This year, we chose to spend our summer vacation in the Riviera beaches in Albania. As a result of extensive research, we have decided to go in the Sarande region of southern Albania, near the Greek border. The approximately 40 kilometers you must travel by car after entering Albanian territory (we used the Kakavia border crossing point) to Sarande are a real treat, with breathtaking scenery along the winding road through mountains.
Once at the hotel (we stayed at Hotel Republika, which turned out to have a very good price-quality ratio and an excellent positioning, being exactly in the center of the city opposite the beach at the point with the highest intensity of nightlife), we completed the check-in formalities and began exploring the area.
I had read on the internet that the main religion in Albania is Islam, but we saw more Orthodox churches than mosques during our visit. I thought it might be because we went to the south of Albania, where the Greek influence is stronger…
What are the prices in Albania?
The fact that Albania is a reasonably affordable destination was something else we had read about the country and that had a big impact on our decision. If this is true or not, I’ll leave it up to you to decide after I present some Albanian prices below.
Albania’s currency is the Albanian Lek (ALL). 1lek (lek) is equal to 100 Qindark. There are six different coins: the Lek1, the Lek5, the Lek10, the Lek20, the Lek50, and the Lek100. There are five different denominations of bank notes: Lek200, Lek500, Lek1000, Lek2000, and Lek5000. We recommend checking the currency when trading to avoid unexpected risks of receiving fake money. Be especially cautious with the following banknotes: Lek5000 and Lek2000. The current Albanian Lek (ALL) exchange rate is 1 EUR = 115 ALL.
We paid 58000 ALL (490 euros) for seven nights of hotel accommodation in a triple room with breakfast. A beer on the terrace can be bought for approximately 200 – 250 ALL (1.71 – 2.14 euros) and in the supermarket for 120 – 150 ALL (1.00 – 1.28 euros). A bus ticket costs 150 ALL (1.28 euros), 1 liter of gasoline 211 ALL (1.81 euros) and a pack of cigarettes between 240 and 320 ALL (2.00 – 2.74 euros). A main course costs between 700 and 1200 ALL (6.00 – 10.27 euros) at the restaurant, a salad 500 – 600 ALL (4.28 – 5.14 euros), a gyros 400 ALL (3.42 euros), and a seafood portion costs between 900 and 2000 ALL (7.71 – 17.12 euros). On Borsh beach, we paid 500 ALL (4.28 euros) for a full day of renting two sunbeds and an umbrella.
All of these prices are from Sarande; prices in Ksamil, for example, are slightly higher…
Things to do in Sarande, Albania
Saranda (also known as Sarande in Albania) offers a ton of fascinating activities, like visiting numerous historical monuments and indulging in the country’s delectable seafood cuisine. The beaches at Sarande are among the most stunning on the Albanian Riviera. The city is crowded and has the best nightlife in the nation during the summer (July and August).
Among the best things to do in Sarande, Albania, we have chosen the following:
Go to one of the Riviera beaches in Albania
There are numerous beaches in Albania Riviera, Sarande region, that you can enjoy with your family. We decided to visit Borsh Beach. With a length of seven kilometers, this seaside village between Saranda and Dhermi has the longest beach on the Ionian Sea. Despite the idyllic scenery, mass tourism has yet to arrive in the village, giving it a sleepy and easy-going vibe.
A small plain with olive groves is immediately behind the beach, and ruins of mosques and castles can be found further back in the hills. Ali Pasha is a 1400s Venetian fortress that demonstrates how the Ionian was a key battleground between the Ottoman Empire and a succession of European armies ranging from the Republic of Venice to Napoleonic forces.
Discover the seafood scene
Sarande has fantastic seafood. To demonstrate, I never used to eat or like seafood and it wasn’t until I visited Sarande, Albania that I began to eat it! There are several excellent restaurants in Sarande. If you want to have a’real’ seafood experience, I recommend going straight to the Sarande fishing docks (about a 25 minute from the centre). Right where the boats dock, there are a couple of good seafood restaurants.
Gjirokaster, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of my favorite day trips from Saranda. It is one of Albania’s most unique and amazing cities. I highly recommend taking a day trip here from Sarande, which is about an hour and a half by bus or use a car. Although it is easily a day trip, there is enough to do in Gjirokastr to justify staying for a day or two.
Take pleasure in The Town’s Bay
The main beach in Saranda is a horseshoe bay with a mix of sand and pebbles next to calm blue Ionian waters. The beach is open to the public and offers all of the amenities of a European seaside vacation. Paddleboats can be rented near the beach, sunbeds are available, and the beach is surrounded by a promenade. In the summer, this walkway is lined with lush palm trees that provide shade for ice cream carts and pop-up bars. If you get hungry, cross the road behind the promenade for a sit-down lunch at one of Saranda’s front row cafes or seafood restaurants.
Go to Syri Kalter (The Blue Eye in English)
Syri Kalter, or the Blue Eye in English, is a natural spring and a mesmerizing natural phenomenon in Saranda’s hilly hinterland. The way the sunlight catches the spring on a clear day captivates people about Syri Kalter, creating a deep shade of blue that glistens like an eye. This effect is caused by oxygen bubbles rising up from the spring’s bottom, which is at least 50 meters below the surface but could be much deeper. The setting is also stunning, with oak and sycamore trees surrounding the water and a wooden viewing platform directly above the “Eye.”
This village is located within the Butrint National Park, between the Ionian Sea and Lake Butrint. Ksamil is only a few minutes’ drive south of Saranda, and it’s best to leave early in the morning to spend the entire day there. The sea near Ksamil is as calm as anywhere on the Riviera, and you can hire a motor boat for a short adventure exploring the small islands just a few hundred meters off the coast. You could anchor in a secluded cove and spend the afternoon sunbathing and swimming in complete solitude.
Take a nighttime boat ride
Take a night boat ride to admire the city lights from the sea and enjoy a boat party.
Why Should Everyone Visit Albania At Least Once?
Albania has beautiful beaches
Albania’s many beaches along its Riviera are full of coves where you’ll only see a few people in the off-season months, such as September or October, because tourists are still discovering it. The water is exceptionally clean and clear, and it is frequently a stunning turquoise color.
The villages are absolutely beautiful
Village life in Albania has largely remained unchanged, and many villagers have converted their homes into pensions where tourists can stay. Immersion in their lives is an excellent way to get back to basics.
Albania’s mountains are breathtaking
The Albanian Alps are ideal for hiking, and their peaks are stunning from every angle. Hiking paths are well marked, so even if you only see a few shepherds on your way to the top, you’ll never get lost.
The food is both fresh and tasty
You can only imagine how fresh everything is in such a strong rural culture where everyone grows their own food. Albanian seafood is also excellent, and with a strong Italian influence, you’ll most likely end up eating one of the best seafood linguines of your life.
The community is quite warm-hearted
The people of Albania are incredibly joyful and like visitors. So, if you ever find yourself lost, don’t be hesitant to ask for assistance; someone will always be willing to point you in the correct direction if they can speak a little English.