Syri i Kaltër (The Blue Eye)
This place is in the middle of nowhere in Southern Albania. There is no bus stop. You just have to motion to the driver to pull over at the side of the road when you see a promising looking dirt trail. You take that trail off the main road, all the time assuming that you couldn't possibly be in the right place. And then, almost inexplicably, there is a sign for the Blue Eye and a guard, sitting in a booth along the road. He'll collect a few coins from you, and then you keep walking. If you're lucky, a truck driver or local tourist will pick you up along the stretch of windy, dusty road that weaves along the side of a body of water that gets ever clearer as you move along. At the end of the trek, you'll find the clearest, bluest water you've ever seen, and if you're lucky you'll be able to eat on the little floating deck they've installed in the river that flows out of the Eye. The restaurant serves heaping plates of lamb ribs, grilled over charcoal and big bottles of cold Albanian beer, all for a few dollars. A short walk up a dirt path from the restaurant lies the main destination: a coldwater spring of unknown depth and unbelievable color that bubbles up into a green little grotto. It's often too cold and fast for a swim, but it's refreshing to put your feet into and beautiful to hang around. There is also a small hotel for people who want to spend the night or can't manage to catch a bus onward before nightfall.
By Jess Hoolko
The Secluded Blue Eye Spring
If you're not paying attention you could easily miss the turnoff to the Blue Eye spring located half way between Saranda and Gjirokastra in Albania's south. Pay a small fee to enter, then drive a dirt road a short distance. The road eventually opens out to the base of a remote spring. It's a little cold to swim most of the year but there's a small restaurant and bar where you can sit and relax or take a picnic.