Saranda, Albania: A Guide To Albania's Most Popular Beach Destination
Updated: Sep 13
Saranda is a coastal town on the Albanian Riviera along the Ionian Sea. It’s the largest city in southern Albania and only a 30-minute ferry ride away from the popular Greek island of Corfu. In recent years, Saranda has become a popular tourist destination thanks to its easy access, affordability, and strategic location to discover other beaches and historic sites from. The city itself is very lively, with lots of entertainment options throughout the day and night.
Check out our video on Saranda to get a sense of what it's like there!
Saranda Table Of Contents
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Important Things To Know
Best time to travel to Saranda
Saranda has some amazing beaches. However, the popularity of Saranda has also led to large crowds flocking to its beautiful beaches. This can be a bit overwhelming, especially during the summer months! This is why we recommend going from April to June or from September to October.
Cost & currency in Saranda
Everything in Saranda, Albania is very affordable, from food and drinks to housing. In Albania, they use the Albanian Lek so if you plan on going, keep an eye out on the exchange rates to save even more money. If you make a travel budget with our travel planner definitely keep in mind that for most beaches you'll have to pay €10-20 for 2 chairs and an umbrella.
Safety in Saranda
Saranda is very safe. Albania doesn't have the best image in tourists minds yet, but we never felt unsafe during our trip. Even at night, we didn't encounter any problems.
Where To Stay
Vila Mateo: Clean and comfortable place away from the hustle and bustle of the city center. It is on a hill so we recommend having a car when staying here.
Hotel Sole: No worries in this 4-star hotel close to Mango Beach where you have everything at your fingertips.
Great Alexander Suites: Close to the center and beaches. All the apartments have air conditioning and TVs.
Where To Eat And Drink
There are many food and drink options in Saranda. Here are some places that we liked:
Kasandro: local and affordable food options with a lot of locals
The Nomad Burger & Steak: best burgers in the area and great ambiance
Taverna Kapiteni: a well-liked place by many locals with great seafood
Te Bequa: traditional Albanian food
Oda Ë Babes: traditional Albanian and Greek food
Wine Bar Kristiano: beautiful view of the sunset over Saranda
Best things to do in Saranda
There are so many things to do in and around Saranda but we'll highlight our top 10 favorites.
If you're traveling to Saranda and want to save time searching for directions to all of the places we mention in this article, then look no further than our custom map. Simply click on a point in the map below to get directions there for yourself!
10. Walk the boulevard
The first thing you should do when you get to Saranda is walking its boulevard. It stretches for about 1 kilometer along the horseshoe bay. Fringed with lush palm trees, it’s a beautiful pedestrian walkway and a true hub of entertainment. There are plenty of bars and restaurants here, with great Mediterranean and international food options. Some of these turn into clubs at night. But there is also a ferris wheel and a small entertainment park to enjoy. The promenade comes alive in the evenings!
9. Try the local food
Albania has a rich food culture, influenced by Italian, Greek, and Balkan traditions. Each region has its own specialties and Saranda in particular is famous for its fresh fish and seafood. Other dishes you should try are the baked lamb with yogurt (Tavë kosi), Albanian pie (byrek), and baked cheese (Kackavall ne Furre). Saranda is full of restaurants, and you can find food at almost every corner of town. We recommend eating at a traditional Albanian restaurant at least once, find our recommendations here!
8. Visit the Blue Eye
About 22 kilometers, or 13 miles, inland from Saranda sits one of Albania’s most popular tourist attractions. The Blue Eye is a freshwater spring, known for its stunning beauty and clear turquoise water. The source is a natural phenomenon, with oxygen bubbles rising up from a karst hole of more than 50 meters in depth. There is a viewing platform where you can observe this event! The nature surrounding the river and spring is absolutely gorgeous. You can book a half-day guided tour to the Blue Eye to make your trip easier.
