First of all, YES WE DO! (in answer to frequent inquiries, now that – erm – my email is working again after 9 quiet months). We’re happy to help you realize the visit of your dreams (I mean, assuming you have nice dreams!). Or – okay – do our very best. (I am feeling like I shouldn’t have gotten onto the ‘dream’ theme – dreams can be so weird! – except that for many people, a holiday in Tropoja is like a dream – a magical step into another world!)
Here is what I have observed: Some portion of people come to Valbona already knowing more or less what they want to do (The Valbona to Theth Hike, mostly). For those people, we have set up several itineraries (also called ‘tours’) which hit most of the bucket-list places. Then there are the people who want to get off the beaten trail, experience local culture, and (frankly) avoid other tourists. We are happy to work with you, trying to match what’s here with what you’re looking for.
I will just talk about practicalities and money at the beginning, and get that out of the way.
First of all, we will answer 3 questions for free! This is to accommodate the student budget, etc. – and if you plan your questions strategically, you can get quite a lot of information because (as you may have noticed) I talk a lot. (Isn’t that fun? It’s kind of like a fairy tale or something! Three wishes!) (Hopefully NOT the monkey’s paw.)
After that, if you want more help and you’re interested in what we’re going to call “conventional tours” (the bucket-listy things that get talked about online or in travel guides), we’ll recommend that you jump over to that part of the website and use the tour that suits. At the end of each tour’s description, if you click on the “Get a Quote” button you go to a form that allows you to make a lot of choices, including things like: How fancy do you want your accommodation? Do you want to spend an extra day anywhere? Do you need to leave luggage somewhere? Do you want a horse to carry your bags? Etc! So you can still customize your experience, but the form summarizes most of the questions that people usually ask – so trust us, it’s a lot faster than going back and forth in email. I mean, we will still do email to finalize the details, after you’ve answered the questions on the form – so don’t worry! It’s not just some horrible impersonal automated thingie.
If, on the other hand, you want something a bit different (yay for you!), we will be building a list of what I’m going to call something like “Red Pill NanoTours” (too obscure?) Red Pill because of the red pill/blue pill Matrix thing, because I think that immersing yourself (or even just dipping a toe) in local culture is a bit like getting to visit an alternative reality, where many of the things that the Anthropocene world tells you are important just aren’t (or, quite possibly, don’t even exist! ‘Like what?’ you ask – Ooh, like days of the week? Usually have to count on fingers to figure out what day it is. In winter we may not even be sure what month it is. And just last week I pretty much convinced myself that it was 2024). Too freaky? Okay, so “NanoTours” to indicate that here we are trying to do something different from conventional tourism which frankly has a lot of negative impacts. NanoTours are positive! But with or without that list – which will mainly be examples of what other people have done – you can just email me (email@example.com), describing your ideal experience (you can be super-vague, it’s okay) and we can go back and forth until we’ve got something that seems to suit. Hm. I guess the simplest thing to say would be “these are trips designed specifically for individual travellers who want to get away from tourists (and tourism) and have an authentic local experience.”
In either case – once we’ve figured out that what you want is possible (and roughly how much it will cost), here’s what we charge for up to 4 people (not sure what we do over 4 people, but we can talk about it):
- A 50€ flat fee, which is non-refundable and which you can transfer to us before we go forward. This covers the time it takes us to help you hash out the itinerary, whether or not you book everything through us. If you’re thinking you can find the contacts online and do the bookings yourself, yes! absolutely on the conventional tours, probably! (Absolutely-Probably. haha. So Albanian.) For the NanoTours maybe not so much: Off the beaten tourist trail, you’re less likely to find people who speak English, and many may be out of telephone range, and you could have a hard time finding them in any case.
- Therefore, if we do actually contact all the hotels/guesthouses/guides/taxis/whatever and book the whole trip for you (you know, like a normal travel agency), we also charge 15€ per day of trip. And yes, we’ll combine half-days so if you arrive on a Friday and depart on a Sunday, that’s 2 days. This part you can give us whenever you want – transfer it with the flat fee, bring cash when you pick up your maps – as you like! This makes up for the fact that a 10 day trip is a lot more work than a 24 hour, Valbona-Theth ‘your-feet-barely-touch-the-ground’ trip.
- As an additional service, if you don’t want to carry cash for the whole trip (because no one here takes credit cards, and there’s only one bankomat in Tropoja (in Bajram Curri) and you won’t find another one until you get to Shkoder or Tirana), you can transfer whatever you want to us (hotels? prix fixe meals? guides?) and we’ll withdraw the cash, and chase down and pay everyone for you. For this we charge 10% of the total amount. That might seem a bit steep, but it honestly is a LOT of work. Most people still don’t have bank accounts, so we have to personally meet everyone. And, of course, we don’t mind at all if you don’t want to do it!
And there you have it! You can get some free help, you can get some extensive help and pay a small fee (but do all the bookings and stuff yourself), we can take care of all the organizing OR we can do every last bit of all the onerous stuff and you just show up and sail through like royalty (don’t forget the wave).
Phew! And now . . . .
On to the Fun Stuff!
Click here for Conventional Tours (or choose the menu option above – same-same!) which include:
- Valbona to Theth
- Peaks of Valbona Valley
- Valbona Guesthouses
For each tour you can see a much fuller description, and access the “Get a Quote” form-thing. These itineraries cover the activities that most people want to do, in Valbona Valley.
Oh! And btw: If you’re interested in doing the Peaks of the Balkans route, your best bet (for the bits not-in-Tropoja) is really to contact Zbulo agency. They designed it (it was actually Endrit’s master’s thesis I think!) and for sure they can give you the best help.
And then there’s Red Pill NanoTours!
For now they don’t have their own page, so I’ll just put the description of the last one I did below, as an example.
Hopefully you get the sense that this is not like going to a normal hotel, where you know just what to expect? Neither is it staying in a guesthouse, because most guesthouses in Valbona now host 30 to 60 people per night (that’s how they keep the prices low).
And actually, come to think of it, I am NOT going to publish a lot of specific details here because the last thing we want to do is drive a lot of tourists to these places. Do you know about Venice? Apparently there are now 200 tourists for every resident. Eeeeeesh!
In fact, I’m thinking that we’ll only do 50 maximum of these trips per year, because more than that is driving too many people into what are still delicate and easily-damaged areas! So better get your request in soon (haha).
Nano Tour #1:
MORE OF DOING LESS
“People need to make more time to do less while travelling”
– Martine Wijnstra, after her 3rd summer visiting Tropoja
This is an itinerary which invites the passionate Traveller to base themselves comfily – over the course of 8 days – with two (or possibly three) different families, in two very different environments: Riverside and Mountaintop. Stretch out and relax! You might not see another tourist while you’re here, and you will get the full attention of your hosts. Make friendships and build new relationships, OR read a good book, sleep a lot and eat mountains of fresh homemade food. Plus, you get to spread out in bedrooms decorated with authentic tradition.
From each place you can do different hikes each day – from ambitious to nicely lazy strolls. If you don’t feel like hiking, this NanoTour gives you the chance to: go kayaking, milk sheep, listen while locals play traditional instruments (if they feel like it), help in the garden, try out neighboring excellent restaurants, lie around reading or drawing, visit local historical sites, spend quality time with horses, cook over an open fire, explore brown bear territory, sunbathe in some cataracts, explore with local animal trackers, and yes, okay, even climb a peak.
(There’s even more, actually, but that’s already a lot for something that’s supposed to be about doing less!)
Experience first hand the magical reality of a different world.
Did I forget “Sit and watch the sunset, optional cocktail in hand . . . . “ ?