry Corfu/Igoumenitsa (8€).
The idea of an airport in the village of Viron is of great interest, because it is only 5 km from Saranda. A facility is the urban service offered nowadays.
The local bus from Sarandë center to Ksamil costs 150 lek (last updated 2022-08-18). It 1 starts at the roundabout behind the harbour and public beach (there's even a timetable hanging on a street light) but also stops few times on its way.
It runs once per hour in both ways between 06:30 and 19:30.
The same bus continues to Butrint.
The SH81 road connecting Sarandë, Ksamil and Butrint is heavily congested in high season, especially around sunset when beach day trippers return from Ksamil to Sarandë. This affects not only the cars but also the busses and taxis. This means that a bus ride does not take significantly longer than taking a taxi or own car.
- 1 Ruins of a 5th-century synagogue, Rruga Skënderbeu and Rruga Vangjel Pandi cnr.
- Ethnographic Museum.
- Old Castle of Lekures at "Qafa e Gjashtes" (The Pass of Six) (above Saranda). There is a nice outdoor restaurant within the castle from which you have panoramic views of Saranda Bay below, the inland mountains, the Butrint Lagoon and the island of Corfu on the Ionian Sea.
- 2 Borsh (35 km north). a maritime village.
- 3 Butrint National Park and Archaeological Site, Butrint, Ksamil (just outside of Ksamil). This is an UNESCO World Heritage site. Butrint was an ancient city throughout Greek, Roman, bishopric and Byzantine periods. The city was finally abandoned during the Middle Ages perhaps due to the marsh surrounding and subsequent malaria epidemic. - Despite being one of the greatest classical cities of the Mediterranean, Butrint remains largely unknown. The current archaeological site includes an impressive Roman amphitheater, a Byzantine Basilica (the largest in the world after Hagia Sophia in Istanbul), a Roman temple with mosaic floor, a beautifully carved lion's gate as well numerous constructions built throughout the periods. Furthermore, what you see is just 15 per cent of what lies beneath. Most of the sights are under tree shadows so you can go even in midday heat. As of August 2022, there are city buses that run to Butrint, via Ksamil, every hour on the half hour, from 06:30 until 19:30 (06:30, 8:30, 10:30...16:30). The same bus line runs from Butrint to Saranda, via Ksamil (100 lek), every hour on the half hour from 07:30 until 17:30 (07:30, 9:30, 11:30....19:30). Bus price is 100 lek per person (up to Ksamil) and can be picked up at the main Saranda bus station or across the street from Hotel Buntrinti. Butrint visitors should allocate approximately 2 hours to enjoy the site; archaeology fans will probably want closer to 3 hours. 1000 lek.
- 4 Dhërmi beach (65 km north). — one of the finest of the many beaches along the coastal road, perfect for camping.
- 5 Ksamil beach (near Sarandë; the bus from Sarandë serves both Ksamili and Butrint). This village has a beautiful beach with several small islands you could swim to. Ksamili is now heavily developed, with a large number of partially-completed properties. An extraordinary sight is that some of these new buildings are toppling over; this is believed to be where buildings have gone up without permission, and the police have sabotaged the building by pulling out a couple of upright pillars, leaving the owner to clear up the damage.
- 6 Lukove beach (20 km north). - part of the Albanian Riviera, here is Kakome, one of the most beautiful Albanian beaches. As of July 2018 the road access to Kakome beach was blocked by closed gates with guards, apparently due to a construction project.
- 7 Syri i Kalter (The Blue Eye), Delvinë District (25 min away by driving). Water spring - a natural phenomenon. The clear blue water of the river bubbles forth from a stunning, more than 50 m-deep pool. A great place to visit and relax.
- 1 Central Park (Friendship Park, Parku Miqesia), Rruga Telat Noga & Rruga Onhezmi corner.
- Sunset at Lekures. In the afternoon, when the sun is setting, you should go to Lekures, and watch the sun set, or you could go to the beach and relax with your friends or family while enjoying the beautiful sunset. Something else that you can do, when it’s not a really hot day is to go camping. If it’s not a hot day, camping would be a really good experience and also allow you to have a good time looking at the stars at night, and it would be a change from going to the beach. Another idea is to visit a new beach each day, such as one day “pllakat” the next day “manastiri” and so on.
- After visiting Ali Pasha Tepelena Castle, you could go to the Pulbardha Beach and enjoy some great food and relax on the sandy beach.
- 1 Myrtaj Shop (Market Vellezerit Myrtaj), Rruga Onhezmi.
