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Saranda and Ksamil are two beautiful towns located side by side on the sparkling Albanian Riveria. A perfect combination of great weather, gorgeous beaches, stunning scenery and reasonable prices are the reason these charming beach towns have skyrocketed in popularity for sun-seeking tourists. 

Everyone who is planning a trip to the south of Albania will be faced with the same question: should I stay in Saranda or Ksamil? Whether you’ll be stopping in on an Albania road trip or hunting for your next beach focused holiday, this article will answer all of your questions about your stay in Saranda or Ksamil. 

I aim to dive into detail and give you my honest opinion about each destination. This is all based on my own experience as someone who spent 3 months living in Saranda in 2023, with plenty of time spent in Ksamil.

In this blog post, I uncover all of the important info needed to help you decide whether to book your beach holiday in Saranda or Ksamil. You can’t really go wrong with either one, it simply comes down to what you want out of your trip!

Saranda/Ksamil, Albania

Beachfront promenade in Saranda

Saranda & Ksamil Overview – Which Albanian Beach Town Should You Stay In?

Having spent a lot of time in both Saranda and Ksamil, I have experienced first hand what each one has to offer. Both towns share many similarities such as stunning beaches, fascinating historical sites and a backdrop of breathtaking landscapes. However there are certain things that make them unique which may influence your decision to stay in one or the other.

Are you looking for more restaurants, beach clubs, shops and accommodation choices? Or do you prefer a laidback holiday by the sea with a white sand beach and crystal clear water to swim in? Are you on a budget and looking to save as much money as possible? Or do you want a resort with an infinity pool and private beach access?

These are some factors that you should take into consideration when deciding where to stay. I’ll discuss this further in the next section as I dive deeper into the similarities and differences between Saranda and Ksamil.

The good news is that both towns are close to one another (only 20 minutes apart by car) so you don’t have to feel as though you’re missing out by choosing to stay in one. If you’re planning to rent a car during your time in Albania, all it takes is an easy day trip to experience the highlights of the other town.

Shpella e Pëllumbave, Saranda's best beaches

Swimming at Shpella-e-Pellumbave, located on the drive from Saranda to Ksamil

Is it Better to Stay in Ksamil or Saranda?


With crystal clear water and world-class beaches, it’s no surprise that Ksamil has exploded on social media platforms in recent years. It’s true, the beaches are pretty enough to blow your mind but there are some essential things that you should know before planning a beach holiday in Ksamil.

The time of year can play a huge part in how much enjoyment you will get from your holiday. During the summer, you’ll be fighting for limited space on pretty much every Ksamil beach and paying high season prices for food and drinks at all the restaurants. 

From June – August, the small beach town of Ksamil is at full capacity with every single beach lined in sun loungers and umbrellas. It may surprise you that you won’t have the option to simply lounge at the beach without paying 20 – 40 euros for a set of beach chairs for the day.

Plazhi Ksamilit, Albanian Riviera

The main beach of Ksamil, Albania

On top of that, you’ll be elbow to elbow with the person next to you. Public beaches do not exist in Ksamil as each one is occupied by a beach club or restaurant who charges visitors a set amount to spend the day. Bear in mind that some of the beach clubs tend to blast loud music making the overall atmosphere less relaxing (unless a beach club is the vibe you’re looking for.)

Ksamil is technically considered a village and it has a more laid-back atmosphere. Considering it’s smaller size, there are less accommodation choices, restaurants and shops available compared to Saranda. Ksamil is still the best choice for those who want a beach-focused holiday as all of the hotels and apartments are within easy walking distance to the beaches. 

If you want to experience the best of Ksamil’s stunning beaches with less crowds, consider planning your holiday during shoulder season. I visited Albania from September – November and I must admit that Ksamil was so much nicer then compared with July or August.

Saranda Ksamil

Stunning view from Guvat Restaurant in Ksamil

The weather was still great in September and early October with a fraction of the crowds and temperatures ranging from 25 – 30°C. I spent a day at one of Ksamil’s busiest beaches on my birthday in October and paid far less than peak season prices and had a relaxing, crowd-free experience.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want it to sound like I’m trying to persuade you to avoid Ksamil. I actually loved it there and think it’s a stunning place that’s absolutely worth a visit. However it is one of those places where picking the right time of year can make all the difference. 

