Saranda is a beautiful small town and popular summer tourist destination and Albanian seaside resort on the wonderful Ionian Sea of about 33.000 inhabitants, situated in southern Albania. Saranda is located in a beautiful horseshoe bay, between the striking mountains and the Ionian Sea, opposite the northeastern part of the Corfu’s island /Greece/ and 26 km away to the Greek borders. By ferry, between the main port of Corfu and Saranda port, the distance is 35 kilometers and can take as little as 35 minutes to travel between the two countries.

In antiquity, Saranda was known as Onchesmus. The present name of Saranda derives from an early Christian Monastery /nowadays in ruins/ dedicated to Agioi Saranda /Forty Saints/, as “saranda” means “40” in Greek. According to the Christian Legend from the 15th century, 40 monks – Roman soldiers of the XII Fulminata Legio /meaning Armed with Lightning Legion/, who had openly confessed themselves Christians were brutally killed victims in Sebaste in Armenia – north-eastern part of the Asia Minor, which belonged to the East Roman Empire at that time of the 4th century. This brutal death of soldiers was performed by the fierce persecutions of Emperor Licinius, who persecuted the Orthodox Christians of the East after 316 because they wouldn’t change their religion. Forty martyrs were declared saints by locals and the Orthodox church, and veneration of the Forty Martyrs became widespread in the region and worldwide with numerous churches erected in their honor from the 6th century and throughout the turbulent history. The forty martyrs enjoyed particular veneration in the era of the Emperor Justinian (AD 527–565), and his chronicler Procopius records how the Byzantine emperor was cured of a serious infection of the knee when his leg was brought into contact with the relics, which had recently been discovered. The Church of Forty Martyrs in Saranda is located on a hill dominating above the town from where spreads magic panorama over the Saranda Bay, along the Ksamil Peninsula to Butrint, and to the surrounding mountain range. Although evaluation of construction is impossible due to lack of published and researched documents, the Church of Forty Martyrs in Saranda built in the early 6th century may constitute a large construction surmounted by three cupolas erected during the Emperor Justinian’s reign. As a holy place it still possesses an importance for the Greek orthodox communities here and pilgrims continue to place flowers within the shattered shrine structure. On June 12 2015, Saranda and Brindisi Municipalities signed a cooperation protocol for the restoration of the 40 Martyrs Monastery in Saranda which was damaged in German bombardment 70 years ago during the World War II, and after the war probably dynamited by Albanian communists for use as a military area. The Church of Forty Martyrs in Saranda was in 1970 declared a cultural monument of the first category.

Saranda district features a plain relief composed of southern seashore mountains that lie from Borsh to the bay of Ftelia, “Vrugu” fields, Vrina Fields and the hills of Saranda, Lëkurësi, Ksamil, Butrint and Konispol. Saranda area is a gorgeous combination of countless bays, beaches, the rocky coastline, hills with olives and citrus, and hinterland mountains that surround the wonderful landscape. Saranda is traversed by Kalasa, Bistrica and Pavlla rivers which flow in the Ionian Sea. The town of Saranda is built in amphitheater style with three parallel roads. Four series of step stairs lead from the top of the hill of the town down to each promenade. The town of Saranda is dominated by the Medieval Castle of Lekures at “Qafa e Gjashtes”, on the south-east side of the town, from where spreads magnificent panorama of the Saranda, Butrint National Park and archaeological site, the Corfu island, and the gorgeous surroundings. The Saranda fortress of Lekures was built in 1537 by the Ottoman emperor Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent to protect the harbor and the road to Butrint. This dominating stronghold used to be inhabited until the village of Lëkurës was raided under the attack by Ali Pasha of Ioannina in the 18th century.

After the Albanian revolution of 1990 Saranda was rebuilt in a modern style, featuring a number of modern hotels, bars, restaurants and cafeterias along the promenade with palm trees. Thanks to its perfect location on the gorgeous Ionian Sea and its crystal clear warm waters, warm Mediterranean climate and close proximity to the numerous cultural sights, Saranda gained the spirit of a cosmopolitan town which steadily became one of the most frequented tourist destination in Albania, where honeymooners traditionally spend their holidays.

