Budget Friendly Paradise: A Guide to Visiting Ksamil Albania
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A Guide to Visiting Ksamil Albania
Nestled on the picturesque Albanian Riviera, the charming town of Ksamil offers a perfect blend of natural beauty, crystal-clear turquoise waters, and a rich historical heritage. If you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path destination that won’t break the bank, visiting Ksamil in Albania is a great choice.
When to visit Ksamil?
This little town has gained a lot of popularity over the last few years. The peak summer months now bring in many tourists and with such small beaches, it can feel over crowded. Ksamil is at its liveliest in July and August and this is when you will experience the hottest weather. We visited in May when the town was just starting to open up, the weather was good and the crowds hadn’t arrived yet. Visiting Ksamil in May, June and September when it will be less busy than peak summer, will offer a more relaxed stay. Ksamil pretty much closes down between October and March, so avoid visiting in these months.
How to get to Ksamil.
Ksamil is located in southern Albania, approximately 15kms from the city of Sarande. The closest international airport is actually in Corfu, Greece, from there you take a ferry across to Sarande. The nearest airport in Albania is in Tirana, which is a four hour drive away from Ksamil. Some people choose to do this and explore more of Albania en route. In this post I will discuss the route we took which was via Corfu.
Flying to Corfu:
Use the search box below to get an idea of prices between your local airport and Corfu. If your exact dates are too pricey, once you’re on the Skyscanner website you can search for the whole month and browse the cheapest days to travel. It is usually cheaper to travel mid week and naturally will be cheaper outside of the peak summer months. Check the ferry times and try to get flights which arrive early in Corfu to allow you enough time for the transfer.
Corfu to Sarande:
Once in Corfu you need to head to the near by port and take a ferry across to Sarande. There are currently four ferry companies doing this route; Sarris, Finikas, Ionian Seaways and Joy lines. We travelled with Ionian who were very accommodating when our delayed flight meant we missed our ferry. They happily moved us onto the next ferry the following day without an additional charge. You can buy tickets online to ensure you get the time you need and then you don’t have to queue for tickets on arrival at the port. The price for the ferry varies but is around €20 each way. The fast ferry takes around 30 minutes.
There is a bus which connects the airport to the port, or you can get a taxi for around €25. Note that there is a one hour time difference between Corfu and Albania, important when planning your ferry back as you jump ahead an hour once in Corfu!
Sarande to Ksamil:
We had pre arranged a hire car using the company Surprice. They have an office in the port so it was easy to collect the car on arrival. The roads are great and having a car gave us the freedom to easily explore the surrounding area. We paid £103 for 6 nights and took our own carseat. Compare car hire here. We always do a comparison search to make sure we are getting the best value deal.
If you don’t want to hire a car, there is a bus connecting the port to Butrint, stopping off at Ksamil. This will cost around £1.20 for the journey. Make sure you have some Albanian Lek to pay for the fare. The bus takes around 25 minutes (can vary depending on traffic).
Alternatively you can get a taxi. There are lots of drivers waiting outside the port when the boats arrive. We asked for the price so we could include it in this post, and around £12 seemed to be the going rate for the journey.
Where to stay in Ksamil?
Ksamil has a variety of accommodation options. Be aware that star ratings vary country to country, so a 4 star hotel in Albania wont be the same as a 4 star hotel in the UK. As Ksamil is a relatively small town, there isn’t really a good and bad location to choose, everywhere is walkable if you have good mobility. You may want to base your choice on distance to the beach, or more on available facilities. We booked the cheapest two bedroom apartment we could find (with good reviews of course) with a nice sea view. It was £190 for 6 nights and was right by the beach. I will link it here if you want to check it out. It was basic, but a bed for the night and a shower was all we needed. The view was amazing, we really enjoyed our morning coffee’s out on the balcony.
Accommodation to consider : I have divided these into more luxe options and great options for tighter budgets. Note that Albania offers great value for money, so even the pricier options are excellent value when compared to many other European destinations you may be used to.
Heksamil Hotel **** This hotel has great reviews and is just 300m to the nearest beach. It has a pool area and free parking.
Relax Hotel **** This bohemian styled hotel has a pool, a restaurant with vegetarian options and free parking.
Hotel Meta Ksamil **** This hotel is right by the beach with excellent reviews. It has free parking and is very close to the apartment we stayed in. This one doesn’t have a pool but is very close to the sea!
Poda Boutique Hotel **** This modern hotel has lovely sea view rooms. It has a pool and free parking. This hotel is quite popular so book as soon as possible!
Limis Apartment – This is the apartment we stayed in. It has two bedrooms (a double and single in with the kitchen area like a studio, and then a separate double room). There are two small bathrooms so great if travelling with another couple or a bigger family. The balcony has lovely views. Note there are a lot of steps to get up there, so not good if you have limited mobility.
