Saranda is a popular coastal city known for its beautiful beaches and turquoise waters. But beyond the city's boundaries lie many fascinating destinations perfect for day trips!
Here's a list of some of the best day trips from Saranda:
Butrint National Park
The Blue Eye
For the best beach day trips - Ksamil
Benja Hot Springs
Butrint National Park
Butrint was once the site of an ancient city that saw various rulers from the Greeks, Romans, and Byzantines. Today, it's a well-preserved archaeological park where you can step back in time and walk through ancient theaters, temples, public baths, and more. The city was largely abandoned in the late Middle Ages, which has helped preserve its ancient charm. Now it has the UNESCO World Heritage site status.
Beyond its historical structures, Butrint is surrounded by dense forests, wetlands, and freshwater lakes. This lush environment is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, making it a great spot not just for history buffs but also for those looking to immerse themselves in nature.
Butrint is easily accessible from Saranda. You can take a local bus or hire a car. The journey is around 20km and typically takes 30 minutes by car.
The entrance fee to enter Butrint National Park for foreigners is 1000 LEK (10.90 USD).
If you prefer to go with a tour guide that will provide a deeper understanding of the site and history you can pick one of these options:
The Blue Eye
The Blue Eye Spring is a stunning spot in Albania, famous for its incredibly clear blue water. It gets its name because when you look down into the spring, it resembles a deep blue eye.
It is a natural wonder as the water comes out of the cave. While many have tried to measure how deep it goes, the true depth remains a mystery. Some divers have ventured down 50 meters, but still couldn't see the bottom!
Nestled in a forest, the spring offers a serene place to relax. The sound of flowing water combined with the greenery makes it a perfect escape. It will definitely be one of the most unique spots you have gone for a swim! Also, the water is very cold.
The distance from Saranda is 22 kilometers so it is around 30-40 minutes by car. There is a tiny entrance fee of 100 LEK (1 USD). Also if you go with a car you will need to pay the parking fee.
Once you park, you will need to walk for around 20-30 minutes to get to the actual Blue Eye. If you are feeling lazy, there are electric scooter rentals by the parking.
If you prefer to visit this with an organized tour, then you can opt-in for this option: Visit the Blue Eye in a half-day tour
Ksamil is often referred to as the "Ionian Pearl" because of its captivating beauty and the unique, small islands that can be reached by a short swim or paddle.
Only about a 20-minute drive from Saranda, Ksamil offers a group of small islands known for their stunning, clean beaches and turquoise waters. It's an ideal spot if you're looking to relax on the beach, dip into the clear waters for some snorkeling, or grab a bite of delicious seafood from one of the many local restaurants.
Apart from enjoying the beaches, consider renting a pedal boat or paddle boards to explore the nearby islands!
My personal favorite was Lori Beach which is past the Ksamil town so a bit less crowded. I didn't visit myself but highly recommended is Ohana Beach bar! Of course, the main Ksamil beach is also a very lovely spot.
You can easily reach Ksamil from Saranda by taking a local bus, taxi, or driving. The journey usually takes around 20 minutes. We rented a motorbike in Saranda center and went for a ride which gave us a lot of freedom to explore different beaches.
Another UNESCO World Heritage site, this historic town is known for its well-preserved Ottoman architecture and its ancient fortress that offers panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes.
Strolling the stone-paved streets gives you a sense of stepping back in time. Visit the castle and fortress to get the best views of the city. The entrance fee into the castle is 400 LEK (4 USD).
Gjirokastër is often called the "City of Stone" because of its distinctive stone-roofed houses, which have been maintained for centuries.
Visiting during the Gjirokastër National Folklore Festival, held every five years, provides an unforgettable experience of Albanian culture and music.
An amazing local restaurant that is very well rated on Tripadvisor, I can recommend is called Taverna Tradicionale Kardhash. They offer many local dishes, especially those typical to Gjirokastër, like rice balls!
Gjirokastër can be reached from Saranda by bus or car. The journey typically takes just over an hour. Buses are relatively frequent, and the road, while winding through the hills, offers some picturesque views.
If you prefer to travel with a guide who will provide more insights of the castle and the city, you can pick a tour like this: Half-day guided tour from Saranda to Gjirokastra or Visit the City of Gjirokastra.
Located further inland from Saranda, the Osumi Canyons are a breathtaking natural spectacle. The river Osumi has carved out these canyons over millions of years, creating towering cliffs and clear pools that shimmer in the sunlight.
To get to Osumi Canyons from Saranda, you can take a bus or drive. The journey by car takes roughly 2.5 to 3 hours, traveling through scenic landscapes. While public transportation is an option, having your own vehicle or hiring a taxi for the day offers more flexibility.
Once there, visitors can enjoy a range of activities. Rafting is a popular choice during certain seasons, offering an adventurous way to experience the canyons. For those looking for something more relaxed, there are walking paths along the river, and spots to simply enjoy the serene environment. The best time to visit is during spring when the river's flow is at its peak and the surroundings are lush and green.
The Osumi Canyons are home to a number of caves, some of which contain ancient carvings believed to be over a thousand years old.
Benja Hot Springs
Set amidst the backdrop of majestic mountains and the flowing river, Benja Hot Springs are nature's own spa, where steaming water flows out of the ground, rich in minerals that are believed to have therapeutic properties. The thermal waters of Benja have been enjoyed for centuries. They are said to help in treating skin conditions and muscle aches due to the mineral composition.
I believe Benja Hot Springs could be a great stop on your way back from Osumi Canyons!
At Benja, there are several small pools where you can relax and soak in the warm waters. The old stone bridge crossing the river near the springs is a popular photo spot, with the steamy waters below and mountains in the distance.
It can get quite popular during weekends and holidays, so if you prefer a quieter experience, consider visiting during a weekday.
Located on a hilltop overlooking Saranda, this castle offers breathtaking views of the bay and the island of Corfu. While the castle itself is partly in ruins, there's a restaurant where visitors can enjoy local cuisine.
This wouldn't call a day trip as it is literally in Saranda and takes around 5 minutes to get up with the car, but if you decide to hike the mountain, then you can get a good half-day hike up and down! This place I highly recommend during the sunset. So if you have rented a car, this could be a great stop on your way back to Saranda!
On Expedia, you can find a great tour that includes Saranda city and the Lekuresi Castle: Half Day walking tour between the history and archeology of Saranda.
Yes, you can easily get a 30-minute speed boat to Corfu and enjoy the beautiful island. The boats go quite often and you can get a ticket on the way! There is so much to see and do so I am not going to go into detail here but you can find all the best places to see and visit in my Corfu Travel Guide! Also, check out the video:
If you are planning a trip to Saranda, make sure to check out my very practical Saranda Travel Guide and check out this video: