If you are looking for the uber affordable beach vacation of your dreams, Ksamil (pronounced Xamil) Albania just might be the perfect place for you.
Here we will talk about a few of Ksamil’s highlights. Stick around to the end for practical tips!
Is Ksamil Albania Worth Visiting?
First of all, the million dollar question! Is Ksamil even worth visiting?
Ksamil is worth visiting from about May through September. It has many of the few sandy beaches in Albania (as opposed to pebbly), and they are very beautiful!
Outside of May through September, almost nothing will be open in Ksamil. The sandy beaches are open and available, but most days it won’t be warm enough to lay out in the sun, and the water is chilly. On the random day that it might be warm enough, there won’t be anywhere to get a drink, a snack, or a sunbed.
Of course if you are in the area between October and April, Ksamil is worth a quick trip, but I would not plan an off-season vacation to Ksamil. (And if you’ve been around here at all, you know I’m an off season gal!)
Is it better to stay in Ksamil or Sarandë?
If you are planning a summer time vacation where you don’t leave the beach, Ksamil is a great place to stay!
There is a wide variety of beachfront accommodation and the sand is unrivalled!
If you want to do some day trips, try a better variety of food, or visit in the off-season, Saranda (just 15 minutes up the coast!) is the better place to stay.
Read my post here: Your Guide to Visiting Saranda Albania in 2023
How do you get to Ksamil Islands?
Ksamil Islands are very close to the mainland. You can paddleboard, kayak, or get a water taxi to the islands from many of Ksamil’s beaches. Starting around mid-April, there are boats that hang out around Ksamil Beach that can take you to the islands.
In the winter time you will need to arrange a boat in advance in order to visit the islands, as Ksamil is pretty much abandoned.
Can you swim to Ksamil islands?
On a calm day, it is possible to swim to Ksamil Islands, especially at low tide. Be careful during high season, as there are a lot of boats around.
The water around “Plazhi Ksamil 7” on Google maps, is very shallow, and a great place to swim from. The main Ksamil Beach would be fine too, for a strong swimmer.
From my count, there are more than 50 beaches in Ksamil and the immediate area. Plenty of spots to swim and relax on vacation!
For each of these beaches, please note that in low season the beach will be empty and everything is closed. Not necessarily a bad thing if you just want to see the sand, but it would be difficult to spend a whole day out.
Here are just a few of Ksamil’s amazing beaches:
Ksamil Beach “Plazhi i Ksamilit” is kind of the main beach in Ksamil. A long walk down this beach will take you past several beach bars, restaurants, water taxis, and even jet ski rentals.
This beach is a good place to start in Ksamil if you want to see the islands or just get comfy. It is also one of the first beaches to open in the Spring, so if you are visiting in the off season, it’s your best chance to get a cappuccino on the beach.
Lori Beach is my personal favorite beach in Ksamil. We ended up stuck here for an hour when we got a flat tire on the way to Puerto Rico Beach, and it was beautiful! It’s a smaller beach, but the sand is amazing and the water is nice and shallow: Perfect for kids!
In high season there is a beach bar and umbrellas for rent.
Coco Beach is one of Ksamil’s more famous beaches. It has a combination of white sand and larger black rocks in the water.
If you are familiar with Croatia, the coastline beside Coco Beach is rocky and looks similar to that. It’s a very picturesque place. This beach is also fairly small.
We visited in the winter of 2023 and it was hard to tell if the Coco Beach Bar will be back up and running for the summer. Coco Beach is attached to “Plazhi Ksamil 9” or Bella Vista Beach which does have a restaurant, so you won’t be out of luck if it is closed this year.
Mirror Beach is about halfway between Saranda and Ksamil, in an otherwise fairly rural area. You can take a car or taxi there, but honestly the bus makes it very easy (and cheap!) to get there.
Mirror Beach earns it’s name from all of the white rocks in the crystal clear water. From above, the beach shines like a mirror. This one is on Google Maps as “Plazhi i Pasqyrave” and typically doesn’t come up if you search Mirror Beach.
