Discover Balkan - Saranda

Saranda, or "the south Albanian seaport" is located on a natural shelf facing the island of Corfu. There are daily ships that depart, connecting Saranda with this Greek island. Saranda’s name originates from an old Christian monastery of “the Forty Saints” (Saranda means "forty" in Greek). The ruins of the monastery lay in Qafa e Gjashtës, near the city entrance. Prior to Byzantine rule, Saranda was called by its ancient Greek name, "Onchesmos", which was the name of the father of the Trojan prince Aeneas, who was born at the Mount Ida by the Greek Goddess Aphrodite. The city lies at the southern tip of Albania’s Ionian coastline and has a very pleasant avenue, full of palms and pebbled beaches. In the center of the city stands the ruins of the ancient city of Onhezmi, destroyed in the fifth century A.D. by barbarian invasions. In 2002, a synagogue was uncovered in the same area. Just 2 km south of Saranda, on the top of a dominating hill, is the Castle of Lëkurs. The castle was built by the Sultan Suleiman during his military campaign against Corfu. Today a restaurant sits in the fortress, offering a rich cuisine and breathtaking views of the deep blue of the Ionian Sea. Heading south, the coastline changes its appearance. Four small islands emerge in the Ksamili area, covered by Mediterranean vegetation and surrounded by wonderful marine flora and fauna. A salt lake, which is a lagoon of tectonic origin near Butrint lies inland. In antiquity it was known by name Pelodes and it connects with the sea through the channel of Vivar, 3.6 km in length. A large number of sea birds nest there.


South of Burtint Lake, 18 km from Saranda, sits the ancient city of Butrint, the most important archaeological site in Albania, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name of Butrint has been wellknown since the seventh century B.C. as the most important city of Epirus. According to Dionysius of Halicarnassus, the building of Butrint was linked to the presence of the Trojan prince Aeneas during his travel to the temple of Dodona. He paid tribute to the oracle of Dodona by sacrificing a bull (Buthros in Greek) in the place where the city of Butrint began to rise. The Roman poet Virgil also mentions the visit of Aeneas to Butrint in his poem "The Aeneid". There are many destinations to visit within Butrint. The most interesting ones are the Temple of Asclepius, a second century B.C. God of good health; a 1,500-seat theatre from the third century B.C. (which now hosts the International Theatre Festival every September); the Baptismal, a paleocristian monument; as well as the nymfeu, the baths, the stoa (covered walkway), the Lake Gate, the Lion Gate, the Venetian fortress of Ali Pasha, and many others. Besides its historical value, Butrint is renowned for its marvelous ecological system. The ruins and the buildings of the city stand amidst an amazing subtropical jungle, with lots of laurel and other high woods.