Valbona Valley

Tropoja, Albania | C.1996

Photo Credit: Albert Lekaj

This shy cabin hides behind a few branches, but there’s no need to be coy–it undoubtedly has one of the best backyard views on the continent.

Albania’s largest national park and one of the last untamed parts of Europe’s largest mountain range, the “Miracle of the Alps” is not only home to a UNESCO World Heritage site, but also considered the cradle of Albanian legend and folklore. Largely remote even in the 21st Century, life is enjoyed through the simple pleasures in the “Good Valley.” Home to an assortment of caves, waterfalls, diverse wildlife, and glaciers, Valbona is a mountainous paradise.

For centuries, the valley’s jagged peaks and rugged landscape have served as the backdrop to Albanian legend and history. Tribes have inhabited the valley for centuries, living off the Valbona River that to this day remains one of the cleanest rivers in the country. In the cave of Dragobia, one of the largest in the park, lie the remains of Bajram Curri, known as one of the main activists who struggled for Albanian independence back in the early 20th Century and is known as the “Hero of Albania.”

For a site so unique and largely untouched, the fight to keep the status quo has become harder as Albania modernizes after a century of communist rule. As recently as July of 2021, the Albanian Supreme Court ruled against the construction of two hydro power plants that were very close to being constructed in the pristine valley.

While the jury is still out on whether the untamed nature of this valley will remain in the ensuing decades, it remains certain that Valbona will confidently continue to be a national treasure of the Albanian people. Now if only we could give some of that assertiveness to this bashful cabin.

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