I have to admit, I was not expecting Albania to be such a beautiful country. But boy, was I wrong. A perfect example of its natural beauty can be found at the Blue Eye Nature Monument, located just outside of Saranda, Albania.
Blue Eye is located about 20 kilometers from the center of Saranda and is really easy to get to. You can hire a taxi to take you there for around $30, but I recommend taking the bus. Both the taxis and the local buses are located across the street from Friendship Park, located in Saranda’s city center. Buses only charge 200 Leke (around $2) to get there and 300 Leke (around $3) to return.
Although the buses to Blue Eye are scheduled to depart every 30 minutes, it should be said that Albanians tend to follow a more relaxed approach to public transportation. My driver seemed to enjoy talking on his phone the entire time he wound his way through the mountainous roads and took a coffee break mid-trip.
Still, it only took about 30 minutes to arrive at the entrance to the park. Once you exit the bus, walk to the ticket booth and purchase a ticket. These usually cost 50 Leke (about $.50) to enter, though I’m beginning to realize that many of the tourist destinations are free during the winter months, so I didn’t have to purchase a ticket to enter.
After the ticket booth, follow the dirt road for 1 kilometer. The path is easy enough to walk, but if you rent a car or take a taxi, be prepared for a bumpy ride as there are plenty of potholes and mud bogs along the way.
Once you reach the main entrance to the park, there is a restaurant and gift shop to purchase water and food. Again, these were closed when I was there due to the fact that it was off-season.
The park itself offers crystal clear springs and snow-capped mountain views. There are ample spots to hike, take pictures, or just to sit and have a picnic. Blue Eye is so named because of a particularly deep section of the springs that looks like the iris of an eye.
It is not allowed to swim at the specific location where Blue Eye is located, but you are allowed to swim in other areas of the park. The water temperature remains around 50 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year, which makes it difficult to stay in the water for extended periods of time.
Once I was finished exploring, I walked back down to the main highway and waited for a bus leading back to Saranda. I was a little worried that I would have to wait a long time for the bus to show, but it only took 15 minutes before the bus arrived.
I have come to believe that Albania is a unique country, indeed. With beautiful mountains and enchanting landscapes around every turn, it has become one of my favorite countries to visit so far. If you ever get the chance to visit Albania’s southern coast and find yourself in Saranda, I highly recommend taking a trip to Blue Eye Nature Monument. It was by far the best $5 I ever spent!
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