Saranda or Ksamil: where you should stay in the Albanian Riviera

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Written By Candela Garcia

Deciding between Saranda or Ksamil was one of the most challenging decisions I faced while planning my initial visit to the southern Albanian Riviera. Thankfully, both towns are neighbors, so opting for one destination doesn’t mean missing out on the other.

Broadly speaking, Ksamil is more charming and is known for its higher level of cleanliness when compared to Saranda, in addition to offering exceptionally beautiful beaches. However, because Saranda is a bigger city, it is best for you if you’re looking for luxury resorts or apartment complexes.

We know that not every travel is the same, in this guide I will share with you all you need to know about Saranda and Ksamil so you can decide which place is best for the holidays that you are planning.

Given that not all travels are alike, in this guide I will provide you with all the essential information about Saranda and Ksamil that you need to know before deciding which location best suits your dream holidays.

Saranda or Ksamil: beaches in Ksamil
Ksamil main beach

General information about the towns

Before diving into the nitty-gritty details of Saranda and Ksamil, let’s start with a brief overview of these two captivating Albanian Riviera towns. Situated in close proximity to each other, Saranda and Ksamil both offer their own unique charm and attractions that cater to a variety of preferences. From stunning natural landscapes to historical sites and vibrant local culture, each town has something unique to offer. In this section, we’ll provide you with a snapshot of the general characteristics and atmosphere of both Saranda and Ksamil, giving you a better understanding of what to expect as you consider your vacation destination.

While Saranda and Ksamil share the stunning backdrop of the Albanian Riviera, each town possesses its own distinct character and attractions. 

Similar things between the towns

  • Natural Landscape: Both Saranda and Ksamil are blessed with breathtaking natural beauty and a beautiful mix of turquoise water and hills.
  • Mediterranean Cuisine: Food enthusiasts will find similarities in the Mediterranean cuisine that prevails in both towns. Fresh seafood, olive oil, locally sourced vegetables, and traditional flavors are prominent features of the dining scene in both Saranda and Ksamil.
  • Historical Sites: While the primary focus of both towns might be their coastal paradise, they also boast historical sites that add depth to their charm. Ruins, ancient relics, and remnants of past civilizations offer a glimpse into the region’s rich history.
  • Crowds: While is true that for years Saranda attracted a larger number of tourists, there is currently no difference in terms of crowds between Saranda and Ksamil. Saranda has more tourists but Ksamil is smaller and is currently a trending destination on Instagram and TikTok, so you will likely find the same amount of tourists in both towns.

Differences between Saranda and Ksamil:

  • Atmosphere: One of the biggest differences between Saranda and Ksamil is the atmosphere. Saranda, with its bustling ambiance, features a mix of modernity and historical charm. Ksamil, on the other hand, is known for its laid-back, serene vibe, making it a perfect retreat for those seeking relaxation.
  • Development: Saranda tends to offer a wider range of accommodations, including luxury resorts and apartment complexes, making it an appealing choice for travelers seeking a more upscale stay or looking for more budget options. Ksamil, while not lacking in comfortable lodgings, generally retains a more unspoiled and rustic feel.
  • Charm and Cleanliness: Many visitors find Ksamil to be slightly more charming and cleaner than Saranda, offering a more pristine and peaceful environment. This can be attributed to its smaller size and more localized tourism scene.

Is Saranda or Ksamil cheaper?

Both destinations are budget-friendly when compared to other nearby European beaches, such as Greece and Croatia. However, most tourists find Saranda to be less expensive than Ksamil in terms of accommodation and food prices.

Don’t get me wrong, you can also find expensive restaurants and 5-star hotels in Saranda. Yet, due to Saranda’s larger size, it’s generally easier to discover bargains there. Ksamil being a smaller town means that most hotels and restaurants have a similar average cost.

RELATED: I recommend you to check out my Ksamil Travel Guide with prices where I detailed everything that I spent on a 4-day trip on July 2023

How to get from Saranda to Ksamil

There’s no need to split your stay between Saranda and Ksamil since these two towns are in such close proximity. You can opt to stay in one and easily make a day or night trip to the other.

Traveling from Saranda to Ksamil can be done via taxi or bus. A taxi ride takes approximately 20 minutes and costs €15, while the bus fare is only €1.50. Buses run every half hour from 6:30 to 18:30, with a total travel time of 30-45 minutes.

Additionally, you can rent a car or motorcycle to get from Saranda to Ksamil and it will give you the flexibility to explore nearby attractions. Depending on the season, expect to pay between €20 and €35 for this option.

Accomodation in Saranda and Ksamil

As Saranda is a bigger city, it offers a wider range of accommodations than Ksamil, including budget-friendly Airbnb apartments, hostels, and even some larger and more upscale resorts. While Ksamil is smaller, tourism is in its peak development phase, leading to the opening of several brand new hotels each summer season.

Something to be noticed is that it is almost impossible to be bad located in Ksamil, the town is small and has several small bays surrounded by hotels and restaurants so no matter where you choose to stay you will be always a few steps away from the beach. 

The only downside of the size of the town is that there are only 4 hotels in Ksamil with direct private beach access.

While both towns offer a variety of budget-friendly accommodation options, Saranda generally provides even more affordable choices compared to Ksamil. However, in my personal opinion, I would prefer staying in Ksamil due to its more charming and clean atmosphere.

Which has better beaches, Sarande or Ksamil?

While both beach towns offer incredible azure waters, Saranda is known for having larger but rockier beaches, whereas Ksamil is full of small white sanded beaches. 

In Ksamil, free beaches are nonexistent; all of them are managed by various restaurants that charge around 2,000 lek ($20.50 USD) for two sunbeds and an umbrella. Although Saranda is supposed to offer free beaches, travelers in the summer of 2023 reported that very few free beaches remained accessible unless one ventured far from the town center.

Due to the relative lack of cleanliness at the beaches near Saranda’s town center, many visitors who stay in that area often opt to rent a scooter and head north within Saranda or even journey to Ksamil for the day.

Below I’ll share two videos of Saranda and Ksamil beaches so you can get a better idea of what to expect:

Saranda town and beaches

Ksamil beaches


If you are seeking a relaxed trip in a charming town with incredible sandy beaches then Ksamil is best for you. If you prefer a more active holiday and want to take day trips to different beaches then Saranda is the perfect hub for your next stay and will offer more budget-friendly options too.

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