After Himara, my next stop on the coast was Saranda. While the city itself is rather dull, it is close to a lot of things and overall I spent several weeks here.

Saranda is the port to Korfu and the entire city seems like to serve this purpose. The ferry comes and goes regularly and the port boasts a ton of restaurants, souvenir shops, and bars. There are also cruise ships stopping by for a few days and that means an influx of people. Those ships are staggeringly big. To call them floating hotels is not an exaggeration at all.

I've met several people who flew from the Greek island after travelling along the Albanian coasts. If you on the other direction, there are tour guides waiting at the port who can take you to the important sights near the city with a car. I don't know the prices, but it sounds like a good plan if you do only a day-trip to Saranda.

Since it's close to Greece, EU mobile networks are within reach, just like in Himara. This means no extra cost for calling and mobile net if you have a plan from any EU country. Just make sure you select the network manually, as it might change back to the local one which would be a costly mistake.

And also keep in mind that Greece is in a different time zone, so you phone might change the clock automatically.

Other than being a transport hub, Saranda has nothing much. It's a city with the usual amenities, but everything worth seeing is outside of it.

Map of Saranda

Things to do in and around Saranda

The blue eye

The Blue Eye is a spring where the water is flowing out of an underground cave. It's really deep, we don't even know how deep exactly. There is a platform above the cave entrance where you can see it from above. The water is of a deep blue color hence the name "Blue Eye".

It looks cool when you are there, but there is really nothing much there. You go on the platform, look at the water flowing out of the cave, then you go back home. It's a nice trip especially if you can go there by car, but it's a bit more complicated if you don't.

Going there is the easy part. Any bus that go to Gjirokaster or Berat will do, just ask to get off at the Blue Eye. Then you need to walk a bit to get to the attraction.

But going back is the tricky part. You hike back to the road, then wait for the next bus. When will it come? Well, who knows? One will come eventually, but without a timetable it's hard to know. It can be minutes or an hour.

People there kinda expect tourists stuck there without a clue. When I was hiking back to the road, a guy offered a ride for a 1000 Leks (~8 Euros). I declined, then met him again at the bus stop where he offered the same for half price. So I had a lift back to the city.

Along the way from the road, there is a small builing that collects an entry fee for cars. I can't remember if I had to pay anything as I was on foot, but even if I had it was cheap.

If you want to spice up the experience, you can jump into the cave entrance from the platform. There is a sign that jumping and swimming is not allowed right next to the spring, but that is a "strong suggestion" which means nobody will fine you if you don't obey it. At least that was the case back when I was there. As a result, people do jump and swim and only the cold water puts some restraints on this practice. Check out this video to get a glimpse of the feeling.

Since this is one of the main attractions around Saranda, people come here on buses too. I was here on a weekday still I saw some crowding when a bus full of people arrived and everybody rushed to see the cave. I can see how it gets overcrowded on weekends and holidays.

There was a restaurant a bit down the river, but that burned out not long after my visit. I don't know what happened or whether it will be rebuilt.


Butrint is an archeological site south of Saranda with ruins from 4 different eras. It's surprisingly big and it's a perfect afternoon trip. It is well-run and apart from the old buildings it is mostly a forest which gives it more of an exploration feeling rather than of a museums. It's a nice walk with some history included.

There is a direct bus from Saranda center and there is even a timetable at the bus stop which is a rarity in the country. But as not everything is perfect here, there is none for the return trip.

I believe there are buses running every hour until around 6 p.m., but you should ask about that. There is a reception at the entrance to the museum so you'll be able to get information there.

Also keep in mind that if your phone switches to the Greek network then it sets the clock 1 hour forward. I thought I had to rush just to realize I had plenty of time for the last bus.

There is a 1000 Lek entrance fee (~8 Euros) which is unusually high compared to other places in Albania.

Apart from the archeological site, there is a ferry going to the other side of the lagoon. There is a fortress on the other side which might be worth checking out. I didn't go there, so no first-hand experiences here.

Saranda castle

There is a ruined castle overlooking the city with some restaurants. There is nothing else here, but it's a good place to watch the sunset.

Hasta la Vista Saranda Hostel

I've spent approximately 4 weeks here, and this is one of the hostels I could live in. Albano is an awesome host who really likes to run this place and meet people. The sea is near, and it is quite easy to pick up the habit of going for a swim every afternoon.

Mirror beach

This is one of the nicest beaches around Saranda, accessible both by car and by bus with a little hiking. There are actually two beaches almost next to each other, the difference is that while there is a road leading to the southern one and it has parking places and a bar, there is just a path going down to the nothern one. As a result, there is hardly anybody going there.

There is a rock between the two beaches with a small cavern. You can swim across, or you can jump from it. Overall, it's a wonderful place for a long swim. Check out this video to get the feeling.

If you go there by bus ask to get off at the mirror beach. There is no official bus stop here, but Albanian buses stop wherever needed.

After getting off the bus, you need to go up a bit in the direction of the village, then descend to the sea.

With a car you can park on the roadside a bit closer to the beach, but still need to hike ~15 minutes.

Going back to Saranda, you'll face the usual problem: no idea when the next bus comes. No official bus stop and definitely no timetable here. If you know when the bus leaves Butrint you'll have a decent chance to catch it without much waiting. Just don't forget to wave at it so it will stop to get you.