Albania

The Blue Eye spring in Albania

The Blue Eye is a natural spring in southern Albania. It holds the bluest, clearest water imaginable. Looking at it from above, the Blue Eye spring forms a swirling vortex that’s hypnotic to watch.

The layers of the spring range from clear, colourless shallows to azure waters that border the intense, deep blue centre of the eye.

The Blue Eye spring – Syri I Kalter in Albanian – is part of a protected nature area called the Blue Eye National Monument. During the Communist era, the Blue Eye spring and its surrounding scenery were out of bounds to ordinary people and reserved for only party politicians.

The park around the Blue Eye includes a lake, a bridge, a rocky path and mountain scenery. The beautiful spring lies at the top end of the park, and is the source of the lake and the clear blue river that flows from it.

Unfortunately the Blue Eye does get crowded. Unlike everywhere else I visited in Albania, at the Blue Eye we had to queue up to take photos and it was hard to find a spot where people weren’t crowding around. One of the reasons for this that the Blue Eye is very small – the pupil of the eye itself is only about 2 metres across, and it’s easy to access because the main car park is so close to the spring. Another factor is that the Blue Eye seems to be on coach tour itineraries. I saw several coaches visiting the Blue Eye – a sight I didn’t see anywhere else in Albania.

Despite the area being busy with tourists though, I was so happy to visit the Blue Eye. It is unique, and an amazing natural phenomenon.

The wonder of the swirling Blue Eye, where cold pure water bubbles up seemingly from the Earth’s core, is mystical and magical. When I looked at it, I found I could pretty much block out all the people around and the noise they were making, because the Eye itself is so intense, beautiful and wonderful.

One of the most beautiful moments of the surrounding scenery came on the drive out, when we saw the river that is fed by the Blue Eye. This river is the clearest river I have ever seen; you can see right down to the river bed, and it’s full of bright blue water, like the Blue Eye itself.

No swimming in the Blue Eye

Swimming in the Blue Eye spring is not allowed, because people’s sweat, lotion and perfume etc pollutes the perfect clarity of the water and could turn the Eye blind. Sadly lots of people totally ignore the signs and jump in anyway.

Is it worth visiting Albania’s Blue Eye?

The Blue Eye spring is the prime example of Albania’s breathtaking natural beauty. It’s even more beautiful seen with your own eyes than it is in the photos. Although I found myself sharing the sight with a lot of tourists, and a couple of souvenir stands have sprung up behind the spring, I would return in a heartbeat to stare into those hypnotic, swirling, blue green waters. The Blue Eye has something greater and more profound than superficial natural beauty: it has unknown, unfathomable depths, and mystery. The Blue Eye is searingly beautiful, and unforgettable.

Practical tips: how to get to the Blue Eye spring

What’s it like driving from Saranda to the Blue Eye?

Driving from Saranda to the Blue Eye was easier than I expected. When researching beforehand I couldn’t find any information on what the roads would be like, but they were good. Not in as good shape as the coast road, but still fine. The directions are straightforward: you head due east from Saranda, driving through Vrion, Mesopotam and passing a hydoelectric plant, then you’ll reach the Blue Eye soon afterwards. It takes only about 30 minutes.

If you’ve got data or a sat nav it will be easy to get to the Blue Eye – and even if you haven’t got either of these, don’t worry, you’ll find it! We navigated there with no data (as it’s outside of the EU), no road map, no sat nav and a lack of road signage. I just had my downloaded Google map of the area to look at before setting off, and followed the couple of signs there were to Gjirokaster, as I knew Blue Eye was on the way there.

How to visit the Blue Eye by bus

If you’re using public transport, a bus from Saranda to Gjirokaster stops off outside the Blue Eye natural park. Make sure to let the driver know in advance that you want to get off at the Blue Eye or Syri I Kalter, as the bus may not always stop there.

Approaching the Blue Eye park

The Blue Eye and surrounding area is not a large park, and if you’re reaching it by public transport or being dropped off at the main road entrance, you can walk to the Blue Eye spring in about 30 minutes. If you’re driving, you can drive almost all the way up to the Blue Eye itself.

Once inside the park, the road is rough, and you can’t drive much faster than walking pace. It would probably be better to park at the main road entrance and walk, but they don’t really want you to park here as the space is small. Drive in and the ticket officers will direct you through to the main parking areas and you’ll have to drive on the rough track to get there (slowly over the sharp stones!).

 

How much does it cost?

Two of us drove through in a car and the ticket charge was 200 lek (about €1.80). It was unclear whether the charge was 100 lek each, or 100 lek for us both plus 100 lek for the car. In any case, it was a very low entry charge.

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