Sarande

Butrint Archaeological Site
Ali Pasha Tepeleni Castle
Mesopotam Monastery

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Sarande

Your Guide to Southern Albania

Thanks to one of the most beautiful natural environments of the entire Albanian coast, with its beaches of small natural stones and a wonderful blue sea, Sarande – near the border with Greece, from its seaside you can see Corfù – has become one of the most appreciated tourist destinations in the Ionian Sea.

One of your MSC Cruises destinations in the Mediterranean, this coastal city is one of the most modern in the entire region, and offers its visitors, in addition to the sea, many historical and environmental beauties to be admired.

Among the most relevant points of interest are the ruins of ancient Onchesmos (as Sarande used to be called), the remains of the city of Foinike, the Roman archaeological site of Butrint that was recently renovated and restored to its former glory and the nineteenth-century Ali Pasha Tepeleni Castle, one of Albania's landmark buildings, an imposing square structure overlooking the Adriatic Sea. Walking through the streets of Sarande, you will experience the typical atmosphere of a popular tourist attraction with numerous hotels.

An MSC Cruises excursion will take you on a visit to the karst spring of Syri Kalter with its famous Blue Eye, a blue pond reminiscent of the iris of a human eye. This watering hole is at the center of a splendid oak forest, perfect for having a picnic and enjoying the cool embrace of Mother Nature. In this area there is also the Mesopotam monastery, which dates from the thirteenth century and is the only Byzantine church in a good state of conservation in all of Albania.
Characterized by a special plan of a single nave with two apses, this ancient place of worship is dedicated to St. Nicholas (Shën Kolle).

Must see places in Sarande

Discover our excursions

8 results found

  • SARANDA CITY TOUR

    CITY TOUR

    SAR01

    The tour will start with a panoramic drive of the town of Saranda, stopping in the city centre to pay a pleasant visit to the Byzantine Church and the Synagogue, both dating back to the 5th Century A.D.. Saranda was founded in the 6th Century B.C. and its current name comes from the name of the Byzantine monastery of “Agioi Saranta” literally meaning “Forty Saints” in Greek, after the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste. You will stroll through the town until the Museum, rich of mosaics and archaeological findings coming from the whole region around Saranda. After the visit to the Museum, you’ll continue your tour with a panoramic coach drive along the main avenues of the town. The itinerary includes the most important buildings of the centre, the Secondary School “Hasan Tahsini”, the University Branch of Tirana, to mention only a few. Before going back to the pier, a photo stop will be paid on the hill of Lekuresi, overlooking the town: during the clear days, you will be able to get wonderful views of Corfu in front of the coast. The excursion will also give you chance to have enough free time for independent exploration. Please note: this tour is not suitable for guests using a wheelchair. Conservative attire recommended for visiting sites of religious importance.
      • May involve inclines, steps, uneven surfaces and/or extended periods of standing

        Difficulty Level
        Moderate

      • Duration
        4 h

      • Adult price from AUD $62Price per person

      • Children price from AUD $45Price per person

      • Adult price from NZD $69Price per person

      • Children price from NZD $49Price per person

    • VISIT GJIROKASTËR, THE STONE CITY

      CITY TOUR

      SAR04

      Described as “a rare example of well-preserved Ottoman town, built by farmers of large estate”, Gjirokastër’s old town is World Heritage Site and will be the destination of this pleasant day off the ship. Located at 62 Km north of Saranda, you will reach the town after a 1-5-hour coach drive with a stop en route. Upon your arrival, you will be enchanted by this lovely city with paved streets with chunky limestone and shale, slate roofed houses and views over the Drina Valley. The city appears in historical records in 1336 as part of the Byzantine Empire before falling under Ottoman domination for 5 years in a row. After a short period as the capital of the short-lived Autonomous Republic of Northern Epirus, Gjirokastër was finally part of Albania in 1921. You will visit Gjirokastër Fortress which you will reach after boarding some minivans. Located at a height of 336 metres, the fortress dominates the town and had a strategical position along the river valley. The site includes five towers and houses, a clock tower, a church, a prison, the cistern and the Museum. Enjoy a visit to the Museum housing captured artillery and memorabilia of the Communist resistance against German occupation as well as a captured US Air Force plane. Enjoy a guided visit of the town before boarding the coach and return to the port. Please note: the visit to the Fortress includes walking on uphill/downhill paths with some stairs and is not suitable for guests using a wheelchair or with walking difficulties.
        • May involve inclines, steps, uneven surfaces and/or extended periods of standing

