The port town of Agii Saranda is situated in the southeast part of the country of Albania and is about 14 km east of the northern end of Corfu. In ancient times city was known by the name Onchesmus.
The name of Agii Saranda comes from the Christian times of the 15th century, when 40 monks, soldiers, were decapitated by the Turks because they wouldn’t change their religion. So, the citizens and the church declared them as Saints. The origin of the name of Agii Saranda comes from two Greek words: Agii, meaning Saints and Saranda, meaning the number forty. Today the city is called only Saranda. The town has a population of 30,000 inhabitants. This number triples during the summertime. The inhabitants of Albania and Kossovo like to spend their holidays in this town, which lies next to the Ionian Sea. The religions of Albanians are 60% Muslims, 30% Greek Orthodox and 10% Catholics.
The economy of Saranda is based mainly on its agricultural products from the valley of Valtos, on the cultivation of mussels from the salt lake of Vouthrotos (Butrint ). Fishing is another source of wealth and finally tourism, which has been growing slowly but steadily during the last fifteen years.
Saranda has a typical Mediterranean climate with over 300 sunny days a year and is built-in amphitheatric style with three parallel roads. Four series of steep stairs lead from the top of the hill of the town down to the beach promenade.
After the revolution of 1990, this town was rebuilt in a modern style along with modern hotels, the 5-star “Hotel Butrint” being the top one. There are also plenty of bars, restaurants and cafeterias around the town. With the palm tree’s along the promenade, rose bushes and bougainvillaeas all around the town, it is a very beautiful and picturesque town. Therefore, Saranda has become the most touristic destination of all Albania.
The town itself is a combination of new buildings, old taverns, cafeterias and houses built in the traditional and impressive stone style, even the roofs are made of stone plates. Albanians and northwest Greeks are the best carved-stone workers in the world.
Where to stay
The very center of Saranda is located near the port, an area with the best selection of restaurants and shops. The central square is called Parku Miqësia. The town is located on hills, so it’s good to bear in mind that you have to climb uphill, if you’re staying anywhere up from the beach.
Butrint, a true archaeological gem, is located some 18 kilometers South of Saranda. The archaeological findings of Butrint give evidence of prehistoric activities in the area. The town has also served as a Greek Polis in the 6th century BC, and later as a Roman colony. Today, you can witness the ruins of old Roman baths, a Greek amphitheater, and more recent attractions such as the Basilika and the fortress on top of the hill. Butrint became an UNESCO heritage site in 1992, after the fall of Enver Hoxha’s communist government.
More information: whc.unesco.org
How to get to Butrint: A taxi from the center takes about 30 minutes and costs around 10-15 euros. Alternatively, you can take a local bus that takes 45 minutes and costs 100LEK, equivalent to about 0,80 EUR.
The bus from Saranda leaves every hour from 6.30 am to 16.30. The bus from Butrint leaves every hour between 7.30 and 17.30. The last bus stop in Butrint is a car park in front of the entrance to Butrint.
The first bus stop in Saranda is in the corner of Rruga Mitat Hoxha and Rruga Jonianet. The bus stops also in the corner of Rruga Flamurtari-Rruga Skënderbeu, Hotel Butrinti and Hotel Oasi.
Visit Lëkurësi Castle to get the best views over Saranda. The castle was built in the 16th century by the Ottoman ruler Sultan the Magnificent who needed to protect the city harbor after he attacked Corfu. There is a restaurant with terrace in the castle for food and beverages.
How to get: The castle is located approximately 4 kilometers away from the harbor of Saranda. By taxi, it takes around 10 minutes and costs around 5 euros, or by foot it takes around 45 to 60 minutes.
Saranda is surrounded by gravel beaches, which all very similar to each other. At the beaches, you’ll find plenty of restaurants and bars with food and beverages.
Compared to Saranda, the beaches of Ksamil are more impressive, though in the summertime, equally crowded of sunbathers.
Ksamil is a small coastal village some 15 kilometers to the south from Saranda. The beaches in Ksamil with crystal clear water are astonishing. The small Ksamil islands, located in front of the village, are also very impressive.
How to get: Get to Ksamil with the local Butrint bus connection. Hop off one bus stop before Butrint. The trip from Saranda takes around 35 minutes, a taxi trip takes about 25 minutes.
Food and restaurants
The local cuisine is still in its infancy, and the portions are served in an uncompromising manner and with a fair hand. Fish and shellfish in particular are present and locally sourced in Saranda.
The level of food and service at local restaurants is not necessarily world-class, but it is replaced by fresh raw materials and low prices.
In addition to seafood and fish dishes, gyro kebabs are loved all over the country.
The shopping possibilities is Saranda are scarce. There are several clothing shops in the town, but the selection is limited, mainly consisting of local clothing brands. Big international clothing brands are not available in Saranda.
In the mornings, local street vendors gather by the beach promenade on Rruga Joniat to sell all sorts of artisan products, especially lamb wool products are popular.
Prices in Saranda
Albania is one the most affordable travel destinations in Europe, which is one of the main reasons attracting tourists. Prices in Saranda are just fantastic for the most of us. The travel essentials, such as, lodging, food and drinks are suitable for any type of budget.
Below, there are some examples of restaurant and hotel prices in Saranda. The costs of hotel rooms are median prices at Booking.com.