Sarandë, also known as Saranda, is a small city of about 33,000 inhabitants situated on a bay between the mountains and the Ionian Sea.
The name Saranda derives from an early Christian monastery dedicated to Agioi Saranta (Forty Saints). In antiquity, Saranda was known as Onchesmus. Located opposite the Greek island of Corfu, Saranda is characterized by a Mediterranean climate and warm sea waters, as well as a large Greek and transient expat population.
Saranda can be reached by either land or sea.
It is connected with Greece by three routes:
From Ioannina through the Kakavia border point
You can fly from Athine to Ioannina, and then the roadway from Janina 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.
There are direct buses from Ioannina that passes the border and leave you at Gjirokaster.
From Igoumenitsa through the Qafe Bote border point
Through the Qafe Bote crossing point, the route to Saranda is direct (Igoumenitsa-Qafe Bote-Sarandë); however, the roadway is narrower.
It is reached from other parts of Albania by two important routes:
From Tirana to Saranda, one can travel with the bus lines, taxi vans, or taxis. There are two itineraries:
If you travel through the riviera (the first) you should pay more attention as the way is narrow.
Since 2016 there has been a new bus line Tirana-Saranda-Tirana - RivieraBus. New bus route connecting all main Albanian resorts such as Durres, Vlore, Dhermi, Jale, Himara, Borsh, and Saranda.
The bus station in Tirana which has buses to Saranda is near the roundabout with eagle (intersection of Rruga Teodor Keo and Rruga 29 Nentori - highway to Durres). It now takes just 5 hours via the inland route thanks to new roads. Price is 1300 lek.
The idea of an airport in the village of Vrion is of great interest, because it is only 5 km away from Saranda. A facility is the urban service offered nowadays.
There are direct buses from Skopje to Sarandë (including night buses every two days).
Saranda has a boulevard called "Shëtitorja Naim Frashëri" where during the evening everyone goes to walk around. It stretches for about 1 kilometer and is by the seaside (only 5 meters away from coast). On the other side of of the promenade sits bars, restaurants, and many souvenir shops. In this area there are a lot of plants and shills, locals making the scene posing as tourists, passing the word.
Many car rentals around port - e.g. Scandinavian Tourist Center (Mitsubishi Colt 35 euro/day, 100 euro cash deposit)
The village of Ksamili just south of Saranda. It has a beautiful beach with several small islands one can swim to. The bus from Saranda serves both Ksamili and Butrint. Ksamili is now heavily developed, with a large number of part-completed properties. A rather unique 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.
Just outside of Ksamili, lies Butrint, a UNESCO World Heritage site and national park. Butrint was an ancient city throughout Greek, Roman, and Byzantine periods. The city was finally abandoned during the Middle Ages likely 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 gate as well as numerous other constructions built throughout the periods. Furthermore, what you see is just 15 percent of what lies beneath. As of summer of 2005, there is an international archaeological team performing excavations at Butrint which can be observed inside the park.
700 lek entry fee (€5)
The amphitheater is used as a performance venue by world amateur theater troops at the annual Butrinti 2000 International Festival of Theater
Above Saranda is the old Castle of Lekures at "Qafa e Gjashtes" (The Pass of Six), also known as Lekursi Castle (Lëkurësi Castle). 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. After visiting Butrint and the Ali Pasha Tepelena Castle, you could go to the Pulbardha Beach and enjoy some great food and relax on the sandy beach. Syri i Kalter is just 25 min away past the city of Saranda. This is a great place to visit and relax.
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 it would be a change from going to the beach because it could get a bit boring and tiresome to just go to the beach. So for a change you could go camping because not only will you have a good time looking at the stars at night, but you would be trying something different. Something else you should do is visit a new beach each day, such as one day “pllakat” the next day “manastiri” and so on. You should also take a ferry to visit Corfu, for it is only a hour or two away from the coast of Saranda.
During peak season there are a lot of people at Lekursi Castle during sunset which can somewhat spoil the atmosphere.
For good, up to date information on Lekursi Castle: http://www.sarandaweb.com/food-dining/lekursi-castle-lekuresi/
Saranda is bustling with restaurants, cafes, and bars. Fast food places offer a surprisingly cheap and tasty variety of options. 1 euro will usually get you a good souvlaki (usually pork) or a very nice crepe. Keep an eye out for yoghurt flavoured ice cream on the boardwalk, near the tourist info office. In Ksamili, there are a few places you can eat at. At least 4 restaurants in Ksamil are open year-round, but in the summer there are a great deal more options and many are just seconds from the beach.
If you go to Saranda you must try the fish. Since Saranda is next to the sea, restaurants which are located next to water would be best because those are the places that usually have fresh fish. You should also try the squid, mussel, and shrimp. You would be missing out if you didn't try various cooking styles, not just fried. The best time to eat seafood is after a nice long day of swimming, naturally.
Klironomi - next to the sea, nice host and seafood, good wine - 5-10 euros per dinner with wine
Byrektore Turi - probably the best burek in town
Albanian raki, the local firewater.
The luxury five star Hotel Butrint in Saranda is prohibitively expensive but very pretty. Another luxury hotel is "Hotel Duraku". The rooms are very comfortable and clean, and the staff is very qualified. It costs around 90euro/night for a family.
The simple yet nice Porto Eda Hotel.
Hotel ‘Dea’ tel 00355692724043 e-mail; [email protected] .Probably the best out there in Saranda,with 20 rooms all rooms view on the sea, 3 large suites,big swimming pool,bar restaurant reception 24h/24 private parking,it is only 1 km from the city center so you can just have a nice walk along the road Sarand-Butrinti and you are there
As everywhere in Albania, some areas suffer from waste disposal issues, and illegal construction, while others from excessive noise pollution by beach clubs. Bottled water is recommended instead of tap water for drinking as there are high chlorine levels.
Warnings exist against travel to the nearby town of Lazarat, due to an untenable situation for local law enforcement to control violence by local gangs in defense of illegal marijuana cultivation operations.
You may hear stories of a 'mafia' who are in involved in human trafficking and marijuana manufacturing and smuggling, but the fact is that this just doesn't happen in Saranda, being a developed resort town with a large police presence. But of course, these activities are very much a reality in the very rural, mountainous villages. However it's extremely unlikely that you will ever go to these places. So you will only encounter trouble if you go looking for it.
Many stalled construction projects, large and small, are problematic especially towards Ksamili. But violence is extremely rare in Saranda as it is a resort town. Whatever you have heard about "violent street gangs" is misinformation or it's just plain rascism directed towards Albania: Because such problems just don't exist in Saranda.
While there is a regional culture of 'Vendetta' i.e "blood feuds" and domestic violence is very high, you will not see this in your time in Saranda. Street fighting, gang gunplay and armed conflict simply don't exist...But of course it's different in the remote rural mountain areas where it's a completely different culture.
A few residential areas have children who speak English very well but sadly do not go to school because their parents cannot afford it or simply do not want to pay for it: Therefore some very petty attempts at pickpocketing can occasionally be an issue. But it's no worse than say street kids in India, Thailand, South America etc. Just use common sense and it will be a non-issue.
Local police may be reluctant to discuss matters with you in public or sometimes may discourage you from being seen speaking to police. However, despite corruption still being a problem, the police are much better than they have been in previous years and are generally pretty helpful towards tourists, with tourism being the number one industry in Saranda.