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The Blue Eye (or Syri i Kaltër in Albanian) is one of the must see things on the Albanian Riviera. Almost everywhere I used for research about Saranda and Albania had it at the top of the list. If you are looking for tours of the Albanian Riviera, the Blue Eye is a highlight of almost all of those as well.
But is it possible to see the Blue Eye from Saranda without going on a tour? Definitely!
Most people choose to go there as part of a day trip from Saranda. Getting to the Blue Eye from Saranda is very simple and can be done in as little as a few hours.
What is the Blue Eye
The Blue Eye is a natural phenomenon that is simply a spring supplying fresh water to the Bistricë River. The spring comes from the bottom of the Blue Eye which is a cave like hole thought to be more than 50m deep. According to local legend, nobody actually knows how deep it goes, but 50m is the maximum that has been measured so far.
How to get to the Blue Eye
You’ll need to get a bus which departs outside the abandoned synagogue. You can take any bus going to Vlora, Tirana or Gjirokaster and they depart roughly every hour from 6 am. If you’re unsure ask around and a bus driver will tell you which bus is leaving next.
Go on the bus and make yourself comfy as you pay you when you get off. If you go on weekends, you may want to get to the bus a bit earlier as they can fill up. If you tell somebody you’re going to the Blue Eye they will stop outside for you.
The journey from Saranda to the Blue Eye is about 30 minutes. The driver will pull over and it cost 200LEK. Cross the road and you’ll see another small road leading in to the hills. When I was there this was still been built however it should be fully tiled marked by the time you make it.
Now it’s time to start walking!
First, you’ll see an old church on your left and the abundant ruins of a church just behind that.
Up the road you will then they may be installing ticket barriers and I’ve heard they may start charging 50 Lek to enter the Blue Eye, however that hasn’t started yet.
You’ll see the large lake on your light and keep heading along the road taking in the twist interns and ups and downs over the hills through the forest. The entire walk from getting off the bus to when you first when you get off the road at the Blue Eye is around 30 minutes.
When you’re right there will be a toilet block and a small cafe side of snacks teas and coffees. From here there are two ways to get to Blue Eye. The fast is through the car park for the cafes over the bridge and that will take you to Blue Eye. Alternatively carry on down the road until you see the sign for the hotel on the bridge on your right and head over the bridge. The Blue Eye is only two minutes from the road.
At the Blue Eye
You’ll get to a clearing with a small area with some information signs. Take in all the information, including the sign on the rock showing you the flow rate and temperature.
Climb up some steps onto the wooden platform built over the Blue Eye and you can look right down into it. It’s fascinating to see the incredible colours of the natural spring water bubbles out. Make sure you go on a sunny day so that the colours really jump out. The mix of the deep blue as you look down the hole mixed with the turquoise and greens of nature surrounding it make it a beautiful sight.
If you’re feeling more adventurous a path that continues up from the platform. When I was there it looked like it was still being constructed. I think this part of Albania is gearing up for a tourism boom so they are investing in the infrastructure now.
This walk goes into the forest lake. I’ve heard it’s about a two hour hike on a truck that isn’t well-maintained and goes all around the lake. I didn’t actually do this so I’d be interested to know anybody else has.
You aren’t allowed to go swimming in the Blue Eye as it is part of a protected area. And why would you want to when the water is 10 degrees all year round! But I have heard of people going swimming in the Blue Eye and another fellow traveller even told me to to take a change of clothes so that I could swim!
The Blue Eye is truly beautiful and a very unique natural phenomena. However that is all that is really there. They are trying to develop tourism in Albania but the photo opportunity and small cafe is all that is in the area. For me that is perfect, nature should be left as it is. But it may not satisfy others.
The lakes the mountain to the trees in the various shades of green beautiful. But at a 30 minute bus journey, a 30 minute walk and the same on the way back, I’m not sure if this is the best use of your time as a one off. Combine it with a day trip to Gjirokaster or include a longer hike.
Overall is it worth the effort…. Probably.
Once you’ve enjoyed your views of the Blue Eye, to get back to the main road, you’ll have to walk the same path. You can try hitchhiking or try and hail down any of the buses go past. As I went early in the morning there was no one else at the Blue Eye, but I did struggle to get a bus back to Saranda. I waited nearly and hour for a bus and ended up sitting on a stool in the aisle!
After 3 pm you may struggle to get some of these buses as the frequency really reduces. As there was no set timetable, it’s difficult to know how long you’ll be waiting but be prepared to wait for up to an hour or two!
- Go when it’s sunny and get a blue sky that really shows the colours in the water.
- If you go after rain there will be a lot more water flowing down the river which also makes it spectacular.
- Take comfy shoes such as trainers but there’s no need for hiking boots on this.
- The bus from Saranda to the Blue Eye is 200Lek. On the return journey, he tried to charge me 300Lek but I stood firm.
- Go early if you want to have the Blue Eye out yourself. I got the bus from Saranda at 7 am and I didn’t see anyone else at the Blue Eye. However getting back to Saranda may be a bit more of a challenge as there are fewer buses are heading into town at that point. There were many buses going the other direction at that time to Gjirokaster and Tirana if you’re heading in that direction.
Dan is an avid traveller from London. His first big adventure was in 2010 living in Malaysia for 3 months and becoming a divemaster. He has been on the road almost constantly since 2015 travelling to destinations that aren’t on the mainstream tourist trail.