Albania – The Miraculous Valley of Valbona
The Valbona River valley lies in the eastern part of the Albanian Alps. A national park of 8,000 hectares, it is one of the most beautiful natural areas in Albania. The park lies about 22 km from the alpine city of Bajram Curri. Before entering the valley you will find the spring (vrellen) of Shoshan, located only 3 km away from Bajram Curri. This spring rushes through limestone fissures on its way to the Valbona River creating an attractive canyon, 2-3 m wide and 50 m deep. After entering the valley, you will pass several picturesque villages. The first, with alpine style houses, is called Dragobia, and it is where the valley narrows. Past Dragobia, at the foot of the mountain where the Cerremi stream joins the Valbona River, is the famous cave where the national hero Bajram Curri was besieged and killed. It was after this event that the city took his name.
Valbona is located 25 km away from the city of Bajram Curri and is the most important inhabited center of the valley. It is full of traditional houses that create a picturesque view in symmetry with the natural wonders of the valley, which widens again at this point. In Valbona there is a comfortable and traditional hotel, or you may have the opportunity to stay at a village home, as the inhabitants’ generosity and hospitality are well known. The area is also known for its characteristic regional cooking, with specialties such as mazja, flija (a many layered pancake-like dish cooked outdoors over open coals and steamed, often served with local honey), and pitja. Beyond Selimaj, the road continues through the valley with breathtaking vistas with rich colors of both spring life and of the snow that covers the nearby craggy peaks. The final village before you arrive at the source of the Valbona River is Rrogam.
Rrogam is a remote village surrounded by virgin natural landscapes. The entire valley is resplendent with rare colors and beauty. On one side, you see the crystal-clear waters of Valbona, and on the other sharp but verdant mountain face. Until May you can enjoy the contrast of the clean white snow on the treetops against the blue sky. The flora of the national park includes a variety of plants and trees, the most widespread of which are the silver fir tree. The rest consists of beech woods, walnuts, chestnuts, and wild apple. There are also numerous berries, including wild blueberries and strawberries. The animals in the park include bears, wolves, wild cats, and even herds of wild goats climbing on the cliffs. In the river one can find marble trout, a rare fish found in the crystal-clear waters of the Valbona which has a unique flavor. The valley, the park, and all surrounding area are known for heavy snowfall, which starts in early November and lasts almost until May. There are many outdoor activities in the national park, such as skiing, mountain climbing, fishing, hiking and trekking throughout the valley and along the various streams (Cerrem, Kukaj), and canoeing along certain parts of the river. Valbona may also serve as a starting point if you wish to climb Jezerca Mountain, the second highest peak in Albania.