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How to Visit the Blue Eye: Albania’s Natural Wonder (Syri i Kaltër) in 2024

Want to visit the Blue Eye, Albania? This post contains everything you need to know.

Albania is one of my favourite countries in Europe. It has incredible scenery, gorgeous beaches, and friendly, welcoming people. It’s cheap and is still relatively undiscovered.

The Blue Eye is one of Albania’s most famous natural wonders. It’s a freshwater spring with some of the most vivid, surreal colours that I’ve ever seen in nature.

I wasn’t sure quite what to expect before I visited. I’d heard people talking of Albania’s Blue Eye. However, in my experience, some places like this can be overhyped and I was more than a little cynical.

I even considered skipping it on my most recent Albanian road trip.

That would’ve been a huge mistake – this is a really magical place and I was blown away by its beauty.

What is the Blue Eye?

The Blue Eye (Syri i Kaltër, in Albanian) is a natural karst spring in southern Albania and the source of the Bistricë River.

However, this is no ordinary natural spring. As you approach, it looks like a normal pool, until you reach its edge and realise just how deep and blue it is.

It’s not just the depth of this spring that makes it so extraordinary, but also the vibrant hues of its waters.

The water is crystal clear, with hundreds of shades of blue, purple, turquoise, sapphire, indigo, and green. It’s an amazing sight.

blue-eye-saranda

There’s a viewing platform directly above the spring. From here, it really does look like an eye. The centre is deep and mysterious (like a pupil), and there’s a light-coloured ring around the edge (like an iris).

The effect comes from a combination of refracted sunlight, algae, moss, and minerals found in the surrounding rocks. All these things come together to create this mesmerising natural phenomenon.

The Blue Eye is believed to discharge roughly 18,400 litres of water per second. This rushes up to the surface under extreme pressure.

With the water rising up out of the cavern at such a high pressure, the colours are constantly shifting and shimmering. From certain angles, it looks really alive – twinkling, and sparkling, just like an eye.

Or a portal into another world (honestly, no exaggeration).

It’s very hypnotic. I found myself staring into the shimmering depths for minutes on end, utterly transfixed.

There’s something magnetic about it, in a way that’s very hard to describe. You need to see it to believe it.

scenery-surrounding-the-blue-eye-albania

The natural setting is also incredibly tranquil and beautiful. The Blue Eye is hidden away in a remote valley surrounded by pine forests, oak, walnut, cherry, and hazelnut trees.

The water fills a large pool which then flows downstream, creating the Bistricë River. This river meanders through southern Albania before emptying into the Ionian Sea.

The source of the spring has never been found (mainly due to the incredible water pressure), but it’s believed to be an underground river.

blue-eye-albania

How Deep is Albania’s Blue Eye?

No one knows exactly how deep the Blue Eye is.

People have attempted to explore its depths using scuba diving gear. However, the water rises up to the surface with such extreme force (18,400 litres per second!) that divers have only been able to descend 50 metres into the cavern.

Nobody has managed to get any deeper into it than that.

So, we know that it’s definitely more than 50 metres deep. But how much more remains a mystery.

Where is the Blue Eye?

The Blue Eye is located in a remote valley close to the village of Muzinë, Finiq municipality, in the far south of Albania.

It’s 20 kilometres inland from Sarandë and is about 33 kilometres (by road) south of Gjirokaster. It’s also only 23 kilometres from the Greek border crossing at Kakavia.

Check out this handy guide to simple Albanian words and phrases.

How to Get to the Blue Eye Spring, Albania

There are a few different ways to get to the Blue Eye, depending on where you’re coming from. You can either drive yourself, catch the bus, take a taxi, or visit as part of a guided tour.

If you have a car, the easiest way to get to the Blue Eye is to drive yourself.

🤩 Click here to compare the cheapest deals on car hire in Albania

However, note that you can’t actually drive all the way up to the Blue Eye. The main parking area is located about 1.5 kilometres from the Eye itself. See the location on Google Maps here.

From here, you need to walk the last 1.5 km along a new and well-made path. This takes you deep into the valley and through some very picturesque scenery.

If you’d prefer not to walk, you can also hire an e-scooter from one of the guys in the parking area.

walking-along-the-path-to-the-blue-eye-in-albania

How to get to the Blue Eye from Saranda, Albania

Here are the various options for getting to the Blue Eye from Saranda.

Drive from Saranda to the Blue Eye

The drive from Sarande to the Blue Eye takes about 30 minutes. It’s 20 kilometres in total from the centre of the city.

The road is in good condition. It’s quite windy in places but is otherwise easy to drive on.

