Saranda in Albania is a relatively small port, a stone’s throw from the Greek Corfu. It’s located at the coast of the Ionian sea and it has 290 (!) sunny days per year.
What can you do in Saranda, Albania?
Saranda itself is not a great attraction, unless you’re into buildings at various stages of construction. Tourism has arrived in Sarandë relatively recently and so has increased the demand for hotels and hostels. Consequently, the most striking highlight of Sarandë are hundreds of unfinished buildings. The town is surrounded by hills which, a couple of years ago were still green. Now, you can see hotels, half-erected walls and wires instead.
This doesn’t mean, however, that this place doesn’t have its own charm. I actually enjoyed it very much and was glad that I decided to stay there that long.
Keep on reading to find out eight best things to do in Sarandë.
Go for a lazy stroll on the main promenade in Saranda, Albania
Watch the sunset, stop and let yourself be surprised by the sight of stairs in the middle of the beach, check out unknown species of trees..
One of the things that fascinate me about Albania is that life happens on the streets. In Poland, it is very unlikely to see elderly people having a walk in the evening. It’s far more likely to see them occupying local buses between 9-12 pm when they’re going to churches or doctors. In Albania, the elderly spend time outdoors, let it be on a promenade, in parks or simply on the street.
Sarandë is a touristic town, mainly due to the fact that it’s so close to Corfu and it’s a starting point for trips to go to Butrinti, Ksamili, Blue Eye and Gjirokastër. Be prepared to slalom through hundreds of people, especially in the evening when adolescents are storming into numerous night clubs.
Another characteristic feature of the Sarandë promenade are Albanians selling roasted maize. I’ve tried it a few times. It’s this type of food you eat when you’re hungry but there’s nothing else to buy. Mind you, roasted maize makes your teeth very, very dirty.
Take a bath in the sea by the beach in Saranda, Albania
Let’s be honest. The city beach in Sarandë is not the most amazing I’ve been to, but it’s relatively clean and water in the sea is just gorgeous. It doesn’t mean that you can snorkel and admire sea-life beneath you. It’s all about the temperature of the water. Simply jump into the sea and let the gentle waves refresh you.
Eat fresh and tasty sea-food in one of the numerous restaurants on Saranda promenade and drink Albanian beer
My first evening in Sarandë I spent with Monika, another girl travelling solo (from Poznan!). We went for some beers and decided to stay in a port-restaurant with an amazing view over the sea. The second evening was a bit different. With Monika and Erik, an Albanian student living in Italy, we went to a restaurant recommended by the hostel owner. We were the only tourists there, although it was located maybe one-minute walk from the main promenade. The food was really good and still very cheap. Having indulged ourselves with food, we took a walk and returned to the hostel after dark. The hostel owner and his wife joined us for a long evening of card playing, jokes and typically hostel-like socializing.
Sit down and watch The Life of Saranda
What can I say? That’s my favourite one!
Check out the old ruins in the centre of Saranda
Where else would you find ancient ruins just in the middle of the town near a busy bus station? It’s not guarded, you don’t need to pay any fee, just go there and admire the tangible sign of passing time.
Visit the ancient town of Butrint which is close to Saranda
Butrint is immense. It’s a whole ancient town located only 18 km away from Sarandë. Buses leave from the main bus stop every two hours and are usually incredibly crowded. Most likely you will have to stand at least half of the ride, which despite short distance, is actually pretty long. Anyway, Butrinit is awesome and I wish I hadn’t been feeling so awful when I was dragging my feet through this ancient town. The truth is, it was so unbelievably hot that I could not focus on the old ruins but was basically doing my best not to die of overheating.
Nevertheless, what I liked most about Butrinit was the Greek theatre dating back to the 3rd century BC. I find it hard to imagine, though, that it could host up to 2500 people back in the day. Apart from the theatre, there is also an impressive 6th century baptistry and basilica. Painful as it is to admit it here, I don’t remember much more than that, since I was basically jumping from one piece of shade into another one, dreaming of swimming in cool sea. I can now well understand why southern countries have the siesta time. When it’s so scorching hot, it’s impossible to carry on with “normal” life.
Make a day trip to Ksamil and swim around the islands
Ksamil village is basically four little islands, two of which are connected with a very narrow passage. It all looks extremely charming and I must admit that although the place was pretty crowded, I enjoyed it very much.
Go for a beer in the evening to one of the port restaurants in Saranda
Just bear in mind that a “large beer” means 0.3 litre. The view over the sea compensates it , though.