Journey to Valbona started in 2009, when Catherine Bohne (I!) arrived in Valbona for an 11 day holiday. 8 Years later (in 2017), I’m still here thanks to the charming (and tolerant!) mountain people who were kind enough to adopt me. Alfred Selimaj, the owner of the house where I was staying asked me to make a website. From the beginning he said it should be not just for his business, but for the whole valley. And so JourneytoValbona was born.
From 2009-2017, the website grew from being a ‘hand-made’ blog with some useful information, into the single best source of travel information for Northern Albania. Over the years we (by which I mean mostly I) have personally answered 1,000s of emails. If the same question got asked more than 10 times, I tended to stick another page on the website to answer it (which is how it got so sprawling). Every time we saw that people were asking for something which didn’t exist, but which local people could do or make or give, we stored it away, and worked slowly over time together to make it happen. Thus the hiking trails, the best hiking maps available, the mountain rescue team, and soon (soon!) we hope, the Riverhouse Valbona River Center (QBLV in Albanian, which is really fun to say because it sounds like Chubba-Luvva). Along the way we’ve meddled in National Park management (for the better! I swear!), started the first environmental education program based in the NP, helped created entirely new businesses for mountain shepherds . . . and we’ve only just got started! So many people have helped along the way . . . dear friends all, now.
In 2016 we formalized all this do-gooding, by creating the Albanian NGO “TOKA: The Organization to Conserve the Albanian Alps” which is already recognized as the main Civil-Society voice for the region.
Anyhow – back to the website: With this new, and much-needed redesign (thank you Emmanuel!) we’re going to diversify a bit, keeping the pure information, spurious opinions and OOC chattiness on one side – I hope like the old website, you’ll still be able to stay up late, reading it like a slightly wacky book – and then we’re creating a whole separate half where we connect you directly with the local people who can serve you best, whether it be through accommodation, guiding, services, tours or any manner of getting involved. The goal is always to empower the people, to secure their continued and sustainable success and prosperity, promoting the wellbeing and experience of all, and never, ever forgetting the overriding need to preserve this most precious and beautiful corner of one of the rarest habitats on earth (which, if you’re asking is: “a high biodiversity area of European temperate forest and mountain habitat”).
Welcome to Valbona! Mire se te Vini, dhe Mire se Keni Ardhur.
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