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Valbona, a northern Albanian mountain village

The mountain village of Valbona (or Valbonë in a sentence with a preposition) lies in the Valbona river valley, only a few kilometres from Montenegro. It used to be a village of around 1,500 people with an attractive hotel, ruined after disturbances following the fall of the communist dictatorship in the early nineties. There was absolute anarchy here in 1997 when the village was largely destroyed. But now it again provides accommodation for visitors and tourists who visit Valbona Valley National Park.

Valbona river valley
Village of Valbona
Valbona village
Farm house in Valbona
Farm near Valbona
Bunker in Valbona
Farm view
Ruined hotel, Valbona
The Valbona river
Smashed hotel and bunker
Ruins in Valbona
Farm house near Valbona

It is a stunningly beautiful place; the river Valbona, Lumi i Valbonës, probably the clearest in all Albania, has its source in the mountains near here, around Program. There are high mountains all around, some still with snow on the peaks in midsummer. It is the real wild tribal area of Albania, its people fiercely loyal to each other. People obeyed the ancient Kanun of Dukagjin, the Highland Law of northern Albania and Kosovo. Its emphasis is on honour, but, more notoriously, it also had blood feuds that could last for centuries.

A road that leads along the narrow Valbona river for 22 kilometres from Bajram Curri finishes here. A track from Valbona exists through the riverbed to Rrogram and westwards to the village of Theth. These are genuinely the wildest Balkans, closed to outsiders for years but now offering great possibilities for adventurous travel.