Ermak Travel Guide

 

 

Saranda

Saranda

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transportation

Hotels, motels and where to sleep

Restaurant, taverns and where to eat

Cultural (and not so cultural) events

Interesting information and useful tips

 

Description of Saranda

Saranda is a large Albanian port that is often called "the Southern gateway to Albania". It stands on shores of the Ionian coast opposite the Greek Island of Corfu. Saranda is a small town with a population of 33,000 people, located on the shores of a picturesque bay in the shape of a horseshoe, between the mountains and the Ionian Sea. The name Saranda is derived from the name of the early Christian monastery of the Forty Saints (Greek Aoya Saranta), located nearby. In antiquity, Saranda was known as Onhesmus. The city is characterized by a Mediterranean climate and warm sea. Usually in Saranda there are 300 sunny days a year. Because of its location, Saranda is one of the attractive tourist towns on the Albanian Riviera. Along the sea is a promenade, which houses hotels and restaurants.

 

 

 

Destinations in Saranda

Saranda Tourist Info Center (Glass sphere building), Shetitorja Naim Frasheri (Near the Molo by the beach). There are two Tourist Info Centers (one yellow-domed building on the boardwalk, another more traditional office near the bus center). Both are excellent resources for bus timetables. An added bonus is that the employees speak good English.

 

The ruins of the synagogue in Saranda

The Jewish synagogue of Saranda was built in the 5th century AD within the walls of the ancient Onchemum or Onchezma, as Saranda was originally called. Judging by the size of this two-story building, the local Jewish community was large and rich. According to written documents, many Jews moved to the ancient city from the surrounding village. Here they lived peacefully and flourished.

The strategic location of Oncesma at the intersection between Corfu, Thessaloniki and Constantinople, as well as Italian cities, offered the local population a permanent job of building and supplying merchant ships. Many Jews were brought here to fill these jobs. The next logical step was the construction of a synagogue.

The synagogue of Saranda served as both a religious and a social center. In addition, it housed a school for Jewish children. Originally, the synagogue was a two-story building. It included the community prayer hall and mosaic pictorial animals and Jewish symbols. Later, when the community grew, the temple was rebuilt in the form of a classical basilica somewhere in the 6th century. We do not have reliable information about the destruction of the basilica. It was destroyed either during the Slavic invasion of the 5th century, or as a result of an earthquake.

 

Further afield

Borsh (N 35 km). a maritime village
Butrint National Park and Archaeological Site, Butrint, Ksamil (Just outside of Ksamil). This is an 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 Roman amphitheater, 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 per cent of what lies beneath. As of summer of 2005, there is an international archaeological team performing excavations at Butrint which can be observed inside the park. - 700 lek entry fee (€5). As of September 2014, there are city buses that run to Butrint, via Ksamil, every even hour on the half hour, from 6:30 until 16:30 p.m. (06:30, 8:30, 10:30...16:30). The same bus line runs from Butrint to Saranda, via Ksamil, every odd hour on the half hour from 7:30 until 17:30 p.m. (07:30, 9:30, 11:30....17:30). Bus price is 100Lek per person and can be picked up at the main Saranda bus station or across the street from Hotel Buntrinti. Butrint visitors should allocate approximately 2 hours to enjoy the site; archaeology fans will probably want closer to 3 hours.
Dhërmi beach (N 65 km). — one of the finest of the many beaches along the coastal road, perfect for camping.
Ksamil beach (near Sarande. The bus from Sarande serves both Ksamili and Butrint.). This village has a beautiful beach with several small islands you could swim to. Ksamili is now heavily developed, with a large number of part-completed properties. An extraordinary sight is that some of these new buildings are toppling over; this is believed to be where buildings have gone up without permission, and the police have sabotaged the building by pulling out a couple of upright pillars, leaving the owner to clear up the damage.
Lukove beach (N 20 km). - part of the Albanian Riviera, here is Kakome, one of the most beautiful Albanian beaches. As of July 2018 the road access to Kakome beach was blocked by closed gates with guards, apparently due to a construction project.
Syri i Kalter (The Blue Eye), Delvinë District (25 min away by driving). Water spring - a natural phenomenon. The clear blue water of the river bubbles forth from a stunning, more than the fifty-metre-deep pool. A great place to visit and relax.

