4-days trekking in North ALbania
4-days trekking in North ALbania
Discovering Malesi e Madhe
The eldest inhabitants of Kelmend narrate that the first who settled in this territory were four brothers: Nili, Vuli, Seli, and Boli. From their families and generation after generation, four villages were formed: Nikç, Vukel, Selca, and Boga. During summer, shepherds from Vukel used to graze their livestock in the alpine pasture of what is now called Lepushe: with time, some of these shepherds decided to settle down in this area, producing dairy products. The same happened with some shepherds from Nikç, settling in Budazh and Broja. On the contrary, the villages of Selca and Boga were bigger and better positioned than the other two, so people tended to live here throughout the year.
Another legend of Kelmend, and perhaps the most famous, is the one about Nora of Kelmend. Nora was a girl living in the 17th century who was raised by her father as a boy to become a fighter. However, with teen age, she became the most beautiful girl in Malesia e Madhe: her bauty was compared to that of a Zana (mountain fairy). Even the pasha who resided in the Rozafati Castle in Shkodra heard of her and, when she arrived in town with her family, he came out of the castle to see her. Eventually, he fell in love with Nora and wanted to marry her.
Since the pasha was Bosnian and the Albanian law of Kanun did not allow marriage with non-Albanians, Nora’s family refused the pasha’s proposal. He flew in such a rage, that he threatened to burn the whole Malesia to ashes, if Nora did not accept the marriage proposal. To save her territory, Nora put into practice the fighting notions acquainted when she was younger and, by pretending to be willing to marry the pasha, she killed him with a dagger in his own tend. She thus became the heroine and the symbol of the strength of northern women.
Arrival in Tamarë and visit to the tourist office. Here, you will receive a warm welcome with the information needed to start your adventure!
There are several karstic caves in Tamarë: some can be visited, always under the supervision of a local guide, who will also show you some remnants of previous human dwellings in some of them. You can also pay a visit to the river Cem, next to the tourist office, and refresh in the small natural pool among the rocks. The river Cem originates in the so-called “Accursed Mountains” (Bjeshkët e Namuna), it represents the perfect habitat for brown, marble and rainbow trout and to enjoy some bird watching.
The “Accursed Mountains” own their name to the story of a woman and her child. The legend begins with her husband leaving the household to go into war and leaving his wife and their newborn son alone. The woman was too scared to live in the valley on her own with the baby boy and thus decided to seek shelter in the mountains. Despite the freezing cold and the shortage of water and food, she managed to grow her son for few years, until, one day, he died. Out of despair and anger, the woman cursed the mountains: she thought that they would have protected her and her son, but, instead, they took her son’s life. Hence, these mountains shall not have water, food, nor sunlight – and so it is.
This is not the only legend that explains where this segment of the Albania Alps got its name from. Others say that two brothers went hunting on these mountains and found a beautiful fairy. At the question of which one she preferred, she answered that she liked one for his bravery, the other for his good looks. The brave brother killed the handsome one and took the fairy home to their mother, who was so angry she cursed the fairy and the mountains forever.
Dinner and accommodation will be provided by one of the local bujtina (guesthouse).
Enjoy breakfast in the guesthouse, tasting the local products: the typical petulla (homemade traditional pancakes) are better accompanied with local honey and/or cheese. Upon request, you will also receive a pocket lunch for the day. Nevertheless, there are some small markets in Tamarë, where you can buy snacks and water. If you plan to bring a big backpack (60-75 lt.), the guesthouse can also arrange transportation by car – when feasible – or by horse to your next destination.
Your first trek will be an easy task: the low-difficulty, 4-hours walk to Nikç allows you to visit some small villages (Vukel, Kozhnje, Muriq…) close to the river, where you can occasionally refresh, rest and enjoy your lunch. The track is slightly uphill. From the very beginning of the path, the view is spectacular: in the narrow valley, it is still possible to recognize the pristine river, spaced out by the small hamlets, the first being Kozhnje. The highest point of the trek is reached in Vukel, where you can visit the church and the local café for a pit-stop. From here, continue to Nikç at the end of the valley, nestled below the high mountains and presenting nice old-style houses.
From Nikç, you can witness the view on the heart of the Albanian Alps – hence, its other name, “balcony”. In the center of the village, close to the church and the cemetery – which is both for Muslims and for Christians – there is a secular lime tree: when its flowers blossoms, their scent lingers in the whole village. In the surrounding mountains, medicinal herbs, like primrose, yellow tea, and red oregano, are used with a sip of brandy to help to heal cardiovascular disease and to ease rheumatism.
Nikç also has many cold-water springs, the most famous being Musavat Rock: legend has it that the great pasha Vezir used to drink this water his whole life, until his servant grew weary of the long way up to the spring and decided to change the source. Unfortunately, Pasha detected the difference in the water and fired the servant. Other popular water springs are in Koman, Led and Jezerca. Here, waters have formed amazing, peculiar caves, like the Skjura i Gajka.
Settle down for dinner and overnight in a local guesthouse.
Wake up in the beautiful valley and enjoy the breakfast offered by the guesthouse. If you want, you can also buy the pocket lunch. If you have already visited what Nikç has to offer, start the trekking to Lepushe, a village situated in a distant valley in the heart of the Albanian Alps, with a splendid view. On the way to Lepushe (6 hours), you will pass by the alpine pastures of Jama and Berizhdol: difficulty is low, with only some hairpin turns between these two pastures. During summer, Jama and Berizhdol are populated by some welcoming shepherds, who will be happy to offer their freshly homemade milk, butter, cheese and, if you are lucky enough, also mishavine, a Slow Food presidium.
In Lepushe, reach the bujtina and enjoy the spectacular view. After the delicious traditional dinner, don’t forget to look out at the starred night: light pollution is completely absent and, with no clouds in sight, you will be able to witness the presence of millions of stars in the sky.
Before going to bed, ask the owners of the guesthouse to arrange a driver for the following day.
After breakfast and with your pocket-lunch at hand, wait for your driver while taking some last picture of the beautiful landscape around Lepushe. The driver will take you to Selce (almost 20 minutes ride), dropping you off at the beginning of the path that leads to the Sllapit waterfall. This waterfall originates from the Cem river and the way to reach it will constitute the most difficult trek. Moreover, it is advisable to carry enough water with you, due to lack of water sources on the way. To cover both ways, it should take about 4 to 5 hours.
The waterfall of Sllap is 30 m high and, on sunny days, you can see beautiful rainbow, formed by the reflection of the sunlight on the water drops.
At your return from the waterfall, don’t go away just yet! In the centre of Selcë, the river Cem creates a canyon – the Canyon of Gerrlë: it is 900 m long and 25 m deep. In certain parts, the canyon becomes so narrow that the crowns of the tree growing on both sides can touch each other.
Now, the driver will take you back to Tamara (20 minutes ride) to get your car. Before leaving, indulge some more in our tourist office for a feedback, in the local shops or restaurants. On the way back and if you haven’t already done it, you can also stop at the “balcony of Enver”: you can have a beautiful view of the hairpin streets leading to Tamarë.
Thank you for your visit!