Albania (continued …)

Things have been looking better this year for the Vjosa Valley. With the Albanian Administrative Court deciding in favour of a free-flowing river, scientists have gained time to better research and understand the importance of Vjosa remaining dam free. The battle for Vjosa goes on though, as the Albanian Government appeals the court’s decision. To learn more about the current developments, watch this video:

And more about the Vjosa river and the surrounding area:

After a short visit to the Vjosa Valley, we planned to stop for an even shorter period in the Valbona Valley. When we arrived, we were introduced to the fact that building of a run-of-river project on one of Valbona’s most beautiful sections has begun. Not only is this area under IUCN Category II protection, but clearly documents in favour of the construction, like environmental impact assessment and public consultation report, have been fortified, which thus deems this whole project illegal. TOKA organisation was founded to fight this nonsense. This land is poor but very attractive to tourists, which have been coming here in bigger and bigger numbers every year. Tourism seems to be the only chance of future prosperity that the locals have and the proposed hydropower projects would make this whole area a lot less alluring.


LOCATION: Valbona Valley (upstream of Bajram Curri)

RIVER: Valbona (V)

SPORTS: Kayaking, hiking.

WHERE TO STAY: Camping or Lodging available in multiple locations up the valley. We stayed at Rilindja, where TOKA founders and fighters for the free-flowing Valbona, Catherine Bohne, and Alfred Selimaj, are based out of, so visit them to support their cause.

VALBONA PUT-IN: 42°27’40.60″N / 19°55’22.15″E (depending on the flow, you could start higher up)

TAKE-OUT: Anywhere before the ultra-narrow canyon at the exit of the valley. It mostly gets run in 2 parts but after you know it, you can do the whole thing in one day.

Valbona Valley is a spectacular part of Albanian Alps. The natural beauties of the valley are in abundance, from magnificent high mountains, diverse wildlife, lush forests, to crystal-clear Valbona River. This area is world-famous for its hikes but only a handful of people know that it is also one of the region’s, if not Europe’s, best kayaking rivers. Its rapid section is over 20 km long and it does not disappoint with its technical boulder gardens and some picture-perfect larger raids. Apart from a short section around the village of Dragobi, Valbona is suitable for class 5 kayakers only.

Check out the video we shot while we were visiting the Valbona Valley. Visit TOKA website, where you can learn how you can contribute to the efforts for Valbona to remain free-flowing.