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Rilindja Lodge, Valbona

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Hiking in Valbona Tropojë District  Albania

Hiking in Valbona

Hikers and climbers are just beginning to discover the Albanian Alps. A (wide) dirt road leads up from the valley to Valbona but the government is planning to pave it, which will bring untold numbers of daytrippers to this pristine place.

For now, though, it's a hikers' paradise. There's no one around, there are plenty of trails, and the mountainfaces are still waiting to be discovered by climbers. I didn't climb but former NYC bookshop owner Catherine Bohne, who moved to Albania and works at the Rilindja Lodge, spends much of her time marking the trails and making sure everything is signposted.

The lodge itself is cozy and recently built, although there is plenty of room for tents outside. The food is good and hearty - I especially recommend trout, which is farmed in a pool right on the premises.

One popular circuit is to get to Komani, take the ferry across the lake to Fierza, come up to Valbona for a night, hike the entire day to the beautiful village of Theti over the mountain (take a guide), and ride back to Tirana or Shkoder from there. You need at least three days for this circuit. Or you can take a 'furgon' (minibus) from Valbona to Bajram Curri back to Tirana. You'll have to cross into Kosovo though - it's the fastest way back.