Butrint Archaeological Site
Ali Pasha Tepeleni Castle
Mesopotam Monastery

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Your Guide to Southern Albania

Thanks to one of the most beautiful natural environments of the entire Albanian coast, with its beaches of small natural stones and a wonderful blue sea, Sarande – near the border with Greece, from its seaside you can see Corfù – has become one of the most appreciated tourist destinations in the Ionian Sea.

One of your MSC Cruises destinations in the Mediterranean, this coastal city is one of the most modern in the entire region, and offers its visitors, in addition to the sea, many historical and environmental beauties to be admired.

Among the most relevant points of interest are the ruins of ancient Onchesmos (as Sarande used to be called), the remains of the city of Foinike, the Roman archaeological site of Butrint that was recently renovated and restored to its former glory and the nineteenth-century Ali Pasha Tepeleni Castle, one of Albania's landmark buildings, an imposing square structure overlooking the Adriatic Sea. Walking through the streets of Sarande, you will experience the typical atmosphere of a popular tourist attraction with numerous hotels.

An MSC Cruises excursion will take you on a visit to the karst spring of Syri Kalter with its famous Blue Eye, a blue pond reminiscent of the iris of a human eye. This watering hole is at the center of a splendid oak forest, perfect for having a picnic and enjoying the cool embrace of Mother Nature. In this area there is also the Mesopotam monastery, which dates from the thirteenth century and is the only Byzantine church in a good state of conservation in all of Albania.
Characterized by a special plan of a single nave with two apses, this ancient place of worship is dedicated to St. Nicholas (Shën Kolle).

Must see places in Sarande

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    One of the Mediterranean’s unspoiled corners
    One of the Mediterranean’s unspoiled corners

    Following decades of isolationist rule, Albania still doesn’t seem to fit into the grand continental jigsaw, with distinctly exotic notes emanating from its language, customs and cuisine.

    With its jumble of rugged mountains fringed by pristine curls of beach, Albania’s south is the most appealing part of the country. The interior route boasts the rewarding towns of Berat and Gjirokastra, each home to whole swathes of Ottoman buildings.
    Heading on down the Ionian Coast instead, you’ll find one of Europe’s few unspoilt sections of Mediterranean shore, a near-permanently sunny spot where the twin blues of sea and sky are ripped asunder by a ribbon of grey mountains – on a clear day you’ll be able to see Italy from the 1027m-high Llogaraja Pass.

    Staring straight at Corfu, and even within day-trip territory of the Greek island, sunny Sarande is perhaps Albania’s most appealing entry point, it’s a great place to kick back, stroll along the promenade and watch the sun set over cocktails. There are beaches in town, but better are those near the archaeological treasure-trove of Butrint, some 25km to the south.