Having visited Ksamil in both July and September, I can tell you the difference is huge. I just want you to have an accurate picture before going ahead and booking your holiday. Once upon a time, Ksamil was a hidden gem where you’d have those pristine beaches practically to yourself in the summer but that’s no longer a reality. 

An aerial view looking down at Ksamil Islands in Albania

A bird’s eye view of Ksamil Beach and islands

Summary of Staying in Ksamil

  • Ksamil is much smaller than Saranda with less variety of hotels, restaurants and shops
  • It’s a better choice for those seeking a beach holiday with nicer beaches and most of the accommodation is a short walk from the beach
  • Because of it’s smaller size, Ksamil can feel busier with tourists, especially during the summer months 
  • If you’re seeking a relaxing and peaceful summer beach holiday, consider Saranda or even Himare (further up the coast) as Ksamil is known for its loud beach clubs and restaurants blasting music during the day
  • Ksamil is more focused around tourism and many people say that the town feels cleaner than Saranda
  • If you’re planning to stay longer than 2 days in Ksamil, you might end up being bored as there isn’t much to do in the town itself. 
  • Smaller town, easier to get around, has calm and safe water for swimming makes Ksamil a more attractive option for families with children.
Beach in Saranda Albania

Sparkling turquoise water and cute thatched umbrellas in Ksamil


While the beaches in Saranda are not as visually appealing as the ones in Ksamil, Saranda has a lot more to offer in terms of restaurants and nightlife. Being a much bigger town than Ksamil, there is a wider range of guest houses, apartments and hotels in Saranda to choose from.

This makes Saranda a better choice for the budget traveller or those seeking a long-term stay in Albania. As a digital nomad, I found many more Airbnbs and budget apartments available in Saranda and therefore chose to stay there instead of Ksamil. On top of that, there are many more shops which makes it easer to find certain items that you may have trouble finding in Ksamil.

With that being said, there are also plenty of luxury resorts to choose from in Saranda. If you’re hoping to stay in a gorgeous resort with a pool and private beach access, you will have many options available to you in Saranda. Read my guide on choosing the best Saranda hotel for every preference while booking your holiday. 

The overall feel to Saranda is that it’s a port town with more of a buzzing atmosphere than Ksamil. If you’re seeking an active holiday and looking for somewhere to base yourself to take day trips, then Saranda is definitely the better choice. 

If you spend a week in Saranda, you can easily schedule in some beach time in Ksamil or any of the other spectacular beaches on the Albanian Riviera.

The Best hotels in Saranda line the beachfront promenade

Public Beach in Saranda

Summary of Staying in Saranda

  • Saranda has more restaurants, hotels, bars, beauty salons and shops to offer
  • A better choice for foodies hoping to try a new restaurant every night
  • With small pebbles instead of soft sand, the beaches in Saranda are not as beautiful as Ksamil (but still very nice for swimming!)
  • More accommodation choices making it appealing for budget travellers, digital nomads and luxury travellers
  • Saranda is the ideal base for taking day trips around the Albanian Riviera and visiting nearby beaches
  • Saranda has less of a “clean” feel compared to Ksamil
  • Saranda is better for a longer stay as there are more things to do and more restaurants/bars to try (see my guide to dining in Saranda here)
Stunning sunset view in Saranda

A stunning sunset view in Saranda

Saranda or Ksamil – Which Town Is Cheaper?

Albania as a whole is a budget friendly destination when you compare it to popular European countries such as Italy, Croatia or Greece. If you are a budget traveller looking for the best way to extend your travels, then I would suggest staying in Saranda.

Saranda offers more options when it comes to accommodation and restaurants and therefore you can choose to stay in hostels or guesthouses and eat at local restaurants. To summarise things, you will find Saranda cheaper than Ksamil as there is a wider variety to choose from. 

Lori Beach, Ksamil

Lori Beach, Ksamil

Getting from Saranda to Ksamil

Bus – Getting the bus from Saranda to Ksamil is easy and cheap. Head to this bus stop  in Saranda’s town center to catch the bus to Ksamil. Buses operate regularly throughout the day and the journey takes 30 minutes. Tickets cost 150 lek per person, be sure to have cash with you as card is not accepted. 

Rental Car – The best way to get around the south of Albania is to rent a car for the duration of your stay. Rental cars cost on average 25 – 35 euros per day and provide an easy and flexible way to see the sights on your own schedule. See more info about renting a car in the section further down this post. 

