Located on the southern coast of Albania, this stunning town is considered the unofficial capital of the Albanian Rivera. The town gained its name from the monastery that overlooks the town from atop the hill called ‘Ayii Saranda’ which means 40 saints, after the forty martyrs who were killed in Armenia when they refused to renounce their religion. During the summer months has seen over half a million visitors from all over the world come to Saranda, some come from cruise ships, while others come to visit Albania specifically.
The town of Saranda has many wonderful historic icons that can be visited. The monastery that gave the town the name resides on a hill above the town, offering both a fantastic view of the city, region and the turquoise waters of the Adriatic ocean. The monastery is called ‘Ayii Saranda’ translates to the 40 martyrs. Inside the city is also a 5th-century synagogue, this ancient complex for Jewish faith was created for a rich community during the period. The ruins represent a community centre and bible studies school, due to its size and splendour it was later converted into a basilica. The build eventually was destroyed by earthquakes and Slavic invasion.
This town has many different cultures influence their heritage. Dating back to antiquity the town was originally Greek in origin, during the period that followed the town was targeted by raids and attacks by Gothic pirates. The Ottoman Empire added the region into their control and administration, however, during their control they granted the town the title of ‘independent unit’ allowing for a more peaceful lifestyle. The creation of the Albanian State brought the town into line with others in the region, although it was occupied only 3 years later by the Italians for four years, only for them to return 19 years later in 1939 during which time there was a war between Greece and Italy. Eventually, democracy returned to the region and Albania as it stands today was born. These different cultures to have come and gone throughout history left their marks on the people, where food, attitudes and building style can be seen to take on parts of the past.
To Do in Saranda
Saranda has many different places to visit for historical dedication, however, the town has become popular for its food. Many dishes served to use the freshly caught produce brought in by local fishermen, allowing for only the freshest seafood meals to be made. Along with fresh fish, many of the other meals have twists from other cultures, many say that the dedicated pizza restaurants make new and unique pizzas that rival the classics from Italy. Fast food and normal restaurants alike make their own styles of Greek and Ottoman kebabs changing the meals to take in Albanian local produce creating a unique meal found only here.
The harbour and walking path see many people coming for the view, running along the seafront the view is ever-changing as you make your way around the edge of the town. The harbour gets visitors from all over the world coming from large ocean cruises, local fishers and people starting small gulet cruises to see the wonders of the Albanian coast.
Saranda’s public transport links are regular and allow for visitors to head to quieter villages and peaceful beaches. The town also has a regular link to other large towns including longer bus journeys to the countries capital Tirana.