Saranda (alb. Sarandë) the gateway to the southern Albania, is a small town of about 22.000 inhabitants (2008 est.), situated on a beautiful horseshoe bay between a mountains and the Ionian Sea. The name Saranda derives from an early Christian monastery dedicated to Agioi Saranta (Forty Saints). Situated opposite of Corfu island, Saranda is often visited by day trippers who come to enjoy this previously inaccessible resort. There are daily ferry services to and from Corfu available.
The sea panorama, the variety of flora, favored by the soft climate and warm sea waters, make Saranda the preferred center for rest and recreation and an important tourist town. Honeymooners traditionally spend their holidays here. Saranda has an excellent climate, averaging 290 sunny days a year. In the summer temperatures rarely exceed 30 degrees during the day, while the sea breeze at night is quite refreshing.
Saranda is an old town, first settled by the Illyrian tribe of Chaonians who named it Onchesmus. Cicero mentions it as convenient harbor with favorable winds. The bay on which town is build gives Saranda its charming look, that can be better appreciated if approached from the sea. Many mosaics found in the town confirm that the town must have seen some above average development around 2nd and 3rd century AD.
"Blue Eye" spring
(Syri i Kalter)
The town is a good base for exploring the most beautiful part of the Albanian coast - a strip also known as the Albanian riviera. Tthe coastal road to Vlore is also wonderful. Near Saranda there are the ruins of the ancient city of Butrint and the Springs of "Blue Eye". You can also visit the museum city, Gjirokastra. It is about 1.5 hours by bus.
What to see
The ruins of ancient town of Onchesmus in Saranda
"Blue Eye" spring (Syri i Kalter) - 18 km north-east of Saranda. At this beautiful spot, shaded by centuries old oak trees, a twelve headed dragon, according to the legend , jeausly guarded and held back the spring waters from the villagers. Consequently, pagan rituals were carried out by sacrificing young voluptuous maidens to the gods of the same waters.
Ksamil - village near Saranda with beautiful beach with several small islands you could swim to.
Butrint - one of the most important archeological finds in Albania, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Butrint was an ancient city throughout Greek, Roman, bishopric and Byzantine periods. The city was finally abandoned during the Middle Ages perhaps due to the marsh surrounding and subsequent malaria epidemic. Despite being one of the greatest classical cities of the Mediterranean, Butrint remains largely unknown. The current archaeological site includes an impressive Greek amphitheatre, a Byzantine Basilica (the largest in the world after Hagia Sophia in Istanbul), a Roman temple with mosaic floor, a beautifully carved Lion's gate as well numerous constructions built throughout the periods. Furthermore, what you see is just 15% of what lies beneath.
Ancient temple and other ruins of Foinike - in Finiq village. According to Edwin Jacques, it is found to have had one of the biggest acropolis in the ancient world, roughly 7 times bigger than that of Athens.
Small Castle of Ali Pasha - in Vrine village
Church of Saint Kolli - in Mesopotam village
Gjirokastra - 'city of a thousand steps' comprises hundreds of Ottoman-style tower houses with distinctive stone roofs, wooden balconies and whitewashed stone walls. Dominated by the sheer flanks of its vast castle, Gjirokastra is a magical city with a tumultuous past.Known by many as the City of Stone, Gjirokastra is a developing centre for cultural heritage tourism.Its old town is inscribed on the World Heritage List as "a rare example of a well-preserved Ottoman town, built by farmers of large estate."
Saranda Area in Photos
Dhermi and Himara - 37 pictures from Albanian Riviera, 2008
Country of Flying Saucers - everyday life in Albania - Syri i Kalter, Butrint, Borsh, 09/2008