- Skenderbeu Cognac
- Miniature bunker from alabaster
- Albanische Mythologie book
- Souvenirs made from sea shells in Ksamil
- LLogara honey is a local speciality - it is sold by various merchants on the road.
Sarandë is bustling with restaurants, cafes and bars. Fast food places offer a surprisingly cheap and tasty variety of options: €1 will usually get you a good souvlaki (usually pork) or a very nice crepe. Look out for yoghurt flavoured ice cream on the boardwalk, near the tourist info office.
Fresh fish is abundant in Saranda and available at most restaurants. Establishments next to the sea and fishing ports provide the freshest fish but generally speaking good seafood can be had all around.
There are a few places you can eat in Ksamil. At least 4 restaurants in Ksamil are open year-round, but in the summer there are a lot more options and many are just seconds from the beach. Most serve either sea food or a mix of pizza, Greek dishes and heavy meat based fast food.
- 1 Restorant Te Bequa, Rruga Telat Noga.
- 2 Bar Restaurant "La Banana", Rruga Ismail Tatzati.
- 3 Restaurant Te Bequa 2, Rruga Butrinti.
- 4 Restaurant Taste of the south, Rruga Butrinti perball Lulishtes.
Albanian raki, the local firewater.
- Hostel "Hasta La Vista", location: Idriz Alidhima Street In Front of the Football Stadium Sarande. Hostel Hasta La Vista offers Reception 24/7 with 36 air-conditioned accommodations with blackout drapes/curtains. Guests can surf the web using the complimentary reliable high-speed wireless Internet access. Guests can make use of the shared/communal kitchen. Guests have access to shared bathrooms. Bathrooms include showers. Housekeeping is offered daily and hair dryers can be requested. €10.
- 1 Backpackers SR (Tomi's Hostel), Rruga Mithat Hoxha Num 10, Lagja 4 Sarande, 7500 (*Directions from Bus - From the bus stop walk downhill towards the sea, when you reach the promenade turn right on to Ionianet street and walk to the eucalyptus in the center of the road and turn left and 50 m on the right you will see a yellow and grey building No. 10. At the dark brown door, ring the bell (Tomi), a six-minute walk. *Directions from the Corfu ferry - Exit the customer area, walk up the ramp, turn right and 50 m in front you should see a yellow and grey building with an internet cafe on the ground floor. Look for the dark brown door to the left of the creppe shop. Ring the bell named Tomi. One minute walk.), ☏ , email@example.com. Check-in: 09:00-23:00, check-out: 12:00. Centrally located in the heart of town, close to everything Saranda has to offer. Bus route 6 min walk, Corfu ferry 1 min, Bus st. to Ksamil/Butrint 1 min, Bus st. to Greece 2 min, beach in front of the hostel, the famous promenade (xhiro) on our doorstep, the farmers market, fresh fruits & vegs 1 min. Open year-round. 14 dorm beds in a new building. Free breakfast. Free wifi. Kitchen. Free security lockers. Free linen & bedsheets. Free coffee and tea. Roof terrace. Beach BBQ dinners in front of the hostel in the summer. Run by Tomi, a local resident, who is such a nice and helpful guy. He will make you feel right at home by going out of his way to help you out. Knows lots of information about day trips to Butrint and the Blue Eye. €11.
- 2 The Hairy Lemon Hostel, Rruga Mitat Hoxha, 8th floor (lemon logo on door), Koder (Directions: A taxi from the port costs €3. Otherwise, with your back to the Port turn left and continue on this coastal road (part tarmac and part dirt track) 1 km till you see a sign on the right: 'Pharmacy' and on the left 'Kasandro Restaurant' at the 'Apollonia Hotel' junction. Ask anyone along the coastal road for 'Apollonia Hotel'. From the map 'Andon Lapa Hotel' to 'Apollonia Hotel' is a 2-3 min walk. Above the 'Pharmacy' in the 10-storey lemon and orange building, look up to the 8th floor to see an Albanian flag hanging from their balcony. Go to the opposite side of this building to find the entrance. You can get a key to the building from the shop near the building entrance. Take the lift to the 8th floor. From the lift go left, and the 'Hairy Lemon' is behind the last door on the left), ☏ , , firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 12:00-23:00, check-out: 11:00. A small 18-bed hostel run by a great Irish lady. Has hot shower, laundry, free breakfast, 24-hour tea and coffee, internet, comfy bunks and a large balcony with great views of the beach and Corfu. €12 (€14 Jul-Aug).
