Tuesday 20 June 2023

Albania Minivans Tours: day trip from Sarandë

When we first booked our trip to Sarandë in Albania, there were two things I really wanted to do: visit Gjirokaster, and see the Blue Eye. Looking online the tours seemed quite expensive, so we were planning to DIY it - but when you visit Sarandë, you'll see quite a few advertising boards along the promenade showcasing various tours. We spotted one, run by Albania Minivans Tours, which incorporated both of these places as well as Lekuresi Castle and the Mesopotam Monastery.

We booked with Albania Minivans Tours

At just 35 euros per person it seemed really reasonable for a full day tour with 4 locations near Sarandë, so I messaged on Instagram to see if we could book for the next day. The guy got straight back to me to say if there was enough interest then yes we could join the tour - a couple of hours later, he got back to us to say there were a few more people wanting to do the tour that day so we could confirm our 2 places. The minibus holds 8 passengers, so they don't tend to run the tour unless there are enough people to make it worth it!

So the next day we got up and ready, then walked down along the promenade until we reached a bar called Limani which is where the board is that advertises this tour - and where you meet the guide and get in the minivan (which is comfortable and air conditioned!) before heading off on your trip. We also met the rest of our tour group: 3 Aussies and an Irish family, all of whom were lovely and made our day even more fun & enjoyable.

Lekuresi Castle

The first stop on our Sarandë excursion was Lekuresi Castle, which overlooks the coast with some breathtaking views in every direction. There is a restaurant up here which you can visit for dinner (apparently sunset from here is utterly lush) and I believe they have live music here in the evening too. It was really nice to wander around this old Ottoman castle and admire the architecture. We got some cracking photos!

The view from Lekuresi Castle

I have since read on Tripadvisor that they have a monkey here in a tiny cage (?) which we absolutely did not see, so I can't comment on that at all, but it seems an oddly cruel addition to what is otherwise an excellent place to visit in Albania.

Mesopotam Monastery

There are two monasteries in/near Sarandë, one being the 40 Saints ruins and the other being the Mesopotam Monastery which is where we went - there are ruins and a small church, all nestled in some stunning countryside, and the church itself was fascinating. It has really interesting carvings (an eagle, a lion, a dragon and a mythical creature) on the back outer wall, as well as some really interesting ancient frescoes inside. To be somewhere with so much history was, as always, a joy to me! It's an 11th century church built on the site of what was an Orthodox monastery complex, with the carvings thought to pre-date Christianity.

Pre-Christian carvings at Mesopotam Monastery, Albania

The Blue Eye

Officially known as Syri i Kaltër, the Blue Eye is a beautiful natural spring with the most incredible blue water; as we drove up there we were treated to a herd of mountain goats wandering past the minibus, and we parked in the car park before paying our entrance fee. This was around 50 lek each if I'm remembering correctly, which is less than 50p so a proper bargain. The walk from the car park to the Blue Eye itself was long and very hot - we were here around midday - as well as being slightly uphill in parts. But it was SO worth it when we got to the spring, which was even prettier in real life than the photos we'd seen! You're not allowed to swim in it, though some people do jump in, and there is a further steep hill to climb up and see it from above. We didn't do that, but some of our group did and said it was gorgeous.

Stunning Blue Eye, Sarandë

We, on the other hand, took a walk in the other direction and found a little restaurant, where we sat and had a drink - it was so peaceful here and they serve very traditional Albanian food if you're interested in trying that (you might not have enough time on this tour but if you visit independently it might be worth doing). Then we headed back the way we'd come to meet our bus again!


The last stop on our minibus tour was the UNESCO World Heritage city of Gjirokaster, which is super traditional and absolutely stunning. It again has incredible views, as well as huge fairytale vibes. We had a couple of hours here so we went for a wander before sitting down to eat some traditional food: stuffed peppers, stuffed vine leaves, and meatballs as well as some chips.


There is a castle here and we were planning to walk up to it, but decided instead to join the (free when we were there but usually 200 lek per person!) Cold War Tunnels tour. This was really interesting and insightful, giving us some great information about the political history of Albania. I'm so glad we ended up doing this, and I'd definitely recommend it.

From here, we drove back to Sarandë where we went for cocktails with the Aussies from our tour group. All in all, I couldn't recommend this day trip more: it was so well put together with the perfect amount of time at each location, and the value for money is just amazing. 

Additional information about Albania Minivan Tours

We paid in cash at the end of our day trip from Sarandë, once we got back to town. The main guy who organises it (who you'll see all over Insta) speaks perfect English and is an absolutely fantastic man. The guide that we had spoke very little English, but was still so friendly and helpful - he even picked little flowers for all us girls while we'd stopped off for a toilet break!

You can arrange to be picked up from your hotel too which is a great idea. If you're looking for things to do in Sarandë, bookmark this and get in touch with Albania Minivans Tours during your trip!

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