Albania has long been cut off from the world under a severe communist regime and has only been opening up over the last two to three decades. While still being one of the most underdeveloped countries of Europe, Albania is quickly catching up and the growing inflow of tourists plays an important role in this. More and more people are sharing their positive experiences after visiting the country which has ignited a fire making Albania a hot new destination on people’s bucket list.
Saranda is a popular beachtown in the south of Albania, close to the Greek border. For long Saranda was only a small port and fishing village, but in recent decades the sleepy village has rapidly developed into a large resort town with many hotels, apartment complexes, and restaurants.
So what is it that attracts these people? Therefore we have listed 12 reasons why you should visit Saranda in 2023.
1. It’s Underrated
Let’s first address the stereotypes, as Albania still suffers from a very bad reputation. Many people still associate Albania with a dangerous communist country, maybe with the Balkan war of the 90s, poverty, drug cartels, and definitely not with a beautiful holiday destination. That’s a pity, because Albania doesn’t deserve this bad reputation. Many people still have no idea about the beauty of the country, the amazing heritage and how the infrastucture has developed in recent years. And that makes the country still very underrated, at least for now. But that’s about to change, so take your chance now, before everyone else starts talking about it.
2. The Beaches Are Gorgeous
Saranda is built around a horseshoe-shaped bay with a pedestrian promenade stretching around the bay. There are several beautiful beaches, some of which also soak up the vibe of the town with bars, restaurants and nightlife. Around Saranda are many even more beautiful beaches, including Ksamil Beach, which is even considered one of the best beaches of the Mediterranean, and other, more secluded beaches, and beaches that can only be reached on a boat trip.
3. The Surrounding Nature And Landscapes Are Incredible
Saranda is much more than sushine and beaches! Many surrounding beaches are secluded by beautiful rock formations, and Saranda is surrounded by hills that offer amazing views. There are also large mountain ranges nearby, and a lot of beautiful green nature, like Butrint National Park and the natural phenomenon The Blue Eye. South Albania is great for making beautiful road trips, hiking, and many other outdoor activities.
4. There Is A Lot Of Interesting Heritage
The area that is now the current municipality of Saranda, has been inhabited since ancient times and has changed hands many times between Chaonians (an ancient Greek tribe), Venetians, Ottomans, and even modern Greece and Italy have played a role in its history. As a result, you can still find back a lot of this history in the heritage in and around Saranda, from beautiful castles, to picturesque towns, historic churches, and archaeological parks like the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Butrint.
5. The Food Is Delicious
Saranda has a rich cuisine, which has traditionally been influenced by the Balkans, Italy, Greece and Turkey. Everything is freshly grown on local farms and being located by the sea means that Saranda is famous for its fresh seafood. To learn more about the local cuisine, check this list of 26 Delicious Albanian Foods To Try and this list of recommended traditional restaurants to try them.
Not your taste or want something more familiar? Don’t worry, as Saranda also has a growing number of restaurants serving dishes from around the world.
6. Saranda Has A Lively Nightlife
Saranda is unofficially called the Capital of the Albanian Riviera and this is mainly due to the vibrance of the city and its nightlife. When the sun sets and the lights in the city turn on, the boulevard gets full of people strolling around looking for food and entertainment. There are many restaunts, bars, clubs and there’s even a small entertainment park for kids, and you can go on one of the nightly boat cruises. The municipality also organizes several events throughout the summer, including live music and performances, a souvenir fair, and outdoor movie nights. So check out the events calendar to see what’s coming up.
7. It’s Still Cheap
This is probably the worst reason to visit, but Albania is still very cheap, especially when compared to other more popular tourist destinations in Europe. This means you don’t have to break the bank for a holiday here, you get much more for your money, or you can stay for longer.
8. The People Are Very Friendly
Albanian people are known to be very friendly and kind, and this goes back to their tradition of pride and hospitality. The people in Saranda are now used to the big inflow of tourists, but in smaller villages you might encounter some curiosity to foreigners and it’s not uncommon to be invited for a cup of tea in someone’s home. Agressive selling on the streets is also very uncommon in Albania so even in touristic places you might feel much more relaxed than in some other Mediterranean countries.
9. It’s Safe
Despite its unfair and bad reputation, Albania is actually very safe, if not one of the safest countries in Europe. This has again to do with how people have been raised in a culture where wrongdoing is not done. Of course this doesn’t mean that crime doesn’t exist, but most crimes are organized crimes which you don’t ever see as a visitor.
As a tourist you might notice that, in contrast to other countries, in Albania doors of apartment buildings are often wide open and many people leave their balcony doors and even car windows open, and shops could be unattended for a short while. We’ve even heard several stories of people losing their belongings on the street or in taxis and getting it still got it back due to the kindness of the local people. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be careful, but Albania is definitely a lot safer than most people think.
10. There Are Over 300 Sunny Days A Year
Let’s talk about the weather in Saranda, which is the warmest city in all of Albania, due to its southern location. Although the weather is seasonal, with hot and dry summers, and relatively wet winters, it never gets very cold. The summers are relatively long and throughout the year there are even over 300 sunny days in Saranda. This makes spring and autumn also very good times to visit, and every year more people even come during the winter.
11. It’s A Great Base To Discover The Albanian Riviera
Saranda is not only the biggest city in the south of Albania, it’s also strategically located. Saranda is just a 30 minute ferry away from Corfu, which has an international airport with many direct connections, and a new road connects Saranda with Tirana Airport in just 3.5 hours. This makes Saranda a great base to stay, from where you can make day trips to beautiful beaches and historic villages along the Albanian Riviera and other parts of south Albania, like Gjirokastra or Përmet.
12. There’s A Growing International Community
Are you looking for a place to stay for longer? Then you should definitely consider Saranda, as you wouldn’t be the only foreigner staying here. The international community of people staying in Saranda from anything between a month to permanently has exploded over the last few years. Among the expats are retirees, digital nomads, volunteers, and investors in property who either stay here full-time or part-time. When it comes to staying here for longer, it’s important to understand the seasonality of Saranda, which really thrives during the summer months, and gets rather quiet, and cheaper, outside the holiday season. To learn more about the winter season, check out this post as well.
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