*1 Quick travel notes
When I think of Albania, I feel like dreaming. Almost 10 years have passed since when I visited it for the first time and it still seems like yesterday to me.
Until you do not see with your eyes some of their beautiful lands and landscapes, you are not even able to believe they exist. But they do.
Saranda and Ksamil are a typical, true example of that. Located in the south of Albania, you can feel the real Albania, by enjoying a great byrek on the seaside; by seeing farmers sell their products on the streets, just next to their fields; by driving and stopping for a while because suddenly a herd of cows is crossing the road; and without even realizing it, you end up in some amazing landscapes: it is like to have a magical colourful painting in front of your eyes.
So, if you want to organize your holiday combining the beauty of a natural sea and the visit of a fast-growing country, Albania is the right option.
*2 How to get there
Based on my personal experience (I tried to choose the best itineraries), I used to get to Saranda in this way:
SARANDA (how I use to get to Saranda city)
- With your own car
- From Igoumenitsa port (Greek city located in the north western side of the country) by car (around 65 km, travel time 2 hours)
- Without your own car:
- From Corfu Island (Greek island located just in front of the city) by hydrofoil (travel time 30/35 minutes, price 18/20 € euro one way)
- From Tirana by bus (around 290 km, travel time 4 hours, price 5/11 € euro one way)
*3 City tour
I had the luck of spending many days in Saranda, by going and exploring from time to time other beaches in the nearby, and the result was always the same: astonishing. I was travelling by car, so my advice in order to visit all these places around Saranda is to rent a car: this way you will be more free to stop where you want to: there are so many places to see that you will end up stopping for a look, for a picture, for a while. Each corner is ready to give you amazing feelings.
Here is a short list of places worth to visit
This wonderful city on the coast is welcoming each year more tourists, becoming more international; always more open to tourism day after day. It is one of the best seasides of Albania, with its long stunning coast, full of several shops, bars and restaurants. It is one of the favourite destinations of Albanian people, and now I totally understand why.
Distance from Saranda: 14 km
Really close to Saranda, especially if you are travelling by car, I strongly suggest you to head to Ksamil – stunning, diamond of the south. Let the nature guide you into some dreamy places on Earth, close your eyes and listen to the sound of the waves. Since I was travelling by car, I could take some stops on the way from Saranda to Ksamil, but this route is also served by public transport. Take note of some of the best beaches in between Ksamil and Saranda:
- Pasqyrat (Mirror beach): 15 minutes away from Saranda, on the way to Ksamil, you can reach this amazing beach, with its fine sand and beautiful stones
- I Manastirit (Monastery beach): located 7 km from Saranda, you will find another wonderful seaside, with its white pebbles and postcard scenery.
- Pulebardha (Seagull beach): if you are looking for peace and tranquility, this is the best place to stop, around 10 km from Saranda
- Syri i Kalter (Blu eye source)
Distance from Saranda: 21 km
If you are travelling by car, you have to go and enjoy this enchanting place. Located in the small village of Mullina, around 25 km from Saranda coast, the site is called Blue Eye because of the wonderful colour of the water, which looks like an human eye.
Distance from Saranda: 28 km
City and archaeological site near the border with Greece, it is UNESCO World Heritage since 1992. I recommend you to visit the Butrint National Park, where you can also have the opportunity of booking a boat trip in Butrint lake and also to Ali Pasha Castle.
- Corfu Island (Greece)
Distance from Saranda: 35 km (by ferry)
Last but not least, let us complete the list with this beautiful Greek island, just in front of Saranda coast (reachable in 30 minutes by hydrofoil from Saranda) that I had the chance of exploring during my Albanian trip. The Castle of Angelokastro, located in the northwest coast of the island, gives you the opportunity of having a break taking sight of all of the island.
*4 Food planet
I still remember one of the first food I ate in Albania: byrek. It was love at the first sight, or at the first taste, for better saying!
Albanian cuisine is full of different dishes, very rich and varied, also with flavours and ingredients coming from Greek and Turkish traditions. Above all, it perfectly shows the hospitality of the Albanian people. Where to start? The list is quite long, but at least I strongly suggest you to try:
(Pasta cake that can be stuffed with meat, cheese or vegetables)
What else? I mean, this is one of the basic kind of food, which you can basically find anytime, all day long. Byrek is at the top of the list (at least it is for me) and you can find it everywhere: great as a snack on the seaside as well as for lunch or dinner, next to a very tasty yogurt.
I still remember byrek sellers on the beach, from 10am, since it is eaten also as a breakfast. Or just by entering a bakery, the smell of byrek, it made me crazy. My favourite one is the one filled in with spinach (how much I would love to eat it right now).
Yes. It is always time for a byrek.
- Tavë Kosi
(A lamb stew covered by eggs and yogurt)
This dish, which is served especially during holidays, comes from Elbasan, a region located in the centre of Albania, and it is usually served in a terracotta bowl. Straightly from the Albanian tradition, you can try this dish and fall in love with it. When you start to eat it, then it is hard to stop. Worth a try.
(Made with pepperoni, peeled tomatoes, ricotta cheese, onions and spices)
This is another one of my favourite. When you go to some tavern, it is usually served as a starter; that is why. especially the first time, I did not pay too much attention to it but I just took a few spoons of it and put them on a slice of bread. It was so good that I was not even thinking of ordering anything else and just other portions of it!
(Puff pastry filled with chopped walnuts, pistachios soaked with a solution of sugar and lemon juice)
As always, in my list there is a special mention for the sweets. Here is Baklava, a dessert very popular in many countries of Balkan and Middle East area, and I figured out why: it is amazing. It has been my breakfast secret for the whole staying in Albania and I still remember the taste.
Lots of calories, but delicious. Super!
- Të bëftë mire! Enjoy your meal!
- Example of Menu:
1 appetizer/starter (or dessert), 1 main course, 1 drink (beer/wine)
Around 670,00/800,00 Albanian lek (around 5/6€ euro)
*5 Albanian keywords
And what about learning some Albanian words before your trip?
Of course, here you go!
- Hello – Përshëndetje
- Yes / No – Po / Jo
- Thank you – Faleminderit
- You are welcome – Te lutem
- Excuse me – Më falni
- Good morning – Mirëmëngjes
- Good afternoon – Mirëdita
- Good evening – Mirëmbrëma
*6 Albania basic information
- Name: Albania (Shqipëri)
- Continent: Europe
- Location: Eastern Europe, Balkan Peninsula, UTC+1 (CET)
- Country code: +355
- Currency: Albanian Lek
- Capital city: Tirana
- Main airports: Tirana
- Main ports: Durres, Vlora, Saranda