 

 

History

Ancient
In antiquity the city was known by the name of Onchesmus or Onchesmos (Ancient Greek: Ὄγκησμος), and was a port-town of Chaonia in ancient Epirus, opposite the northwestern point of Corcyra, and the next port upon the coast to the south of Panormus. It was inhabited by the Greek tribe of the Chaonians. Onchesmos flourished as the port of the Chaonian capital Phoenice (modern-day Finiq). It seems to have been a place of importance in the time of Cicero, and one of the ordinary points of departure from Epirus to Italy, as Cicero calls the wind favourable for making that passage an Onchesmites. According to Dionysius of Halicarnassus the real name of the place was the Port of Anchises (Ἀγχίσου λιμήν), named after Anchises, the father of Aeneas; and it was probably owing to this tradition that the name Onchesmus assumed the form of Anchiasmus or Anchiasmos (Greek: Αγχιασμός) under the Byzantine Empire.

Saranda, then under the name of Onchesmos, is held to be the site of Albania's first synagogue, which was built in the 4th or 5th century. It is thought that it was built by the descendants of Jews who arrived on the southern shores of Albania around 70 CE. Onchesmos' synagogue was supplanted by a church in the 6th century.

The city was probably raided by the Ostrogoths in 551 AD, while during this period it became also the target of piratic raids by Gothic ships. In a medieval chronicle of 1191 the settlement appears to be abandoned, while its former name (Anchiasmos) isn't mentioned any more. From that year, the toponym borrows the name of the nearby Orthodox basilica church of Agioi Saranta, erected in the 6th century, ca. 1 km (0.6 mi) southeast of the modern town.

Modern
Following the Ottoman administrative reform of 1867, a müdürluk (independent unit) of Sarandë consisting of no other villages was created within the kaza (district) of Delvinë. Sarandë in the late Ottoman period until the Balkan Wars (1912-1913) consisted of only a harbour being a simple commercial station without permanent residents or any institutional community organisation. The creation of the Saranda müdürluk was related to the desires of Ottoman authorities to upgrade the port and reduce the economic dependence of the area on Ioannina and Preveza.

In 1878, a Greek rebellion broke out, with revolutionaries taking control of Sarandë and Delvinë. This was suppressed by Ottoman troops, who burned twenty villages in the region. One of the earliest photographs of Saranda dates from 3 March 1913 and shows Greek soldiers in the main street during the course of the Second Balkan War. Saranda was a major centre of the short-lived Autonomous Republic of Northern Epirus.

Greek troops occupied it during the Balkan Wars. Later, the town was included in the newly formed Albanian state in 17 December 1913 under the terms of the Protocol of Florence. The decision was rejected by the local Greek population, and as the Greek army withdrew to the new border, the Autonomous Republic of Northern Epirus was established. In May 1914, negotiations were started in Sarandë between representative of the provisional government of Northern Epirus and that of Albania which continued in nearby Corfu and ended up with the recognition of the Northern Epirote autonomy inside the newly established Albanian state.

It was then occupied by Italy between 1916 and 1920 as part of the Italian Protectorate on southern Albania. Throughout 1926-1939 of the interwar period, Italy financed extensive improvements to the harbour at Sarandë. Sarandë was again occupied by Italian forces in 1939 and was a strategic port during the Italian invasion of Greece. During this occupation, it was called "Porto Edda" in honor of the eldest daughter of Benito Mussolini.

During the Greco-Italian War, the city came under the control of the advancing Greek forces, on 6 December 1940. The capture of this strategic port further accelerated the Greek penetration to the north. As a result of the German invasion in Greece in April 1941, the town returned to Italian control. On 9 October 1944 the town was captured by a group of British commandos under Brigadier Tom Churchill and local partisans of LANÇ under Islam Radovicka. The involvement of the British troops was considered problematic by LANÇ as they considered that they would use the town as their base and install allies of the Greek resistance in the area as British documents indicate that EDES forces also joined the operation. However, the British troops soon withdrew from the region, leaving the region to the Albanian communist forces.

 

As part of the People's Republic of Albania (1945-1991) policies a number of Muslim Albanians were settled from northern Albania in the area and local Christians are no longer the only community in Saranda. During this period as a result of the atheistic campaign launched by the state the church of Saint Spyridon in the harbor of the city was demolished. After the restoration of democracy in Albania (1991) a small shrine was erected at the place of the church.

During the Albanian Civil War (1997) units comprised by the local Greek minority were able to achieve the first military success through capture of a military tank for the opposition forces.

 

 

 


 

Transportation

How to get there
On the ship
Communication with the Greek island of Corfu three times a day during the season and once a day during the off-season. It is either a speedboat (45 min.) or steam (1.5 hours). The fare is 19 Euro one way, 38 Euro two way.

