Some of the best beaches in the Mediterranean, an old castle, olive fields and ruins of ancient sites: Saranda is the perfect go-to this summer (and fall). Here’s why.
With turquoise waters, olive fields, ruins of old sites, the old Lekurësi castle with superb views over the bay, nearby UNESCO towns and famous beaches, Saranda is the perfect destination for those searching a mix of beach, culture, good food and vibrant nightlife. As the unofficial capital of Albanian Riviera, Saranda is a popular city for most visitors who travel to Albania and the Balkans. All summer, and year around, Bashkia Sarandë, the local administration, organizes events, concerts and festivals. You can find the full calendar on the official website (http://bashkiasarande.gov.al) and Instagram page: @bashkia_sarande. While Saranda can get pretty busy during the peak season, especially August, in September and October you can enjoy the city, mild climate and surrounding beaches, including Pulebardha, Lukovë, Kakomë and Krorez, without the crowds and experience the best of south Albania.
About 10 km from Saranda, lie Ksamil‘s white-sand beaches. This place, known as the Maldives of Albania with crystalline waters and idyllic landscape, is one of the most famous destination in the country. No wonder Saranda’s new promotional campaign began with Ksamil: it’s the postcard of Albania and recently appeared on the big screens of world’s most famous ad spot, Times Square in New York City, for the first time in history, thanks to the work of Bashkia Sarandë and mayor Oltion Çaçi. People from all over the world had the opportunity to see how gorgeous is the land of Eagles. Spend a few days relaxing at the beach or swimming in Ksamil’s blue waters and reach by boat the small islands for supreme snorkeling opportunities. Craving for some excellent food? Ksamil is well know for its mussels, you can take part to boat tours organized by local companies to discover mussel farms and then have a fresh lunch with the catch of the day. Saranda itself is a foodie paradise too: the town has plenty of excellent seafood restaurants, elegant eateries and traditional tavernas where to try local food.
THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL PARK OF BUTRINT & SYRI I KALTER
A 15-minute drive north of Ksamil lies Butrint National Park, the largest archaeological site in the Balkans and one of the best preserved historical places in Albania. This UNESCO world heritage gem is home to the ancient city of Butrint, with ruins from Illyrian, Greek, Roman, Ottoman and Venetian eras, wetlands, salt lakes, marshes and a forest. The fortified acropolis of Butrint hosts a museum with artifacts found in the archaeological site and surroundings. From there, after admiring the incredible views over the lagoon of Butrint, go back to Saranda and follow the directions to Syri i Kalter, or Blue Eye. This is a natural spring that bubbles up from deep in the earth -experts aren’t sure how deep it is, but it’s thought to be at least 50 m deep. Blue Eye is mesmerizing: go to the small platform above it for watching the constant stream of clean and cold waters that pour out from the spring. The colors and sight will be unforgettable. Albania has been billed “the pearl of the Mediterranean” for good and many reasons, this place included.