There are many great things to do and see in Saranda, some are free, others you’ll have to pay a little for. We have decided to compile a list of the BEST things to do in Saranda which you’ll not find in the guidebooks. These are the ‘Secret’ Gems of Saranda, the places the locals go to and keep hidden from the tourists!
Note, that this list may differ a little to the more traditional list of Best Things to Do in Saranda on Trip Advisor and a similar list here on Virtual Tourist, but that’s because we find that the REAL attractions you can find in and around Saranda are those which have fewer tourists, the hidden gems if you will, the places where the locals go to get away from the crowds. Now obviously our recommendations will include some of the must-see attractions but we will aim to give you some advice that will help you miss out on the masses our tourists and have a more pleasurable exprience.
#1 Lekursi Castle (In the Morning!)
Following up on the review we did on Lekursi Castle a couple of weeks ago we’ll have to give it the number 1 spot of things to do in Saranda for a number of reasons… Its a bautiful castle for one and during all months of the year, sunrise at the castle is always quiet (ie, no tourists), it gives fabulous views over the city and of Corfu and is a real pleasant way to start your day. I would aim to get up very early and walk up to the castle when it’s still cool, and after all the tourists start coming (around 11:00 during the peak season), you can catch a return taxi back to the city for a couple hundred LEK ($3 ish).
#2 Enjoying an ‘Early’ Lunch Down Near the Fishermans Port to Enjoy the Catches of the Day
Saranda is renowned for its fresh sea-food and has some of the best seafood restaurants in the area. So why not head down to the fisherman’s port (where all the locals go!) to enjoy seafood which has been caught just an hour or so before?! – Fish is literally walked through from the boats straight into the kitchens.
If you’re feeling brave and it’s not too early in the morning, you can even try some the the local Raki. You may have had some already in Albania, but I can assure you that the ‘Fisherman’s Raki‘ which you’ll have at the two restaurants next to the port is VERY strong. If the normal raki would be a scotch bonnet, the fishermans rakki would be likened to a red hot poker being put in your mouth – it’s like jet fuel.
#3 Lazing in the Sun on on of Saranda’s Secret & QUIET Beaches
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I would likely get shot for telling you this but there are a number of quiet beaches you can go to which are enjoyed by the locals of the area. Tourists never venture to them as access is up a dirty road which looks like it leads to someones house, which it does, but just before there is a fork in the road which is not visible until at the last minute and then the road continues away from the city and in roughly 5 minutes you’ll see a number of secluded beaches which only ever have at maximum a couple of people there, if anyone at all.
During the tourist season, it’s the busiest time for the locals and an opportunity for them to make as much as they can so I can only summize that this is the reason why these beaches are mostly empty, plus it’s about a 10-15 minute drive from the city center.
Directions: Continue past the fishing port, away from the city, take the one and only road towards a religious dome shaped building which you’ll see on the top of the hill as soon as you’re near the port. Drive past the large cemetary which is on your left, and head to the little dome shape building, you’ll go past a small hotel then you’ll see a dirt road, drive/cycle down there and follow the track, in 5 minutes you’ll come to some really secluded beaches (they are behind the dome shaped building, on the other side). Right at the end of the track which will take you 20 minutes cycling or 10 minutes in the car, you’ll find the nicest beach of them all where posh yaughts are often anchored up. There is a little cabin also which can be used to sit and eat. A beautiful little alcove.
(Photos to come next time I’m there!)
#4 Enjoying a Game of Poker in Saranda’s Underground Poker Scene
Saranda has a huge underground poker scene but it’s unlikely that as a tourist you’ll ever be invited to come and play. If you are interested in playing poker you’ll have to get to know some of the locals and have them ‘recommend’ you. An easy way to do this is to buy them a few drinks and be realatively ‘easy’ with your cash for a few rounds.
I used to play in a few places in and around the town center. I would consider myself an average poker player, I can hold my own live and online, but I am by no means good. With that being said, out of the 10 or so times I did play, I walked out up 9 of those times. Needless to say the competition is relatively soft.
Buy-in amounts are min EUR 50 (around 7000 LEK) and you would be expected to play a minimum of 2 hours before walking up, but 3+ hours would be more polite. There is no maximum table buy-in so often I sat down and matched whoever bought-in with the most to make sure I wasn’t at a disadvantage.
You would often see pots where more than one person was all in and re-buys were frequent. I got the impression people would rather gamble and try to double-up their stack on less than prime hands than play proper poker.
Often I would play, starting with around EUR 100 and leave in the EUR 300-700 range. I would always play to the end, often starting at 11pm and finishing around 6am. Games are also played during the days but you’ll have to ask around.
Most poker is played in dedicated poker rooms at the back of gambling shops. Most of which are hidden away so you’d never know they play poker. You have to ask or be introduced, I’d recommend the latter.
Drinks are 90% of the time free, smoking ALL the time. English spoken 90% of the time. Popular games are Texas Hold-em and Omaha.