By far one of the most popular things to do in Albania is to pay a visit to the famous Blue Eye, or Syri i Kaltër as it is known in the Albanian language.
The Blue Eye in Albania is a vertical freshwater spring and natural phenomenon and it is one of Albania’s most famous tourist attractions.
I’ve visited the Blue Eye Albania twice, in 2018 and in 2020, and both times I was in awe of just how beautiful it was.
Here is everything you need to know if you’re planning a visit to the Blue Eye in Albania.
Visiting the Blue Eye Albania, a Breathtaking Natural Phenomenon
What is the Blue Eye?
The Blue Eye Albania is the starting point of the 25km Bistricë River, a water path that travels all the way to the Ionian Sea.
Notable for its extremely clear turquoise waters, the Blue Eye is more than 50m deep (nobody knows exactly how deep the Blue Eye is because divers have not yet managed to exceed 50m!) and resembles a blue eye, as the name would suggest!
If you stand on the wooden viewing platform and look down, you will see that the deep blue, almost black centre forms the pupil of an eye, surrounded by vibrant sapphire, emerald, teals and turquoises of the iris. Eyelashes are formed by the surrounding vegetation, and the water is so clear that you can actually see the mossy rocks and branches at the bottom.
The water bubbles all the way up from the cave at the bottom of the spring with extreme force – it actually has a discharge rate of 18,400 litres per second at high water – and the water maintains a year-round temperature of just 10 degrees Celsius (or 50 degrees Fahrenheit), making it absolutely freezing!
Although you are not technically permitted to dive or swim in the Blue Eye Albania, that doesn’t stop anyone, and most locals actually use the viewing platform to show off their diving skills! If you don’t fancy the jump, you can paddle in the shallow waters at the water’s edge, but I must warn you that it is absolutely baltic and you will not be able to feel your feet after just a few seconds!
Surrounding the Blue Eye in Albania is a lush forest with a most unusual combination of vegetation. Among the oak and sycamore trees you will find wild ferns and even tropical palm trees!
I highly recommend taking a stroll around the entire area after visiting the Blue Eye itself, as it is a truly magical place.
You will find a few small restaurants (the last 3 years have seen a lot of development around the Blue Eye, with plenty of places to grab a coffee or buy a souvenir) dotted along the main walking trail, but the one that I recommend is the main restaurant with the floating deck out on the lake.
I’ve eaten at this restaurant twice, and it is the oldest restaurant onsite. While the prices are slightly higher than average for Albania, it sells decent quality food and the tranquil location on the lake is a really magical place to sit and relax.
On the menu you can expect slabs of goat’s cheese, Albanian village salad, grilled fish and lamb ribs, along with ice cold bottles of local beer, and, of course, raki, the quintessential Balkan spirit.
Getting to the Blue Eye Albania
Although the Blue Eye is located near Muzinë in Albania’s Vlorë County, most people visit the Blue Eye from Saranda, as it is just 22km away along the road that connects Saranda and Gjirokastra.
Saranda is often considered the capital of the Albanian Riviera, as not only is it one of the most visited spots in the whole of Albania, but it is also very close to Corfu in Greece, meaning that it is easily reached by ferry.
You can reach the Blue Eye from Saranda in 3 ways: taking the bus, renting a car or hiring a taxi.
Saranda to the Blue Eye by bus
For the adventurous amongst you, taking the bus from Saranda to the Blue Eye might be the best option.
While there are no official direct buses between the two, you can take the Gjirokastra bus from Saranda and simply ask the bus driver to drop you off at Syri i Kaltër, or the Blue Eye. This might sound strange, but don’t worry – this is a very common thing to do in Albania and bus drivers are used to it!
The bus (or furgon) will take around 50 minutes to reach the Blue Eye, and it departs around every hour from Saranda’s city centre, at the intersection of Rruga Flamurit and Rruga Skanderberg, next to the old Roman ruins.
You don’t have to buy your tickets in advance – just pay the driver in cash when you get off the bus – and don’t worry if things don’t exactly run on time, as the bus schedules are really only a guide in Albania!
