One overcast morning in May we hopped on a high-speed boat and made the trip from Corfu Greece to Saranda Albania. Despite the fact that we’ve heard nothing but wonderful things, Albania still remains very far off the typical traveler’s route. We had been wanting to visit for a while now ever since having a blast in the neighboring countries of Slovenia, Croatia, and Montenegro. When we read about the stunning beaches and delicious local food of Southern Albania we were sold! In this post, we take you through our experience of arriving in Albania, jumping feet first at the Saranda beach, and the best things to do in this seaside city.
Albania Travel Inspiration
- 2 Weeks in Albania Itinerary: Beautiful Beaches to Mountain Towns
- 19 Facts About Albania to Know Before You Go: History, Tips, & More
- Dhermi Beach Albania: How to Find Paradise on the Albanian Riviera
- Butrint National Park: Fun One Day Guide to the UNESCO Site in Albania
- Understanding the Albanian Bus System: How Difficult is it?
8 Fun Things to Know About Saranda Albania
1. Strolling the Saranda Beach & Waterfront
Most of the action takes place in the heart of the city along the sweeping water’s edge. Starting in the ferry port up the coast to the far end of the Saranda beach is a beautiful walkway.
When cruise ships come to town the sidewalk is filled with tourists flocking to Southern Albania, and locals selling souvenirs and clothing.
You’ll find everything from designer bags and Gucci belts to scales where you can pay .15 cents to weigh yourself! As you walk further down the long stretch of pebbles, Saranda beach turns into soft sand and clear welcoming water.
It’s one of the best things to do in Saranda, and a great spot to jump in and cool off on the hot summer days!
2. Coffee is Life in Saranda Albania
Every morning we would start our day by walking down to the boardwalk and finding a different coffee shop right on the ocean. We had our pick of Greek, Turkish, or really any other type of coffee we wanted.
The best part is that it never cost more than 100 Lek (.90 cents USD) even at the fanciest restaurants! What makes Saranda beach iconic is the bright buildings that fill the mountainside and make up the city, surrounding it with a fun and colorful aura.
3. Summer Celebrations in the Southern Albania Riviera
In late May there really wasn’t much going on in Saranda Albania. We witnessed the day the cruise ships came into town which seemed to bring the small city alive. Otherwise, when there was no ship visiting Saranda it became a slow and sleepy seaside town. That was until Friday!
On the last Friday in the month of May, we were sitting in a small barbershop right on the main street when we heard the first of many car horns. From that moment on, we heard cheering, celebrations, and even fireworks for hours on end.
It reminded us of when we were traveling in Vietnam and the national team won an important football match. It was then that every motorbike in the city took to the streets to celebrate.
Well, this was similar to that, but for a very different reason. It was the last day of the school year and the official start of summer!
As tradition goes, the graduating class spends the afternoon (and into the night) driving around in a parade of cars and cheering everyone they pass. This certainly made for an interesting introduction to Southern Albania!
4. Saranda Albania is a Budget Travelers Paradise
There’s a common saying that you get what you pay for. Well, we quickly realized in Saranda you get that… And more! From the best things to do in Saranda Albania to eating out and accommodations, we were paying half or a quarter of what we had been in Greece and other parts of Europe.
Don’t think that’s saying much? How about this for a comparison. We spent 6 months traveling through countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, and Indonesia. Our Saranda Albania hotels were cheaper and of better quality than anything we had in most of Asia!
For under $30 USD a night Saranda, we had a large one-bedroom apartment with a full kitchen, balcony, and washing machine. It also said it slept 5 people comfortably! For those of you who have traveled long term, you know how important a washing machine is. What a nice bonus for our trip to Saranda Albania.
Saranda Albania Price Breakdown
- Budget Hotel: $10-30
- Luxury Hotel: $60-100+
- Bus to Kismil: Under $1
- Coffee: Under $1
- Bakery Breakfast: Under .50 Cents
- Dinner: $15-20 (Two People) Wine, Appetizers, and Seafood Main Courses
- Beer: $1-2
5. Southern Albania Cuisine
We hadn’t been in Albania for more than 15 minutes before we were stopped in our tracks outside a bakery. It exploded with smells and flavors of fresh bread and delicious pastries.
If you’ve never had a burek, be warned because these amazing morning treats can quickly turn into an addiction! The thin layers of airy dough are filled with different specialties such as spinach, cheese, and mixed meats. However, our morning burek was just the start of our love affair with the Saranda food scene.
6. Eating at Haxhi Restaurant
Tucked up and away from the more touristic waterfront, this charming restaurant of Haxhi is a gem of Saranda Albania! The local spot is completely family-owned and run and the menu is simple.
Everything at Haxhi is cooked fresh by the mother of the house who runs the kitchen with her daughter. The friendly waiter who helped us (also with some great advice on Southern Albania) was the son, and it was clear how proud he was of the restaurant.
The mussels which come from nearby Lake Butrint were quite simply the best we’ve ever had! Also, the salads, grilled vegetables, Tzatziki, and whole fried fish were all exceptional. By now I’m sure you’ve realized that tasting the local dishes and drinks is one of the best things to do in Saranda Albania.
7. A Place to Start Your Albania Adventures
As Saranda was our first stop in the country we had nothing to compare it to. There are many travelers who decided to skip the city and stay in a smaller beach town, or who had visited and didn’t enjoy their experience compared to the rest of the country.
For us arriving from Greece, taking the time to eat great food, and explore the area was a nice introduction to Southern Albania. With that being said, we do prefer smaller towns and think a night or two in Saranda would be more than enough time.
8. Seeing More After Saranda Albania
There are so many amazing places to experience after Saranda Albania! Its location in the south makes it such a good jumping-off point to the Albanian coastline. Here are a few of our favorite places to go from Saranda.
Himare: North about an hour up the coast from Saranda beach. The small seaside village of Himare is what many travelers regard as their favorite in Albania.
Ksamil: A quick 30 minute drive south is the booming beach town of Ksamil. Many take a day trip from Saranda, but we recommend staying overnight if you have the time.
Gjirokaster: Set inland is the beautiful mountain town of Gjirokaster. Rich history with charming small streets, great local food, and even a castle!
Have any questions on Saranda Albania or your own recommendations to share? Let us know in the comments below!
Brigitte & Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!
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Where to Stay in Saranda Albania
Ultra Luxury – White Residence Luxury Apartments – Large luxury apartments with gorgeous sea views. Modern decor, amenities, and just steps from the beach.
Fun Vacation – Sun N Blue Hotel – Beautiful hotel where each room has its own balcony with sea views! Just steps from the harbor and in the center of Saranda.
Budget Travel – Alfred’s Apartments – Quality apartments of all sizes at a great price. Alfred’s has a balcony and even a washing machine.
Hostel Stay – Hostel Filipi – Nice views over the city, barbecue, terrace, shared kitchen, and lounge. This is a great place if you’re on a budget offering cheap dorm beds and a way to meet other travelers.
For more places to stay in Saranda Albania you can explore the latest prices here!
Albania Travel Planning
Rental Car: We use Discover Cars to explore when traveling. Consider renting a car in one city and dropping it off in another for an epic road trip!
Tours: Check out Get Your Guide for hundreds of activities around the country. You can book a private hike through the Gamti Mountain, jump on a Tirana Walking Tour, or day trip to the beautiful village of Berat Albania.
Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without being covered! We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.
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