The History of Sarandë
Further on is the 6th-century baptistery, where you’ll find lots of broken columns and a mosaic floor. You can’t see the actual floor, as it’s covered by sand to protect it. But you can see images of it at the site. It’s said to be the most beautiful mosaic floor in Albania!
My Time in Sarandë
Visit the Blue Eye
My friends at The Mussel House took me out on a boat tour of Butrint Lake so I could see the farm up close. The farm is a large, mostly underwater structure that is divided into sections. A different person or business owns each section, and each section contains pods that extend below the surface. The mussels are attached to the pods!
These mussels and their shells were coated in a thick, rich cream that was both smooth and decadent. The combination of the briny mussel and the cream was heaven on my palate. It was so good that I licked several of the shells clean to get more of that amazing, velvety texture!
Hugging the shore of the Ionian Sea in southwestern Albania is Sarandë, the southernmost city in the country. Known for its idyllic position beside the deep cerulean waters of the Mediterranean, this resort city is among the most popular tourist destinations in Albania. The top things to see and do in Sarandë take advantage of its glorious location. They make it a must for any traveler visiting the eastern Mediterranean.
I recommend starting with an appetizer of goat-cheese-and-pomodoro bruschetta and their refreshing arugula, carrot, and onion salad. For your next course, the Pasta de Albania is a phenomenal choice. It contains mussels, calamari, and shrimp, and is the closest thing you’ll get to Italian pasta outside of Italy.
Explore Ancient Butrint
Butrint National Park
About halfway through the hour-long drive from Gjirokastër to Sarandë, you’ll pass by one of Albania’s best-known natural wonders. This is the Blue Eye, a deep natural spring located along SH99 near the village of Muzinë. Also known as Syri i Kaltër, the Blue Eye is famous for its sparkling turquoise waters, which bubble up from a karst hole that is over fifty meters deep.
Because Sarandë is a coastal resort city, you’d be remiss if you didn’t find a nice beachfront hotel to call home during your stay. The best accommodation in the entire city is the Bougainville Bay Resort & Spa, a gorgeous art-deco hotel that overlooks the Ionian Sea.
The site is quite expansive and is spread out through the surrounding woodlands, so exploring will take some time. After you pay the 600 lekes (roughly .68 USD) to enter the park, Erjan and I first passed by two columns. Soon afterward, we saw our first sign of the walls further down the path.
My Trip to Butrint
If you visit the beach and are tired or struggling to wake up, stop by Jamaica Beach Club. This open-air cocktail bar is located right on the beach and sells a very strong coffee. It was exactly what I needed to wake me up and jump-start my day!
The spa offers everything from manicures and pedicures to massages, hydromassage baths, a hamam, a sauna, and more. The property’s most impressive swimming pool is the 360-degree infinity pool on the rooftop terrace, where I had the pleasure of taking a quick dip!
+355 4 410 4154
+355 4 410 4154
If you choose to visit Orange Cocktail Bar, remember that it will likely be packed. So if you’re not a fan of crowds, this may not be the spot for you. But if you like a good nightclub, great music, and a beautiful setting, it’s among the top things to see and do in Sarandë, Albania!
If you get hungry during your visit, or if you’re on the lookout for a refreshing drink, there are two restaurants and a bar near the spring. There’s also a cottage and a nice terrace. The entire area is surrounded by thick, lush greenery, which makes the Blue Eye feel peaceful and isolated despite the number of people!
For your entrees, I suggest going with the shrimp tava, a dish similar to a Greek favorite called shrimp saganaki. It’s creamy and filled with tiny shrimp, and has a nice kick of spice from the red pepper in it. If you’re a spicehead like me, add a bit of Tabasco to make it even hotter.
This grand hotel contains 123 rooms and thirty-five apartments. It also boasts villas, three restaurants, five swimming pools, three pool bars, a beach area, and the luxurious Butrinti SPA & Beauty Center, which alone is one of the best things to see and do in Sarandë, Albania.
Sarandë, Albania 9701
The 6th-century basilica was the largest basilica in the Balkans during Roman times and has massive, 30-foot high walls. Even in ruin, the basilica is breathtaking. And as you continue, you’ll find more sections of wall, the Lake Gate and Lion’s Gate, an acropolis, a watchtower, and a museum.
In antiquity, Sarandë was known by its Hellenistic name, Onchesmus. It served as a port-town in an area of the ancient state of Epirus and later grew into an important point of departure to Italy across the Adriatic. The historian Dionysius of Halicarnassus called it the Port of Anchises, which later became Anchiasmus during the Byzantine Empire.