This is the umbrella name of the Famous Accommodation(s) of Alfred Selimaj, also frequently listed (in guides, on trip advisor) as “Rilindja” (which is actually just one of the buildings) or “Rezidenca” (the fancy building) or “the place where the American lives” (even though I don’t anymore!) or “the home of JourneytoValbona” (which it is the birthplace of the website, but this year we grew up and out into our own facility in Bajram Curri – come see us there too!).
In fact, there are THREE different buildings (with 3 different price ranges). The Farmhouse Hostel, the Rezidenca luxury rooms and 600m east is Rilindja: restaurant, alpine rooms, camping and hiking center (this is where the maps are, if you don’t stop in Bajram Curri!).
There’s more (detailed but messy) information about each building below, but I wanted to make this clear at the beginning. And that it’s STILL my favorite place in the valley.
Btw: All include breakfast. Well, except camping, but you’re welcome to come and order and eat breakfast in the restaurant too!

Quku i Valbones

Quku i Valbonës, Albania

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Hotel Description

#1:  The Farmhouse Hostel

The Hostel was Alfred Selimaj’s family home up until a few years ago. Now it is a functioning hostel with 4 rooms upstairs which have a total of 16 bunk beds (well, 8 sets of bunks; 16 beds). There’s also a full and enormous lounge/common room upstairs with sofas and fireplace, as well as a (similarly enormous) dining room downstairs where meals are served and there’s a small coffee-bar open all day. Starting in 2017 Alfred installed a “proper” kitchen (but check whether or not there’s actually a CHEF in the kitchen.  Albanian chefs seem to be more-than-ordinarily neurotic to me, and come and go – without even mentioning Michaelangelo!) so full meals are (probably!?) now available here. A bed in the hostel, including breakfast, is 15 a night per person.

#2: Rilindja Alpine Rooms, Restaurant, Camping AND Hiking Information center

Opened in 2005, Rilindja (“Rebirth” in Albanian) was named for the economic prosperity owner Alfred Selimaj dreamed that sustainable tourism could bring to the people of the area and is the oldest operating tourism business in Valbona.

The Restaurant is proud to have evolved for all tastes, and I would like to point out that it is the ONLY restaurant in Valbona (or Tropoja, for that matter) which has splashed out to hire TWO chefs.  One specializes in traditional Northern Albanian fare, including whole goats roasted on a spit and fresh trout from the reservoir (you can even catch ’em yourself!).  However, as traditional food consists mainly of meat, meat, butter, cheese, meat, and meat soup, they ALSO bring in a foreign chef each summer, to do fabulous things with vegetables and sauces and soups and salads.

The traditional cooking happens in an enormous outdoor oven/barbecue/grill, so you can watch your dinner cooking if you like (that’s for everyone who ever wanted to take a picture of the goats roasting on the spit, but got ordered out of the kitchen by any one of the prima-donna chefs in the old days!)

As far as accommodation goes, there are four small-but-cozy “Alpine Style” rooms upstairs, 2 which are simple twins, and 2 which in 2017 will have a 2.5 x 3m bedroom (with double bed) plus another attached room (same size) with a day bed, table etc.  Basically, Alfred’s enclosing the old balconies to make larger rooms.  These will be good for 3 friends, small (quiet!) families OR someone wanting to stay longer and use the second room as a sort of study.  There is also one larger room with its own private bathroom(five rooms total).  The 4 alpine rooms share one large bathroom (plus the annex showers described below under “camping”).  A washing machine is available for a fee.  Rooms are 35 to 38€ per night (for two people) breakfast included.  Prices on the booking engine start out as SINGLES (which is cheaper).  Every time you add another person, the price goes up a little (kind of confusing, but it works).P1090428  These rooms are good for people planning on doing a lot of hiking, who want to get out and about as early as possible, because downstairs is also . . . .

Our Information Office.  We are the people marking, mapping and maintaining some 200 km of hiking trails originating in the valley.  Therefore no one can tell you more than we can about where to go and what to do, or what the state of the trails are on any given day.  We are also doing environmental research, and you may like to peruse our photos of bears boars and wolves (etc.) or pick up a Bird Checklist.  Over the last year people have started turning up with 3 or 4 different hiking maps of the area which different non-local people have made (several of whom have to our certain knowledge never even been here), and to be honest they’re all pretty terrible and inaccurate.  Ours of course are lovely.

GC Map

The campsites are landscaped and private, located on the banks and tiny islands of the small river running behind the hotel, and even include a private (icy cold) swimming hole.  Each site is near water, has a fire pit and leveled grassy patch for a tent.  Alfred also – AND THIS IS THE EXCITING NEWS! – recently finished converting some old fish reservoirs (basically two – really ugly – terraced enormous cement boxes) into two new and lovely little terraced houses, one of which contains (are you ready?) toilets and showers for campers!  I’m going to expand, because I’m so happy about this.  There are 3 different showers, 2 of which actually have 2 shower heads, good for families, good friends, or Very Good friends.  All of them have enough room to fling your arms around and jump about, which makes them a vast improvement on any other currently existing showers in Valbona.  Ha.  They even use a solar panel to heat water (with an electric back up for bad weather), so all in all they’re pretty great and Alfred is (obviously) pretty darn proud of ’em.  I will also add that when the roofs were put on on (steep, to handle snow in winter), it was my idea to make the whole triangular space under the roof into windows, so they’re FULL of light!  Airy!  Yep, we’re pretty darn excited.  You should come and have a shower soon (or sponge fight).

And don’t forget winter at Rilindja, when things change a bit.  First of all, all the staff goes home, so a lot of the “restaurant trappings” are packed up and it’s turned more of a winter chalet sort-of-thing.  This makes it really nice for either weekend get-aways or ski groups, cause you can take over the whole place and turn it into your own holiday home.  And of course there are winter rates, too.

Picnics: If you plan to spend the day hiking, they are happy to pack you a traditional shepherd’s lunch. If possible, let the office know the evening before.

Camping is 5€ per person per night.  Children 6 or younger are free. There are also a couple of on-site 2-person tents available for rent, 10€ per night, with all blankets, pillows, etc.

Electricity hook up is 2€ per day

Rilindja in the SnowWinter Rates (1 November – 30 April) are available, although the business is (so far) generally more-or-less “closed” in winter.  Doesn’t mean there’s no one here, or you’re not welcome, but the family tends to spread out and live a little in winter, so you may arrive to find them sprawled on the carpet playing Risk (world domination!  yippee!).  Or to be fair, less picturesquely, with laundry scattered all over the place, and various construction projects being neglected in various states of incompleteness.  Better to get in touch early!

#3: Rezidenca Luxury Rooms