Taxi – If you’re travelling from the Port of Saranda to Ksamil with a lot of luggage, taking a taxi might be your first choice. Taxis charge anywhere from 15 – 25 euros (1500 – 2500 Albanian lek) for one way. 

The best day trips from Saranda, Albania

Exploring Butrint National Park on a day trip from Saranda

Best Time to Visit Saranda & Ksamil

While most people imagine that the south of Albania is the ideal summer destination, I would have to disagree. During the summer (late June – August), both Saranda and Ksamil see a huge influx in tourist numbers which spoils the charm of this special place. 

During this time, you can expect to pay higher prices for hotels, restaurants and beach beds. Visit Albania during shoulder season (May/early June or Sept/early October) to have a better overall experience and get more for your money. 

During shoulder season the restaurants, hotels and beaches are less crowded, prices are lower and the weather is still great. I also love to support the local businesses when things start to get quiet.

Kakome Beach, Saranda

Take a boat trip from Saranda to the amazingly beautiful Kakome Beach

The south of Albania is a highly seasonal destination that sees almost no tourism during the winter months. It’s nice to get the benefits of low season while supporting the hard-working locals during a quieter period. 

It’s important to keep these things in mind when you see those stunning pictures on Instagram (or even on this blog!) and hope that your holiday will look the exact same. It’s not likely that you’ll have a horrible time if you visit during summer but I feel it’s important to be well informed before making any decisions.

Ksamil Saranda, Albanian Riviera

A popular beach in Ksamil in October

Tips for Visiting the Albanian Riviera

  • Book Ahead No matter which town you decide to stay in, book your accommodation well ahead of time if you’re visiting between June – August.
  • Rent a Car – Consider renting a car for your stay in Albania as this will give you the flexibility to explore the riviera by taking day trips. Check out my blog post on the best day trips from Saranda for more detailed info. See the section at the end of this post for more tips on where to rent a car.
  • Cash is King – Make sure to always carry enough cash on you as many restaurants and shops only accept cash as a payment method. The official currency of Albania is the Albanian Lek (ALL) and you can use any local ATM to withdraw lek on arrival. Another option is to carry Euros into Albania and have them changed to lek at a currency exchange shop. This is actually the better option as ATMs in Albania charge a hefty fee.
  • SIM Cards – I recommend getting yourself a SIM card on arrival in Albania. You can either get an e-sim like Airalo which can be done online or going into a Vodafone shop when you get there to buy a regular SIM card. Either way, the prices are reasonable and it’s good to have data to help you navigate and research activities on the go.
  • Get Travel Insurance – You’ll want to get travel insurance before your trip to Albania in the case of a medical emergency or unforeseen circumstance. If you need a recommendation, check out Heymondo which is what I usually use whenever I travel. Also, you can use my link and save yourself 5%😊 
  • How to Get There – While a lot of people would imagine that flying straight to Tirana is the way to go, your travel time to Saranda/Ksamil can be made a lot shorter by flying to Corfu in Greece. Once you arrive on Corfu, it’s a short ferry ride to get to Saranda as opposed to a 5 hour bus journey from Tirana. 
Saranda/Ksamil Travel Guide

Taking the ferry from Corfu to Saranda

Ksamil Saranda Alternative – Himare

If you’re looking for a place that’s a little less touristy than Saranda and Ksamil, you might consider a smaller, quieter town along the Albanian Riviera. Himare was once a sleepy fishing town that has now become a popular stop on every southern Albania itinerary.

The pretty seaside town is less developed and therefore not as busy compared with Ksamil or Saranda. Without the blaring Ksamil beach clubs or the crowds on Saranda’s promenade, you can take in the beauty of Albania’s coast in a more peaceful setting. 

For such a small town, Himare has a lot to offer. It’s home to some of the most beautiful beaches on the Albanian Riviera, great beachfront restaurants, fascinating history and plenty of accommodation options. 

Getting there is easily done by renting a car and following the coastal road for just over an hour north of Saranda. It’s the perfect addition to your Albania road trip itinerary but it also makes for a great beach holiday on its own. You can also catch the bus to Himare from Saranda’s town center at 800 lek per person.

Beautiful Himare, Albanian Riviera

Himare, Albania

Best Hotels in Himare

Budget: Velco BB HimaraThis great budget option is located steps from the beach and features a terrace with beautiful views, a clean and cozy room with a fridge, aircon and free parking. 

