Straight away as my parents suggested we’d go to Corfu for our family holiday, I knew I wanted to travel to Albania for a day during our visit. There are ferries leaving for the Albanian city of Saranda from Corfu every day. My dad and my brother were thinking along the same lines, but Oleg and my mum just couldn’t understand why we’d go to Albania when the idea was to visit Corfu for a week. The answer is simple. Why not? I mean, imagine how cool it is to be able to say you’ve been to Albania when there aren’t that many people who can say the same (at least not yet). Fortunately, my dad and I managed to convince (read force) the other two and after the trip both my mum and Oleg had to eat their words cause the day turned out to be an unbelievable experience.
Since we were staying in a villa about one hour’s drive from the city of Corfu and our ferry to saranda was leaving at nine in the morning our day started with the alarm clock ringing at six. We had bought the tickets the day before, something I strongly recommend doing. Due to the inconvenient opening hours of the travel agencies, pass control and other bureaucracy you could easily miss your departure if you tried to buy your ticket on the same day. Since we were travelling with a fast boat that takes only 30 minutes from Corfu to Saranda we were able to step onto Albanian soil already before nine o clock in the morning. This is how our day looked like:
9.00 – 11.00: Butrint
As soon as we got ashore we jumped into a taxi and drove about 30 minutes to the ancient city of Butrint. Butrint, that is declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site is a remarkable archaeological site with findings dating back as far as to the 8th century B.C. In addition to being mind-blowingly old, the site is also incredibly big with an amphitheater, a baptistery, a basilica and two castles. I mean, Forum Romanum fades in comparison. As we were visiting the site, our taxi waited for us as long as for an hour and a haft ready to take us back to Saranda. The cost? 10 Euros/person!!! (The Albanian currency is Lek, but at least in Saranda you can pay with Euros everywhere)
After our visit to Butrint it was time for lunch, so we stopped at the TripAdvisor recommended Restaurant Bar Limani, that was beautifully situated on the water. We ordered a couple of starters, main courses, white wine as well as coffee and sorbet for dessert. We were all more than happy with our choices and the wine was the best I’d had during our whole Corfu-trip. The cost? 13 Euros/person!!!
13.00-15.00: Syri i Kaltër (Blue Eye)
After lunch we continued on with our touristing at the Blue Eye, a natural spring situated about 30 minutes from Saranda. So, once again we jumped into a taxi and headed for this beautiful natural phenomenon that they still today don’t know the exact depth of. The clear turquoise and cold water of the spring has made it one of the area’s most popular tourist sites and after having been there I can certainly understand why. In other words, I highly recommend the visit. And don’t let the rather long taxi drive scare you off from going. When sitting in the taxi you have an excellent opportunity to see a little bit more of the surrounding country side and the Albanian nature which is an experience in itself. The price of the taxi this time? 10 Euros/person.
15.00-16.00: Lekursi Castle
Before driving back to Saranda we did one more stop at the ancient Lekursi Castle. The castle, that was built in the 16 century, is strategically situated on the highest hill of Saranda with great views over the city and the sea. Its original purpose was to protect the city from invaders. Today it’s used as a restaurant and party venue.
16.00-17.00: Chilling in Saranda
When we got back to Saranda we had about an hour before the ferry was leaving for Corfu, so we decided to stop at the closest café, order a couple of beers and watch the ongoing Wold Cup football game. Mum and I would rather had stopped at the closest clothing store but since they were all closed for siesta we had to skip shopping for this visit.
17.00: Ferry back to Corfu
On our way back to Corfu we all sat on the deck of the ferry enjoying the evening sun and thinking about our day. When we left for Albania in the morning we didn’t really know anything about this country (except for the recent history) and now our minds were full of the most wonderful experiences. To me Albania turned out to be a place with a beautiful nature, extraordinary sites, clean cities, good food and super friendly people. Worth the trip in every way!