Take a taxi from Saranda to the Blue Eye

Taking a taxi from Saranda to the Blue Eye is one of the pricier ways to get there. But it’s convenient if you don’t have a car and would prefer not to visit as part of a tour.

A taxi should cost approximately 4,000 Lek (or €35–40) for a return trip, including a wait time of approximately 90 minutes. This should give you plenty of time to enjoy the Blue Eye.

If you’d like to spend longer at the Eye, that’s usually fine too. But just make sure that your driver understands this. They might ask you to pay a little more for a longer wait time, which is fair enough.

Either way, it’s important to agree on a price in advance, before you get into the taxi.

Take the bus from Saranda to the Blue Eye

Previously, you could catch any bus running between Saranda and Gjirokaster. These buses used to take a route that went right past the Blue Eye car park.

However, last year a new road was completed linking the Gjirokaster Valley with Saranda. This is called the “Rruga Kardhiq – Sarandë“, and avoids some of the steepest sections of mountain road, reducing the time it takes to drive between the two cities.

The downside to this is that most buses between Sarande and Gjirokaster now travel on this new route, not the old route via the Blue Eye.

A few still do, but you need to check with the driver that the bus will be travelling on the (old) SH99 mountain road.

(If the driver doesn’t speak English, point to the bus, then the road, then ask “Syri i Kaltër?“, and they’ll understand what you’re asking.)

Buses depart from Rruga Flamurit street, near the Rossmann shop, in the centre of Sarande. Near the archaeological remains of the ruined synagogue and basilica.

saranda-archeological-ruins-of-synagogue-and-basilica

(BTW, Rossmann is the best shop in Sarande for buying vegan stuff that’s otherwise hard to find in Albania – like tofu, oat milk, etc. Most of it is imported from Germany.)

Once you’re on the bus, ask people to let you know when you get to the Blue Eye (/Syri i Kaltër). It takes about 40 minutes. The bus costs 300 Lek (about €2.80) each way – you’ll need cash to give the driver.

To travel back to Sarande, just wait at the stop where you were dropped off until another bus comes by in the other direction. Alternatively, you could always flag a taxi if you prefer.

Hitchhiking is usually pretty easy in Albania too.

How to travel to the Blue Eye from Gjirokaster

If you’re coming from Gjirokaster, the options are similar to coming from Saranda.

Drive from Gjirokaster to the Blue Eye

Driving from Gjirokaster to the Blue Eye takes about 45 minutes (35 kilometres).

Take a taxi from Gjirokaster to the Blue Eye

Taxis from Gjirokaster to the Blue Eye cost slightly more than from Saranda. Expect to pay around 5,000 Lek (€45–50) round trip, including wait time. Again, always agree on a price beforehand.

Take the bus from Gjirokaster to the Blue Eye

See the above section on taking the bus from Saranda to the Blue Eye. In the same way, if you’re coming from Gjirokaster, you need to check that the bus is travelling via Syri i Kaltër (the Blue Eye), not along the new route via Kardhiq.

The bus from Gjirokaster costs 300 Lek (about €2.80) each way, the same as from Saranda. (I think that’s actually the price of the trip from Saranda–Gjirokaster, but it doesn’t seem to cost less if you get off at the Blue Eye.)

hiking-around-the-blue-eye-in-albania

How to reach the Blue Eye from Ksamil

Travelling from Ksamil to the Blue Eye is slightly less straightforward if you’re relying on public transport. But it’s still definitely doable.

Drive from Ksamil to the Blue Eye

The drive from Ksamil to the Blue Eye takes about an hour, via Saranda. It’s only 34 kilometres in total, but much of the road is quite slow.

Take a taxi from Ksamil to the Blue Eye

You could also take a taxi from Ksamil to the Blue Eye. This should cost between 5,000–6,000 Lek (€45–57) round trip, including wait time.

Public transport from Ksamil to the Blue Eye

Note: there is no direct bus from Ksamil to the Blue Eye. However, there are regular buses that run between Ksamil and Saranda. Take one of these first, then take the Saranda-Gjirokaster bus as described above.

The bus from Ksamil to Sarande (and vice versa) costs 100 Lek (€1) and takes about 30 minutes. They depart at least every hour, sometimes more frequently.

Albanian bus timetables are vague at best. That said, travelling by bus from Ksamil to the Blue Eye is definitely possible as long as you’re patient and have some flexibility time-wise.

Tours That Include the Blue Eye, Sarandë, Albania

If you don’t have your own transport, another way to visit the Blue Eye with minimal hassle and effort is to join a guided tour.

