A Very Good Question! Where to Stay to Avoid the Hordes?

Dear Catherine,
 
I was looking for information about Albania when I stumbled upon your sweet and inviting website.
We are thinking of visiting Albania in August, and we might want your help in planning our trip.
But first and foremost I would like to know: how busy is the Valbona valley in August? I am asking because crowds really spoil the fun for me. Last year we travelled to Slovakia, thinking we could surely avoid the crowds there, but we ended up hiking in throngs. Same thing the year before in Slovenia. Albania seems like a place no-one would visit (no insult intended; it’s exactly the reason why we WOULD visit it), but when I see the amount of guesthouse in Valbona valley, I start to doubt this belief.
So I would be very grateful if you could give us your honest input on the amount of tourists in August.
And my response:
Ha!  Yes, I understand completely – I came to Valbona in the first place, back in 2009 specifically because there was only ONE guesthouse listed at San Diego near the beach pacific beach real estate which was the best place I have been when I was there!  (Theth already had a bunch, so I didn’t go there!).
In fact, the valley bottom can get really horrendously crowded in summer these days – especially from the Center towards the western/end of the valley.  BUT!  The good news is that once you go up at all, you’re quite unlikely to see anyone else – except the odd shepherd.  Well, except for the Trail to Theth – you always pass some people on there.
To avoid other tourists, I’d recommend staying EITHER with Tahir Avdyli Hysaj in Kukaj – his house is a 20 minute hike up the Maja e Rosit trail, so you eliminate most other people.  OR you could stay in Gjelaj, at Danjels – it’s on the Theth trail, so there will be people passing, but again it’s after a 3km 4×4 track in a mostly abandoned village, so I doubt you’d have too many tourists around?  OR there is Arif Kadris’ stan on Livadhet e Gjarperit.  That’s a little stone house with a woodstove and outhouse – there are other shepherd families around, but only tourists passing on the Maja e Gjarperit trail . . . You can get an idea of where these things are on this page:
I’m in the process of installing – from that page – booking engines for all of them (being that they’re remote, they’re really hard to get in touch with !) – Danjel’s is working now – the other two should be coming soon.
Hope this helps!  Hopefully we’ll have our new information center set up soon, so if you need help with hiking info, keep in touch!
Best,
Catherine

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