"Changing the route is not trivial here. Never since the beginning of our route, we have struggled so much with the cartography. Information is scarce and Open Source maps, although incomplete, are the only ones available."
Albania will remain for us a very special country among the 15 others of this crossing of Europe. The welcome we received there was exceptional, the country is not very developed and nature still has an important place there and we celebrated our 500 days of adventure!
Life in the mountains of northern Albania is still governed by the Kanun. It is a customary code dating back to the 15th century, a collection of laws, morals, customs and rules passed down orally from generation to generation.
In terms of hospitality, the Kanun indicates that even the poorest person should welcome his guest as he should, as best he can, and that attention, honesty and human warmth are more important than the material offered.
The Bjeshkët e Nemuna ("the cursed mountains") massif is located in the north of Albania, on the border with Montenegro and Kosovo. These mountains are beautiful and wild. Its slopes are steep and its peaks sharp, this alpine profile is rare in the Balkans. Arriving from Montenegro, we cross the valley of Theth, then the valley of Valbona which opens after a few kilometers, wide and deep.
The area around Lake Izle (or Uzle) is ideal for hiking. Well-marked and little used trails, shady forests and the lake for swimming breaks. Our most memorable moment there is without a doubt the camp we set up on a peninsula straight out of a postcard.
Initially, we were desperately looking for a place suitable for a long break during the hot hours when we couldn't walk: from 10am to 5pm roughly. If we had to spend most of the day there, we might as well look for a really nice place. It was a gamble to go down to the bottom of this canyon, knowing that we would have to go back and climb up again. No regrets! The canyon is sublime and the day was one of our most beautiful in Albania.
The unmissable Syri i Kaltër, the "Blue Eye", is undoubtedly one of the most visited tourist attractions in the country. This spring with limestone walls is more than 50 meters deep. Here, nature is king. Well, for the moment anyway, tourists flock there to discover its fluorescent colors. Their buses park a few dozen meters from the spring and we understand, thanks to the inhabitants of the village, that tourism, which is an important resource, threatens the fragile balance of this natural rarity.
"To say that we are well received in Albania does not do justice to the overwhelming sense of hospitality we are discovering. This is the first country where we receive more invitations than we can accept. Invitations to dinner, to sleep or to drink a coffee... enough to spend a week in each village!"
From the cursed mountains in the north of Albania to the Greek border, we discovered an unexpected country. The few means dedicated to the development of the infrastructures make it a country still very close to nature. There are few roads but an infinite number of paths. The main difficulty for us hikers was the uneven and obsolete cartography.
Discover the pictures of our crossing of Albania from the national park of the Valbona valley in the northern mountains to Epirus at the Greek border. An adventure in the heart of an unknown Albania, its cursed mountains, its charming hinterland and especially, the unique welcome of the Albanians.