In the summer season there is a beach bar and restaurant here. This is a pebbly beach and not a sandy one, but the pebbles are smooth white ones and totally different than neighboring pebble beaches.
To take the bus to Mirror Beach, catch the bus from Saranda or Ksamil and ask to be dropped off at Plazhi i Pasqyrave. It’s a popular spot for tourists and one of the few official bus stops with an actual covered bench.
From the bus stop on the highway, follow the road and signs to Mirror Beach. (Or follow the signs to another beach, there are more out there, you do you!) The walk is about 1.2 km but we did not find it bad at all. After the initial uphill from the bus stop it is all downhill to the beach. On a hot day, you may want to take a taxi.
If you have been travelling around through Albania or other European beach towns, you should know that Ksamil is a little bit different. It does not have a “downtown” or pedestrian area. It is a maze of little streets where all roads lead to a beach. If you are hungry you can walk towards the main highway and you will find some restaurants, but it is nothing like Saranda or Vlora with the proper boardwalk.
Ksamil is just a different kind of vacation. It’s less of a “Europe explore trip”, and more “Mexican resort” vibes. In the actual town there is very little to do.
Getting to Ksamil
Ready to plan your trip to Ksamil?
Here are all the most popular ways to get to Ksamil.
Getting to Ksamil from Tirana
From Tirana you can catch a bus to Saranda daily. The regional bus station is a little bit out of town. Search “Terminali i Autobusëve të Jugut & Veriut” to find the right location.
We stayed across the street at Doanesia Premium Hotel, which was just the perfect location. A short walk from both the hotel and bus station is CasaItalia Shopping Mall. (A great place to visit some bigger stores before you end up in Ksamil!)
The bus takes about 5.5 hours from Tirana. Personally, I would fly to Corfu if you have the choice.
Travelling From Corfu to Ksamil
To get to Ksamil via Corfu Greece, you will need to catch the ferry to Saranda. On the speed boat it takes only 35 minutes, and the bigger car ferry takes just over an hour.
From the Corfu airport, the ferry terminal is on the opposite side of town. In the summer you can likely catch a boat the same day, but in winter you should plan to spend the night in Corfu.
We were staying in Corfu, so we walked from the airport to the town and then to the ferry terminal the next day.
There are buses outside of the airport that can also take you to the town, and probably in the summer you can catch a bus directly to the terminal, but we haven’t done it. You may find a taxi to be the simplest.
If walking, make sure you head to “Corfu Port Authority Company” on Google maps. When you are walking you will pass other ferry terminals, but these are for regional ferries.
It is a fairly long 25 minute walk, so don’t let it fool you that the town appears to be on the port. The terminal you need is the peachy building beside a long dock on the far side of the harbor.
Buy your tickets online in advance from Finikas Lines, or stop by their office on the road to the ferry. You will see many tour operators on the left side of the road as you head to the terminal. Stop at “Ionian Cruises” where they have stickers advertising Finikas Lines.
Buying online is the easiest, but if you have a baby under 1 year, you will need to buy the ticket in person. It’s a strange glitch.
Tickets are not sold at the ferry terminal. This is very important. It’s possible that this is different in the summer, but definitely from October to March there is no way to get a ticket at the terminal. You need to get it online or from the office in advance.
Traveling from Saranda to Ksamil
From Saranda, buses depart to Ksamil/Butrint every hour on the :35 from the bus shelter across from the ruins. (On the diagonal from Friendship Park, in front of SOS bar.)
It is marked on Google maps as “Bus station for bus Sarande-Ksamil-Butrint.”
The bus costs 150 lek per adult. Kids are free. (I am not sure about the age, it seems like a guess-based system.) You do not pay as you board the bus, and you do not need exact change. There is a collector who will come and take your fare. You can also show the collector where you need to go and they will usually tell you when to get out.
Ksamil in Short
I hope this helps you decide to visit Ksamil. The most important thing is to come when things are open. We love to travel off season, but Ksamil is another story. Even the ATMs were empty when we visited in November.
May or the first half of September is the best time to visit. Most things will be open, but it is shoulder season in terms of crowds. In the coming years maybe Ksamil will see more tourists year round and things will shift.
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