Under explored and underrated: The Albanian Coast should be on every beach lovers’ bucket list. Saranda Albania is fondly called ‘the capital of the Albanian Riviera’ but what can be said about many countries around the world is equally true for the Albanian Riviera: the capital is not the prettiest city in the area. I picked the spot to relax a couple of days in the middle of an action-packed itinerary. Saranda is perfect for that, but the Albanian coast has way better places to glue yourself to your beach bed and not leave until the sunset cocktails start calling for your presence at the bar.
– What to do in Saranda –
So what to do and go see in Saranda, or Sarandë in the local language, when your there? Well to be honest, if you’re not into the beach life then I suggest to get out straight away. Saranda lacks any particular highlights, both natural as well as cultural. Lekuresi Castle is largely destroyed and the Synagogue Ruins are utterly underwhelming. And those are the main historical sights of Saranda. I know, this is not the uplifting promotional story you were hoping to read if you just booked your trip to Saranda. Sorry about that! Let’s get to the good part:).
Saranda has the perfect beach climate
Saranda is located just opposite of the well-know Greek beach destination Corfu and similar to Corfu is has the perfect climate. Long hot sunny days can be experienced as early as March and as late as November, and it never gets really cold here in the winter months too.
While the main city beaches are nothing special, Saranda is eminently a beach town. And like most beach towns Saranda treats its guests well with excellent seafood restaurants, some nice cocktail bars and well serviced beaches. This is the reason why many people from all over the Balkan flock to this place on any sunny weekendday. This is also the reason why Saranda actually makes a very good base from which to explore the prettier and more secluded beaches a bit further out.
Go explore the secluded beaches in the area
That is really what you should do in the area. If you don’t have your own wheels, hire a car and go beach hunting along the coast. It is littered with nice secluded little spots with light-sand beaches, wavy palmtrees and most probably nothing and nobody else. If you want to stick closer to town: Mirror Beach is beautiful and only about 5 kilometers to the South of town.
Get back at the end of each day to enjoy the sunset with a cocktail on one of the city beaches before you find a nice restaurant to feast on the excellent seafood Saranda has got to offer. The next day? Eat. Sleep. Beach bum. Repeat.
– Eating and sleeping recommendations –
Saranda has got a big pedestrian-only boulevard which might have been atmospheric once but now is mainly a flashy tacky drinking strip. While there are some good restaurants out there they are also quite expensive. Expect prices double or even triple the rates elsewhere in Albania. It pays to move away from all the noise and smokey bars even though that irrevocably also means moving away from a seaside view during dinner. I found two places worth recommending.
This little family owned hole-in-the-wall combines fresh fish and local inland cuisine in a simple restaurant about a 15 minutes walk from the main boulevard. For the quiet surroundings the restaurant is surprisingly busy. The locals frequent this place: I don’t wonder why.
For good pizza, this is the spot. The restaurant is located about a 15 minute walk from the boulevard and is not located directly at the coast but overlooks it nevertheless. They have live music every night and although the quality of the music is debatable, it is a a 100 times more authentic than the dressed-up troubadours on the boulevard. They serve food until after midnight.
We found out that Booking.com will consistently give you the best rates on hotels. To make finding the perfect spot a little easier we made a selection for Saranda. Click the link below to find the best places to stay in Saranda.
Booking rate: 7.9 | Privates from EUR 30 per night
The Dream Hotel Saranda might night be the most luxurious or best-outfitted hotel in town but it gives surprisingly good value for money. The rooms are huge, the breakfast that is included tasty an the private beach one of the best in town. If you are planning to spend your days on the beach and not in your hotel, The Dream Hotel Saranda is a good pick.
– Practical information –
Saranda has good wheather year round but the summer months can get very hot with 40 degrees Celcius being quite common around then. Best time are April, May and September when the days are long and sunny but not as sweltering as June-August.
Sadly, Saranda is probably the most expensive town in Albania. Expect to pay double or even triple to what you’re used to in the rest of Albania.
|Daily Budget||EUR 60 (55 USD)|
|Take-away lunch at a bakery
||EUR 0.40 -1 ( 0.50 – 1.10 USD)|
|Meal in a restaurant||EUR 10 – 20 ( 9 – 18 USD)|
|Dorm||EUR 10 ( 11 USD)|
|Double in a 3-star hotel||EUR 40 (45 USD)|
In & Out
While Saranda is generally okay to be explored by foot it might still take you about 15-20 minutes to get from one place to another.
Because Saranda doesn’t have a railway station or an airport close by, the only way to reach it is by road. There are buses and fugrons, mini buses, coming and going from all larger Albanian towns. Several times a day to Tirana.