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Sandwiched between the Ionian Sea and hills of olive groves, Saranda serves as the perfect town for a beach vacation. It’s a tropical paradise in the heart of Southern Europe with views good enough to find on a postcard. Plus, with a prehistoric history that’s left behind thousands of years of ancient ruins, the quaint resort town has much more to offer than just its beauty.
Dive into the Blue Eye Spring
Just 12 miles from the center of Saranda lies a tropical paradise known as Syri i Kalter, which literally translates to “Blue Eye.” The ground spring is over 164 feet deep and continuously pumps crystal clear, drinkable water to the surface. It’s easy to understand where the place gets its name from — the deep blue water is said to resemble an iris, while the lush vegetation surrounding the spring is said to look like eyelashes. With an average water temperature of 50 degrees, it’s a great place to escape from the summer heat. Explore all the beauty of the surrounding area with this tour of attractions in Saranda.
Visit the Ancient Ruins of Saranda
The home of Saranda’s most famous ancient ruins is Butrint, an archaeological site which has been described as “Rome without all the tourists.” Situated in the center of a salt lake, the 2,500-year-old UNESCO World Heritage Site features preserved Greek, Roman, and Venetian ruins famous for their size, beauty and tranquility. Tourists can learn about the history of Butrint at an on-site museum, known for a beautiful floor mosaic reminiscent of Roman art. Today, what remains of the archaeological site represents each period of the city’s history and development.
Meanwhile, in the center of Saranda lies a gem that simply cannot be missed: the ruins of a synagogue complex, where a large and wealthy Jewish community congregated in the 5th century. The site features a plethora of mosaics and other Jewish symbols, most notably the seven-branched candelabrum surrounded by lemons and a ram’s horn.
Elsewhere, perhaps Saranda’s most important historic site is the Forty Saints Monastery because that’s where the city gets its name. Located on the east side of the city, the monastery was built in the 6th century under the Byzantine Empire, when it was called “Agioi Saranda,” which literally means “Forty Saints” in Greek. It was built in honor of the 40 Martyrs of Sebaste, a group of Roman soldiers that were persecuted because of their Christian faith. Today, it is the Balkan’s only preserved monument of its kind. If you enjoy getting off the beaten track, this off-road vehicle tour around the city is unmissable.
Take a day trip to Corfu
While in Saranda, your Albanian Airbnb might offer a beautiful view of the Greek island of Corfu, but the actual ferry ride to the island will look even more magnificent. Corfu is known as Greece’s most cosmopolitan island, which features Venetian architecture and sunny skies year-round. There, you’ll find pretty towns by the bay with little fishing boats that float on crystal clear water. Not to mention lunch with a view and delicious ice cream at The Big Bite Store on Main Street. Make the most of your time on the island with this complete one-day tour.
Catch the sunset at Lekursi Castle
Built by Suleyman the Magnificent in the 16th century, Lekursi Castle sits on top of a hill above the city. The finely preserved castle features the main house and a turret, as well as a few rusted 20th-century gun batteries outside, all of which can be toured by the public. Concerts are also held inside the castle during the summer months, and the Lekursi Castle Restaurant offers a range of food and drinks. After an hour hike to reach the top of the hill, this historic site is the perfect place to grab a drink, unwind, and watch the sunset fade behind the bay and the Ksamil Islands.
About the author: Kiki Sideris is a multimedia journalist based at Stony Brook University with a particular passion for travel. Her past jobs include international reporting and being a New York City tour guide to Italian students learning English. Her favorite place in New York has to be the top of the Empire State Building because, even though it’s one of the cliches that native New Yorkers tend to stay away from, it’s definitely the quietest place in the city — and that’s a rarity.