VALBONA IN ALBANIA
The Valbona river is justly famous for its dramatic gorges and high waterfalls, as well as for the clarity and the beautiful, light blue color of its water. It rises on the slopes of Mount Jezerca (2,693 meters), which is the highest mountain of Albania (Mount Korabi, near Peshkopia, is partly in Macedonia, although the summit is on the Albanian side of the border), and flows into the huge northern hydro-electric system at Fierza. The road run next to it and above it for about 35 kilometers, up until Rragami, near to its source, just a few kilometers beyond the village of Valbona.
The river can be seen just before the road crosses it, a few kilometers before Bajram Curri; if you have your own transportation, it is worth stopping somewhere close to the bridge, so that you can enjoy the view up and down the gorge.
As you approach the village of Valbona, the valley flattens out, and the river runs between the meadows right through the village. Valbona used to be a thriving small resort until the year 1997, when it suffered alot from the civil unrest that engulfed Albania. The hotel that used to be owned by the State was destroyed and its ruins still stand there as a depressing reminder of those dark days. In recent times though, tourism has begun to flourish again and the village is quite lively in summer, with lots of visitors who come over from Kosova for the day or for a weekend, as well as a number of foreign hikers.
The local authority operates a tourist information center (Qendra e Turizmit Valbone) from the modern wooden building in the main village (Valbona Qender). You can get maps, brochures, books by local writers and souvenirs that have been made in the area; paintings by local artists are also exhibited in the tourist information office and are also sold and there are performances of live traditional music in the summer.
Travel to Valbona
A mini bus operates from Valbona down to the Bajram Curri in the mornings and then back again in the afternoons, the one way fare is just 300 lek (2,3 Euros). The bus leaves Valbona early in the morning at 7.00 from the western side of the village, just down the hill from the Lamthi and Cardaku guesthouses, it is usually possible to connect with the Tirana bus which leaves Bajram Curri at 8.00 in the morning. The Valbona mini bus leaves Valbona for a second time at 14.30, this bus picks up its passengers outside a little shop that is located just before the last petrol stations on the road that leads out to Margegaj and Valbona. The road has been straightened out and has been widened up until the main village of Valbona, although it tends to disintegrate in the winter. Beyond the main village, a drivable road goes as far as Rragami, bridging the river just beyond Fusha e Gjes.
ACCOMMODATION IN VALBONA
ACTIVITIES IN VALBONA
There are plenty of short hikes and long hikes in the area of Valbona, hikes to beautiful meadows, lakes and spectacular waterfalls. All information about hiking is available here, on the web page: hikes in North Albania.
Going fishing for trouts in the Valbona river is an excellent experience and you are not required to have a permit for light, non-commercial fishing, most hotels and guest houses as well as your guide will be able to provide you with fishing rods.
SIGHTSEEING IN VALBONA
Valbona Valley National Park is considered one of the most beautiful parks in Albania. Located 25 km from Bajram Curri, the park features impressive scenery comprised of high alpine ridges and the Valbona Valley. Diverse plants and animal species invite recreation, sightseeing, and scientific study. Alongside the valley there are several villages which provides accommodations in traditional houses.
THE HISTORY OF VALBONA IN ALBANIA
The name “Valbona” is used to refer to the Valbona River, which in turn flows through the valley bearing its name, and a small village in the valley, as well the general area informally. It’s located in the Tropoja District of Northern Albania. This district, bordering Kosovo to the northeast, and Montenegro to the northwest, in combination with the adjacent district to the west, encompasses a region called the Malësi in Albanian, which translates roughly as “The Highlands,” with all the attendant romance conjured up by the English term. A wild, high, mountainous region inhabited by strong and fiercely independent people, the Malësi has for the history of Albania been the region which was never really conquered or subdued by the various waves of invaders during the last 2,000 years of Balkan history. While the proper name of the mountains around Valbona specifically are the Malësi e Gjakovës (after the town of Gjakova in Kosovo), their name is most often translated in English as “The Accursed Mountains,” based on the name given to them by disgruntled Serbian would-be invaders.
