While many holidaymakers think about trips to Greece, Spain and Portugal to soak up some sun, one destination that often gets overlooked is Albania. It’s the resort of Saranda, in particular, that catches the eye. Sitting between the Ionian Sea and hills of olive groves, Saranda just so happens to be a destination with beautiful beaches and ancient history to discover. And if you’re thinking of visiting this Albanian Riviera resort on your travels, we’ve put together a guide for how you can spend five days basking under the sun while discovering the beautiful seaside city.
Day one: local eateries and the boulevard at night
After arriving in the city, which you can do by booking a ferry with Ferryscanner, why not grab a bite to eat before you set off on an adventure? There are plenty of culinary spots in Saranda, many of which are near the port. These include restaurants to grab authentic Albanian cuisine as well as international flavours.
After your meal, why not end the day with a walk on the boulevard? It’s one of the main parts of the city and will be buzzing with people taking in the local atmosphere, enjoying the entertainers and sampling the food stalls. The sunset is the most popular time to visit, and it’s when the locals go for their “Xhiro” (walk) as the sun goes down.
Day two: discover history with the monasteries
Saranda is full of rich history, and you can use your second day to visit the beautiful ancient monasteries. Start with St Mary’s monastery, which is located on the hill just outside of Saranda. It’s a cliffside monastery in the small village of Kostar, and there are spectacular views of the local landscape on the cliff to admire.
Next, head back into Saranda to see the Monastery of 40 Saints. It was built in the 6th century as an important Byzantine pilgrimage site and today sits opposite the Lekuresi Castle. The grounds of the monastery are always open, but you can only go inside during visiting hours.
Day three: soak up some sun on the beaches
There are plenty of beaches to sample in Saranda, so why not spend the halfway point of your trip relaxing while catching some rays? Mirror Beach, on the way to the village of Ksamil, is a secluded natural bay and known as one of the best spots on the Albanian Riviera.
If you fancy trying out another beach, Dhermi is home to popular pebbles and sands where you can dip your toes in the water. The beach here features great views, with the Ceraunian Mountains descending right to the water’s edge. Sun, sights and sea. What more could you ask for?
Day four: go to the Synagogue
A thriving Jewish community used to exist in ancient Saranda, and the remnants of the city’s Synagogue are well worth a visit. It once featured an entire network of buildings with its own schools and community centre where people would gather.
Today, you will still notice the ornate Jewish mosaics on the floor. These were used to identify the building when it was first discovered in 2003. It’s located near the City Hall and dates back to the 5th or 6th century.
Day five: relax at the bay
The bay is where you will find Saranda’s main beach, which is a mixture of sand and pebbles offset by beautiful Ionian waters. It’s a great way to round off your trip and a place where you can relax in the sun before hiring paddleboats by the shore.
After spending some time at the beach, go for a stroll and admire the lush palm trees while eating ice cream from one of the many carts and pop-up bars. There’s also a road behind the promenade where you can sit down and enjoy a bite before finishing up your Saranda adventure.
Enjoying the Albanian Riviera
With over 300 days of sun a year, Saranda is a dreamlike destination just opposite the Green island of Corfu. It’s full of Mediterranean delights, and the suggestions on our list will help you enjoy the best of this beautiful city while making your Saranda trip one to remember.