          Difficulty Level
          Moderate

        • Duration
          6 h

        • Adult price from AUD $102Price per person

        • Children price from AUD $79Price per person

        • Adult price from NZD $112Price per person

        • Children price from NZD $85Price per person

      • THE ANCIENT RUINS OF BUTRINTI

        CULTURE AND HISTORY

        SAR03

        The tour will start with a panoramic drive from the port of Saranda towards the ancient site of Butrinti, located 19 km southwards. Along the way, the guide will give you samples of local history and culture of Albania. Inhabited since prehistoric times, the area of Butrinti saw the advent of many civilizations: it has been a Greek colony, a Roman city, it grew a period of prosperity under the Byzantines and also a brief domination by the Venetians. You will visit the archaeological site, a collection of ruins representing each period in the city's development. The excavations started before World War II; an Italian archaeological group headed by Luigi Ugolini made excavations there in the period 1928-1939. After World War II, the Albanian Institute of Archaeology has undertaken the excavations and the site has now been certified a UNESCO World Heritage. The tour will bring you through the city of Butrinti to admire monuments of the many different civilizations, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Venetians. On a guided walking inside the site, you will reach the Acropolis overlooking the area and will pay a short visit to the Museum, refurbished and reopened in 2005. At the end of the visit, board the coach and drive back to Sarande and to your cruise ship. Please note: this tour is not suitable for guests using a wheelchair or with walking difficulties. Guests may join the group and visit the lower part of the archaeological site.
          • Active excursions recommended only for guests in good physical health

            Difficulty Level
            Strenuous

          • Duration
            5 h

          • Adult price from AUD $82Price per person

          • Children price from AUD $62Price per person

          • Adult price from NZD $89Price per person

          • Children price from NZD $69Price per person

        • BLUE EYE SPRING

          NATURAL WONDERS

          SAR02

          The first stop of your tour will be Lekuresi Hilltop, where you will have a photo stop on this panoramic point overlooking the town of Saranda, Vurgu, the Lake of Butrint and also Corfu Island on clear days. Lekuresi is a fortified monastery built in the 16th Century to defend the road to Saranda and Butrint; the name is an ancient Greek word that can be translated as “illuminated area”. A 40-minute drive will lead you to the “Blue Eye” – Albania’s small treasure – a spring of river Bistritsa, known in Albanian as “Syri i Kaltër”, located on the road between the cities of Saranda, on the Ionian Sea, and Gjirokastër, situated further inland. Nobody knows how deep it is: divers who tried to reach the bottom because of the pressure of the water have managed to go only 45 metres deep. You can try to throw a stone into the centre of this spring, and after a while, you will see the same stone coming up again on the surface of the water! The water in the inner part of the spring appears very dark blue, like the pupil of an eye, and a lighter colour of blue as an outer ring – the iris, which gives the impression of a blue eye. In this area wildlife is rich and varied too including the fox, the fowl, the reptiles and the marten. After the visit, you will be back to Sarande for spending some free time on your own before returning to the port and your cruise ship. Please note: this tour is not suitable for guests using a wheelchair.
            • May involve inclines, steps, uneven surfaces and/or extended periods of standing

              Difficulty Level
              Moderate

            • Duration
              4:30 h

            • Adult price from AUD $72Price per person

            • Children price from AUD $52Price per person

            • Adult price from NZD $79Price per person

            • Children price from NZD $55Price per person

          • ALBANIAN RIVIERA & ITS VILLAGES

            SCENIC ROUTE

            SAR05

            With unspoiled landscapes, wonderful beaches, friendly people, Albania is truly a fascinating destination. Leave the ship, board a coach and prepare to explore some traditional villages nestled in secluded bays along Albania’s rugged coastline. Your first stop will be at Borsh; despite its significant community and busy olive-oil production industry, tourism has barely touched this village that you will explore along with its waterfalls. Next, you will proceed to Porto Palermo whose bay is the only safe harbour between Saranda and Vlora and was used since ancient times for its strategical importance. You will visit the castle, built by Ali Pasha on a lovely peninsula surrounded by crystal-clear waters. Legends say that Ali Pasha had all workers who built the castle executed not to reveal the many treasures the fortress contained. The fortress has a rectangular shape with four bastions and loopholes for cannons along parapets. The inner part includes halls, stores and stone stairs leading to the terrace. After the visit, you will reach Himmara, your last destination on this pleasant outing. Enjoy some free time in this small village whose population is mainly of Greek origin. Please note: the visit to the Fortress includes walking on uphill/downhill paths with some stairs and is not suitable for guests using a wheelchair or with walking difficulties.
            • Possibility of swimming

