We knew we needed to somehow get to Slovenia for our house sit in early May and had read that one of the easier ways to exit Albania back up to Europe was via a ferry to Corfu (11). Ryan Air has a hub in Corfu and the ferry was 20 Euro each for a 30-minute hydrofoil. We also knew some of the best beaches were in the South with amazing blue colours. So, we booked a reasonable costing Airbnb apartment in Saranda for a week on the more “local” side. Our plan was to then drop our hire car in Saranda for an extra 100 Euro drop-off fee.
The map below shows all of the places in Albania that we visited more recently, also including our time there in March. You can see the distance that we drove in our little Skoda from Koman (8) in the North to Saranda (10) in the South in these 10 days.
Saranda has a population of 30 000 that stretches to 300 000 in the peak months of July / August. Rentals also increase for a one-bedroom apartment to a whopping 1200 Euro a week. It is clear that peak is when money is made and everything is geared towards that. Cruise ships also dock a great deal in peak periods. This is the view from our apartment:
Even though it was still not peak we still found about a third of the restaurants open.
There was a definite feel of building/cleaning/preparing.
It also has quite an expat vibe. We went to one spot run by Americans where we met Scottish, American and British people. Albania offers a one-year visa to Americans so many Americans find it a good place to stay as there are then no visa runs. But many expats leave in peak when it’s too hot and crowded. We also met up with another couple who are a Canadian / Croatian mix and also travel and house sit so our time was a bit more social. The one thing about travelling is I love exploring and spending time with Adu, but sometimes it is nice to have conversations with others.
The food was really good, especially if you love seafood and very reasonable. Mussels are readily available and we shared this huge platter for 500 lek or R68. They were caught that day and wonderful. We also had lots of calamari, and one of the more interesting tastes was this stuffed version.
Another interesting observation on the mussels is that Adu saw them being sold deshelled in a 2-litre bottle 😜Adu prefers meat and really enjoyed this mince loaf with peppers and cheese.
We both also got haircuts. Adu’s again cost 400 lek (like Tirana) and mine was 1000 lek. Mine had grown so long and needed a good trim! The other thing we loved about Saranda was how people all tried to speak English and if they couldn’t they would phone a friend to help. Adu wanted to buy a luggage scale. He went to the electrical store where they were meant to stock them. They had none. So, he decided to try a fishing equipment shop. To try and mimic what he wanted was hard, so a friend was phoned and before he knew it, he had a luggage scale.
Ksamil (about 10 km south) is meant to have some of the best beaches in Albania. We found this to be true. We visited the one well-known beach Mirror beach or Pasqyra. The colours were just amazing, turquoise, blue, green, I can’t describe how beautiful it was. The road to get there is quite rough and you have to take it very slowly. There was just one family with young children swimming in the sea.
In July / August the beaches are packed with people lying like sardines on their rented sunbeds. I think that must be terrible.
The beaches of Ksamil itself are also beautiful.
Saranda was a great end to our wonderful time in Albania.