Saranda's city port to the Ionian Sea
day trip

A day trip to Albania from Corfu

Maysie Dee

Contributing writer

Planning a day trip from Corfu to Saranda? Here are our top picks...

Organised tour: Corfu to Sarenda day tour

Ferry tickets: Book online with Ferryhopper

Tour from Saranda: Ksamil, Butrint, Blue Eye, Lëkurësi Castle

The Greek island of Corfu is one of Europe’s most popular vacation destinations. But did you know you can hop on a quick ferry from Corfu Town to Saranda, Albania, and enjoy another country for a day? 

Saranda, the jewel of the Albanian Riviera, is within eyesight from Corfu, just across the Straits of Corfu. Gently wrapped around a horseshoe bay on a narrow strip of the Ionian Sea coast, Saranda is easily Albania’s most popular waterfront town.

Glorious beaches welcome you with clear, aquamarine waters, and the town is close to some unique landmarks that capture the hearts of visitors from near and far.

Happily, Albania is much easier on the pocket than Corfu…so your day excursion can be a wonderful break from Schengen prices. And getting there may be easier than you think!

From mid-March through to October, travellers can take advantage of a superfast hydrofoil ferry that crosses the Adriatic Sea from Corfu Town to the seaport city of Saranda, Albania in only 30 minutes. There’s also a larger, slower ferry that makes the trip a few times per day if you want a more leisurely crossing (details below). 

Saranda is less than a 30-40 minute drive to some of Albania's most beautiful places including Butrint Archaeological Park, Albania’s Blue Eye spring, Ksamil and its enticing Ksamil islands, and the ancient LëkurësiCastle—all of which can be enjoyed in a day trip.

So, read on, while we explain what it takes to go on an action-packed day of culture and seaside fun from Corfu to Saranda, Albania.

A sunny day on Ksamil Beach, Albania

Taking the ferry

You have a few choices for crossing the straits to Albania from Corfu Town.  I’ve traveled with Finikas Lines and Ionian Seaways. They provide similar services and comparable price points. (between 19-30 EUR one-way depending on season; same-day round trip discounts). They run ferries all year round, but limited winter schedules don’t allow for a day trip from November through March.

From May-October there are more ferry timings per day. The first departing ferry from Corfu on the Finikas hydrofoil is 9:00 am. The crossing takes only 30 minutes and luckily, with the time difference, you’ll gain ½ hour and arrive at 8:30 am Albanian time!

Options for the return trip include a hydrofoil (30 minutes), a high-speed (45 minutes), or a 1.25-hour ferry. The timings vary throughout the summer months, so you’ll need to check the Finikas and Ionian Seaways schedules and make your plans accordingly.

It’s possible to purchase ferry tickets online or near the Corfu port but during summer it’s a good idea to purchase in advance—summer gets crazy-busy in both Corfu and Albania!

I’d recommend stepping into one of the offices located near either port (Corfu/Saranda) to get current info, but you can also buy tickets online in advance if you prefer.

Once you print/secure your tickets, you’ll need to arrive at the port in Corfu Town between 30 minutes to 1 hour before departure (depending on the carrier). Have your ticket and ID in hand, as you will exit via Greek immigration and enter Saranda via Albanian immigration. The process is quick and easy. 

Ferry rides are comfortable, and the views are amazing!

The 30-minute (Finikas) hydrofoil ferry is small and zippy—they call the hydrofoils “Flying Dolphin” for a reason! Covered seating is available in rows of plush chairs, similar to movie theatre seats...a bit quirky!

The Ionian Seaways 1.25-hour large ferry is a completely different experience. Instead of flying through the air, you’ll slowly chug across the Ionian Sea. You’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the stunning views.

Unreserved seating is on an open-air deck, with hard-surfaced (but not uncomfortable) benches. You can change seats, get up and wander around the deck, and take photos/videos as you like. There is a limited snack bar on board.

Note: The ferry lines offer a few variations of large ferries. Check each site for specifics. Many visitors bring a car on the longer large ferry; additional fees apply.

Ruins on the shores of Lake Butrint, a salt lagoon in Albania.

Arriving in Albania

You’ll arrive at the Saranda seaport terminal located just beyond the Saranda town center. Passing through Albanian immigration is easy; your trip is noted electronically, so no stamp appears in your passport.

With the ferry timings, the shortest span you’re likely to book is 7.5 hours on land, with the earliest ferry arriving in Saranda at 8:30 am and return ferry to Corfu at 16:00. Additional ferries return to Corfu from Sarande at 17:00, 19:00, 20:00 and 22:00 daily during summer.  

