Ksamil is a small seaside town in southern Albania located in the municipality of Sarandë. It is known for its beautiful beaches, crystal clear waters and lush vegetation. The town is surrounded by several islands, which can be reached by boat (or swim, if you’re feeling adventurous).
Ksamil is a popular tourist destination for both Albanians and foreigners alike, having developed in recent years into a full-blown tourist hot spot. Considering its close proximity with Western Europe via Corfu, Greece, it’s no wonder that southern Europeans are flocking to this little slice of paradise on the Albanian Riviera.
When I first discovered a cheap rate for tickets from Cluj-Napoca to Corfu, I knew I had to take the opportunity to visit Albania. It’s a place that had been on my bucket list for seemingly eons, ever since I first learned that Americans could spend one year visa-free in Albania. It was one of my potential digital nomad destinations, though I never got around to checking it out.
Table of contents
- How to Get to Ksamil, Albania
- Best Time to Visit Ksamil, Albania
- Is Ksamil Expensive?
- Things to Do in Ksamil, Albania
- Where to Eat in Ksamil, Albania
- Where to Stay in Ksamil, Albania
- Things To Know Before Visiting Ksamil, Albania
- Overall Thoughts on Ksamil, Albania
Table of Contents
How to Get to Ksamil, Albania
The closest international airport to Ksamil is in Corfu, Greece. There is a ferry from Corfu to Saranda, which operates a few times per day in the summer. The ferry duration varies between 35 minutes and 2.5 hours depending on the ferry you choose. Following the ferry, you take a taxi or bus to Ksamil, which takes around 20 – 45 minutes depending on your means of travel. This is the easiest (and fastest) way to get to Ksamil.
Alternatively, you can fly into Tirana, Albania’s capital, and drive to Ksamil. The drive is a long one, however, and takes about 6 hours by car or bus. There are no train routes that operate between Tirana and Ksamil, as the rail system in Albania is sorely lacking.
Depending on where you are coming from, you may find more flight options to Corfu anyhow, so your best bet is to fly into Greece and take the ferry to Albania.
If you happen to be in Italy, there is also a ferry from Bari to Corfu, and then Corfu to Saranda.
Best Time to Visit Ksamil, Albania
If you’re looking for a sunny beach vacation, the best time to visit Ksamil is from June to September. During this time, the weather is warm and sunny, making it perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and enjoying all that the beach has to offer.
However, if you’re looking for a more relaxed vacation, October through May is the best time to visit. The temperatures are milder during this time, so you can enjoy all of Ksamil’s outdoor activities without feeling too hot or overcrowded. Still, many establishments close down during the off-season, so you will have less options in terms of food and drinks.
We visited during the last week of August and first week of September. The temperatures were not unbearable, the crowds had mostly dissipated, and the locals seemed largely relaxed at the notion that they were nearly done with the season. I’d recommend visiting between April-June or September-October if you want to beat the crowds but still enjoy open restaurants and plenty of beach time.
Is Ksamil Expensive?
I was shocked at the prices when we arrived in Ksamil! Based on what my previous expectations were, I can say that yes, Ksamil is quite expensive. This could be due in part to the fact that it was the first ‘normal’ summer following the pandemic, when tourist destinations were trying to play catch-up.
Dinner or lunch for two (with two glasses of wine and two beers) was routinely between 50-60 euros, which is about on par with what we spend for the same thing in Romania. However, based on previous reviews and testimonies, we expected the prices to be much lower.
The first expense we paid upon arrival was two beach towels and a bottle of sunscreen, which came to around 70 euros.
While Ksamil isn’t expensive in comparison to many tourist destinations in Western Europe or the United States, it was much higher than we were anticipating.
Things to Do in Ksamil, Albania
Admittedly, there isn’t a whole lot to do in Ksamil. There are a number of beaches to enjoy, but besides that, there’s not much unless you go into Saranda or Butrint.
Beaches of Ksamil, Albania
There are a number of different beaches that line the coast of Ksamil. We explored most of them during our seven-day stint in Ksamil, and figured out which were best suited for our tastes (and which had the best restaurants nearby!). Our favorites were Puerto Rico Beach and Ksamil Beach, as these boasted the beautiful beach beds with mermaid-inspired nets jutting out over the crystal clear waters.
Check out our guide to the beaches of Ksamil for more information on which beach would suit you best!
Butrint National Park
Butrint National Park is a protected area in Albania that was established in 2000, just 3 kilometers away from Ksamil. The park covers an area of 122 square kilometers and is home to a variety of flora and fauna. The park is also recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Butrint National Park is located in the Sarandë District, in the southernmost part of Albania. It is situated on a peninsula that is surrounded by Lake Butrinti and the Ionian Sea.
The park’s ecosystem is diverse and includes both Mediterranean and Illyrian species of plants and animals. Some of the notable species found in the park include the brown bear, European badger, red deer, wild boar, golden eagle, peregrine falcon, and Albanian fir.
The Butrint National Park is a popular tourist destination due to its natural beauty and archaeological significance. The park contains a number of ruins from different periods of history, including a Greek theater, an ancient Roman baths complex, and a medieval castle.
The Butrint National Park is an important site for the conservation of Albanian biodiversity. The park is also a valuable resource for scientific research and education.
