The Blue Eye of Albania

Last year while we were in Bulgaria we met a beautiful family from Denmark. We spent the day and evening with Lisa, her husband and son sharing stories of life and travel. She shared with us her recent trip to the Blue Eye in Albania....and that is how we ended up spending my 50th birthday in the remote mountains in Albania at the Blue Eye.

The Blue Eye is an underwater spring that comes from a cave about 165 feet deep. The center of the spring looks like an eye. It is said that the black part, the cave, looks like the pupil and the bright blue water looks like the iris. The spring, Syri Kalter, which in Albanian means the blue eye. It is one of the most powerful springs in the South-East of Europe, with an average discharge of 6,000 liters per second (1,585 gallons); and at high water a rate of 18,400 liters per second (4,860 gallons). Divers have only been able to go about 50 meters down before the pressure pushes them back up. The water is ice-cold, at around 10 degrees Celsius.

While it is possible to take a bus from Sarandë to the Blue Eye it would involve figuring out exactly when to get off and how to get back. Usually we are up for the challenge and saving money ($44.00) but since it was my 50th birthday we opted to take the easy way. We contacted our host who arranged for a private taxi that would bring us there, wait three hours (which you only need about 1.5 hours) and bring us back for $50.00.

It was about a 30 minute drive on a small two lane road. The road took us through a part of Albania that was vastly different from the resort town of Sarandë. The busy roundabouts and pedestrian filled streets were replaced with signs for snow tires and waterfalls with locals filling jugs of water. Our limited English speaking driver kept pointing to the canal filled with water coming from the Blue Eye. We passed no less than two hydro-electrical plants, further confusing me as to why there were so many power outages. 

At the entrance of the Blue Eye you can rent a scooter or electric stand scooter for a minimal cost to take you right to the Blue Eye instead of walking. We paid $.50 each to get in and chose to walk the mile to the spring. It is a paved sidewalk the whole way, however there is no shade cover and parts of the walk were straight up and even though it was 9:30 in the morning it was still hot and by the time we reached the springs we were covered in sweat.

Once we reached the spring there were signs saying no swimming and at the actual spring no one was getting in, but on the side trails and at the restaurant people were dipping in to cool off. Since we left early there were few people, so we found a small path with barely enough land for both of us to stand on and started to strip down to take the plunge. Of course I am a rule follower and was scared we would get in trouble, so Jim went first. As Jim was getting out, a woman from Germany who was overlanding through Albania, crammed in next to us to wade in after me. She walked into the water and swam into the strong current pulling her downstream. After a struggle she finally swam back and walked up eagerly anticipating the video playback. Poor thing had to do it twice because she asked Jim to video her and after she got out and looked at her phone, he never hit play. Well, to be fair he did hit play, not knowing she already did. She mumbled something to the effect, if you want something done right, have the woman do it and she handed me her phone and mustered up the courage to wade in again, not as bravely or as far as the first time. Jim was grinning at her freezing pain. 

As we walked back, I was glad we left early for two reasons; first the crowds. When we first arrived there was only a handful of people, but as the morning progressed the crowds started to come in droves, making the small path and the beauty of our surroundings crowded with people. And second, the heat, it was quickly climbing to 100. Visiting the Blue Eye was definitely the highlight of our trip to Albania!


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