7. Watch the sunset from Lekursi Castle
Saranda is surrounded by tall hills, offering spectacular views over the city as well as the neighboring Greek Island of Corfu. One of the best views can be observed from Lekursi Castle, dating back to Albania’s early Ottoman times. And while there aren’t many remains left, the castle boasts some of the best sunset views in the area. Inside the castle is a restaurant (Restorant Kalaja e Lekuresit) with an enormous outdoor terrace. It’s a great spot for dinner or drinks while watching the sun set into the sea.
6. Relax at Saranda’s main beach
Saranda’s main beach is located in the bay and it’s a public one! One unfortunate thing we noticed along the Albanian Riviera is the privatization of its beautiful beaches. Over the last decades, one after the other has been developed for tourists, with immense amounts of sunbeds and umbrellas as a result. This is luckily not the case at Saranda’s main beach. There is no fee to relax here next to the calm blue waters. However, it is recommended to bring a cushion or thick towel because the beach has mainly pebbles!
We also discuss more beach destinations on the Albanian Riviera in our full Albania Travel Guide.
5. Explore the ruins at Butrint National Park
Located about 18 kilometers, or 11 miles, south of Saranda, Butrint National Park is an absolute must-visit! Sitting next to a picturesque lagoon, this UNESCO World Heritage Site dates back to as early as the 12th Century BC. But what makes this site special is its mix of different cultures who left a mark on the city, such as the Greeks, Romans, and Venetians. Elements of these cultures are visible in the archeological site today, such as the Roman theater, the Venetian Castle, and the Great Basilica. To get to Butrint, it’s best to take the bus from Saranda Port, which takes about 45 minutes. Check out the bus schedule.
4. Visit the Monastery of the 40 Saints
Saranda takes its name from the Monastery of Forty Saints, which is located on one of the hills behind the bay. Constructed in the 400s, this Eastern Orthodox monastery was once an important pilgrimage site. Today, the monastery is in a state of ruin due to war damage. However, the views over Saranda are absolutely stunning from here, making it worth a visit.
3. Explore the Albanian Riviera
There are tons of other natural attractions and beautiful beaches to explore to the North and South of Saranda. However, keep in mind that many of the beaches are private so it’s best to do your homework before! A place we would avoid during summertime is Ksamil, as it gets extremely crowded. A few public beaches that we really enjoyed include the beach of Himara and Porto Palermo. At the latter, there is also a castle you can visit! Other beautiful places include Dhermi, Llogara National Park, and Gjipe Canyon and Beach.
2. Day trip to Gjirokaster
Our favorite thing to do from Saranda was to go on a day trip to the astonishing town of Gjirokaster. Located about 55 kilometers or 34 miles inland from Saranda, Gjirokaster is filled with incredible culture and history. The ancient town center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its remarkable blend of Ottoman and Byzantine architecture. And while strolling through the streets is an experience in itself, it’s the Fortress that towers above the center that is the star attraction. We recommend getting a guided walking tour of the Gjirokaster’s highlights to truly understand the history and culture. And while it’s possible to visit for the day, we highly recommend staying at least 2 days here if you can. If you stay longer, make sure to check out our full Gjirokaster Travel Guide to see all the best things to do there.
1. Go on a boat tour
One way to escape the crowded beaches near Saranda while still experiencing the clear-blue waters of the Albanian Riviera is to go on a boat tour. There are many agencies that offer tours in the bay of Saranda on the boulevard and we suggest booking directly with one of them to get the best price. Our boat tour took us to a number of unspoiled beaches. We were allowed to jump off the boat at some, while others were just to admire the crystal waters. For the final stop of our tour, we arrived at Krorez Beach, where we had a few hours to relax and swim. But keep in mind that you have to pay a fee to lay on the sunbeds here!
Use These Websites To Save Money On Your Trip To Saranda
Booking.com for places to stay
Skyscanner for cheap flights
GetYourGuide for local tours
Rentalcars.com for affordable car rentals
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If you're looking for some other suggestions and tips on Saranda, here are some great articles that will help you:
18 Things To Do In Saranda, Albania by Travelling Balkans
19 Things To Do In Saranda, Albania Riviera by Chasing The Donkey
26 Best Things To Do In Saranda, Albania by Anita Hendrieka
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