If you’d rather do a later morning through evening trip, ferries leave Corfu every hour after 9 am, so you can pick and choose.

In the center of Saranda, there’s a small open historical site; it’s the ruins of a Jewish Synagogue from the 5th century. If you walk (10 minutes) or ride to the town center from the port, it’s located right next to Friendship Park and can be viewed in about 15 minutes.

A stop there is often included in a tour of these larger attractions:

Butrint Archaeological Park (30-35-minute drive from Saranda)

 This large and impressive archaeological park houses the ruins of an ancient terraced city built around 800 BC. Expansions continued through periods of Roman, Byzantine, and Venetian dominion in the area.

Wandering the grounds, you’ll see remains of an enormous amphitheatre, a Roman temple, a basilica, the castle stronghold, and towers, with lots of gorgeous mosaics throughout. The 85-hectare park has several mini-ecosystems with interesting wildlife, plants, olive trees, and water features.

There is a fee to enter the park; check for current rates which should be around 7 EUR.

Ksamil and Ksamil Islands (20-minute drive from Saranda)

You may have seen beautiful beaches in your life but nothing compares to the crystalline turquoise, lapis, and emerald waters of Ksamil—it’s just magical! The small town faces picturesque white sand beaches overlooking Ksamil’s small islands. You can visit the islands via swimming, water taxi, or sail/paddle boat.

Amazingly, prices at Ksamil’s numerous beach bars and restaurants are quite reasonable. You have your pick of venues serving coffee, beer, alcoholic beverages, fresh fruit juices, and of course, excellent seafood and Albanian cuisine.

Lëkurësi Castle (15-minute drive from Saranda)

The most important historical landmark in the nearby area, this hilltop castle was a military stronghold in the 16th century. Additions over the years exhibit styles from various periods, adding to the castle’s architectural charm.

Today, it’s possible to explore the castle’s interior and tour the grounds of the complex. The incredible expansive views from the towers and walls are simply breathtaking! From on high you can observe Saranda’s coastal position and see all the way across the Ionian Sea to Corfu.

Syri Kalter or Blue Eye (30-minute drive from Saranda)

One of Albania’s most famous natural wonders is The Blue Eye, a gorgeous karst spring water feature. The small but immeasurably-deep spring is mesmerizing and beautiful, with colours moving brilliant green, turquoise, indigo, and royal blue. The deeper colours are in the center giving the appearance of an eye.

Transportation to the Blue Eye will leave you at the entrance of the park, where you’ll take an easy walk of about 1.5 kilometres to reach the actual spring. There’s a small viewing platform, a lovely garden area, and a restaurant (not snacks).

The water in the Blue Eye is freezing cold! It’s delightful for dipping your toes in as relief from the summer heat. Feel free to refill your water bottle with healthy, fresh Blue Eye spring water at the outdoor free drinking fountain!

There is a .50 ALL entry fee for the spring.

Syri i Kalter or Blue Eye, a natural spring in Albania

Getting around

There are three reasonable transportation options for your day in Albania. Each has its merits depending on your interests and the time you’ve allowed between ferry rides.

Take a tour

The easiest way to see the main sites is to book a group or private tour. Several excellent tour companies offer these services, which include picking you up at the Saranda Port outside immigration and driving you to the various spots.

You’ll have a chance to visit each spot, have some downtime for snacks  and/or lunch, and make it back to catch the ferry. Most tours take between 5-6 hours in total.


  • No hassles, everything is arranged for you.

  • You don’t have to spend time renting a car or figuring out directions.

  • If you arrange a guided tour, not just a driver, you’ll get inside info and tips from a local.


  • You have to stick to the agreed-upon schedule, especially if it’s a group tour, not a private one.

  •  It’s more expensive than arranging transportation on your own.

  • Some visitors have been disappointed if they miss a scheduled attraction due to timings or crowds.

Popular tours

Tip: Ask your guide/driver to take your group to Butrint first as it can get crowded in summer and visitors may be refused entry later in the morning or day.

Rent a car

if you prefer taking to the roads yourself, there are ample car rental  companies at the Saranda Port including international brands and local rentals,  It’s a good idea to book ahead, especially in summer months when the rates can skyrocket.


  • The roads to the major points of interest near Saranda are in fairly good condition and the directions are not complicated.

  • If you rent a vehicle, you have the freedom to map out your itinerary.

  • You can decide at the last minute to swim for a couple of hours, have a leisurely lunch in Ksamil or Sarande, or spend more time at Butrint— those options aren’t possible if you’ve booked a tour.

