Saranda lies in Albania's far southern tip near the northern part of Corfu, Greece. At its narrowest point, only 2 kilometres separates them. By ferry, between the main port of Corfu and Saranda port, the distance is 35 kilometres and can take as little as 35 minutes to travel between the two countries.
Albania is a country steeped in history and culture. All around Saranda are archaeological sites that are a must-see for any visitor.
4.1 Kilometres from the port of Saranda lies Lekursi Castle, a hilltop castle with imposing round towers and stunning views down across Saranda, Ksamil and Corfu.
Built in 1537 by Sultan Suleiman I, commonly known as Suleiman the Magnificent, the castle used to hold the old Lëkurës village. The tourist facilities are built next to the site and include a large parking area and a restaurant. Accessible by foot (about a 60-minute hike) or car, it’s a great place to spend a couple of hours out of the city.
THE CLIFF MONASTERY
Located within a hill, just outside Saranda, is St Mary’s monastery near the village of Kostar. Just over 18 kilometres away (about 30 minutes by car), this beautiful 13th-century monastery is built in a cave in the mountain of Kostar. Offering stunning views of the surrounding area, it is a quiet and serene place, a perfect place to relax and admire the scenery.
THE MONASTERY OF THE 40 SAINTS
The monastery was erected during the 6th century AD and is just 4 kilometres from the port of Saranda and is accessible by foot (about a 60-minute hike) or car.
Named after the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste, the monastery has 40 rooms, one for each of the martyrs. The monastery has played a vital part in the history of Saranda, with the original name of Agi Saranda meaning forty saints in Greek.
During World War II, the monastery was bombed, leaving only the ruins, which you can see today. As you enter, you can see photos of the monastery in its original state.
RUINS OF THE OLD SYNAGOGUE
An archaeological site right in the heart of Saranda, just 650 metres from the port (about a 10-minute walk), was revealed in the early 2000s. The excavations of the 6th century AD synagogue during joint venture by the Albanian Academy of Sciences and the Hebrew University Institute of Archaeology.
At the centre of one of the mosaic pavements is a seven-branched candelabrum, flanked by a citron (a fruit similar to a lemon) plus a ram’s horn – all symbols associated with the Jewish holidays.
ST GEORGES MONASTERY
The complex of St George Monastery is located halfway between Saranda and Ksamil. It is about 9 kilometres from Saranda port (about a 2-hour walk or a 20-minute drive).
The monastery is a fortified monastery, with walls, towers and turrets. It houses living quarters, ancillary facilities, and in the centre is the reconstructed church of Saint George from the 14th century.
Offering a beautiful view of the Ionian Sea to the west and Lake Butrint to the east, this Monastery Complex has been declared a cultural monument, a beautiful site to visit.
Have you been to any of the sites above? Do you have any recommendations of your own? We would love to hear from you. Leave a comment below and let us know your favourite historical sites around Saranda.