Southern Albania’s jewel in their Balkan crown, Sarande, is a small yet intoxicatingly beautiful town lying on the coast of the Ionian Sea. Located just opposite the popular Greek resort island of Corfu, the climate of Sarande is as expected, warm and sunny throughout the year.
This seaside town is the premier resort on what is known as the Albanian Riviera or Bregu to the locals. With its attractive promenade, reasonably priced and quality hotels, and numerous restaurants, Sarande is a picture-perfect postcard town, hugely popular with Albanian holidaymakers themselves and very possibly, soon to be popular with western European tourists as well.
For the best sand, surf, and suntan oil action, head down to Ksamili village, a short walk or bike ride down the road from the city center. Ksamili is the most beautiful beach in the area, and has several small islets lying just off the coast to play or sun on – literally so close that many people can easily swim across to them.
History in the Ionian Sun
Butrint, named as a World Heritage site by UNESCO, is the site of an ancient city that was once a thriving commercial center in the region, from the days of the Greeks all the way up until the Byzantine period, when it was abandoned. Despite its status as a true classical Mediterranean city, much of the world has never even heard of Butrint, and this is a real shame because it’s a scenic archaeological treasure.
Highlights here include the second-largest Byzantine Basilica in the world, a brilliantly-preserved Roman amphitheater, an old Roman temple, and numerous other buildings from antiquity. Another highlight of Saranda is the nearby Castle of Lekures, which sits on a hill overlooking the town, and offers pleasing views of the Ionian Sea, Corfu and the Butrint Lagoon. A second castle, the Ali Pash Tepelena Castle, is also worth a visit. Pulbardha Beach plays second fiddle to Ksamili, but is nevertheless a pretty place in for lying about and swimming.
All in all, Sarande offers lots of charm and lots of intrigue in equal measure – alternate between relaxing at the beach and exploring the ancient ruins, or jump on the ferry to Corfu and check out the lively nightlife – it’s all possible in Sarande. Shopping dining, and just people watching round out what is one of the most pleasurable and interesting spots on the Ionian Sea.
Images courtesy Wikipedia