Saranda is a very important tourist location for Albania, since foreigners and Albanians alike flock there each summer. The reason is clear, Saranda is one of few Mediterranean beach towns where you can still get a hotel room for as little as 25-40 Euros a night (or even less during the off-season). The scene is lively with plenty of ocean-side bars and clubs, yet you can also find refinement in the many restaurants which abound with local produce and freshly-caught seafood.
Overall, Saranda is a great location for summer travelers who want a good deal without having to compromise cleanliness or good food. Whether you want to relax on the beach and swim to one of the islands in Ksamil, visit ancient archaeological sites like Butrint, or perhaps just enjoy a nice meal or drink next to the glistening Ionian sea, you will likely find yourself charmed by this unique location.
The name means "40" in Greek ("Σαραντα"), and refers to the martyrdom of the 40 Saints of Sebaste (Sebaste is in modern-day Armenia). The story goes, there were 40 Roman soldiers who were to be put to death by order of the Emperor Licinius, since they would not give up their Christianity. It was winter, and the soldiers were forced to lie naked on a frozen pond unless they would give up their faith.
One soldier gave himself up, and was allowed to go ashore to the hot baths, blankets, and warm food that was waiting. The guard who was ordered to keep watch over the dying soldiers, saw a brilliant light over the lake and then immediately professed his faith and went to take the place of the soldier who had left. Thus there were still 40 martyrs, this being relevant since 40 is a sacred number in Christianity.
One of the reasons that Saranda is such a popular summer tourist destination is because it is so convenient to both Greece and Italy, and therefore it’s simple to visit all three countries during the same trip. During warm months there are hydrofoil ferries that travel twice a day between Corfu (Greek: Kerkyra) and Saranda.
Also, if you can get yourself 80 miles north along the coast to Vlora, there is a ferry that runs back and forth to Brindisi, Italy and it takes about 5-8 hours each way. Really the distance between Albania and the heel of Italy’s boot across the Strait of Otronto is a mere 72 kilometers (42 miles).
Once you get out of the hustle and bustle of Saranda City and drive for about 30 minutes north along the coast, you will find some of the most spectacularly untouched natural beauty. Silver-leaved olive trees line the sparkling mediterranean, parts of which exhibit the bright blue-green color you’d expect to see only in the Caribbean. The beaches in this area are cleaner and much less crowded than those in or near the city.