            • Limited seats

            • May involve a limited quantity of steps, uneven surfaces and/or periods of standing

              Difficulty Level
              Easy

            • Duration
              6 h

            • Adult price from AUD $72Price per person

            • Children price from AUD $52Price per person

            • Adult price from NZD $79Price per person

            • Children price from NZD $55Price per person

          • HARTA BAY BEACH BREAK

            SEA & SUN

            SAR06

            Forming part of the southern strip of the Albanian Riviera and not far from the Butrint National Park lies the pretty coastal area of Ksamil. Situated just 15 km from Saranda, the peninsula is home to several beaches, including the serene Harta Bay. Ideal for spending time in the sun, exploring the surrounding area and going for a refreshing dip in the crystal-blue water, Harta Bay provides all you need for a perfect day of sun, sea and sand. And if you’re feeling energetic, you can even swim to other nearby bays – great sites for taking photos (provided you have a waterproof camera). You’ll have plenty of time to spend at Harta Bay to enjoy relaxing moments before returning to the ship. Please note: this tour runs from June to September only; use of sunbeds included in the price of the tour. The beach is made of pebbles.
              • May involve inclines, steps, uneven surfaces and/or extended periods of standing

                Difficulty Level
                Moderate

              • Duration
                6 h

              • Adult price from AUD $65Price per person

              • Children price from AUD $52Price per person

              • Adult price from NZD $72Price per person

              • Children price from NZD $55Price per person

            • Car with guide

              SOMETHING SPECIAL

              SAR33PV

              Car with guide
              • No guide available

              • Limited seats

              • May involve a limited quantity of steps, uneven surfaces and/or periods of standing

                Difficulty Level
                Easy

              • Duration
                4 h

              • Adult price from AUD $1859Price per person

              • Children price from AUD $1859Price per person

              • Adult price from NZD $325Price per person

              • Children price from NZD $325Price per person

            • Minivan with guide for 3 to 6 pax

              SOMETHING SPECIAL

              SAR34PV

              Minivan with guide for 3 to 6 pax
              • No guide available

              • Limited seats

              • May involve a limited quantity of steps, uneven surfaces and/or periods of standing

                Difficulty Level
                Easy

              • Duration
                4 h

              • Adult price from AUD $402Price per person

              • Children price from AUD $402Price per person

              • Adult price from NZD $442Price per person

              • Children price from NZD $442Price per person

            The excursions in the programme are intended to provide MSC Guests with an idea of the different tours that can be arranged in each port of call; this programme is merely a guide and confirmation of each excursion and its description and prices will be made during your cruise. 
            Shore excursions programs and itineraries may vary depending on local conditions and/or any unforeseen events in relation to the timing on the day of the tour.
             
            Some excursions are very popular and therefore availability cannot always be guaranteed, it is advisable to book in advance to avoid disappointment. The guides are guaranteed in English. Only for South America cruises, the guides are guaranteed in Brazilian Portuguese. Narration in other languages depends on the availability of guides. Please note that the final language of the tour will be confirmed on board during the cruise.

            Albania

            One of the Mediterranean’s unspoiled corners
            One of the Mediterranean’s unspoiled corners

            Following decades of isolationist rule, Albania still doesn’t seem to fit into the grand continental jigsaw, with distinctly exotic notes emanating from its language, customs and cuisine.


            With its jumble of rugged mountains fringed by pristine curls of beach, Albania’s south is the most appealing part of the country. The interior route boasts the rewarding towns of Berat and Gjirokastra, each home to whole swathes of Ottoman buildings.
              
            Heading on down the Ionian Coast instead, you’ll find one of Europe’s few unspoilt sections of Mediterranean shore, a near-permanently sunny spot where the twin blues of sea and sky are ripped asunder by a ribbon of grey mountains – on a clear day you’ll be able to see Italy from the 1027m-high Llogaraja Pass.


            Staring straight at Corfu, and even within day-trip territory of the Greek island, sunny Sarande is perhaps Albania’s most appealing entry point, it’s a great place to kick back, stroll along the promenade and watch the sun set over cocktails. There are beaches in town, but better are those near the archaeological treasure-trove of Butrint, some 25km to the south.