Mid Range: Endless Blue Himara Stay in this lovely beachfront apartment that has a balcony with stunning ocean views, free parking and only a 2 minute walk to the beach. 

Luxury: ARXONTIKOThis beautiful, modern hotel is well-situated facing the sea and very close to the shops and restaurants of Himare. With amenities such as a restaurant & bar, comfortable airconditioned rooms and delicious breakfast included, you can relax in style during your getaway in Himare. 

→Browse more accommodations in Himare←

Visit Himare Beach -One of the best day trips from Saranda

Himare Beach

Best Hotels in Saranda

Below are a few of the best hotels for every budget in Saranda. For more details on finding the right accommodation for your stay, check out my complete guide to choosing the best hotels in Saranda.

Budget: Mariana ApartamentA clean and centrally located apartment, ideal for those on a budget hoping to maximise their time in Saranda. The balcony with ocean views is a bonus to this budget-friendly option. Free parking is available which is ideal for those with a rental car.

Mid Range: Hotel ManoThis highly-rated hotel is a popular choice due to its fantastic location by the sea. With clean and cozy rooms, a great breakfast included and beautiful views from your balcony, it’s no surprise this lovely hotel books out pretty far in advance!

Luxury: Andon Lapa Hotel & SpaA stunning and newly renovated 4-star hotel tucked away in a quiet neighbourhood of Saranda. The Andon Lapa Hotel features an outdoor pool, gym, amazing breakfast and private beach access which is ideal for those seeking some luxury during their stay in Saranda.

→Browse more accommodations in Saranda←

Luxury hotels in Saranda Albania

Beautiful beaches of Saranda

Best Hotels in Ksamil

Check out a few of the top-rated hotels in Ksamil below and read my guide on selecting the best Ksamil hotel for your budget and preference. 

Budget: Vila RelaxThese spacious apartments with fully equipped kitchens and stunning balcony views give you great bang for your buck for those on a budget. While it’s not located on the beachfront, it won’t take longer than 10 minutes to walk to the nearest Ksamil beach!

Mid Range: Zace StudiosLocated only two streets back from the beach and close to all the restaurants and shops, you can’t find a better apartment for this price in Ksamil. The host is super friendly and will go above and beyond to make your stay perfect! 

Luxury: Blue Eye HotelThis beautiful 4-star hotel with an outdoor pool is well located in the heart of town, only a 5 minute walk to the beach. You can wake up to a delicious breakfast (included in your stay) and get to the beach before the crowds arrive. 

→Browse more accommodations in Ksamil←

Ksamil Beach, Saranda, Albania

Stay near the beach in Ksamil

Where to Rent a Car in Saranda

Renting a car for your stay in Albania is the best option for getting around. It’s affordable, easy to do and will provide you with flexibility to plan your day trips and stop wherever you like. 

You can expect to pay around 25 – 35 euros per day for a small car in Albania. Once you arrive in Saranda, simply pop into one of the local car rental shops to pick up a car. Depending on what time of year you’re visiting, you might want to organise this prior to your arrival, check out this website for more details on booking your car rental online.

I can personally recommend Leka Car Rentals which provided a car to me on short notice and was an overall great experience. The shop is around 12 minutes from the Port of Saranda by foot and you can send them a message on WhatsApp or contact them by email before you go.

southern albania road trip

Renting a car in Albania is the best way to get around

Final Thoughts on Staying in Saranda or Ksamil

As you can see, there is no right or wrong when it comes to choosing to stay in Saranda or Ksamil. If you’re planning an adventurous holiday that combines beach time with day trips, stay in Saranda. If you’re hoping for a relaxing holiday by the beach, stay in Ksamil and take a day trip to Saranda. 

For me, it made sense to stay in Saranda as I was seeking a budget-friendly apartment surrounded by shops and different restaurants to try out. I also found that Saranda was perfectly situated for taking day trips to places such as Gjirokaster, Himare, the Blue Eye and all the amazing beaches around the Albanian Riviera.

I hope this guide has helped you with making your decision on whether to stay in Saranda or Ksamil. Whatever you end up choosing, I’m sure you will fall in love with the south of Albania just like I did. If you have any more questions about planning your holiday to the Albanian Riviera, don’t hesitate to send me a message on Instagram!

Saranda Ksamil, Albania

Cheers from Jericho Cocktail Bar, Saranda

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