How We Do Tours

  • Instead of offering “set in stone” tours, our goal is to help you plan and realize the specific trip YOU want to take. Therefore we start out by asking a lot of questions . . . . Not sure if other trip planners work this way?  But thanks for bearing with us!
  • We do charge a fee for trip planning. In general, it’s much less than a normal agency would charge, but even we have to keep the computers and internet running, and ooh, you know, eat (and what-not).  JourneytoValbona is not and never has been in any way supported financially (other than by random and very kind tourist donations), and for our first 7 years we used to simply answer questions because it was fun.  But as our involvement in protecting and promoting the National Park increases, we (by which I mean “I”) simply don’t have the time or resources to answer a lot of questions fo’ free.  Also, it’s important to realize that in an environment where so many people are so hard to contact, making bookings is a pretty time consuming process.  I recently explained to someone who wanted to make their own booking: “Sure, you can, you just have to ‘friend’ his grandson on facebook and then hope the boy gets within internet range in the next couple of days.  Speaking Albanian will help.”  While this is totally reasonable here, the tourist found it a bit bizarre.  So:  If you’re on a tight budget, I hope that you can find the information you need on the website to plan and book your own trip.  You’re welcome to use and adapt our itineraries of course.  If, on the other hand, you do want us to take care of it for you, we ask that you respect the value of the time we spend on helping.
  • Once again, we invite you to understand the reality of life here.  Tropoja has an official unemployment rate of 79%.  Sixty percent of families still survive on subsistence farming, supplemented by public assistance, which is 25€ per month per family.  Those lucky enough to be able to offer tourism accommodation are usually supporting large extended families, and depend on earning whatever cash income they can in a few brief months – or even weeks.  Thus if they block beds for you, turning away other potential guests, and then you change your mind at the last minute, well . . . it’s a pity.  We don’t have an official cancellation policy – we’d have no way of enforcing it if we did – but we do ask that you think of your potential hosts with respect and consideration.
  • Then of course there’s the issue of our time – whether you go on the trip or decide at the last minute not to, we will have spent the same amount of time working to plan your trip – in fact, if we have to cancel reservations, it’s even more work.  If we start factoring in time spent on no-shows, the cost of trips will have to rise for everyone and we really don’t want to do that.
  • Which brings me to the #1 reason for cancelling: These are ‘The Accursed Mountains’ not ‘The Fluffy Cuddly Friendly Mountains.”  Hiking (or life) here is not so easy, and big hiking trips are not for the faint of heart.  Or more importantly faint-of-limb.  Trail marking only started here in 2010, and it’s evolving slowly (as I believe it should – see other predictable rants of mine elsewhere on the website), so in addition to being in good physical shape, you will need to be adept at navigating with a map if you want to do extended multi-day hikes.  While we will do our best to help you match you to suitable trails, years of experience have taught me that  people’s perception of what constitutes easy (or difficult) is hopelessly subjective.  Ie, if you are not pretty darn robust and self-sufficient, please consider sticking to day hikes from a comfortable accommodation.  You’ll still have a great time, believe me.