After finishing up my explorations of Gjirokastra, I went to the bus station at 12 AM and caught a minibus to Saranda, the next stop on my itinerary, for 300 lei (2,5 USD). Saranda is a small city situated on the open sea gulf of the Ionian Sea in the Mediterranean. It’s the gateway to the Albanian Riviera and famous sights such as the beach in Ksamil and the remains of the ancient city of Butrint, which were my main points of interest in the area.
I arrived in Saranda an hour later and walked straight to Dolphin Hostel, which is conveniently located right next to the bus station. Here I met some awesome people, who I hung out with later on – they made my stay in Saranda so much more fun than I had imagined!
After a chat with my new friends and dropping off my bag, I caught the bus to Butrint for 100 lei (1 USD). Butrint was founded between the 10th and 8th centuries BC as a Greek city, and later it became Roman. During the Middle Ages, the city was abandoned due to a major earthquake, which flooded most of the city, and it soon became forgotten by the world until it was discovered in the early 20th century. In 1992, it was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List and is now a protected site with an entrance fee of just 500 lei (4 USD).
I really loved exploring Butrint! I was all alone, so I could sing as loudly as I wanted to as I was walking through the forest searching for ancient ruins. The whole area in itself is extremely beautiful and I loved the fact that I was free to walk wherever I wanted with no restrictions!
A big part of why my experience in Butrint was so good was because I was completely alone – well, apart from a cute dog who followed me around for a while! I can imagine that there’ll be quite a few more tourists in the summer, so I definitely recommend going there in the spring or autumn. I loved having the entire place to myself!
My apologies for the hundreds of photos below, but I simply couldn’t get enough of Butrint – it’s easy to see that I was slightly obsessed with the place! 😉
The archaeological site of Butrint is located on a hill overlooking the Vivari Channel, and it’s part of the Butrint National Park. The area itself is worth going for even if you aren’t interested in history, as it’s so incredibly beautiful! It’s one of my favourite nature spots in Albania! In my opinion, it’s worthwhile to spend enough time there to explore both the historic ruins and the surrounding rich nature.
When I was done with my sightseeing, I asked for a bus to the coastal village of Ksamil, where I wanted to watch the sunset. A lovely local guy, who had two small children with him, overheard it and offered to drive me himself. That was perfect, because then I had about ten minutes in Ksamil before the bus would arrive there, and the town is tiny and all I wanted to see was the beach with the island view. I actually managed to do that and caught the bus at 17.40 instead of 19.40, which was really nice after a long and tiring day. And thankfully, the sunset was still great seen from the bus!
After a long day, first in Gjirokastra and then in Butrint and Ksamil, it was nice to be back early in Saranda. I spent the evening having dinner and drinks with my new friends from the hostel. This is exactly why I like travelling solo – because I always feel like I’m more likely to meet new and interesting people when I’m alone rather than when I’m travelling with and depending on another person. I like both ways of travelling, and it’s great that I have the choice to do both – but oh how I’ve missed travelling solo! These guys reminded me of that!
Because of my tight itinerary in Albania, my time in Saranda was short and sweet, less than a day to be precise, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I especially loved exploring Butrint and hanging out with my new friends at the hostel!
Next up on my itinerary was the city of Berat, which I left for early the next morning – stay tuned for more!