Of course, this is more expensive than travelling via public transport. However, everything is done for you and you don’t have to wait around for buses to show up (especially good for those with limited time).

Most Blue Eye tours start from Saranda, which is a major transport and tourism hub.

Many of these tours also visit other destinations too in the same day. This can be a great way to combine seeing the Blue Eye with other highlights in southern Albania.

Here are some of the best tours that will take you to the Blue Eye:

What to See and Do at the Blue Eye Albania

Seeing the Blue Eye itself is the obvious main attraction.

Most people just head straight to see it and then carry on to wherever they’re going next.

However, the area is so beautiful and tranquil. I really enjoyed spending a couple of hours just relaxing here and enjoying being in nature.

Albania-road-trip-blue-eye

There are a few pleasant walking trails that take you around the spring pools and into the forest. I’ve walked along the one that starts at the Eye’s viewing platform – it’s really quiet and peaceful.

Keep an eye out for information boards telling you about the diverse range of flora and fauna that live here. These boards also say that you are allowed to camp here, as long as you don’t light fires.

You’ll also find a picnic area and a little restaurant near the Eye. Here you can buy traditional Albanian food, snacks, cold beer, and strong black coffee.

There are tables and chairs along the banks of the river and on a deck suspended above the water.

Next to this, you’ll also find a drinking fountain with water flowing directly from the Eye. Fill up your bottle here, the water is clean, cold, and really delicious.

restaurant-above-the-pool-with-reflection-in-the-water-at-the-blue-eye-in-southern-albania

Can You Swim in the Blue Eye, Albania?

There are signs saying that you’re not allowed to swim in the Blue Eye. When I was there, several people were ignoring these signs and doing it anyway.

Some people jump from the viewing platform into the centre of the Eye. The water rises up with such high pressure that it pushes you to the surface almost instantly.

I didn’t do this as I didn’t bring any swimming shorts and didn’t fancy having wet clothes for the rest of the day. But it’s up to you.

However, be warned that the water is extremely cold (about 10 degrees year-round). And, obviously, you’d need to aim your jump correctly for this not to be dangerous/stupid.

blue-eye-albania

Other Useful Information and Tips About Visiting the Blue Eye

Blue Eye entrance fee

It costs 50 Lek (about €0.50) per person to visit the Blue Eye. If you travel there by car, parking costs an additional 100 Lek (€1).

Bring cash, they don’t take card payments (Albania still has a largely cash-based economy).

Blue Eye opening hours

The Blue Eye is open every day from 7 am–7 pm.

Best time to visit the Blue Eye

You can visit the Blue Eye year-round.

However, the best time of year to visit the Blue Eye is in the spring (April–May) or Autumn (September–October).

The weather should be pleasant (warm but not too hot, 23–28°C), and you’ll avoid the crowds of people who flock here during the summer.

I visited in early October and it was perfect. There were only about 10 other people there and the sun was shining.

If you are here during the summer months, try to visit either early in the morning or at the end of the day to avoid the worst of the crowds.

sun-disappearing-behind-mountains-at-the-blue-eye-saranda

Where to Stay Near the Blue Eye

If you have the necessary gear, it is possible to camp in the forest by the Blue Eye.

However, if you’d prefer to sleep in a bed, most of the best options are found in either Saranda or Gjirokaster (or Ksamil – see this post on the best hotels in Ksamil).

Note: places to stay in Saranda tend to be more expensive. You get more for your money in Gjirokaster.

Where to stay in Saranda

Where to stay in Gjirokaster

🤩 Click here to check prices and availability of all other accommodation on Booking.com

Blue Eye Saranda vs Blue Eye Theth

This confused me at first. There are actually two Blue Eyes in Albania!

There’s the one I’ve been describing in this post, in the south of the country near Saranda (the “Blue Eye Saranda”). And there’s another one in the far north of Albania, close to the village of Theth in the Albanian Alps (the “Blue Eye Theth”).

Blue-eye-theth-albania

To visit the Theth Blue Eye, you need to hike for a few hours through the (fantastically named) Accursed Mountains.

Check out this full-day tour of Theth and the Blue Eye, which includes transport to/from Tirana or Shkoder.

Or, for a longer trek, see this 3-day guided hiking trip which takes you to Theth, the Blue Eye, Komani Lake, and the Valbona Valley.

Other Things to Do Near the Blue Eye, Saranda

Despite being fairly remote, there are several other incredible places to visit within an hour of the Blue Eye.

