18 Things to do in Saranda, Albania
The incredible seaside city of Saranda is bustling with great things to do. So I have collected the best of the best from a local’s point of view as I have been living in Saranda for over 2 years now! Here’s the best things to do in Saranda, Albania.
1. Visit the best Saranda beaches
As Saranda is a beach city there are plenty of beaches to check out. One of the most popular is the centre beaches because they are convenient but if you want more beautiful then you need to visit the beaches on either side of the city.
One of my favourites is the beaches in the Kodrra area of the city. On the other side of the city, the beaches near Mango and Santa Quaranta are very nice too.
2. Take a trip to Ksamil
Following on with the theme of beaches, one notable seaside town you must visit if you’re staying in Saranda is Ksamil. Ksamil gets popular in July and August because it’s number one on most tourist’s bucket lists. The water in Ksamil is stunning and worth a trip.
From Saranda, you can either drive which takes around 20 minutes, or you can opt to take the bus which leaves Saranda city centre and costs 100 Lek. The bus takes around 30-40 minutes depending on how full it is. You can check the bus timetable here.
3. Watch the sunset from Lëkurësi Castle
An absolute must-do is to watch the sunset from Lëkurësi castle which overlooks the city. The sunsets in Saranda are a definite thing to do because they are always so beautiful. At the castle, they also have a restaurant there where you can have a glass of wine or a full meal. Note that the restaurant only opens in summer.
4. Take a visit to Butrint
A visit to Saranda wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Butrint, a UNESCO protected ancient city. Butrint dates to the Iron and middle ages and holds a lot of history in the area. The ancient city is quite large so I would recommend taking at least a couple of hours to see everything. You can bring a packed lunch and make sure you bring water. If you are visiting in the summertime I would recommend going early as it can get hot and the crowds can get big! Entry is 700lek per person.
5. Enjoy wine and a view from Kristiano wine bar
Perched on the hill, near the monastery of the 40 saints is one of Saranda’s best-kept secrets – a wine bar! From here you can get a magnificent view of the city all whilst enjoying an Albanian white or red wine. The building is stunning as well so if you get the chance to peek inside, do so!
6. Walk the boulevard in the evening
The boulevard is the main deal when it comes to Saranda. In the summer it is buzzing with people as well as entertainers and little food stalls. The most popular time to walk down the boulevard is when the locals go for their ‘Xhiro’ (walk) at sunset. This is a tradition in Albania. Back in the day, it was how everyone in the neighbourhoods saw each other and had their daily catch ups!
7. Visit St Georges monastery
Even if you’re not religious this is a fantastic historic monastery which overlooks monastery beach and Saranda in the distance. You can get here by taking the bus to Ksamil and telling the bus driver you want to go to monastery beach (it’s about halfway to Ksamil from Saranda).
8. Check out the cliff monastery
This is one of the best things to do near Saranda that not many people know about. Located within the hill, just outside Saranda is a cliff monastery. St Mary’s monastery is located in the small village of Kostar is set within the cliff and holds a magnificent view of the surroundings.
9. Check out the underwater life
The underwater life in Saranda is quite magnificent if you know the right places. From corals to beautiful, bizarre sea creatures and even shipwrecks, if you want to discover underwater life opt to do a tour or diving course with the likes of Saranda Diving centre. Or if you would like to discover it on your own, go to Monastery or mirror beach and swim towards the rocks. Just be careful of jet skis and boats if you go past the barriers.
10. Take a visit to the monastery of the 40 saints
This is one of my favourite spots in Saranda because of the view and how empty it usually is. The monastery of the 40 saints sits on the opposite hill to Lëkurësi Castle. This is another marvellous sunset spot! The monastery grounds are open all the time but if you want to go inside it’s only open on visiting hours.
11. Eat pizza at Maria Magdalena
Albania does amazing Italian food if you didn’t know already! Maria Magdalena is an Italian pizza place which is not far from the port. They also do pasta, but I do recommend trying the pizza because it’s super delicious!
12. Take a dip in Blue Eye
The blue eye is a natural phenomenon located about a 20-minute drive from Saranda. The blue eye is a natural spring which has some of the clearest waters you may have ever seen. Divers have been able to go down to 50 meters before needing to come up because of the extreme pressure so no one can confirm how deep the spring is.
You are not supposed to swim in the eye itself, but you can walk down a little and swim in the other parts but beware, the water is freezing! Its stays at a constant 10 degrees all year round, even in the summer.
13. Visit Mirror Beach
Mirror beach is another must-do if you come to Saranda. It’s one of the most beautiful beaches. You can reach it by taking the bus to Ksamil, it’s about halfway and not far from monastery beach which I have mentioned above.
You will need to walk or drive down to the beach but beware the road is not in good condition and is quite steep with potholes in some places. Once you reach the beach you will see it was all worth it!
14. Take a day trip to Gjirokastër
Gjirokastër is a UNESCO city about an hour drive away from Saranda. It’s well known for its stone houses and unique architecture. Gjirokastër also has one of the best castles within Albania. You could easily spend a couple of hours exploring the castle alone and learning more about the fascinating history of Gjirokastër. Click here for a great day trip tour from Saranda.
15. Ancient ruins in the centre
Within the Saranda centre are some ruins of an old synagogue. These days it’s been cornered off and to be honest there’s not much to see. But if you walk past it be sure to take a quick look. It’s a good example of how a new city is intertwined with an ancient past. You will find lots of examples of this around Albania. Within the last 10 years, there have been lots of discoveries of ancient ruins throughout the country so it’s an exciting time in terms of archaeology for Albania!
16. Have a coffee from view cafe
Just as the name says, this cafe has a view and a very good one at that! I would say this is one of the best views from a cafe I have seen. You can find this cafe on the 5th road (known as Rruga Gjergj Araniti on google maps).
17. Eat seafood at Fishland
One of the best things to do in Saranda is to try the seafood. They have fresh, world-class seafood! Fishland is located by the fishing port (not the port in the centre, there are two so don’t get confused!). The port is around a 20-minute walk out of the centre. Because the restaurant is situated right by the fishing port you can expect fresh seafood that has come straight off the boats! It’s also very affordable and a nice view too.
18. Have a drink at City Lounge
One of the most popular lounge bars is City Lounge. It’s located not far from Orange (which is a bar/nightclub). Be sure to have a drink and enjoy the lounge which is right on the water and situated outside. They have good cocktails and good music!
I hope you enjoyed reading 17 things to do in Saranda, Albania from a local’s point of view. There is plenty more to do in the city!
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