- 3 The Wallaby Hostel, Rruga Pandeli Bocari, 9703 Sarandë, ☏ , email@example.com. Check-in: 14:00-0:00, check-out: 11:00. Hostel run by two wacky Australian blokes. Reception's available 24/7 along with sociable staff. Games of beer pong are often had and the owners will take you out for pub crawls.
- Holiday Apartments from locals, everywhere in and around Sarandë. There are plenty of private houses, apartments offered by locals especially during the high season period. The accommodation offered ranges from low-budget to highly exclusive locations both for low and reasonably high prices. However, if you are traveling in a group of more than 2 people, it is worth considering. The apartments can usually accommodate up to 10 people and are much cheaper than a hotel. Furthermore, you can usually cook in the apartment and save some money. But make sure to book your accommodation in advance, since most of the apartments get booked out very fast.
- 4 Epirus Hotel, Mitat Hoxha 2. dbl €23 incl. breakfast.
- 5 Hotel Palma, Rruga Mitat Hoxha. sgl from €20.
- 6 Porto Eda Hotel, Rruga Jonianet, ☏ , fax: , firstname.lastname@example.org. The simple. Mobile: +355 69 7233180 dbl €45.
- 7 Hotel Aulona, Rruga Lefter Talo, nr.84. Wi-Fi. Double from €25.
- Hotel Kaonia, Rruga Jonianet, 22? Tel.+355 85 222600
- Hotel Ari, Rruga (street) Jonianet, 20, double from €40
- Villa Kanina, At Rruga Studenti and Rruga Sali Ceka corner +355 69 558 4338, double from €25
- 8 Hotel New Heaven, Saranda Butrinti Road (1 km from port). Twenty rooms with a shower. Double €30.
- Hotel Butrinti, Rruga Naim Frasheri, ☏ , email@example.com. This luxury five-star hotel is prohibitively expensive but very pretty. There are 87 rooms in total with many of them having beautiful views of the Ionian Sea.
- Vila Duraku (Hotel Duraku), Rruga Naim Frashëri, ☏ . Very comfortable and clean rooms, and the staff is very qualified. Free WiFi and private parking. Pets are not allowed. Languages spoken by the staff include English, Italian and Greek. The average cost of stay is 6,700 lek.
- Hotel ‘Dea’ (1 km from the city center, walk along the road Sarand-Butrinti), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. 20 rooms, all with views on the sea, 3 large suites, a big swimming pool, bar, restaurant, reception and 24-hour private parking.
- Albanian Riviera
- Borsh (N 35 km) a maritime village
- Corfu in Greece is the island of grace and politeness. It lies opposite the coast of Epirus mainland and it is separated from Albania in the north part of it by a narrow strait of 1.5 sea miles. Corfu is the capital of the seven Ionian Islands with an area of 592 km², it is the second largest island of the Ionian Islands, with a beautiful coastline of 217 km. Corfu is also the greenest island of all Greece. The impressive vegetation of the island consist mainly of olive and cypress trees
- Dhërmi one of the finest of the many beaches along the coastal road, perfect for camping.
- Gjirokastër (N 55 km (34 mi))— another UNESCO city in the south, it is known for its unique Ottoman period architecture. There is a large castle on the hill in the middle of the city.
- Korce (N 245 km (152 mi) via Tepelene several miles from the Greek border) — this city is full of life during the summer when you can find couples and families strolling through the city's main park, Parku Rinia. You can hike to the top of the beautiful mountain Moravia and view the city and its surrounding landscape.
- Ksamil — On the edge of the Butrint national park. An absolute gem
- Përmet (NE 110 km (68 mi) approximately 30 km (19 mi) from the Greek border.) — Nicknamed “The City of Roses,” Përmet is located in the Vjosa River Valley. The city is known for its clean environment and tradition of wine and raki making. Old Permet is worth a look. Around it: Benjë, and Leusë villages
- Pogradec (NE 280 km (170 mi)) — Overshadowed by its glitzy neighbors on the Macedonian side of the lake, the town of Pogradec has experienced a revival.
- Tepelene (N 80 km (50 mi)) there is a ruined citadel occupying a point 300 m above the Vjosë river
- Fir of Hotova National Park (NE 120 km (75 mi) and 15 km (9.3 mi) north of Permet)
- Lukove part of the Albanian Riviera, here is Kakome, one of the most beautiful Albanian beaches
- Vlorë (N 120 km (75 mi)) lively seaside city, nice beaches south of town. Passenger ferries to and from Italy dock here.
- Vuno (N 85 km (53 mi)) a small village a few kilometres north to the town of Himarë
- Himarë (53 km (33 mi)) Greek/Albanian town on the seaside of the Albanian Riveria with beautiful beaches and an ancient old town