One Week in Albania: Valbona National Park & Prizren (Day 4)

After enjoying Albania’s beaches, we returned to Tirana for a short night. The next day we would embark on a two-day trip to Valbona National Park, with a detour through the Kosovan city of Prizren. The plan was to return to Tirana on Sunday night, just in time to watch the European Championship 2016 final together with the football-crazy Albanian crowd.


Valbona National Park is located in the northeast corner of Albania. One of the most scenic ways to get there from Tirana is to take the ferry from Koman to Fierzë. This three-hour journey over the Drin River is simply breathtaking, and reminded us of the Norwegian fjords. The ferry operates daily, but make sure to time your arrival as there is only one trip a day, leaving at 9AM sharp.

• Ferry from Koman to Fierzë.

During the journey over the Drin River and Komani Lake you will see lush greenery, impressive cliffs, and every now and then you can spot small houses on one of the slopes.

• Komani Lake (1).

Towards the end of the ferry ride you will start to see the landscape changing a little bit; the lush greenery is a little less green, making space for rock, higher and rougher mountains. A sign we were getting close to Valbona National Park.

• Komani Lake (2).

Valbona National Park

After making a quick ice-cream stop at Bajram Curri we entered the National Park. The park is dominated by the mountains of the Prokletije Mountain Range, and has a large variety of flora and fauna, crystal clear waters, and high air quality.

We would stay the night in a cottage near the only road intersecting the park. On the way there, there were a few stops to stretch the legs, enjoy the surroundings, or even to go for a really short swim. Since the water originates directly from the mountain, it is potable, but very cold.

• Swimming spot in the Valbona River (1).
• Swimming spot in the Valbona River (2).

Around lunchtime we arrived at the cottage. The surroundings were quite extreme; apart from the road there was little sign of civilization. The rocky ground, and high mountains were quite the sight.

• View from our lodge over Valbona National Park.

After lunch, we made some more quick stops. One of them was a 75-minute hike up the mountain to a viewpoint. The hike was about three-and-a-half kilometers long, and pretty tough at times. At the top, the view of the valley and mountains was however more than worth it. On the way back down, we found some wild strawberries and blueberries to provide us with some much-needed energy.

• View over the National Park.


After spending a comfortable night in the cottage, we had an early lunch and left for Prizren. We left the National Park, crossed the border into Kosovo, and arrived in the early afternoon. Prizren is the second largest city in Kosovo, behind the capital Prishtina.

We had a few hours to spend before heading back to Tirana, so we decided to go for a stroll through the city. Our first stop was at the League of Prizren site. This Albanian political organization, active from 1877 to 1881, fought for the rights of Albanians living under the Ottoman regime. Nowadays, the League is recognized for establishing the territory of the land of today’s Albania.

• League of Prizren.

We walked along the Bistrica River, which had a remarkably low water level, towards the main square. The Sinan Pasha Mosque, situated next to the square, dominates the skyline. There are quite a few churches and mosques in Prizren, most of them still guarded because of the countries’ turbulent past.

• Bistrica River flowing into Prizren.

The main square, or Shadervan Square, is lined with clothing shops, restaurants, and souvenir shops. As many tourists did, we stopped for a coffee, and simply enjoyed the surroundings.

• Shadervan Square.
• Sinan Pasha Mosque.

Our time in Kosovo slowly came to an end. We walked a bit away from the main square to get a good view over the Prizren Fortress, located high up the hill. The castle was once the stronghold of the Serbian empire, and over time the modern city developed in the valley. For us, time was up, and we boarded the bus for the four-hour drive back to Tirana.

• View over Prizren and its castle.

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We, Mark & Herta, are currently backpacking through Europe, and eventually planning to settle in London. Beyond that? The possibilities are endless.

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