Here are some of my favourites:

view-of-clocktower-and-mountains-from-gjirokaster-castle

See also: 10 Best Restaurants in Tirana

Visit Gjirokaster

Gjirokaster (also spelled Gjirokastra) is a gorgeous city located on a hillside overlooking the Drino Valley.

Gjjirokaster is known for its 13th-century whitewashed Ottoman houses and medieval cobblestone streets. It’s home to some of the best-preserved examples of Ottoman architecture anywhere in Europe.

It’s also known as “The Stone City” because of the large number of historic buildings constructed from local limestone.

The old cobbled streets are incredibly atmospheric and picturesque. In the centre of the Old Town is the Old Bazaar which has been recently restored and is lined with shops, cafes, and restaurants.

exploring-the-old-bazaar-in-gjirokaster

Gjirokaster is also known for its imposing 900-year-old castle which was built by the Ottomans and overlooks the city.

The city has several excellent museums and galleries, some of which are housed inside enormous Ottoman palaces and townhouses.

It’s a really unique place, I’ve never been anywhere quite like Gjirokaster.

To learn more about the history and architecture of this amazing city, I recommend taking this excellent walking tour.

coastal-hike-from-livadi-beach-albania-to-himare-albania

Check out the beaches near Saranda

There are some really wonderful beaches near Saranda. You should definitely check out some of these during your time in southern Albania.

Gjipe Beach and Borsh Beach are two of the best ones.

I spent over a month living in a town called Himarë, just along the coast from Saranda. It’s one of my absolute favourite places in Europe and I can’t wait to go back.

(Spot the little green car above!)

beachfront-hotels-in-ksamil-albania

Chill out in Ksamil

Ksamil is a popular beach town just south of Saranda. It has a fairly well-established tourism industry, with plenty of restaurants, bars, and a few beach clubs.

The beaches here are beautiful too, although this part of the coast is more developed than the stretch north of Saranda.

Check out my post on the 10 best hotels in Ksamil.

butrint-national-park-unesco-world-heritage-site

Discover Butrint

Butrint National Park is located just outside Ksamil. It’s a nature reserve as well as an important archaeological site.

The area is made up of a network of freshwater lakes, lagoons, salt marshes, wetlands, and islands. It’s home to over 1,200 species of animals and plants, including turtles, dolphins, otters, wild boar, eagles, and kingfishers.

There are several ancient ruins here too, including a Roman theatre, Greek temples, medieval fortifications, Byzantine churches and tombs, and two castles.

🤩 This is an excellent tour of Butrint

FAQs About How to Visit the Blue Eye / Syri i Kaltër

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about visiting the Blue Eye/Blue Hole, Albania.

Can you swim in the Blue Eye in Albania?

There are signs saying that you shouldn’t swim in the Blue Eye. But people do anyway. It’s up to you.

What does the Blue Eye symbolise in Albania?

You’ll see the Evil Eye symbol painted on buildings and worn as charms and on jewellery throughout Albania, the Balkans, and Turkey. It’s believed that this can help to ward off evil.

Many people have made the comparison between the Evil Eye and the Blue Eye (and its supernatural aura). The site is mentioned in various local folklore and legends.

Which Blue Eye is best in Albania?

I think the Saranda Blue Eye is more beautiful and mesmerising. However, the Theth Blue Eye is more off-the-beaten-track and quieter. It’s also great if you like hiking.

They’re both worth visiting. But if I had to pick just one, I’d pick the Saranda one.

What is the Blue Eye of Saranda?

The Blue Eye is a natural spring near Saranda that’s known for its spectacular colours that resemble a living eye.

Is the Blue Eye Albania worth visiting?

Yes, the Blue Eye is definitely worth visiting. The Eye itself is really beautiful, as is the surrounding area. It makes a great day trip from Saranda.

How do I get from Tirana to the Blue Eye?

It’s a fairly long journey from Tirana to the Blue Eye. If you have a car, the drive takes about 4 hours.

If not check out this excellent full-day tour of the Blue Eye and Gjirokaster (includes transport to/from Tirana).

Why is Syri i Kaltër special?

Syri i Kaltër is an incredibly special place, both for its natural beauty and its significance in local folklore.

According to legend, the Eye that we see today is all that remains (i.e. the eye) of a giant snake that came out of the sea many moons ago. Go figure.

viewing-platform-above-the-blue-eye-in-albania

Final Thoughts

Now you know everything you need to visit the Blue Eye in Albania! I hope this post has been helpful and has inspired you to visit this magical place.

Have you ever been? Did you jump in?? Let me know what you thought below!

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  • I’m Alex Tiffany.  Former corporate city robot; lifelong travel addict.

 

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