The more I learn about Albania, the more interested I become in this small country that is full of potential but also multilayered and finding its feet, having isolationist, communist rule until the late 1980s and early '90s. There is a huge amount of limestone, diverse terrain, a Mediterranean climate, a shared border with Greece and coastline with Croatia, sitting East of Italy and visible from Corfu.
Lee Simmons shares some tips for travelling and climbing in this Balkan country.
> Several buildings were being built in the village though there was still the law that only local families could do this. People spoke of how Theth would change as soon as the road was built, it had been protected from war throughout history by the 'Cursed Mountains'. [...] Tourism could help with this if local guides are paid directly and locally-run guesthouses used.
Couple of years ago, I have been hiking* in the area, incl. the Maja Jezercë and a few other easy peaks (* - with bits of quite interesting bush-whacking a few times, since we didn't want to follow the low valley parts of the Peak of the Balkans tourist route and some routes marked on the map were probably old border guard ones, long since overgrown). The peaks and karst landscape was great!
Although I was quite saddened at the end. From our last campsite above and beyond Theth, what looked like a huge concrete resort building under construction visible just in the valley bellow, near the already finished part of the road. I am afraid it might change quite quickly there. Way over the main Jezercë range in Valbonë, there was already a posh resort hotel with its own artificial trout stream...
I am sure glad for the road and that the locals now have more options and tourism income, but I am afraid a lot of it might get sucked dry by big resort developers from outside the area, without the excellent family guesthouses seeing much money from it if at all...
Although the way some local communities fought several corrupt hydro schemes on their wild rivers and that there are also local+outside initiatives for more sustainable tourism there does give me some hope!
Anyways, shum faliminerit for the article, it brought back some pleasant memories, it was indeed quite beautiful there!
One correction – there is indeed some public transport in Albania, even for getting to few of the remote-ish areas, but the Furgons (Marshrutka-like system) can be somewhat incomprehensible for most Westerners not familiar with similar transport systems in post-Soviet and other countries, even without the language barrier. I did travel to the Albanian Alps from Shkodër by a few (plus one awesome lake ferry made from an old converted city bus chassis bolted to a boat!), but that was a fairly known route and I still had local help with times and such.
And do watch out for rockfall in the Albanian Alps, even just hiking and mild scrambling we got a few near misses