Ksamil, White Sandy Beaches and Crystal Clear Waters
Ksamil is one of the most beautiful hidden gems in Southern Albania, It is a quick 15 minute eco taxi drive away from the port town of Sarande. It provides some of the most picturesque views in Albania, where crystal clear waters back onto soft sandy shorelines dotted with colourful umbrellas. On Day 3 of our trip to Corfu we were lucky enough to visit such a beautiful and picturesque destination for a day trip. It is literally, as they say, like what you always imagined the Caribbean to be, just WAY cheaper and without the long haul flight.
You do need a sense of adventure and a slight devil-may-care relaxed approach to this trip. There are all of these stunning instagramable parts which are epic, but there is the real-life side to Albania and Sarande too. We loved exploring all of it, but just to be conscious of this.
Sarande and Ksamil in Albania
So to reiterate we got to Albania on the back of our trip to Corfu. We did not, you cannot fly here directly. We did 4 night, 5 days in Corfu which you can read all about here.
The trip to Albania was a change of pace with an early wake-up call of 7.15 am. After a quick getting ready, we were off and out. A 15-minute brisk walk down to the port brought us to the Finikas Lines Office. With a ferry departure of 8.45 am and a strict warming of a 45-minute advance arrival we dutifully purchased two return tickets to Albania.
You must bring your passport as you are changing countries, and you must select your return time at the time of purchase. You can buy your return ticket on the other side of the port in Albania; however, if the ferry is full, you may not get on. In April, there are three ferries a day, 8.45 am and then our return options were 12.30 pm and 4.30 pm.
There are also 2 ferry possibilities, although there was only one in April: a bigger slow ferry which takes 70 minutes to cross the sea to Albania or a speedy 30-minute enclosed hydrofoil. Now do not expect luxury or grandeur by any stretch of the imagination.
This is old-school basic travel with large comfy aeroplane-style seats. I’m not going to lie, there was a moment before we left, and I did second guess myself, but with a quick check of the lifejackets and dingy outside and off we went. The cost of the ferry is €25 each way per person, with no swapping of times and tickets after purchase.
There is a passport control check on both sides at Corfu and Albania, and it is important to remember that Albania is an hour behind, so you actually get an hour back in your day upon arrival.
The other crucial part to know is the port has 2 sides – the port closest to the Old Town with the ferries you will probably think you are getting on is the domestic port, only travelling to other Greek destinations. You must walk and walk and walk ALL the way down and around to a light red brick building at the very end of the port which is for international travel. This is where you will travel from.
Arriving at Sarande
Upon arrival to Sarande, do or don’t judge a book by its cover…… it’s hard to know to be honest. April is off-season, so there is a lot of construction and preparation for the busy summer season ahead, which kicks off on May 1st. There are some 5-star hotels, including the Santa Quarante and the Dorchester and some cool-looking beach resorts like Mango Bay but after that, the 3 km strip along the seafront is a mish-mash of restaurants and overpriced little supermarkets and the odd pharmacy. If you wander up and away from the seafront strip you get into more of the commercial district with more modern-style pizza restaurants, coffee houses, shop shops, sports shops and the like.
My advice: grab yourself a hybrid or electric car taxi and head to Ksamil……..
Ksamil is the hidden gem of the Mediterranean that no one wants you to know about. It has been described like Bora Bora or the Maldives of Europe with crystal clear azure blue turquoise waters and its white beaches.
Before we dive into this, there are 2 things you need to know…. It is stunning when you are at the “stunning” parts – the beach. It is awesome and in my opinion worth the rest. The drive down is lovely, but it is “manmade for Instagram” in my opinion. Outside this area is lacking to say the least. For me, I might stay a night or two here, for the beach and to go soak it all up but I wouldn’t spend a week here. Also, in high season it is going to be wedged. There are reports of “instagrammers” lining up with their phones to get photos in the hot spots, but look that is probably everywhere in high season too. Over the years they will develop the whole place more I have no doubt but for now, there is a reality behind the stunning. I loved the experience of here and would go again in a heartbeat. Ok back to the fabulous.
From the minute you hop out of the taxi and catch a glimpse of that white sands, clear azure waters you can’t help with gasp and smile. The adventure was worth every bit of it to land here. It is stunning and one of the most Instagrammable places I have ever seen. It is pure wow.
The water was gorgeous with small boat tours available at every turn. The deal here is that each establishment, bar, restaurant, beach resort, and hotel own their patch of beach. They maintain it, put loungers out on it, hang cabanas off the edge of the dock and serve you food and drink all day. There are very clean public toilets and changing facilities here too.
It is stunning; you can see yourself from the pictures. It is literally like going to Bora Bora without the time or the cost implications. There is chill out vibes and disco beats playing depending on where you go on the beach, with many options for eating. One of my favourites was Veranda by Apollonia or the Bianco Lounge Bar, Pool, and Restaurant, which is opening later in the season. I would say if you were going over, plan your day, book your ferry tickets, charge your phone up and book a lounger and lunch and settle in for day. It is a small resort with not much else to do, so go there and get exactly what you came for… swim in that stunning water, do a boat trip, drink and eat a little and take a million photos.
There is a bus that takes you from Sarande to Ksamil and its costs €1 each way but in low season it was just too unreliable, so we opted for an eco-taxi. A hybrid car which costs €15 each way. The taxi driver dropped us out, and then we gave him a call 20 minutes before we wanted to leave, and he came back and picked us up. We took the high road back into the town. It is fascinating to see so much investment and construction in their area, but also that high road gives you a fabulous view over the glistening bright blue sky.
We went to an overpriced supermarket in Saranade before heading to Ksamil as we feared there would be very few eating options at this time of year. One restaurant was open, so I am glad we brought a little picnic, but it was rip-off central in those mini supermarkets. Do a Matt Damon on it, bring a bag of … no, not cans… a picnic. Set yourself up in Corfu Town and bring a backpack, or just eat out in the restaurants there. The food offer seems to be very basic but look, that’s not why you are there. It is all about that beach. I honestly cannot recommend it enough. It will be absolutely packed in high season, so just beware. September may be a better time.