Hey fellow cadets! Sorry for the time gap, I’ve been in the process of moving out of Prague for the meantime and trying to move to the next planet on my spaceship.
Let’s flashback to Southern Albania, shall we?
As I posted previously, I spent some time in southern Albania. While I usually am traveling solo, I do join a group of my good friends on an annual late summer/early fall holiday. I joined these guys in Montenegro for two years in a row. I had to sit the last year out when they were in Spain due to financial setbacks. This year we decided to go to Albania. We rented a villa in Sarande for a week and made a bunch of day trips and hung around town. It was a fantastic week.
Sarande itself is an alright city, a week might be a bit excessive there if you are alone. Many places were starting to close because summer was over and it’s more of a ” resort town.” Saranda also serves as an excellent springboard into other southern Albanian destinations and is a much better alternative to that island Corfu that many tourists seem to love so much.
It is only a 30-90 minute ferry ride to Corfu, Greece depending on which ferry you get. Sarande does not have an airport so the closest one is in Corfu where you can grab hundreds of cheap flights from. Alternatively, you can fly into Tirane and take a 5-hour bumpy furgon ride to this southern city which is what I did coming in. My friends made the Corfu round trip. There are other permutations you can find to get there, and I am sure someone will tell me I should have picked something more adventurous or whatever. I sort of was looking at the cheapest way to get strictly to Saranda.
Here is a list of some kickass day trips we did in Saranda.
A few of my friends were surprised when they saw my social media posts and thought it went back to Asia. This is probably the most raved about place in all of Albania and for a good reason. The only annoying thing about getting there by public transport is a bus would run every couple of hours from Saranda and were super crowded . A taxi isn’t too expensive , but if you are traveling with a group of people make sure to round up the number of your group to the dispatcher . We asked for two taxis for 10 people and two medium cars showed up on the way there and back with capacity for 8. It was still well worth the trip.
The blue eye
Many combine this with a day trip to Gjirokaster , but we didn’t . It was only some of our group that went on that trip so we piled into a furgon ( minibus /marshutka) and went from there . The communication with the driver and all of us was worth it alone. He kept making everyone change chairs and made Mike sit on a stool on the middle of the aisle .
One of our friends enjoyed it so much, he decided he had enough fun for the day and didn’t need to see the blue eye.
45 minutes later and we arrived. I was kind of disappointed with the fact I wasn’t allowed to swim and the weather wasn’t the best, but it was lovely still. Although now that I think of it, it wasn’t as kick-ass as everyone made it sound like. It was a little over touristy and mediocre weather so I wasn’t as amazed by it now that I reflect more.
Our group decided to cab it back from the blue eye as it was only a couple of bucks more and we didn’t want to wait around for a bus that we had no idea of when it would come. One thing I’ll have to say that I’m impressed with when I come to Albanian taxi drivers is that they are efficient with returning lost items. I left my phone in the taxi I was in and noticed it immediately as the guy was speeding up. The other taxi driver with the second carload of friends was able to call a friend that knew that guy and arrange to meet at a petrol gas station at the edge of town. I first thought he head making this up and my phone was good as gone. I had hundreds of travel pictures and essential stuff on it that hadn’t been backed up in months, so I was not a happy camper. However, the friend of a friend method in Albania works. If I had left this on a flixbus or German train, I would have had to go to some database and either wait for several months to get it back o not get it at all.
My biggest and only complaint about this town was only spending a day here. Oh, and having a stomach virus, that also put a damper on things. If I could do it over, I would have spent at least another day. It has the similar feel as Berat or Prizren. I’m a sucker for Albanian mountain towns. I really enjoyed its spirit despite being slightly ill. I hope I can come back to get to know this town really.
One quirky thing that you can find on the fortress is the remnants of an American spy plane from 1957. There are several different adaptations to this depending on how and why it ended up there. It did serve as a good way to justify the thousands of bunkers scattered around Albania.
While I had some nice trips in southern Albania, I feel like there was more I could have seen. This was my third time in Albania in general and definitely not my last time visiting.
Albania is an underrated and overlooked destination but probably won’t stay that way in the long-term future. I definitely recommend people to see it before it becomes like Corfu and jam-packed with tourists throughout the year. One nice thing is US Passport holders are allowed to stay in Albania for an entire year visa-free. 😉 I think many other passport holders can also visit that long visa-free or they have just to enter again after 3 months.
There you have it Y’all. I hope you enjoyed my bit about Saranda and the surrounding area. Stay tuned next time to see what I write about next time.