Blue Eye - Syri i Kaltër
Syri i Kaltër or the Blue Eye is a unique spring near Sarande, half way between Sarande and Gjirokaster actually. It's the source of the river Bistrica, whch springs out from the deep 50 meter hole with its crystal clear water. Blue Eye has a discharge of 18.4 m3/s. The beauty is stunning!
I was in Albania at the end of the season (late September) when the weather's still clement, but there are no tourists. If you want to enjoy the most deserted little beach resort head a few km south of Sarande, on the way to Butrint, to Ksmil. There are a group islands there over which you can enjoy the sight of eagles hanging on wind currents to hunt prey, while you sup lager. The guy who owned the cafe was so happy to have such thirsty customers, indeed any custom at all, that he gave us the last round for free.
Shhhh don't tell everyone!
Ksamil is the best place that you may not know about if you don't know too much about Albania. Set inbetween the olive tree's it is a wonderful cool place to chill out. Take the road out of Saranda towards Butrint and you will find the most beautiful beach and water with two little islands. You can be taken by boat to the island and sunbath over there or have a meal in the restaurant. It really is a beautiful place to relax and chill. Quite busy with Albanians but not many 'tourists' and not as busy as Saranda.
Archaeology of Sarande
It's not just Butrint that full of interesting ruins - Sarande has it's share as well. Although possibly not quite as awe-inspiring, they are well worth a look, and from what I remember there are some sites which can be seen from the streets of the town.
Near Saranda stood the ancient Illyrian city of Onchesmos, mentioned as a port in the 1st century B.C. In the 4th century A.C.. the town was fortified with walls. Inside the walls have been excavated the remains of dwellings, water cisterns and an early Christian Basilica of the 5th and 6th century, containing a beautiful multicolored floor mosaic. Other mosaics are to be found in the district museum. The ruins are also preserved of an early Christian Monastery, of the 40 Saints, from which the modern name of the town (Saranda) is derived.
Sadly the museum was closed the day I tried to visit it.
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Greece is in front!
Enlarge the first photo. You will first see two small Albanian islands close to the coast but if you look carefully, you will see in the background, on the left, a white spot which is a ferry to Igoumenitsa and behind, the northern part of Kerkyra (Corfu)
The second photo was taken almost from the same place. One of the small coastal islands appears in the far right behind the bushes and left, Corfu appears more clearly.
The third photo was taken from the terrace of a small restaurant (I have understood that it still existed) and Corfu occupies almost all of the background with Mount Pantokrator (elevation 906 m) on top.
The sailing (or the rowing!) is less than 4 km!
South to Sarand?, Liqueni I Butrinti (Butrint sea) is well known for it mussel nurseries. As you can see on the second photo, the state owned small boats were parked inside an enclosed port (better seen on the third photo). Each boat was locked with a padlock and they could be used only by authorized persons. Next tip will show why.
MEET THE LOCAL CHILDREN, HUNDREDS OF THEM!
If you arrive in Sarande from Corfu, the chances are you are on an organised day trip.As soon as you approach the coastline what seems like a thousand kids on home made rafts swim up to your boat and shout " food!, sweets!, money! and pens(?!!).
Tourists to Saranda are...
Tourists to Saranda are usually there for a very short period of time. This makes them miss most of the beauty about Saranda and Albania, which incidently lies neither in the spectacular views, the cristal waters or even in the general flora and fauna. The beauty of Albania lies in its people, and their ancient tradition of hospitality.
A tourist that does not experience this, has simply made a trip to a usual although spectacular part of the Mediterranean. Do not be affraid to interact with the locals, as this should be part of your experience as a tourist.
Although all of Albania is off the beaten path these wartime pillboxes are worth taking a look at if you can get near them.
Once you arrive at the monastry as part of the roman ruins excursion take time out to have a look around. There are some incredible views of Butrint to be seen.
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