When you get off the bus there is a gentle 2km walk along a sandy track into the forest where you will find the Blue Eye. The track is well-signposted and there will be tonnes of other tourists following the same trail, so you don’t need to worry about getting lost!
When you want to return to Saranda, just head back to the main road and wait for a bus, or try your hand at hitchhiking, which is also super common in Albania!
Driving from Saranda to the Blue Eye
The drive from Saranda to the Blue Eye Albania takes around 30 minutes and is an easy enough drive, so you may want to hire a car for the day. We combined our trip to the Blue Eye with a visit to Butrint National Park, which was a great way to spend the day!
Renting a car in Albania is very cheap and is the only way to get to the more off-the-beaten-path spots in Albania.
That said, you should definitely proceed with caution if you are considering driving in Albania, and don’t travel without health insurance!
Roads in Albania are often poor, the streets are not always lit and Albanians are known to be aggressive and erratic drivers. Deaths from road traffic accidents in Albania are among the highest in Europe, and so if you are planning to rent a car in Albania then be very careful.
Another thing to note is that Google Maps is not always accurate in Albania and so you may find yourself very lost!
Click here to find a rental car in Albania.
When driving, watch out for the sign on the side of the road that will let you know you’ve arrived. Turn off and drive along the 2km dirt track, and you will come to a man in a tiny little box who charges an entrance fee. The fee is 100 LEK per car, which is around 0.80 EUR.
Taking a taxi to the Blue Eye
The third way to visit the Blue Eye in Albania from Saranda is by hiring a taxi.
A taxi will cost you around 30 EUR for the roundtrip, and your driver will wait for you for around 2 hours at the Blue Eye, which is more than enough time to visit the Blue Eye and enjoy a nice lunch at one of the restaurants.
Alternative ways of getting to the Blue Eye in Albania
If you are visiting the Blue Eye from Gjirokastra then you can also rent a car. The journey time will be around 60 minutes.
You can also hop on the bus to Saranda and ask your driver to drop you off at the Blue Eye, just as I outlined above!
Another great option is to visit the Blue Eye Albania as part of a guided tour, like this one which combines a trip to the Blue Eye with a visit to nearby Lekuresi Castle.
The best time to visit the Blue Eye
The best time to visit the Blue Eye Albania is in the shoulder season (April – June and September).
Being in the South of Europe, the weather in Albania is sunny and hot, and while there will still be plenty of people around, it won’t be too crowded.
In July and August the Blue Eye will be absolutely packed with tourists and it will be almost impossible to enjoy any sense of tranquillity or take a picture that doesn’t have 10 people in the background!
The Blue Eye Albania – Quick facts
The Blue Eye Albania is open every day from 7am until 7pm.
There is a small fee of 50 LEK per person to enter, which is around 40 cents, or 100 LEK per car.
You are not supposed to go into the water but you probably won’t be told off if you do – everyone else does!
You can buy bottled water onsite but there are also water fountains where you can top up your water bottles with spring water!
You probably won’t need more than 30 minutes at the Blue Eye if you are not planning on staying for something to eat or drink. It definitely isn’t something that will take up your entire day.
Visiting the Blue Eye, Albania | Final Thoughts
There’s no doubt about it – the Blue Eye in Albania is one of the most mesmerising things that I’ve seen on my travels, and it’s difficult to believe that you’re in Europe and not on some tropical island in the Maldives when you see it for the first time!
I highly recommend including a visit to the Blue Eye on your Albania trip, especially if you find yourself in Saranda!
If you are planning a trip to Albania and would like some extra information then be sure to check out my other Albania articles:
The 13 Best Beaches on the Albanian Riviera
Albania Travel Guide – Plan the Ultimate Albania Vacation
37 Reasons to Visit Albania Right Now!
Visiting Tirana – A Guide to the Edgy Capital of Albania
Gjirokastra, Albania – Guide to the City of a Thousand Steps
Berat, Albania – Guide to the City of a Thousand Windows
Is Albania Safe to Travel to?
Albanian Wine and I – An Unlikely Love Story