You can get to Butrint from Ksamil via bus, which departs hourly during the tourist season.
Though we saw signs for jet skis on virtually every corner in Ksamil, we could not for the life of us find jet skis available to rent. My guess was that there was a recent change in law, as we didn’t see any jet skis on the water, either.
There were, however, plenty of kayaks, including glass bottom kayaks to admire the clear sea beneath you.
There were an obscene number of pedal boats, which were available to rent in order to explore the surrounding islands and coastline. We rented one for the day at the cost of 10 euros per hour (for three hours we paid 3500 LEK).
We also saw these interesting floating bicycles, though we couldn’t figure out where to rent them.
Syri i Kalter
The Blue Eye in Albania is a natural phenomenon that has captivated the attention of locals and tourists alike. There is a legend in Albania that says that if you visit the Blue Eye, a natural spring in the country, and make a wish, it will come true. This beautiful blue hole is actually a spring that has been formed over time by the collapse of an underground cave.
The spring gets its name from its deep blue color, which is said to be caused by sunlight reflecting off the limestone at the bottom of the pool. The water is crystal clear and very cold, even in summer.
People have been visiting the Blue Eye for centuries, believing that its waters have healing properties. Today, it is one of Albania’s most popular tourist destinations.
So what is the story behind this legend? No one knows for sure, but one thing is certain: the Blue Eye is a place of beauty and mystery that continues to enchant all who visit it.
The Blue Eye is about a 50 minute drive from Ksamil. Most taxis will be happy to bring you there and arrange for a pickup time. There are also guided tours available.
Explore the Ksamil Islands
Take a boat trip or pedal boat to one of the three islands to explore! The islands are incredibly small for the most part. There is one island, the largest of the three, that has a few umbrellas set up as well as a tiny shack serving beer and water. It gets super-crowded, so if you want to spend the day on the island, get a boat ride out early.
If you want to explore the two smaller islands, you can actually swim out to them from the main stretches of sand in Ksamil.
Where to Eat in Ksamil, Albania
There are a wide variety of delicious restaurants in Ksamil, but without a doubt, the tour de force is Guvat. We ended up there 4 times over the course of our week in Ksamil, once for my birthday dinner.
Guvat has hands-down the best view in town, overlooking the Ksamil islands and beautiful waters. It’s a great spot to catch a romantic sunset as well. Try the fried veal in sauce, beef with okra, stuffed meatball, grilled cheese appetizer, grilled veggies, and linguine Guvat. The veal in sauce was the best, cooked to perfection alongside a few fingerling potatoes.
In terms of places to avoid, we had pretty bad experiences at the Castle Hotel Restaurant and Bella Vista, which are conveniently located next to one another in front of Plaja 9. The calamari at Castle Hotel Restaurant was completely inedible – chewy, hard, and bland. At Bella Vista, the chicken soup smelled and tasted of sheer fish – an unfortunate choice for my husband who doesn’t eat fish.
Where to Stay in Ksamil, Albania
I stayed in an Airbnb that was a short 10 minute walk to most of the local beaches. However, based on the number of rooms available closer to the town’s ‘center’, I would forego the Airbnb in the future and book a room upon arrival (provided you aren’t visiting during the high season). You’ll find cheaper accommodations and a shorter walk to restaurants and beaches.
Things To Know Before Visiting Ksamil, Albania
It’s a Bit Dirty!
Ksamil has an unofficial nickname as ‘the Maldives of Europe’, which I learned of before we visited. Though I’ve never visited the Maldives, I can safely say that this nickname is not exactly warranted. While Ksamil has its charm, it also needs a lot of work.
It’s evident that touristic development has helped some local hotels, but the piles of garbage that litter the side of the road is not only unsightly, but gives off a god-awful smell as well.
Bring a Hot Spot
If you are a digital nomad or rely on WiFi for any other aspects of your life, I recommend bringing a hotspot. There was one unfortunate rainy day while we were there, and I’d brought my laptop to get some work done in case of such an event. The network provided by my Airbnb host wouldn’t even show up on my laptop, let alone foster a connection.
Tipping in Ksamil, Albania
We spoke with a lot of service employees during our week-long stay in Ksamil. All of them were quite excited when they learned that I was American and my husband Romanian, because we ‘actually tip.’ Unfortunately, many of Albania’s closer neighbors don’t tip, though leaving something is customary in Albania.
The service was very good virtually everywhere we went, so we tipped what my normal standard is, 20%, virtually everywhere. We frequented the same establishments many times and the servers all remembered us and treated us very well.
I’m hardwired to tip 20% as an American and as a former bartender, but 10% is acceptable.
Is Ksamil, Albania Safe?
While we only spent a week there, I felt nothing short of safe during the entire trip. I went for walks alone at night and didn’t encounter anything unsavory.
Overall Thoughts on Ksamil, Albania
While I thought it was a lovely town with very friendly locals, my expectations were built up quite a bit due to the ‘Maldives of Europe’ nickname. It was a slight disappointment in terms of natural beauty, crowds, and prices. While I loved our time there, I feel it’s a one-and-done for me – the beaches in Rhodes and other Greek islands were far more beautiful with much clearer water.
Still, it’s for sure worth a visit even just for a few days!