The tricky thing about going somewhere that’s just recently become popular is that while everyone wants to see what the hype is all about, few actually know how to get the most out of the experience.

That’s exactly the case with Sanadë (or Saranda), Albania, a place that’s set to become one of Europe’s trendiest beachy hotspots this summer yet remains unknown to most people.

Where to go? What to see? What’s worth doing? How to stay safe, on a budget, and certain that you’re getting the most out of the experience?

Luckily for you, I’ve already vacationed in Saranda more than a dozen times by this point, and I’m here to share everything I’ve learned during my time in the city, answering all of these questions and more in the process.

So, if you’re planning on exploring some of the most gorgeous places on the Albanian Riviera this summer, this is the only travel guide you need.

ksamil coastline, saranda, albania

The Best Things To Do And See In Saranda

While there’s a lot to be said about the value of flexibility and spontaneity when it comes to a great travel experience, when going somewhere as undiscovered (and unpredictable) as Albania, having at least a faint idea of an itinerary will always work in your favor.

saranda from above

In Saranda, however, you might be overwhelmed by the sheer number of hotels, bars, and restaurants that seem to have taken over the city, and, as you might’ve guessed, while some are genuinely great places where your money goes a long way, others are just tourist traps not with the time of day.

I’m here to help you figure out where it’s actually worth going.

Where To Stay?

There are some truly fantastic hotels in Saranda (places like Hotel Bahamas and Santa Quaranta offer excellent value for the $100-something price tag), but most locals coming to the city opt for short-term rentals instead.

santa quaranta, saranda hotel

Now, I’ve stayed in beautiful apartments in the city center for just $40 a night, but these are usually unlisted on booking sites and only found through acquaintances, so if you’re looking for that type of price or experience, you’ll want to reach out to a local or another traveler who’s been to Saranda; Facebook groups are great for that kind of thing.

Alternatively, you can always book Airbnbs, which, generally speaking, are far better-managed and decently priced in Europe than they are in the U.S. – cute little 1-bedrooms in the city center rarely cost more than $50 a night.

Where To Eat?

One thing about food in Saranda is that while it’s not anything groundbreaking, it’s reliably tasty.

Albanian Food Set On The Table At A Restaurant In Albania, Eastern Europe

Below, I’ll list some of the places I’ve found myself turning to time and time again during my time in the city:

  • L’arte Della Pizza
  • Balbi 34
  • Why Not? – Burger Bar
  • Restaurant Pupi
  • Oda e Babës

Where To Go At Night?

So, you’ve been to the beach, you had your lunch, and now it’s nighttime and you’re rested, dressed up, and ready to go out – where do you go?

Well, if you’re looking for the classic club experience, Jericho and Vamos are your best bets – during summer there’s a party going on every single night, and unless you’re there during a particularly busy time, you won’t need a reservation, either.

people dancing at a nightcub

On the other hand, those looking for just a laid-back night with a good drink in their hand can head over to one of my favorite places in the city – Noname Cocktail Bar.

It’s a small, dimly lit place that makes some of the best cocktails in the city for under $10.

The music is great but not so loud that you can’t hear yourself talking, and it’s right on the main promenade so you can watch the people go by and take in that summer sea breeze – it’s always been one of the highlights of my Saranda trips.

The Best Beach In Saranda

The first beaches you’ll see once you set foot in Saranda are the ones located just beside the promenade.

Aerial View Of Saranda, A City On The Albanian Riviera Facing The Turquoise Colored Adriatic Mediterranean Sea, Albania, Balkan Peninsula, South Eastern Europe

Now, these are called “public beaches,” but you’ll still get charged if you use the sunbeds here, though the price will be notably lower than what you’ll pay in nearby private beaches – between $4 and $5 for a set of two loungers and an umbrella depending on the month.

With that said, bringing your own umbrella and towels/chair is totally acceptable (which is more than what can be said for most private beaches in Saranda), and obviously free.

However, if you’re coming all the way to Albania, spending your days on such a sub-par and poorly organized beach is, in my opinion, a waste of time, especially when there are so many better options.

Pulebardha Beach Between Ksamil And Saranda In Albania, South Eastern Europe

Sunbeds here are a bit pricier, ranging between $15-$20 a day, but you’ll get a lot of bang for your buck since the beach is clean and well-maintained, the service is great, and the water is just to die for.

There are even small, unoccupied areas where you can lounge around for free, but these are pretty small and rocky, so make sure to weigh out the pros and cons beforehand.

But while this is my favorite beach within Saranda, it still doesn’t hold a candle to the places you’ll find outside the city, so make sure to budget for some day trips during your Albanian summer getaway.

ksamil beach

Exploring The Region Beyond The Main City

Saranda is the type of city that never leaves you bored, but there’s just so much to see and do in nearby villages that spending your entire holiday in the city would honestly be a waste of opportunity.

Let’s start with beaches since that’s probably what you’re here to see in the first place.

I’ve loved Pasqyra Beach since the first day I set foot in it.

pasqyra (mirror) beach, saranda, albania

It was 2013, and this was the first beach I saw that checked every single box – it had padded wooden sunbeds and straw umbrellas, the ground was pebbly but not uncomfortable, there were people there, but it wasn’t too crowded, the sea was as crystal-clear as they come, and I only paid about $7 for a pair of loungers – that’s a great price to pay for what feels like your own tropical paradise.

Granted, that price has gone up to ~$20 now, but not much else has changed.

people in pasqyra (mirror) beach, saranda, albania

In fact, this hidden Albanian gem was named the beach with the bluest waters in the world, leaving behind far better-known places.

Other beaches you won’t want to miss out on during your travels in Saranda include Ksamil, Livadi, and Jala, but I’d advise against going to Dhërmi – it truly is gorgeous, but over-tourism has unfortunately turned it into a mismanaged, overpriced mess.

For those who want to enjoy something beyond the daily sunbathing sessions, Syri i Kaltër and Butrint National Archaeological Park are not to be missed.

Greek Amphitheatre In Butrint, Albania

How To Stay Safe And Avoid Getting Overcharged

What most travelers consider before going to Albania is whether it’s truly safe.

I’m happy to report that Saranda is one of the safest places I’ve vacationed in my life.

Even when I walked home at 3 A.M. from the club, I never felt unsafe, not in the promenade (which was still relatively busy even at that hour), nor in the more quiet neighborhoods I had to walk through on my way back.

aerial view of Saranda, Albania

Now, I’m not saying what I did was a good idea since normal safety precautions are always necessary (especially if you’re traveling alone), but it goes to show just how safe and non-threatening the atmosphere is here.

One risk you do run, though, is that of getting overcharged.

Locals are notorious for trying to squeeze a few extra bucks from visitors, so my top tips to always get fair prices include:

  • While the euro has lost quite a bit of power to the Albanian Lek these past few months, 1€ is still not equal to 100 Lek (that’s the exchange rate most businesses quote foreigners), so always use the local currency if possible.
  • Stick to bigger money exchange places located in the city center, if you can check out online reviews, all the better.
  • When renting a sunbed, always ask other people or an employee about how much they cost BEFORE you actually sit down, that way, you can make an informed decision and avoid any potential confrontations down the line.
  • Only go to restaurants where the menus have clearly marked-out prices.
  • Only use reputable taxi services like Saranda Taxi 715 (+355 69 669 0142) and try to steer away from random drivers trying to poach tourists in the streets.

And with that last bit of information, you’re now 100% ready to make the most out of your Saranda vacation – I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!

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