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Valbonë, a northern Albanian mountain village

The mountain village of Valbona (or Valbonë when in a sentence with a preposition as in "to", "in" or "from Valbona"), lies in the valley of the Valbona river, only a few kilometres from the border with Montenegro. It used to be a village of around 1,500 people with an attractive hotel, but this was ruined after disturbances following the fall of the communist dictatorship in the early nineties. There was absolute anarchy here in 1997 when the village was largely destroyed. Now there are very few people, on farms around here.

Valbona river valley
Village of Valbonë
Valbonë village
Farm house in Valbonë
Farm near Valbonë
Bunker in Valbonë
Farm view
Ruined hotel, Valbonë
The Valbona river
Smashed hotel and bunker
Ruins in Valbonë
Farm house near Valbonë

But it is a stunningly beautiful place; the river Valbonë, Lumi i Valbonës, probably the clearest in all Albania, has its source in the mountains near here, around Rrogami, and there are wild mountains all around, some still with snow on the peaks in midsummer. This is the real wild tribal area of Albania, its people fiercely loyal to each other and obeying none but the ancient Kanun of Dukagjin, the Highland Law of northern Albania and Kosovo, with its emphasis on honour and, more notoriously, its blood feuds that could last for centuries.

A dirt road that leads along the narrow Valbona river for 22 kilometres from Bajram Curri finishes here, but a track can be followed through the riverbed to Rrogami and on to the village of Theth to the west. These are truly the wildest Balkans, closed to outsiders for years but now offering great possibilities for adventurous travel.