The port town of Agii Saranda is situated in the southeast part of the country of Albania and is about 14 km east of the northern end of Corfu. In ancient times city was known by the name Onchesmus.
The name of Agii Saranda comes from the Christian times of the 15th century, when 40 monks, soldiers, were decapitated by the Turks because they wouldn’t change their religion. So, the citizens and the church declared them as Saints. The origin of the name of Agii Saranda comes from two Greek words: Agii, meaning Saints and Saranda, meaning the number forty. Today the city is called only Saranda. The town has a population of 30,000 inhabitants. This number triples during the summertime. The inhabitants of Albania and Kossovo like to spend their holidays in this town, which lies next to the Ionian Sea. The religions of Albanians are 60% Muslims, 30% Greek Orthodox and 10% Catholics.
The economy of Saranda 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 fifteen years.
Saranda has a typical Mediterranean climate with over 300 sunny days a year and is built-in amphitheatric style with three parallel roads. Four series of steep stairs lead from the top of the hill of the town down to the beach promenade.
After the revolution of 1990, this town was rebuilt in a modern style along with modern hotels, the 5-star “Hotel Butrint” being the top one. There are also plenty of bars, restaurants and cafeterias around the town. With the palm tree’s along the promenade, rose bushes and bougainvillaeas all around the town, it is a very beautiful and picturesque town. Therefore, Saranda has become the most touristic destination of all Albania.
The town itself is a combination of new buildings, old taverns, cafeterias and houses built in the traditional and impressive stone style, even the roofs are made of stone plates. Albanians and northwest Greeks are the best carved-stone workers in the world.
The first traces of human presence in Albania, dating to the Middle Paleolithic and Upper Paleolithic eras, were found in the village of Xarrë, near Saranda.
Legend has it that, the ancient inhabitants of Saranda were descendants of the Greek ancient hero, Achilles. Legend also says that Epirus King Neoptolemus also called Pyrrhus (meaning fire-red, for his red hair), and son of Achilles, captured Andromache, widow of Trojan Crown Prince Hector. Their union resulted in three sons. One of them was named Mollosus and went to create 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 (Hector’s 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”.