One of my wildest travel dreams is to be able to visit all the countries in Europe. And though I’m still far from doing so, I never pass up on the opportunity to visit a new country each time I go to this majestic continent. So when we were planning to spend one week in the Greek Island of Corfu last summer, I found out that you could easily take a day trip to Albania. After doing my research, I found Ionian Cruises, which provides the best options for group day tours from Corfu.
- Price (per person) – €63 including hotel transfers (€58 without)
Note: If you’ve always been hesitant about making deposits for tours online, don’t worry – with Ionian Cruises, they require zero deposit, as all payments will be done on the day of the tour, just make sure you have enough cash with you!
- Duration – approximately 13 hours including pick-up and drop-off
- Pick-Up Place – your hotel in Corfu or a nearby landmark
- Pick-Up Time – 7:20am to 7:40am
- Group Size – medium; we were around 20-30 in the tour group
- Included in the Price – Lunch
This day tour takes you from the island of Corfu in Greece to the Balkan country of Albania. The main highlight of this trip is a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site Butrint National Park in Sarandë. While majority of the tour will be focused on this historical attraction spanning 9,424 hectares, you’ll also get to see the beautiful Albanian coast. Yet another must-see in Albania and a highlight of this tour is the magical Blue Eye, deemed as the most beautiful water spring in the country. To cap off the day, you’ll have some free time in the city center of Sarandë before returning to Corfu.
Things to Bring:
- Cash (pocket & tour money)
- Drinking Water
7:20am to 7:40am – Pick-Up
As we began the bright and early, we left our hotel at 7 in the morning to make it in time to our agreed pick-up place – Salvanos Market in Acharavi, which was about a fifteen-minute walk. It’s important to note that Acharavi is nearly 40 kilometers from the cruise port, where the ferries to Albania depart from, so I call it a steal as we only paid an extra €5 to have the hotel transfers included in the tour package we availed of.So beginning our day bright and early, the tour bus picked us up at around 7:35 from Salvanos Market, as we proceeded to Corfu’s cruise port.
8:50am to 9:15am – Immigration & Boarding
Given that you’ll be crossing from one country to another, with the other not being part of the Schengen area, you’ll be going through security and immigration. For those who require Schengen visas, it’s important to note that you must hold a double-entry or multiple-entry visa in order to take this day tour, as you will be exiting the Schengen area as you enter Albania. Immigration counters at the cruise port aren’t as formal as others you may have seen, so as long as you have your documents in order, you’ll glide right through.
9:15am to 10:00am – From Greece to Albania via Hydrofoil Boat
Upon getting our passports stamped, we headed towards the hydrofoil boat that would take us to Sarandë within 30 minutes. Since I never really had Albania on my list of countries to visit, I barely had any expectations; but to my surprise, as we arrived in Sarandë and exited the hydrofoil, I was impressed by the gorgeous landscape before us. As a bonus, weather was fantastic!
10:10am to 10:50am – Quick Coffee & Toilet Stop
Before heading to our first attraction of the day, we had a quick rest / toilet stop in a restaurant that gives a great view of the city; but more on that later, as we visited the very same restaurant for lunch. If you didn’t have breakfast by this point, you should have a bite or two during this stop, as the included lunch won’t be until about half past 1 in the afternoon.
11:20am to 1:10pm – Butrint National Park
Onwards we went to the highlight of the tour: the UNESCO World Heritage Site Butrint National Park. This archeological site dates back to the Bronze Age, more specifically 3200-600 BC.To say that this is a historical jewel would be an understatement. The tour of this ancient civilization lasts from 1.5 to 2 hours, and there are many highlights, as listed below.
Ancient City RuinsRoman TheatreBaptisteryNymphaeumLake Butrint City WallsThe Great Basilica Museum of Butrint Panoramic Views of the Lake & National Park
As we ended the tour of Butrint National Park where we started it, it felt like such a wonder to have seen ruins that withstood hundreds of year, with some structures still in tact.Learning about and seeing this UNESCO World Heritage Site truly was the highlight of the day. Driving out of the National Park, we were graced with an incredible view of the lake surrounding it.
1:40pm to 2:50pm – Included Lunch in Sea View Restaurant
Finally, it was time for late lunch! As aforementioned, we went to the same restaurant we had visited during our quick rest stop earlier in the day. The lunch is comprised of a small buffet offering local dishes, which did not disappoint. Drinks are not included, but Albania is pretty cheap for Europe, so don’t worry too much about paying extra for some beverages. The highlight of this part beyond the food, was the view we got of the sea, the mountains, and the city of Sarandë.
3:30pm to 4:20pm – Blue Eye Spring
After finishing up with lunch, we headed towards another beautiful attraction in Albania and the great surprise of the trip: the Blue Eye Spring. This natural phenomenon is quite a sight to see, as the hues of the flowing water are incredibly pristine, with surrounding oak and sycamore trees making it even more magical. Needless to say, I didn’t expect it to be this beautiful.
5:00pm to 6:00pm – Free Time in Sarandë
A great end to our day trip to Albania was some free time in Sarandë, wherein we took a quick stroll by the boardwalk.Majority of our free time, however, was spent having local desserts in Bar Restaurant Limani, that gives diners a beautiful view of the Albanian riviera.
6:00pm to 6:50pm – Hydrofoil Boat Back to Corfu & Immigratio
Bidding adieu to a foreign destination is always difficult; but despite having gone to this Balkan country for just a day, I felt like we definitely made the most out of it, so saying goodbye wasn’t as difficult, as we rode the hydrofoil boat back to Greece and breezed through immigration.
7:00pm to 8:00pm – Included Drop-off in Pick-up Point Area
The tour bus drove us back to Acharavi, about an hour’s drive from the cruise port, and we were back in our hotel no later than 8:30 in the evening, just in time for sunset.
If it wasn’t obvious enough from the photos, this day tour from Corfu is definitely a must-do; and as a bonus, you get to tick another country off the list – a country I never thought I would have the chance to visit! Ionian Cruises made this trip seamless, convenient, and greatly enjoyable – making it a tour company I highly-recommended. Since their base is in Corfu, they have several other tours, which you might want to check out here.
Lastly, while you might have come across this post as you’re planning your day trip to Sarandë from Corfu, you might as well have seen the option of just taking Ionian Cruises’ Hydrofoil Boat excursion; if you’re planning to stay a night or two in Albania, then that wouldn’t be a problem, but if you plan to only go for the day like we did, I highly suggest that you pay the premium for this day tour to ensure you get the most out of your time, saving you the hassle of worrying about how to get to Butrint National Park or the Blue Eye Spring.
So if you’re visiting Corfu, Greece, make sure you secure your slot and book that day trip to Albania with Ionian Cruises. For more details, you can visit this link.