Albania is a small country in square meters terms, however, Albania’s territory offer a wide variety of landscapes, wild rivers, rough mountainous areas, hidden natural wonders and rich history and customs. Not by chance Albania is said to be Europe’s Last Secret. Most travelers visiting Albania travel to Tirana, and the Albanian Riviera, which is indeed very beautiful. Nevertheless, if you are looking for wild nature, rural areas, local customs, astonishing ferry rides through the Alps, trekking and hiking through the mountains you should definitely visit North Albania. This short article aims to offer you some brief information on how you can travel from Tirana to Koman Lake, Valbona Valley, Theth and the rest of the Albanian Alps:
If you were traveling from Tirana to Valbona, through Koman Lake, you would probably have to wake up early in the morning. Usually you need to leave Tirana at 05:00 am, as you need to get on time at Koman Lake for the Ferry. The majority of the road from Tirana to Vau Dejës is pretty good and most of the views are flat landscapes. Ones we pas Vau i Dejës town, the road becomes more bumpy; landscapes become wilder, with mountains, lakes and forests. Most ferries leave Koman Lake Dam at 09:00 am to Fierza (Fierzë) dam. The ferry ride through Lake Koman is said to be one of the best experiences while visiting Albania and the Balkans. Through this ride you would be able to experience some astonishing views of wild Rocky Mountains, waterfalls forests and rural villages. If you take any of the small boats (which usually take longer to get to Fierza) you would travel like a local. Most likely the boat will stop from one village to the other and the locals will get off the boat together with their food supplies or local farming products. The ferry ride through Lake Koman passes through some very remote areas and rural villages. The majority of these villages have these small boats as they only mean of transport that connects them to the rest of Albania. Fierza Dam will be reached at about 12:00 noontime.
Before entering the national park of Valbona Valley you would visit the small city of Bajram Curri or locally know also as the city of Tropoja, which is the Northeast city in Albania, next to the border with Kosovo.
Ten minutes from the city of Bajram Curri you will enter the National Park of Valbona Valley. Wile riding aside Valbona River you will definitely notice the clarity and the unique color of its waters that run through the valley. You can even swim in the river during summer time, however, be advised that the water is very cold as its usually melted snow from the Alps Crown surrounding Valbona Valley.
Most visitors travel to Valbona Valley, Theth and the Albanian Alps, part of the Balkan Peaks so they can get in touch with nature and mountainous rural areas. Valbona Valley has become a major destination for most tourists visiting Albania or neighboring countries. However, few people know that this area was one of the most remote and unvisited areas just 10 years ago. Most of the Guesthouses that offer accommodation services in Valbona Valley are mostly old houses from the villages around which were adopted into guesthouses due to the increasing request from western European travelers looking for hiking adventures in this hidden part of Europe. These guesthouses usually offer basic accommodating and food services, however they offer amazing views of the crown of the Albanian Alps, part of the Balkan Peaks.
Most of travelers prefer to do some trekking and hiking in the surrounding natural attractions like “Rogami’s Mountain” ( 2478 m ), tops of Mount Jezerca (2642 m), tops of “Lapuka’s Mountains” (2575 m), tops of “Valbona’s Mountain” (1966 m), tops of Bolsh ‘s Mountain ” (2414 m) , tops of Zhapora’s Mountains (2516 m) tops of “Band of the Bear Mountain ” (2468 m).
Trekking from Valbona to Theth is one of the best walking adventures you can experience while visiting northern Albania. Even though the distance between Valbona and Theth is just 13 kilometers (about 8 miles) the trekking lasts about 6 – 8 hours, depending on your physical condition. Local tour guides or professional hikers can even manage to do the path for less then 4 hours. If you are traveling with heavy luggage, no problem, local guides can also bring along caravan horses or mules that will carry your luggage throughout the whole path. Trekking from Valbona to Theth is considered a medium level difficulty, so you can easily manage it even if you are not a professional hiker. You would need proper trekking shoes, water supply and some jacket or jumper when getting on the top of Qafa e Valbonës. Ones you get on the top of Qafa e Valbones you will understand everything was worth doing. From this point you will be able to enjoy the astonishing panoramic view of Valbona Valley, Theth Valley, the crown of the Albanian Alps and most of Balkan Peaks. It is worth spending some time enjoying the view from this point. From now on the trekking becomes easier as we follow a descending slope towards the village of Thethi. It will take us two and a half to three hours until we arrive in Theth. However, the trekking follows a beautiful path through the forest and the alps that will make these three hours pass like a fingers clap.
Most of people that love the mountains and the Albanian Alps consider Theth as one of the most beautiful villages in Northern Albania. Theth has it all, it offers a combined variety of historical buildings, legendary stories of strongman, blood feuds stories, religious monuments, natural wonders, mountainous relief, river valleys, waterfalls, water springs, wild life, interesting people, culture and traditions. If you are spending some time in the Balkan region it is usually worth spending at least two nights in Theth, to manage to visit some of its natural wanders. Theth is also a starting point for people who trek toward Montenegro in Plav region, or towards Kosovo in Boga and Gryka e Rugoves. Theth is one of the main destinations for all travelers doing the Balkan Peaks and Via Dinarica.
There are two main ways to arrive in Theth, the one from Valbona Valley (described above) which is only reachable on foot, and the other one is from Shkoder through Qafa e Thores. Most visitors traveling with a rented car, with a tour or with their own cars travel from Tirana or from Shkoder to Theth via Qafa e Thores. The ride from Shkoder to Theth lasts at least three hours drive. The road from Shkoder to Qafa e Thores is quite ok and with asphalt. It passes through some beautiful villages such as Boga (Bogë in Albanian) and mountainous landscapes. However the road from Qafa e Thores to Theth is quite bumpy, with a lot of curves and abyss on one side of the road. The view on this road is astonishing, however we recommend you to focus on the road rather than the view, unless you choose to find a safe place to safely park the car and enjoy the panorama of the Alps. Ones in Theth you could either stay at one of the typical guesthouses of the village or you could choose to camp in the nature. Some of the main attractions you can visit in Theth are: Ujvara e Grunasit (Grunas Waterfall), Kulla e Ngujimit (Lock-in Tower), Syri i Kaltër (Blue Eye), Muzeu Etnografik (Ethnographic Museum), Shpella e Zezë (The Black Cave) etc.. Most recommended physical activities you can do in Theth National Park are: Hiking, Climbing, Mountain Biking, Swimming, Camping, Free style snowboarding or skiing etc…
The aim of this short article is to offer you a small flavor of the Albanian National Parks of Valbona Valley, and Theth National Park. Nevertheless you can only get experience best of these emotions and beauties by visiting Albania yourselves.