If the ‘Journey of a thousand [whatevers] begins with a single step’ (or half a step, if you’re a hair-splitter like Zeno) – Look! You’re on your way!
Valbona is the perfect destination for those who are good at amusing themselves. If your ideal getting-away-from-it-all involves a lot of lying around and reading, splashing around and flipping rocks, getting to know people who seem to live in a completely different reality (or do they?), or hurling yourself at the nearest impossible peak, then Valbona is for you. Add: drawing pictures, building impractical things out of stones and bits of river-drift wood (just for fun!), eating heaps of really delicious and probably fattening food, bear-spotting, bird-watching, learning odd bits of practically-medieval skills, whittling, goat-herding, and bonfire building. How about frog-catching, salamander-spotting, getting caught in the rain . . . . photography? Botanizing, absolutely. Impromptu football matches with indefatigable and sturdy children. Exploring, discovering, climbing, and did we mention the food? Cheese-making, cow-milking, haystack building. Cutting grass with a scythe. Spinning wool, knitting socks, crochetting doilies. Getting involved. Visiting the school. NOT getting involved, and enjoying your own solitude. Watching the stars . . . .
Here at Quku i Valbones, at the center of it all, we’re ready to help you realize your ideal Albanian mountain holiday. With accommodation options from the beautiful campsites at Rilindja to the most luxurious rooms in Valbona at the Rezidenca building, and a bunch of other options in between, we offer our select guests (‘select,’ ’cause there’s just not THAT much space for all hoi polloi) the kind of quiet and personal sanctuary we always hope to find when we’re travelling. And we don’t stop there. With our unique business philosophy that while less is nice and a pretty rare commodity these days, if less is more, than think how much more more is(!), we began early on to reach out and work on making the whole valley (and other valleys beyond) potentially accessible to visitors. We do this by marking trails, by making maps, by working with local people to find ways of opening traditional culture up to be experienced by visitors, developing programs of stan visits (traditional shepherds’ summer farms), by engaging local school children, and by generally reaching out to include everyone we can in Alfred’s vision of a new sustainable future for the valley. What does that mean for you? It means we are the ideal gateway and entry point for all things Valbona, and probably for most things Malesori (Highlander).
Just one note to the wise: I wish we had a dollar for every person last year who arrived to stay for one night on the whistle-stop tour of the north (Komani-Valbona-Theth-and-Shkoder, in less than 24 hours, no less!) and more-or-less immediately began bewailing the fact that they weren’t staying longer. And come to think of it, if they did stay longer, I WOULD have a dollar . . . . Ahem (and anyhow). Point is, Valbona National Park officially encompasses 8,000 hectares of unspoiled wilderness (Theth is only 2,400!). With neighboring Gashi Valley to the east and Curraj i Eperm to the south, and all the wild hinterlands of Mali i Zi to the North, you have literally WEEKS of walking you could do. Valbona is beautiful and quiet and the food is great, so at a minimum, it’s kind of insane to come for less than 24 hours, if only to relax! But anything over the minimum . . . . ?! With our maps, marks and tracks, you can spend days doing various circuits of the surrounding mountains. If you’re really hardy, you can easily walk for a week or more, doing loops of the peaks, without ever coming down to even such “civilization” as we have on hand. What is my point? My point is: STAY LONGER. If this is your first exploration of Albania, fair enough, but then my advice becomes: COME BACK. And ‘Mire se Vini’ when you do.
As ever, we are happy to help however we can. In 2015 we look forward to beginning our project of “. . . . And Beyond,” in which we partner with a couple of cousins and otherwise favorite people to provide creative itineraries and whole tours of the North. Put another way, Alfred and I will look after you around here, and then we’ll happily hand you off to people we trust for the best possible experience of Albania, whether that includes formal tours or more personally planned expeditions. For now feel free to contact us directly to learn more, or keep an eye on the “What to Do” section as it grows . . . .
In any case: Enjoy! You’re coming to a beautiful place.