Things to do in Ksamil
Ksamil is one of the beautiful coastal towns along the Albanian Riviera. It’s home to some incredible beaches that look almost exactly like those in the south of France (hence the name!). Here, crystal clear waters back onto soft sandy shorelines dotted with colorful umbrellas.
Ksamil makes summer paradise and is definitely a must-see on your Albania itinerary. Spend your time in Ksamil hopping around, discovering the town’s beautiful surrounding while bathing in the warm Mediterranean sun.
Tip: Though there are lots of incredible bars and rooftop terraces in Ksamil, if you’re looking for more of a party scene, Saranda is the place to visit.
1. Visit the Beaches
Ksamil has a stunning coastline, with water and beaches mimicking those of what you see in places such as the Maldives. The beautifully diverse beaches and hidden coves are loved by locals and tourists alike, making Ksamil a popular beach destination during the summer. Bring a book, rent a sunbed, and spend your days enjoying the refreshing water and incredible scenery.
There are many beaches you can choose from, from long stretches of soft sand to quiet pebble beaches off the beaten path. The main beach in front of Ksamil town is the busiest one. Nevertheless, it’s also one of the best beaches in the area, as it perfectly highlights the sea’s beautiful turquoise color. This is a great area to walk along the wooden docks, rent a paddle board or kayak for the day, or relax at one of the seaside restaurants.
One of the best beaches in Ksamil is Monastery Beach. This secluded gem of sandy coastline lies just south of Saranda, making it a great place to escape from the busy town of Ksamil. Perched on top of the hills that surround the beach, you’ll find the Monastery of Saint George that gave this little paradise its name. From here, you’ll have some of the most incredible views over the Ionian Sea and the beach below.
Note: There’s currently some construction going on at this beach, making it a little difficult to reach.
The beach itself is covered in grey pebbles, sunbeds, and colorful umbrellas. On the side of the rocks, you’ll find a little restaurant where you can get some drinks during the day. Spend a couple of hours swimming in the beautiful water, relaxing in the sun. Visiting Monastery beach is one of the best things to do in Ksamil, Albania.
To get to Monastery beach, you can hop on the bus that drives between Butrint and Saranda. Ask the driver to stop at Monastery Beach and then walk the rest of the way down to the shore. The journey costs about 100 LEK (~ 1 USD).
Other great beaches in Ksamil:
- Lori Beach (close to Ksamil town)
- Ohana Beach Bar (perfect to relax for a couple of hours)
Escape the crowds and head to the beautiful Pulëbardha Beach, not too far from Ksamil’s main beach. Hidden amongst a rocky shore and green landscapes, this stunning beach offers some of the clearest water in the area. Though still accessible, it has a bit more of a secluded and quiet feel to it.
To get to Pulëbardha Beach, you can hop on the bus between Butrint and Saranda, which leaves every hour. The driver will drop you off at the main road, from where you’ll have to walk another 20 minutes to get to the beach. Note that if you’re traveling to this beach with your own transportation, the path down to the beach is unpaved and takes time.
About a 15-minute drive south of Ksamil, nestled in the forest, you’ll find Butrint National Park: a stunning 29-square-kilometer park and important archaeological site. This protected area is a time portal, offering a fascinating journey through various ages of history. Wander amongst the ruins of the impressive works of the ancient Greeks, the Romans, and the Ottoman Empire.
Both the history and nature of Butrint have been incredibly well-preserved, giving the area the status of a UNESCO Heritage Site and a RAMSAR-Wetland site of International Importance. This combination of beautiful nature and historic structures makes visiting the park one of the best things to do in Ksamil, Albania.
Every corner has its own story to tell, but the Ancient City of Butrint is the main draw for tourists to visit the park. From castles and fountains to old walls and theatres – there’s a lot to cover in Butrint. Expect to spend about 1,5 to 3 hours in the park, visiting the different sites and marveling at the incredible surrounding nature.
Entrance fee & Opening times: The price to enter Butrint National Park for foreigners is 1000 LEK (10.90 USD). The park is open all year round from 8 AM till sunset, and the museum from 9 AM till 4 PM. If you’re not traveling Albania by car, there’s also a local bus that departs.
Situated within the boundaries of the stunning Butrint National Park are 4 small uninhabited islands. These wild rocky islets lie just off the coast of Ksamil and can immediately be seen from the beach.
Apart from admiring them from the beach, you can also easily explore the islands. Hire a kayak or a SUP and paddle out to the rocky outcrops, jumping in the water whenever you feel like cooling off. You can also choose to swim to the closest two, though they’re only covered in a few patches of sand and greenery.
To get to the furthest two, which are actually connected by a thin strip of sand, you can hop on a water taxi. Once you get to the islets, enjoy the quiet while sunbathing on the shore next to the amazingly clear turquoise water.
4. Corfu, Greece
Just across from Ksamil lies the popular Greek island of Corfu, which you can actually spot from many of the beaches in southern Albania. Known for its beautiful white beaches, stunning mountains, and incredible nightlife, make this Ionian island a great place to visit. In Ksamil, hop on a ferry to go explore this beautiful haven for a day or two.
Because of its incredibly relaxed atmosphere, Corfu has been one of Greece’s more popular islands among visitors. Its location has allowed a great hub of cultures to flourish who harmoniously live in the quaint villages surrounded by stunning nature. Spend your time strolling through the cobblestone streets of Corfu Town, peeling back the layers of history. Or, head to the island’s long stretches of sandy and pebble beaches.
