As unexpectedly spectacular as the coast of Southern Albania is (and it is magnificent!) what you would expect to see there are sights reminiscent of the Mediterranean more so than the tropics. Yet, as we know by now, Albania is the land of the unexpected! The country hides its own small tropical paradise, aptly called the Blue Eye (in Albanian: Syri i Kaltër). Perhaps the most breathtakingly beautiful sight in Albania, the Blue Eye is located about a 30 minute drive away from the coastal city of Saranda on the road to Gjirokastra (all places to see, by the way!). Surely, the surprise factor adds to the beauty of the entire experience. To find the tropics in Albania is no small feat!
Perhaps describing the multidimensionality and depth of this surreal beauty is futile, but one must try! The landscape leading to the Blue Eye uncovers this anomaly of nature as you will find yourself surrounded by palm trees, wild ferns and tropical plants, as well as dense, mountainous forest vegetation of oaks and sycamores, all at once! This vegetation is kept lush and glorious by the spring flowing down the mountain into the Bistrica River. A total of eighteen springs are dispersed along the site! The fresh water spring from the Gjerë (in English: Wide) Mountain flows into the Blue Eye and creates a natural pool with depths of about 50 meters. Or, so they say! The actual depth has not yet been determined. Many divers have tried to get to the bottom of it, to no avail.
This Blue Eye is intense! As you look into the center of this pool, you will begin to understand where the place gets its name. The deep blue sapphire waters of the center form the pupil of the eye and are surrounded by the vibrant emerald greens, teals, and turquoise of the iris. The eyelashes are formed by the surrounding vegetation. The waters, though deep and blue, are so crystal clear that they reveal the rocks and vegetation at the bottom. The water maintains an “only for the brave” temperature of no more than 10o Celsius (50o Fahrenheit). During the summer, many challenge the cold water temperatures by diving straight into the center of the “eye.” (Click here for the video):
The Blue Eye is an oasis of fresh air and cool climate, a tropical paradise that can rival any in Venezuela or the Maldives! In the summers, it provides a shelter from the relentless sun of the southern coast. Alternatively, after the cool dip into the Blue Eye, you will want to revisit the warmth of the Ionian, where the Blue Eye also flows into. Lonely Planet calls it magical and hypnotic, Atlas Obscura breathtaking and mesmerizing. Those who have had the fortune of seeing the Blue Eye have felt god-like and omnipotent. And so will you!
Trust me, to paraphrase Nietzsche, you will gaze long at this abyss and it will definitely gaze back into you but what you will find here is pure beauty!
How to reach the place: 30 minutes by car from Saranda. You will stop at Muzinë village, near the national road Delvina-Gjirokastra. There are no direct buses to the site but you may take the bus to Gjirokastër. Just remember to ask the driver to drop you off near the natural site, Syri i Kaltër. Not to worry as in Albania, this is perfectly normal bus ettiquete!