I arrived in Albania for the first time by ferry from Corfu and what a great way to journey to this amazing place. It was an hours ride on a small ferry, which cost about 30 euros. It was a late September warm sunny afternoon and the sun was shimmering on the lovely azure blue sea. There was a sun deck to take in some rays whilst enjoying the beauty of the Corfu coastline.
After a brief visit to customs, I was in Saranda. A few taxi drivers awaited outside at the entrance but I decided to take a wander and see for myself what’s what.. As you walked up from the ferry terminal to the main road you could see the whole bay of Saranda and it was a lovely site with a small marina, lots of beach front bars, hotels and restaurants and the island of Corfu beautifully looming in the background. I found a reasonably priced hotel with good internet just set back from the beach for 15 euros per night.
Sure Saranda at first glance looks a little over developed with buildings cramped on top of buildings and the roads in need of a repair here and there but it had it’s own way to charm you. The people went about their business and didn’t hassle any tourists.
As you would expect there was a large Greek presence, especially in the ownership of the businesses and amongst the tourists (the border with greece only 30 miles/50 km away) and who can blame them as as the prices were about half or even a third what you were paying in Greece. For example a beer in a bar (I recommend the Albanian beers of Korce and Elbar) only £1.20 in Sarande, 3.50 euros in Corfu. A meal in restaurants £3-5 in Sarande, 10+ euros in Greece.
There were plenty of attractions nearby including the roman town of Butrint well worth a visit and the amazing blue eye (a natural water phenomenon shown above). Also on the same bus route on the way to Butrint was the small coastal resort of Ksamil, less people more relaxed and less developed perfect for some quiet chill time by the beach. Great food and relaxed atmosphere.. Guaranteed!
Saranda town didn’t disappoint. As I like to keep fit on the road, I was pleased to see an open fronted gym (not quite Miami style) but nicely overlooking the marina which you could pay for by the day/week/month which had all modern equipment and some classes.
By day the families played in the sea and jumped of the edge of the marina wall and it was a relaxing hot place to be and by night the tourists came out in their droves, wandering along the promenade, eating and drinking and later the clubbers raved until the early morning in the many clubs and discos.
All in all, Saranda is a great place for a beach style holiday in Albania, with a lot of influence from Greece. It’s a great base to see the sights and sounds of Southern Albania as a few days trip from Corfu or for more of a longer vacation. You have to check it out!