 

To the nearby Greek island of Corfu (New Port). The daily ferryboats are at 10:30; 13:00 and 16:30 (fewer out of season - check with the ticket office at the port). The 10:30 passage is a hydrofoil which takes about 25-45 minutes. The 16:30 is a car ferry. Corfu is one hour ahead of Albania. One way: 19€/Return: 38€.

By bus
Buses to/from Tirana can be travelled with the bus lines, taxi vans or taxis. There are two itineraries: Tirana-Durres-Fieri-Vlora-Dhermi-Saranda or Tirana-Durresi-Fieri-Mallakastra-Tepelena-Gjirokastra-Saranda. If you travel through the Riviera (the first) you should pay more attention as the way is narrow.

There is also a Tirana-Sarandë bus line by RivieraBus.com. Their route connects all main Albanian resorts such as Durres, Vlore, Dhermi, Jale, Himara, Borsh and Sarandë.

There are lines to/from Vlore that go through the Riviera or "Bregu" (a line of picturesque, gorgeous Mediterranean beaches and villages; Bregu is the summer hostel of the Prime Minister and President). The line from Gjirokaster to Tepelene, Fier and Tirana also passes Sarandë. - From Ioannina to Kakavi takes around 40 minutes by bus or taxi. When you reach Kakavi, you follow this itinerary: Kakavi-Gjirokaster-Jergucat-Qafe e Muzines-Sarandë.

By car
From Kosovo and North Macedonia follow this itinerary to reach Saranda: Strufe-Qafe Thana-Librazhd-Elbasani-Rrogozhina-Fier and so on. It is connected with Greece by land: (i) By the border of Qafe Bota with Gumenitsa; (ii) By the border of Kakavi with Ioannina The tourists, who come here from Greece, reach the border of Kakavi in two ways: from Ioannina and Gumenitsa. From Ioannina to Kakavi takes around 40 min. When you reach Kakavi, you follow this itinerary: Kakavi-Gjirokaster-Jergucat-Qafe e Muzines-Sarande. Though Qafe-Bota, the itinerary is Igoumenitsa-Qafe Bote-Sarande, but the roadway is narrower.

By air
The idea of an airport in the village of Viron is of great interest, because it is only 5 km far from Saranda. A facility is the urban service offered nowadays.

 

Hotels, motels and where to sleep

Hostels
1 Backpackers SR, Rruga Mithat Hoxha Num 10, Lagja 4 Sarande, 7500 (*Directions from Bus - From the bus stop walk downhill towards the sea, when you reach the promenade turn right on to Ionianet street and walk to the eucalyptus in the center of the road and turn left and 50 metres on the right you will see a yellow and grey building No. 10. At the dark brown door, ring the bell (Tomi) six minute walk. *Directions from the Corfu ferry - Exit the customer area, walk up the ramp, turn right and 50 meters in front you should see a yellow and grey building with an internet cafe on the ground floor. Look for the dark brown door to the left of the creppe shop. Ring the bell named Tomi. One minute walk.), ☎ +355 694345426. Centrally located in the heart of town, close to everything Saranda has to offer. Bus route 6 min walk, Corfu ferry 1 min, Bus st. to Ksamil/Butrint 1 min, Bus st. to Greece 2 min, beach in front of the hostel, the famous promenade (xhiro) on our doorstep, the farmers market, fresh fruits & vegs 1 min. Open year-round. 14 dorm beds in a new building. Free breakfast. Free wifi. Kitchen. Free Security lockers. Free linen & bedsheets. Free coffee and tea. Roof terrace. Beach BBQ dinners in front of the hostel in the summer. Run by Tomi, a local resident, who is such a nice and helpful guy. He will make you feel right at home by going out of his way to help you out. Knows lots of information about day trips to Butrint and the Blue eye. €11.
Bunkies Hostel, Rruga Butrinti KM 1 (next to vila duraku hotel) (Getting to the hostel is very easy: from the bus station or port, walk towards the tourist information that's on the beach. The hostel is located in the first white and blue building at the end of the main promenade, next to Vila Duraku hotel. Walk up the stairs and enter the building from your right side. Go up the elevator to the 6th floor (there's also a sign inside the building)), ☎ +355 69 371 9316, e-mail: info@bunkieshostel.com. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 11:00. Bunkies is a new hostel (as of 2016) and is located in the city center in front of the beach. It has 14 comfortable dorm beds and includes free breakfast, free Wi-Fi, free linen, free lockers, laundry service, book exchange, car rental and tour options. Also, the owner, Dani, is very nice and helpful. The hostel has a communal kitchen area, two lounge rooms, two shared bathrooms and two balconies that overlook the city and Corfu islands. 9-12 €.
2 The Hairy Lemon hostel, Rruga Mitat Hoxha, 8th floor (lemon logo on door), Koder (Directions: A taxi from the port costs €3. Otherwise, with your back to the Port turn left and continue on this coastal road (part tarmac and part dirt track) 1 km till you see a sign on the right: 'Pharmacy' and on the left 'Kasandro Restaurant' at the 'Apollonia Hotel' junction. Ask anyone along the coastal road for 'Apollonia Hotel'. From the map 'Andon Lapa Hotel' to 'Apollonia Hotel' is a 2/3 min walk. Above the 'Pharmacy' in the 10-storey lemon and orange building, look up to the 8th floor to see an Albanian flag hanging from their balcony. Go to the opposite side of this building to find the entrance. You can get a key to the building from the shop near the building entrance. Take the lift to the 8th floor. From the lift go left, and the 'Hairy Lemon' is behind the last door on the left), ☎ +355 69 3559317, e-mail: saranda@hairylemonhostel.com. A small 18-bed hostel run by a great Irish lady. Has hot shower, laundry, free breakfast, 24-hour tea and coffee, internet, comfy bunks and a large balcony with great views of the beach and Corfu. €12 (€14 jul-aug).

