Exploring one of the world’s most unusual natural springs in Albania
As my head broke the surface of the icy, turquoise coloured water, I saluted the crowd. All of a sudden, a ripple of applause broke out, more for my idiocy than for my achievement.
Dipping back down under the water, I looked through the clearest, cleanest water I have ever seen in my life directly into the Blue Eye, one of the world’s most unusual natural springs.
Found an hour inland from Saranda on the coast of Albania, the Blue Eye (otherwise known as Syri i Kalter in Albanian) can be reached by a local bus (approximately 200 lek or €1.50) or by hitchhiking.
How and why they don’t have tours to the Blue Eye, I don’t know, but I’m sure it won’t be long before hostels start offering them to backpackers and travellers (how Albania can open itself up to tourism much like Montenegro has is a separate post in itself – watch this space).
Being dropped off on the side of the road at the entrance to the Blue Eye, three friends and I walked for 30 minutes through the surrounding countryside until we eventually came to a fast flowing river. Following the river to the left, we finally came to the source; the Blue Eye, the most beautiful natural spring I have ever seen.
It is said the Blue Eye was blocked off to the general population during the communist period, only to be enjoyed by the ruling party members. This would be one reason why so little is known about the natural spring, but by looking at the Blue Eye you can understand why someone would want to keep it all for themselves, and I would go as far to say it is one of the sites to see in all of Albania.
As the name would suggest, the Blue Eye is a deep dark blue in the centre with a shallow turquoise river bed surrounding it, and it has a diameter of approximately two to three metres across.
If you wanted to, the water is so clean all you have to do is bend over and drink it.
The Blue Eye is a bubbling freshwater underground spring with such a large pressure difference that if you chuck a stone into the heart of it the sheer force of the water rising will return the stone to the surface.
Scuba divers have tried to explore the huge chasm that is the Blue Eye but have been unable to go below 50 metres, being forced to the surface every time they have attempted it. There’s just not enough weight that can counteract the pressure difference.
Above the Blue Eye is a little wooden platform, and in the hot summer months you will find locals jumping and diving straight into the Blue Eye. It is almost guaranteed that the only people who jump into the river outside of these months are foreigners, all too stupid to heed the warnings of the locals (much like myself) who say the river is too cold. They say you have to have Russian blood, and trust me, you do; they water is absolutely freezing, around 14 degrees, among the coldest I’ve ever been in.
In fact, the only reason I jumped into the Blue Eye is because, one) Kat, an American girl who I was travelling with said a few of her American friends did it just a few weeks before and I wasn’t about to be shown up by a bunch of Yanks who I didn’t know and who I would never meet, and two) I am actually stupid.
While we were standing on the banks of the river, we convinced Joakim, a Swedish guy who we were also travelling with, to jump into the Blue Eye too. While at the top of the platform, we came up with this idea:
If you’re ever on the southern coast of Albania, go and jump straight into the Blue Eye. It really will be something you’ll remember for the rest of your life.
Have you ever been to the Blue Eye? If so, let me know what you thought of it in the comments below!