Closed to outsiders for much of the 20th century, the ancient region of Albania is popping up on more travelers’ must-visit lists than ever. If you’re in the country and looking for an off-the-beaten path adventure, head for the famous Blue Eye (Syri i Kalter).
About a 30-minute drive from Saranda, a vibrant coastal Mediterranean tourist town, the Blue Eye is located on the road between Saranda and Gjirokastra, set amid a forest of hazelnuts, walnuts, cherries, pines and oak trees. More than 50 meters deep, the oval shaped spring is the main source of the Bistrice River, which flows into the Ionian Sea. The deep blue sapphire waters of the center form the pupil of the eye and are surrounded by vibrant emerald greens, teal and turquoise of the iris. Eyelashes are formed by the surrounding vegetation, giving the place its name. In the summer, you’ll find people taking a polar plunge into the 50 degree water.
The Blue Eye is the largest and most impressive of the 18 freshwater mountain springs on the slopes of Mali Gjere. A restaurant nearby serves traditional Albanian food, roast lamb and grilled fish, or you can pack a picnic and have lunch on the banks of the river.
If time permits, check out the beaches of the Albanian Riviera — home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe — or the UNESCO World Heritage site of Gjirokastra, a hillside town about a 50-minute drive from the Blue Eye. Gjirokastra began as a fourth-century castle. Today, it’s a rare example of the architecture typical of the Ottoman period. Gjirokastra features a series of two-story houses that were developed in the 17th century, a bazaar, an 18th-century mosque and two churches of the same period. The “City of Stone” also offers culinary delights and unforgettable panoramas of the surrounding mountains.
Find out how you can visit Albania to see Syri i Kalter, the Blue Eye, in person. Visit your local AAA Travel office or call 800-750-5386 today!