5. Visit the Blue Eye
About half an hour’s journey from Ksamil, you can visit the famous Blue Eye (Syri i Kaltër) of Albania – a crystal clear emerald pool fresh from a natural spring. This stunning phenomenon lies in a protected national park, surrounded by beautiful forests, meadows, and agricultural land.
The scenery, together with the refreshing water, makes it one of the best things to do from Ksamil and is perfect for a (half) day trip.
Fun fact: The name of the spring comes from its oval shape and deeper blue color in the middle, resembling an eye. It’s thought to be over 50 meters deep, but nobody knows for certain.
Apart from admiring this incredible spot in nature, it’s also a place to go for a refreshing dip. Be prepared, though, that the water is numbingly cold, with a constant temperature of just 10 degrees Celsius, even in the heat of summer. It does say that you’re not allowed to swim, but plenty of people do so (there was a guard patrolling, and he only asked people not to jump from the platform). Nevertheless, make sure to wear no products that contain harsh chemicals. Read more about the best reef-safe sunscreens.
If you’d rather not go swimming, there are a few short walking trails in the area and a couple of restaurants where you can get a refreshing drink. Expect to spend an hour or two in the area, soaking up the tranquil atmosphere. The entrance fee costs just 50 LEK (0,50 USD).
How to get to the Blue Eye, Albania
The easiest way to get to Syri i Kalter from Ksamil is by car. The drive takes about 20-30 minutes and brings you to the parking area just off the main road.
If you don’t have your own transportation, you can organize a taxi or join an organized tour from Sarande. Both options include return transport. Note that all transportation brings you just off the main road. From there, you have to walk over a paved path for another 15 minutes to get to the Blue Eye.
Taxi: In Ksamil, you can organize a taxi to the Blue Eye and back to town. This typically costs about 30-45 EUR (32,50 – 49 USD).
Traveling to Ksamil by Car
The easiest way to get to Ksamil is by car. Renting and driving a car in Albania is an incredible experience, as you can explore the country at your own pace. Add Ksamil to your Albania road trip as you explore all that the country has to offer. From the capital, it’s about a 4-hour drive south to get to Ksamil. Ksamil can also easily be reached from other coastal towns such as Himare or Saranda.
Traveling to Ksamil by Bus
If you don’t have your own transportation, you can use the local buses in Albania to travel around. It’s a little trickier and will take longer, but definitely possible and very affordable.
Getting to Ksamil from the capital Tirana requires a bus change in the town of Saranda. The bus from Tirana departs daily between 6 AM and 4 PM to Sarande and takes about 5 hours. From there, you can hop on the bus headed to Butrint National Park, which stops in Ksamil town. The total cost for this journey is around 16 EUR (17,35 USD).
Ksamil, though growing, is a small coastal town that can be explored on foot. The main beach in front is also quickly accessed by walking. To get to the other quieter beaches, Butrint and the Blue Eye, we recommend renting a car to get around. If you don’t have a car but still want to explore by yourself, you can also choose to rent a motorbike in Ksamil.
The Best Cafes and Restaurants in Ksamil
From beautiful beach tavernas overlooking the water to romantic little restaurants in the streets of the town, Ksamil is full of amazing options for food and drinks. Whether it’s Italian, sushi, or local Albanian cuisine – you’ll find it here. Though seafood and meat dishes are frequent, there are also plenty of vegetarian options on the menus. Some of our favorite cafes and restaurants in Ksamil are:
- Guvat Bar & Restaurant
- Pizza Rei & Rai
- Ohana Beach Bar Ksamil
- Pizzeria Afrimi
- Kristal Seafood Restaurant
- Sea Breeze
- Seaside Bar & Restaurant
Where to Stay
Ksamil has plenty of great accommodation options, from apartments and guesthouses to small hotels with views over the gorgeous turquoise waters. If you’re looking to stay in a hostel, however, you’ll have to stay in Saranda instead, as Ksamil doesn’t have any hostels up until this point. See all accommodation options in Ksamil.
Albania is an incredibly affordable country! You can get a big meal for 2 people, including salad and 2 main courses, for just 10 EUR (10,80 USD), and stay in incredible hotels for 50 EUR (51 USD) per night. Though not in Ksamil, you can also stay in hostels which are as little as 15 EUR (16,25 USD) a night.
It’s good to know that Albania is often a cash-only country, so it’s good to always have some with you when traveling. Note, though, that ATM fees can be high when withdrawing money. If you don’t have Wise, try to look for Credins Bank – the only one that seems to charge a smaller fee.
What to pack?
Whether you’re planning on sunbathing on one of the amazing beaches of the town or walking through the shaded paths of Butrint National Park – for an amazing vacation in Ksamil, Albania, there are a few essentials to pack:
- Reef-safe sunscreen
- Lots of drinking water
- A good sunhat
- Comfortable walking shoes
- Water shoes (optional)
The Best Time to Visit Ksamil, Albania
Albania often has very hot summers, with temperatures reaching up to 40 degrees Celcius. During this time, locals and tourists head for the beach, meaning it can get very busy. We, therefore, recommend visiting in the shoulder months of May, June, and September. This is the perfect time to still enjoy warm weather, sunny days, and clear waters, but with fewer crowds. If you’re traveling through Albania in the off-season, it’s important to note that most restaurants and bars in Ksamil will be closed.