  • If you’re not daunted by driving in a foreign country in unfamiliar conditions, renting a car is an adventurous way to get to know an area.

  • Rates are reasonable, from 16 EUR per day.


  • You’ll spend extra time dealing with the rental company and/or figuring out where you’re going.

  • You’ll have to cover minimal parking fees at some of the sites.

  • In the best conditions, Albanian drivers can be a bit on the wild side, so you’ll have to deal with pushy and sometimes erratic drivers on the roads.

  • Summers are hot! And drivers may be even more irritable than usual and the roads leading to the sights are often crowded, which you’ll have to navigate.

  • You must be at least 21 years old to rent a car; some companies request 25 years. A full driving license, passport, and credit card are needed. Some local companies may allow bookings with just a debit card.

Take taxis

If you want the freedom to decide as you go, it’s super easy to just hop off the ferry and walk into Saranda, have a seaside coffee (come back for dinner if you can!), and plan your next move.

Taxis are everywhere. Or, if you have your itinerary laid out, commission a taxi right at the port when you arrive.


  • You can take the day piece-meal and taxis are not that expensive.

  • Taxis know where they’re going and can give you some helpful tips along the way.

  • If you like your driver, you can add another stop using that taxi, or you could make a full-day arrangement.

Tip: For visiting the Blue Eye: Have your taxi driver wait for you! The area is remote, and you won’t easily get a taxi back to Ksamil or Saranda from the park, or it could be very expensive if a taxi is available!


  • Taxis are more expensive than self-driving or a pre-arranged tour. Example: about 30-40 EUR round trip from Saranda to the Blue Eye

  • You might find yourself stranded in a remote area if you don’t reserve and pay an extra “waiting fee” to your driver. Be sure to negotiate before starting any trip in a taxi.

A note regarding buses

Inexpensive buses leave from the port terminal running to Butrint and Ksamil, but the bus system in Albania annoys most tourists. The buses don’t always run on time and can be very crowded and hot in the summer.

Therefore, while it’s possible, I wouldn’t recommend getting into the chaos of Albanian buses on a one-day trip with time constraints. Do yourself a favor and take one of the options mentioned above. That said, it’s not impossible, so you decide!

Umbrellas and deckchairs on the beach in Ksamil, Albania

Travel tips

  1. Book the ferry ahead of time to get seats on the day and time you want.

  2. If you book a day trip to Saranda from Corfu on your last day with a plane to catch, be aware that delays and cancellations can happen on any ferry line during high season. Play it safe and plan for all contingencies.

  3. Don’t forget your passport! You’ll need it for immigration on both sides of the Ionian Sea (note: You’ll be leaving Schengen but only for the day, so it will not affect a Schengen visa. You might be given a token on arrival in either port for a day trip rather than going through immigration – but you still need your passport!!).

  4. It’s possible to bring a rental car from Greece on the large ferry; check to see if the Greek car rental company allows international trips or requires extra insurance.

  5. It gets very hot in Saranda in summer! Be sure to bring a day-pack or carry-all with everything needed for a full day’s activities: swimwear, water shoes, towel, sunglasses, camera, sunscreen, hat, cash (there are ATMs at the port and in Saranda and Ksamil), refillable water bottle, clothing layers in case you go in the shoulder season, etc.

Where to eat

  • Bar Restaurant Limani, Saranda – situated right in the curve of Saranda’s horseshoe bay right on the water, Limani is beautiful, the coffee, gelato and desserts are excellent and inexpensive, the seafood is fresh, pizza is great!

  • Haxhi Restaurant, Saranda  - quaint family-owned restaurant with sea views and fabulous traditional Albanian cuisine; lovely atmosphere; large menu with lots of variety for all tastes/diets.

  • Abiori Ksamil, Ksamil – directly facing the Ksamil islands, this wonderful restaurant is perfect for having a coffee, a meal or for visiting their private beach below the restaurant for some sun. Helpful service and overall Abiori is of the best places in Ksamil.

  • Veranda Apollonia Ksamil, Ksamil – excellent seafood restaurant, expansive emnu, right at the beaches in Ksamil, good service, beautiful terrace and sunbeds for enjoying the beach.

Planning a trip to Greece? Read our travel guides.

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Maysie Dee

Author - Maysie Dee

Maysie Dee is a freelance writer, content editor, and recipe creator. She and her husband have travelled across the world for decades as natural product consultants, collecting stories along the way.

Last Updated 6 May 2024

Ksamil Beach, Albania on a summer's day


With rugged mountains, clear waters and an extensive archaeological heritage, a trip to Albania can encompass the outdoor adventures, impressive landmarks or a beachside break.