The port town of Agii Saranda is situated in the southeast part of the country of Albania, opposite the northeast part of Corfu's island (Greece) and 26 km close to the Greek borders. In the ancient times the name of this town was Onchesmus.
According to the famous Albanian historical writer Mr. Neritan Ceka (Minister of Interior 1997-1998) this town took its name from the Trojan Prince father "Anchises". The name of Agii Saranda according to the Legend comes from the Christian time of the 15th century, when 40 monks, soldiers, were decapitated by the Turks because they wouldn't change their religion. So, the folk and the church declared them as Saints. The origin of the name of Agii Saranda comes from two Greek words. Agii means Saints, Saranda means the number forty. Today the city is called only Saranda. The town has a population of 30.000 inhabitants. This number triples during the summer time because Saranda town is very well organized. The inhabitants of all Albania and Kossovo like to spend their holidays in this town, which is lying next to the Ionian Sea. We have to mention that as far as religion is concerned, Albanians are 60% Muslims, 30% Greek Orthodox and 10% Catholics. The climate of Saranda is mild Mediterranean and sunny most of the year. The economy of Saranda town is based mainly on its agricultural products from the valley of Valtos, on the cultivation of mussels from the salt lake of Vouthrotos (Butrint ).
Fishing is another source of wealth and finally tourism, which has been growing slowly but steadily during the last nine years. The town of Saranda is built in amphitheatric style with three parallel roads. Four series of step stairs lead from the top of the hill of the town down to each promenade. After the revolution of 1990 this town was rebuilt in a modern style. Modern Hotels with the 5 stars Hotel "Butrint" being the top one, bars, restaurants and cafeterias and also a promenade with palm trees. Several arts of roses and bougainvilleas next to the Ionian Sea give to Saranda the air of a cosmopolitan town. Therefor Saranda is the most touristic destination of all Albania .The inside of the town is a combination of top new buildings, old taverns, cafeterias and houses built in the traditional impressive stone style, even with top roofs of stone plates. Albanian and northwest Greeks are the best carved-stone workers in the world.
History of Saranda and Vouthrotos (Butrint)
The Albanians belong to the Indogermanistic race. Traces of human life are placed in the Paleolithic Era. 35.000 B.C. The first inhabitants of Saranda area were of the Tirrino-Pelasgian race. Offspring races of the Tirrino-Pelasgians were the Illyrians and of the Pelasgians were the Epirots and the Macedonians.
Remands of human life are placed in the Neolithic Era 3000-1200 B.C. The legend has it that, the ancient inhabitants of Saranda area were offsprings of the Greek ancient hero Achilles. Epirus King Neoptolemus Pyrrhus, son of Achilles and the greater of the "Aeachidon Dynasty", which lasted for 1000 years, after the fall of Troy held captive Andromache,(widow of Trojan Crone prince Hector). Their union resulted in four sons. One of them that was named Mollosus created the Molossian race.
Olympias mother of Alexander the Great was an offspring of the Molossians. After King Neoptolemus Pyrrhus's death, Andromache married the Trojan Prince Helenus (Hectors brother), who was also held as a captive of the Epirus King, and they built a miniature town of Troy giving to it the name "Vouthrotos". 26 km away of Saranda town very close to the borders with mainland Greece, opposite the eastern shores of the Strait of Corfu Island, into a natural Park of 20 sq. km, surrounded by the magnificed channel "Vivari", which connects the salt lake of Voutrotos (Butrint) with the Ionian Sea, are situated the breathtaking ancient cities of Vouthrotos (Butrint).
According to one of the many legends of those cities in the 12th century B.C. Helenus, son of King Priamus of Troy after the fall of his patria sailed west to establish a new settlement. On his journey he landed in the island of Corfu and decided to sacrifise a bull to the Olympian God Apollo who was one of the six God protecters of Troy. During the ceremony of the sacrifising the bull escaped from the knife of Helenus half wounded, swam across the Ionian Sea, landed in mainland Epirus and died by hemorrhage (sever bleeding). Helenus who followed the bull by his ship and landed also in the mainland Epirus took this as an auspicious sign of Apollo and built there a miniature town of Troy, giving to it the name Voutrotos, that means in the ancient Greek language "the wounded bull". Vous=bull. throtos = vulnerable. According to Mr. Neritan Ceca ,Voutrotos (Butrint) was a flourishing city with a harbor, a Theatre, and a sanctuary dedicated to the God of health Asclepius. By the time of Alexander the Great two centuries later the Romans made it a supply base for their Balkan campaigns. In the year 49-48 B.C. it was serving as a base for Caesar's army, tied up in fighting against Pompeius army in Apollonia and Dyrrachium. (In formations from Mr. Neritan Ceca's books, son of Hasan Ceca who was "the father of Albanian archeology". A unique harmony of four civilizations of four ancient cities of the Hellenistic period, the Roman period, the Byzantine period and the Venetian period built one above the other and next to the other in the still undiscovered country of the "eagle" or in origin Shqiperje.
25 km away from Saranda town, near the traditional impressive stone built village of Musina, into a forest of hazelnuts, walnuts, cherries, pines and fir trees 177 meters above the sea level 18 springs come out the bottom of the earth and great a rare beauty the famous "Blue Eye", which is a geological phenomenon.
Because of its oval shaped form and of the water, which is coming out of the earth, deep blue in the center and the light blue at the sides it looks like a human eye. Nobody knows how deep it is. Divers who tried to reach the bottom because of the pressure of the water have managed to go only 45 meters deep. It has a rate of flow of 6 cubic meters of water per second and a water temperature of 13 Celsius degrees. Visitors throw a stone into the center of this spring, and after a while they see the same stone coming up again on the surface of it. This geological phenomenon is of tectonic origin. The water of it is believed to be a filtration from Drinos valley. These 18 springs provide water to "Bistrica" rive which is 25 km long and by an artificial channel built in 1958, its waters flow into the Ionian Sea.
In the area of the "Blue Eye" wild life is rich and varied too, wild animals exist, like the fox, the fowl, the reptiles and the marten. "Blue Eye" is Albania's small treasure. Visitors on a one-day organized trip can relax into its peaceful landscape. Next to a picturesque waterfall opposite the "Blue Eye" spring, there is a traditional wood and stone built restaurant you may enjoy Albania's snaps named "Raki".