The town of Saranda (in Albanian: Sarandë) is one of the key resort towns on the Albanian Riviera. It is just 14 kilometres from the Greek island of Corfu. During the communist period it remained largely a sleepy fishing village with some summer vacation properties for officials. However, since the opening up of the country and especially since the 2000’s the town has undergone a boom (with the occasional bust in real estate). Now not only Albanian’s flock to the coast but Greeks and residents of land locked Macedonia and Kosovo as well as Italians.
Those looking for a relaxing getaway will be disappointed especially in summer as the population swells from 30,000 to over 100,000. It is a party town focused on the young and families alike. But the town also offers the opportunity to venture out and explore the smaller beach town of Ksamil and the UNESCO site of Butrint. Both are easily accessible by public bus. Also, the coastal strip is surrounded by hills and if you have some stamina can escape the crowds and get great views of the town below.
Saranda Transport Map
Weather in Saranda
Saranda has a Mediterranean climate with hot dry and almost perpetual sunny summers and cool and wet winters. If you are looking to spend more time exploring than hanging about the beach then spring and autumn seasons are the best time to visit.
Getting in to Saranda
There are regular buses and minibuses to Saranda from Tirana and these usually follow the inland route after passing Durres and take about five hours. At the current site serving as Tirana’s bus terminal there is a ticket office at the front. Otherwise as in most of Albania you must simply find your way towards a bus going to Tirana with the help of sellers. The trip during summer can be rather challenging due to no ventilation and little or no air-conditioning if using a minibus.
Saranda does not have a bus station but all intercity buses stop at the corner of Rruga Onhezmi and Rruga Flamurit by Friendship Park in the centre of the town. There is a ticket office next door. Some buses go to Gjirokaster and Vlora although these tend to be sporadic and dependent on demand. The local bus stop for the line heading along the coast and Ksamil is about 50 metres south.
Getting around Saranda by public transport
The town is fairly small so you can easily get to know Saranda by walking around. Even walking along the coastal road near to where the town ends is less than four kilometres or a leisurely hour’s walk. There is an hourly bus service from the centre of Saranda that heads along the coast and then onwards towards the smaller resort town of Ksamil and finally terminating in Butrint, the UNESCO ancient site. The bus is very popular, especially between Saranda and Ksamil, so best to get on at the terminal stop at Rruga Jonianet (see map). A ticket costs 100 lek (about one USD) with a conductor selling tickets onboard.
Saranda town and beaches
The town is compact and easy to navigate with a coastal road where most activity occurs, and other roads further inland and uphill. Much of the coastal area is in the form of private beaches of hotels and restaurants where you pay a fee for using deck chairs. You can find public beaches in the centre of town and are quite rocky but once you clear these objects then the sea awaits. It goes fairly deep quickly so be careful if you are not comfortable with swimming. In summer they add sand to the beach and this can be more messy. The best time is during the late spring and early autumn periods when the weather is still hot but much of the crowds have left.
The promenade is very popular during the evenings as people of all ages stroll along the beach front eating ice creams. There are the usual cheap kebab shops and more expensive fish restaurants as well as a number of nightclubs further along the coast. The town has a vast array of hotels and apartments to suit most budgets with the most expensive usually having private beach access. The cheaper options are more inland but usually still only a short walk to the beach.
You can find a wide range of supermarkets scattered around the town although they are usually small with limited choice. They do however have an interesting range of Greek products that you may not find in Tirana. One of the better options is Supermarket Alfa on Rruga Abedin Dino which may be the biggest in the town.
About 13 kilometres from Saranda is the smaller and supposedly more exclusive resort town of Ksamil. There are an array of small coves and bays where private beaches are located. Perhaps the town used to cater to the more luxury end of the market but a rapid construction boom over the past ten years has meant Ksamil is just a smaller version of its larger neighbour. The bays are more picturesque but are now packed to the rafters with sunseekers in sun loungers, even in the off-peak season and during COVID.
It is worth a half a day getaway using the local bus and there are plenty of places to eat and drink. There are some walks you can take to more remote parts of the town especially a rustic area by a lake. As the local bus carries on to Butrint it is possible to combine the two in a one-day trip although in the summer months this can be rather tiring if you want to spend time discovering both.
Butrint is a UNESCO World Heritage site and national park. It was an ancient city throughout Greek, Roman, and Byzantine periods but was neglected in the middle-ages due to malaria and damage after an earthquake. The current archaeological site is one of the most famous in Albania and includes an impressive Roman amphitheater and a Byzantine Basilica which is the largest in the world after Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. There are many other ruins and artifacts, and it is well worth a few hours visit and explore the site. Butrint is quite well shaded with trees and the overall area is pleasant being surrounded by a lake.
There is a hotel located just 200 metres from the site and there are several cafes in the site itself. The entrance fee for foreigners is 700 lek. The local bus terminates very close to the entrance. More information can be found at The Butrint Foundation. As Butrint is close to the Greek border you may find your mobile switching to a Greek carrier and you could find yourself with some unwelcome roaming charges.