An intricate net of uninhabited valleys, Northern Albania is one of the most wild and spectacular places in the Balkan area. 50 kilometres far from the county seat of Shkoder, the Valley of Drin River and its little villages, is nowadays accessible exclusively by a long boat trip on Lake Koman, which represents the only link between the locals and the rest of the world. A remote island in the “sea of mountains” of Albania, which is fast becoming a not-to-be-missed destination among adventure lovers.
During the seventies, Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha needed new energy for his country – which was poor in coal, oil and gas – so he planned a new hydroelectric building system along the valley of Drin river. A 130 metres high dam was so built in the little village of Koman, next to a new hydroelectric power plant. Waters consequently submerged the Drin Valley and created a huge lake among the stunning mountains.
Inhabitants were forced to emigrate or rebuild their houses in a higher position. For those who decided to stick, a ferryboat service was introduced in order to link the valley with the rest of the world. Nowadays the only way for reaching the villages of Drin valley is with long boat trips or, on the other hand, with endless walks on the steep gravel roads that climb on the mountains.
Nonetheless, locals didn’t abandon the valley and still live here out of touch. Fierze, the Northern terminus, is the door of Tropoja region and Valbone National Park, a mountain top destination in Eastern Balkans. Once a dangerous and remote area, where people followed ancestral rules and lived in poor conditions, the Valbone valley have recently discovered a growing niche of tourism. Hikers, climbers and nature lovers are increasingly choosing this wild part of Albania for vacations, thanks to a spectacular nature and authentic traditions. In the meanwhile, the ferry boat of Koman still rumbles among the valley, traveling with its slow and undeterred stride.