Apartments
Holiday Apartments from locals, everywhere in and around Sarandë. There are plenty of private houses, apartments offered by locals especially during the high season period. The accommodation offered ranges from low-budget to highly exclusive locations both for low and reasonably high prices. However, if you are traveling in a group of more than 2 people, it is worth considering. The apartments can usually accommodate up to 10 people and are much cheaper than a hotel. Furthermore, you can usually cook in the apartment and save some money. But make sure to book your accommodation in advance, since most of the apartments get booked out very fast.

Hotels
Epirus Hotel, Mitat Hoxha 2. dbl €23 incl. breakfast.
Hotel Palma, Rruga Mitat Hoxha. sgl from €20.
Porto Eda Hotel, Rruga Jonianet, ☎ +355 69 2063480, fax: +355 85226696, e-mail: info@portoeda.com. The simple. Mobile: +355 69 7233180 dbl €45.
Hotel Aulona, Rruga Lefter Talo, nr.84. Wi-Fi dbl. from €25.
Hotel Kaonia, Rruga Jonianet, 22 Tel.+355 85 222600
Hotel Ari, Rruga (street) Jonianet, 20, dbl from €40
Villa Kanina, At Rruga Studenti and Rruga Sali Ceka corner +355 69 558 4338, dbl from €25
Hotel New Heaven, Saranda Butrinti Road (1 km from port). Twenty rooms with a shower. Dbl €30.

Hotel Butrint. This luxury five-star hotel is prohibitively expensive but very pretty.
Hotel Duraku. Very comfortable and clean rooms, and the staff is very qualified. dbl €90.
Hotel ‘Dea’ (1 km from the city center, walk along the road Sarand-Butrinti), ☎ +355 69 2724043, e-mail: hoteldea@gmail.com. 20 rooms, all with views on the sea, 3 large suites, a big swimming pool, bar, restaurant, reception and 24-hour private parking.

 

Restaurant, taverns and where to eat

Sarandë is bustling with restaurants, cafes and bars. Fast food places offer a surprisingly cheap and tasty variety of options: 1 euro will usually get you a good souvlaki (usually pork) or a very nice crepe. Look out for yoghurt flavoured ice cream on the boardwalk, near the tourist info office.

The Mare Nostrum Cuisine is a nice restaurant on the sea-front of Saranda, in the center. It has the reputation as one of the best places to eat in Saranda. Great food and service but known to be a little more expensive than other restaurants.

Fresh fish is abundant in Sarandë and available at most restaurants. Establishments next to the sea and fishing ports provide the freshest fish but generally speaking good seafood can be had all around.

Ksamil
There are a few places you can eat in Ksamil. At least 4 restaurants in Ksamil are open year-round, but in the summer there are a lot more options and many are just seconds from the beach.

Drink
Albanian Raki, the local firewater.

 

Cultural (and not so cultural) events

 

 

Interesting information and useful tips