TIRANA TO SARANDA: BEST ROUTES
After landing in Tirana Airport, the first thing you have to do is rent a car. It is very cheap (we have spent 183 euro + 30 of extra insurance with Enterprise through rentalcars for 6 days), and is the only way to move everywhere you want, reaching the best places. Buses, minubuses and taxis are very slow, passing sometimes in places without signs. So buses are no option at all to move from Tirana to Saranda, and in general in Albania.
As you can see from the map, there aren’t many roads in Albania, but still there are some choices that would make a difference.
Since our destination was the south of Albania, Saranda and Ksamil, we are giving you the best routes and advice from Tirana to Saranda.
1st Phase of Tirana to Saranda trip: Tirana – Fier.
The road from Tirana to Durres is the SH60 and then SH2. It is very good to be an Albanian road, fast and clean. Like a standard old Italian highway. When you reach Durres, be very careful, since indications to go south are very unclear. When you arrive from Tirana follow the indication to the Port, then, after a while, you will reach a round. There don’t go to the port, but follow the indication to the Plazh (beach in Albanian).
Then you will have to take the SH4 with directions Fier. Also this street is very fast and quite confortable. They are doing a lot of work to improve this highway. Ah, if you are hungry you can have a nice warm corn cob served from locals at the side of the street.
2nd Phase of Tirana to Saranda trip: Fier – Saranda with 2 options
When you arrive in Fier there are 2 options to continue your adventure from Tirana to Saranda.
Coastal road passing through Vlore and Himara taking SH4 and SH8. (190km)
The SH4 from Fier to Vlore is very good, at highway standards, so no worries.
The big problem is when you take the SH8 from Vlore to Himare. This street is in very good condition (new pavement), but it is nothing more than a coastal street for the first 20 km and a mountain road for the last 55.
The view is stunning in this street: you will pass from a wonderful coast, where you probably would like to stop by in every nice bar you see, to precious mountains, impressive and mysterious. Of course, as I said, the street is quite tough, full of curves and it looks like you will never arrive to Himara. It takes probably 2 hours to do 77 kms. But if you are interested in seeing wonderful panoramas, well then have patience and go for it!
If you take this street we absolutely suggest you to stay in Himara at least 3 night, to enjoy the wonderful nature and beaches.
The same SH8 continues then from Himare till Saranda.
The street is still new, with nice pavements, a lot of curves, but less than from Vlore to Himare. It will takes probably 1 hour and 20 minutes to do this 55 kms. The SH8 is, in any case, the street with the most beautiful beaches we have ever seen in this wonderful country.
Go internal Fier – Gjirokaster – Saranda. SH4, E853 and SH99 (190km)
The inland way, which is surely less beautiful than the previously illustrated, takes almost one hour less. From Fier take the SH4 till Levan. There take the SH4/E853 with direction to Gjirokaster. This street is quite confortable and fast and, above all without curves. Time passes quite fast while you ride this highway. Finally, after you passed Gjirokaster, from Jorcunat take the SH99 till Saranda. This is again a mountain street, full of curves, that lasts 55kms, but you can have a nice break visiting the Blue Eye (Siri y Kalter), a water spring and natural phenomenon occurring near Muzinë and the initial water source of Bistricë river.
TO SUM UP.
1st OPTION (SH4 and SH8).
PROs: Incredible view, passing from seaside to alpine scenarios.
CONs: Very tough, never ending, full of curves street.
WHAT TO SEE.
Himara and its wonderful beaches; The coast after Vlore, stunning and full of bars; The mountains view, untouched and mysterious.
2nd OPTION (SH4, E853 and SH99).
PROS: One hour faster than the SH8, curves only for 55km.
CONS: Not so beautiful as the SH8.
WHAT TO SEE:
Gjirokaster, the stone city; The Blue Eye.
WHAT WE SUGGEST BETWEEN THE 2 OPTIONS.
As you can see both options are quite interesting, but if you come straight from Tirana we absolutely suggest you to take the 2nd option. Then, after staying one day in Saranda, two days total, go to Himare and explore its beaches as much as you wish. This will make your trip more relaxing and easy.
BE CAREFUL ON THE STREET!
- Road signs, if there are, can be quite messy, especially in Durres.
- Albanians drive very crazy, but not worst than in the south of Italy. Very dangerous are cars, especially SUV, with Kosovo car license plate (RKS).
- You will see a lot of animals alone in the streets or with their pastor. Pigs, cows, sheeps, goats. While I found this wonderful, since it looked so natural to see these animals free, it can be a little dangerous.