Mustafaraj Apartments – Another great budget option. This place offers a double room with sea view or a two bedroom apartment. Really close to the beach with great reviews.
Hotel Ksamil – If you prefer a hotel, this is a great budget option and offers breakfast. It is 700m to the beach with fantastic reviews.
Things to do in Ksamil:
Beaches and Islands
One of the main draws to Ksamil is its collection of stunning beaches and islands. The area is becoming famous for its white sandy shores and crystal-clear waters, reminiscent of a tropical paradise. There are lots of different beaches along the coast for you to explore, some attached to restaurants/bars. Be cautious of people offering free sun beds if you have lunch in their restaurant, go and check the restaurant prices first. It may work out good value if you planned to eat somewhere nice anyway. During the peak summer months the beaches are full of sun beds, making it difficult to find a place to just plonk a towel down. You may need to reserve a bed ahead of time, or get there early! Don’t miss the chance to explore the nearby islands of Ksamil. The nearest island is close enough to swim to! We hired a peddle boat for £8 per hour and peddled out to the different ones. The beaches we found on the islands pretty much had no one on them, but this was during May. I imagine this wont be the case in August!
Butrint National Park
A short distance from Ksamil you have the ancient city of Butrint, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of Albania’s most significant archaeological sites. Butrint National Park is an extensive complex that dates back to the 8th century BC. We really enjoyed exploring the remains of the ancient city, including a Roman theater, a Venetian fortress, and early Christian baptisteries. We made it more interesting for Leo with imaginative play, getting him to put on a performing at the theatre and pretending to be a shop keeper in an old store! The park’s diverse flora and fauna, including rare bird species, add to it being a wonderful place to visit. We spent a morning here, the entrance fee was 1000 lek for adults (just over £8) and free for under 12’s.
Blue Eye Spring
You will find the Blue Eye Spring on most must visit lists for Ksamil. This was the reason we visited and to be honest, we found it a little bit underwhelming for the effort it took to get there. That’s not to say it isn’t an incredibly beautiful place (it really is) but a 40 minute drive followed by a good 30 minute walk, on a really hot day, with a 4 year old who decided not to walk – wasn’t my idea of fun! Blue Eye is a deep spring water pool set in a karst rock formation, with its name deriving from its resemblance to a human eye when you look down at it from the platform – the central ‘pupil’ a bright shade of blue, and the surrounding ‘iris’ a lighter shade. Swimming isn’t allowed although you will see lots of pictures of people swimming there..
It is a great value activity, car parking was around £1.60 and the entrance fee around 50p! There is a restaurant area and toilets close to the spring, we stopped for ice creams and a drink but they were really pricey, its worth taking a snack or picnic to save some money. The spring is surrounded by lush vegetation, making it a great spot for those who love natural wonders. Even in May it was quite busy, so it may be less tranquil in the peak summer months.
Taste the Local Cuisine
No visit to Albania is complete without indulging in its delicious food. Ksamil offers numerous waterfront restaurants and local taverns where you can enjoy traditional Albanian dishes. Sample freshly caught seafood, like grilled fish or shrimp, delicious pasta dishes and pair your meal with local wines and some raki (a popular Albanian spirit). Don’t forget to try the renowned Albanian pie, known as Byrek, it is made with filo pastry and filled with various things such as cheese, vegetables or meat. Our favourite restaurants in Ksamil were “Family”, Guvat and Rilinda. Family is inland and has great value traditional food. Guvat is perfect for a sunset dinner. Rilinda is a beach front restaurant selling some great value seafood pasta dishes.
We visited Gjirokaster during an overcast day. The drive from Ksamil took around 55 minutes and was incredibly scenic. A lot of the drive was through picturesque countryside, passing olive groves and quaint villages. The drive was fine up until we arrived at the old town. The streets are quite narrow and steep in places. If it was busier, I can imagine it being chaotic as it was difficult for two cars to pass if traveling in opposite directions. The old town is a UNESCO World Heritage site that feels like stepping back in time. The city’s cobblestone streets, Ottoman-style houses, famous stone roofs and the imposing Gjirokaster Castle create a really interesting place to explore. We sat down for a coffee and some Byrek before mooching through the streets and heading up to the castle. The castle is 400 lek to enter (around £3.15) and you have to pay in lek. They don’t accept card or euros. The views from the castle are fantastic and there is a lot to explore inside. With its enchanting blend of natural beauty and cultural heritage, visiting Gjirokaster is an unforgettable day trip which showcases the diversity of what Albania has to offer.
Overall, if you want stunning beaches, rich history, and warm hospitality, visiting Ksamil is a great option that wont break the bank. Whether you’re looking for relaxation on pristine beaches, an adventure through ancient ruins, or just want to enjoy some amazing food, Ksamil has something to offer everyone.
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