After the fall of communism in 1990, and the tragic economic collapse of 1996, Northern Albania also became the poorest of part of what was then the poorest country in Europe. Nice place to visit, eh? But wait, there’s more! By 2009, the Malësi have emerged from the shadows of recent history and are being rediscovered as a uniquely preserved natural and cultural treasure. Valbona, thanks in large part to the work of the Selimaj family, is one of a handful of centers of a burgeoning ecotourism industry. Foreign visitors to the region often remark that they had no idea that such an unspoiled, pristine place still existed in Europe. Local people welcome foreign visitors with a particularly moving enthusiasm. They know how far people have had to journey to visit them, and how often they are doing so in spite of the mountains’ fierce reputation. There is a strong affection for Americans in particular, in light of the assistance given to the population of Kosovo (90% ethnic Albanian) during the Kosovo War. Thus Valbona currently basks in fortunate possession of the twin resources of a perhaps unparalled natural beauty and a truly warm human generosity.
USEFUL INFORMATION ABOUT VALBONA IN ALBANIA
UNIQUE CULTURE OF ALBANIA
The Albanian culture is an exotic blend of traditions that have evolved over thousands of years. From the ancient Illyrians and Greeks to the Romans and the Ottomans, the language, music, arts, and cuisine of the Albanian people are a rich and vibrant mix of many civilizations. Once you discover our culture, you are bound to fall in love with this new destination on the Mediterranean.
Hospitality is in our nature. Welcoming guests and ensuring their comfort is a hallmark of Albanian heritage and is epitomized by our very own Nobel Peace Prize recipient: Mother Teresa. The spirit of cooperation and friendship thrives in Albania, and it is not uncommon for guests to be invited to eat and drink with curious locals wishing to learn more about you.
Besa is a concept related to the Albanian code of honor and is an idea that is very important to the Albanian people. In the Kanun (a set of traditional Albanian laws), Besa is described as the highest authority, so essential to personal and familial standing as to be virtually a cult. Besa has been the subject of some stories and novels by Albania’s foremost modern novelist, Ismail Kadare, a Nobel Prize Candidate for Literature and winner of several international prizes. Kadare’s work has been published in over forty countries and translated into more than thirty languages, making Kadare the best ambassador of Albanian literature worldwide.
If we are speaking about the food and drinks of Albania, then we must mention the country’s deliciously-unique cuisine. It has many similarities to Turkish and Greek dishes, but offers a healthier, Mediterranean twist. Come try our wide variety of phyllo dough delicacies, including a melt-in-your-mouth sensation called byrek, or the original sweet treat known regionally as baklava.
Albania also has a long tradition of wine craftsmanship, which is lately being revived to its former glory. While you’re here, taste a sampling of our wine, produced from a rich soil that has been under cultivation since the ancient Greeks and Romans. Regardless of your culinary inclinations, we guarantee that our rich history and culinary traditions have created a menu of mouth-watering specialties for you to try.
Each region of Albania likes to specialize in its own brand of music, thus giving the music aficionado an incentive to explore the entire country in search of each community’s sense of style. For example, UNESCO has classified a type of music from southern Albania, known as Iso Polyphony, to have tremendous cultural value to humankind. Our music has even given rise to a few prominent artists of global acclaim, including opera lyric soprano, Inva Mula, and the distinguished violinist, Tedi Papavrami.
In regards to style, when you arrive in Albania, you will notice that the men take great pride in their appearance and will often don a suit and tie when in public. Even if their errands only involve a short trip to the grocery store, the men will dress to impress.
Depending upon the type of festival or time of year, you might even catch a glimpse of Albanian men in traditional folk attire. The National Folk Festival held in Gjirokastra is a prime example. This special autumn event is held once every four years and attracts artists from around the world.
The women of Albania also share a flair for style, especially at traditional Albanian weddings. At these events, the families of both the bride and groom will gather together in their finest dress and celebrate with great fervor. Weddings are often the ideal opportunity to witness the best of Albanian culture all in one event, and if you’re invited to one, the experience will undoubtedly be extraordinary.
Albanian culture is unique in many ways and we hope you’ll visit us to see it firsthand. We say ‘yes’ by shaking our head from side to side, both men and women greet each other with a kiss on either cheek, and our conversations are loud and passionate in an effort to entice others to join in. Visit Albania and discover why our culture is a new Mediterranean love.
MAP OF ALBANIA
PHOTO GALLERY OF VALBONA
MAP OF VALBONA