Saranda typically has over 300 sunny days a year. The inside of the town is a combination of top new buildings, old taverns, cafeterias and houses built in the traditional impressive stone style, even with top roofs of stone tiles and plates. Macedonians from the western part of the country, Albanians of the southern Albania and northwest Greeks are the best carved-stone workers in the world. A 15-minute car or bus ride away from Saranda, Ksamil is seaside spot where everyone goes to enjoy in the really nice beaches. These are some of the only truly sandy beaches on the Albanian Riviera (most have smooth white stones).

The economy of Saranda is based mainly on its agricultural products from the Valton River valley, on the cultivation of mussels from the salt lake of Vouthrotos – Butrint Lake and tourism. Here at most places visitors enjoy the locally grown olives, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, onions, fresh bread, and a sour yogurt, and various types of delicious freshly-caught fish and mussels served at beachfront restaurants and cafes, grilled to perfection before your eyes.

The famous “Blue Eye” – Syri i Kaltër in Albanian is a picturesque natural monument of the 18 water springs coming out of the carstic bottom of the earth that form a rare beauty. The Blue Eye – Syri i Kalter is a water spring with blue water that bubbles from a stunning and more than fifty meter deep pool, located 25 km away from Saranda on the road to Tepelene, near the impressive Musina traditional stone village built within a forest of hazelnuts, walnuts, cherries, pines and fir trees, 177 meters above the sea level. This geological phenomenon is of tectonic origin, forming waters believed to be a filtration of Drim River Valley, with a flow of about 6 m3/sec. The Syri i Kaltër springs provide water to Bistrica River, 25 km long and whose flow is by an artificial channel built in1958 connected with the Ionian Sea. A characteristic of the Syri i Kaltër-Blue Eye water is the very dark blue color and outstanding transparency of its oval shaped water basins. A watershed lake covering a surface of about 9 hectares has been created below the “Blue Eye” – Syri i Kaltër spring. Visitors throw a stone into the center of this spring, and after a while they see the same stone coming up on the surface. Wild life is rich and diversified in the area of the “Blue Eye” – Syri i Kaltër, featuring fox, fowl, marten and reptiles. Next to a picturesque waterfall opposite the “Blue Eye”springs, there is a traditional restaurant serving delicious Albanian “Raki” brandy.

Guests staying in Saranda enjoy the gorgeous beaches and sun, or have various sites to explore. They are invited to tour the nearby Butrint Archaeological site – UNESCO Heritage site, or the wonderful Byzantine Mesopotam Monastery, dedicated to Saint Nicholas built in the 11th century. The Saint Nicholas Mesopotam Monastery was first mentioned in connection with the Battle near Butrint between the Byzantines and the invading Normans led by Robert Guiscard and the Forty Martyrs Monastery ruins on the top of a hill overlooking Saranda. Approximately 10 km outside Saranda direction Gjirokastra is the Monastery at Mesopotam – one of the unrivaled jewels of this region of Albania, on a low hill within the floodplain of the Bistrica River. The Mesopotam Monastery is first recorded in 1081 as the part of the Himara Bishopric when Basil of Mesopotamites commanded local Byzantine forces against the invading Normans at Butrint led by Robert Guiscard. In events of 1292 it is recorded that Venetians plundered and destroyed the whole areas of Vagenitia /Vagenetie/ towards the coast, all along to the area of Arta. However, it flourished in the 13th century under the Epirote Despotate, a sub-Byzantine state established after the fall of Constantinople to the Crusaders in 1204. The Mesopotam Monastery is must-see site !

Actual port of Saranda resort is thoroughly transformed into a port of passengers and tourists and 340 km of roads have been built, along the coastal area, Sarande – Ksamil- Butrint, Sarande – Konispol, Sarande- Pllake – Xarrë, Sarande – Delvinë, the local roads in Sarandë, Ksamil, and Lukova beach, that greatly contributed to increase of tourist visits and notably influenced development of tourism and agrarian business.