A couple of years ago I got fed up with not having an answer when people asked me which guesthouse I preferred in Theth, so Me and Mire and Izzy and Pango did the sensible thing and packed a bag with burek and cake and walked over to poke our noses in as many houses as we could. We only looked in the houses along the river – between the end of the Valbona Valley path and the Kulla (lockin tower) so for sure there are dozens more by the time you add in outlying ‘lagjias’ or neighborhoods of Theth like Okul and Nderlysa . . . but as we didn’t really want to walk any further after the hike, maybe you won’t want to either! Anyhow, we narrowed it down to 2 favorites, and a couple of other notables, as follows:
Villa Gjecaj. Owners Petrit & Aida Gjecaj, run by Petrit’s parents Ndoc & Lule. It is just a coincidence, but our favorite house happens to be the first one off the path from Valbona. Why do we like it? Be-cause: The house is beautiful with a nice private garden which is lush and green and is slightly uphill and thus overlooks the slightly dustier open stretch next to the actual river itself. Izzy was wowed that each room, with from 3-4 beds (as I recall) had its own bathroom, AND since I was there they’ve opened new fancy rooms with double beds and private bathrooms and that sort of thing. AND because Lule is, as far as I could tell, the best and most generous cook in Theth (YUM!) an opinion confirmed by other cousin-guides who’ve eaten in every house in Theth and who tell me that other, more jaded guesthouse owners can be a bit stingy with the food but that Lule is ooh-la-la! Also Petrit, although actually a public prosecutor by profession, is really passionate about tourism in Theth so you get the best of both worlds, which means real time help and fast answers to emails with genuine, er, Theth-ian enthusiasm. Aida worked organizing women’s handicraft collectives and things like that on a national level before the recent arrival of little Agnes to distract her, which shows in the attention to detail of the furnishings. Villa Gjecaj is listed in booking.com and things like that, but I am always telling people to email them directly and save them the 20% or whatever it is that booking websites whack out of the fee. Petrit Gjeçaj : firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shtepia e (House of) Mark Zef Koceku : My next favorite house wins be-cause it is bang next to the Kulla, because when you go inside you feel the most like you’re travelling back in time – even down to the lovely little b&w photos of Mark’s father and mother – or was it grandparents? – but anyhow her name was . . . Catherine! The rooms are truly gorgeous and I hope he NEVER improves them and not the least for Mark himself who is a true highland gentleman who frequently calls up Alfred for a chat to make sure he (Alfred) is feeling healthy – bearing in mind he’s never met Alfred – and addresses him as “O Shoku Alfredi” (Friend Alfred), and when I call him up to ask him what the prices are this year he answers “O Catherine – Cfare te duash!” (Oh Catherine, whatever you want!). Also he is always sending us enormous bidans of raki by return horse . . . . he is lovely.
Now they have a nice new website, email at email@example.com and his number is (0)69 34 42 945, but I think he only has Albanian. His daughter Dijana in Shkoder speaks English I think (0)69 26 48 278. . . . anyhow she can take bookings as well. And I’m happy to call him for you as well, just ask.
Pjeter Çuni’s house, behind and to the left of the Church is a very sweet, low-key place to stay with basic rooms, fantastic food, and a lovely family. Phone number is (0)68 22 20 586.
Other notable and favorite Guesthouses include:
Prek Harusha. This was the first, most popular house in Theth for years, and Prek is a lovely, lovely man and everyone knows his charming son (with perfect English) Francesko. Fortunately for Prek, but sometimes unfortunately for other guests, Prek’s has become the most popular site for tent camping I think, and this can result is sort of hoards of sweaty foreigners, beer in hand, wandering around and they can get quite noisy I think. On the other hand if you’re looking for the tent-party scene, this may well be it!