Coming to Albania was a last minute decision. Prior to that, I was in Durmitor in Montenegro. I stayed at this hostel in Zabljak where I met hikers from various parts of the world. I first entertained the idea of going to Albania upon meeting a couple at the hostel who noted that they came from Albania where they visited the Valbona valley and Thet National Park. I have already planned to go to Prokletije which borders Montenegro and Albania. To get there, I had to go to Plav in Montenegro. However, I have been warned by a Polish hiker I met along a trail in Durmitor that hiking in Prokletije means the likelihood of meeting vipers and so he highly recommended that I have a snake bite kit with me which I didn’t have in my possession.* He also warned me that not many people spoke English. As I was traveling alone, I decided against going to Plav and instead at the advise of the hostel owner, I ended up going to Valbona and Thet in Albania. The hostel owner expressed concern about the reputation of Prokletije having many incidents of hikers getting lost and harmed. He highly suggested I go to Valbona and Thet instead as they were safer areas with more infrastructure for travelers. At the same time, the views and scenery were said to be equally amazing.
After the unfortunate falling off the mountain that happened while attempting to summit Bobotov Kuk, the highest point in Montenegro, the idea of braving snake bites and getting lost weren’t too appealing. Hence, I opted to go the safer route by visiting the Albanian side of Prokletije. The hostel owner was right. I wasn’t disappointed at all. The scenery in Thet and Valbona was world class. I also enjoyed being in the old Albanian villages where not much have changed. The locals who own the property and land there merely come to visit during the summer as an escape from their city life in Tirana or Schkoder. Certainly, if I had more time, I would love to return to the Albanian Alps and do the long distance trek that traverses the Prokletije mountain range and the three countries – Albania, Montenegro and Kosovo. The remoteness of the area is appealing for sure and the locals who still seem unaccustomed to travelers like myself add more to the experience. Time has a tendency to stand still in the Albanian Alps. Absent internet, television or any other modes of entertainment, it was so easy to find peace in simply sitting and staring at the towering peaks of Prokletije.
*To learn how to deal with snake bites, read Snake Bites and How to Prevent & Treat Them.