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What to see in the Shala River

Essentially you have two options for accessing the Shala River:
  1. Book a tour. If you’re coming from Tirana you can book this tour or if you’re coming from Shkoder you can book this tour.
  2. What I recommend – stay at one of the guesthouses along the river (I talk about all the guesthouses here).

When you book a tour and/or stay at the guesthouses they’ll arrange transportation to and from the river as well as to and from Shkoder. Essentially, they’ll take care of all the planning for you!

Alternatively, if you’re travelling with your own canoe or kayak, you can access Shala River this way as well. Just know that the distance to Lumi I Shales is far too great to do in a day. If you want to visit the river this way, bring camping gear (wild camping is permitted, but finding a spot will most likely be difficult), and plan for a multi-day excursion.

1. The Shala River is the “Thailand of Albania”
Shala River, Komani Lake
Pointy mountains lining the edge of the Shala River

No, seriously.

I can try to explain Shala River’s scenery using all the pictures and words I want, but nothing will quite capture the wild beauty this place holds.

The water shifts from a deep green colour to light blue. There are absolutely lush, unique mountains lining the entire river that jut straight out of the water. It, honest to God, looks like a scene right out of magical Thailand; hence where it got it’s nickname

2. There’s an Amazing Hiking Trail which Overlooks the River
Hike over the Shala River, Komani Lake
Hike over the Shala River

I did my fair bit of hiking in Albania, but the hike I did on the Shala River… WOW, what an adventure!

The pictures speak for themselves, so I’ll go ahead and explain what the trail is like:

The trail is super technical and borderline treacherous. Let’s put it this way – I left wearing thick layer of sweat, dirt, and blood!

The trail is steep, like STEEP! I was sliding all over the place, holding onto trees as leverage so I didn’t fall down the mountain. This trail is largely scrambling, there’s few cliff traverses, and I had to bum scoot through multiple sections. I never get “wigged out” when I’m hiking, but even I was tweaking in a few of the sections on this hike.

Hike over the Shala River

If you’re an adventurous hiker you will absolutely thrive here, however those afraid of heights will definitely struggle.

At the highest point you’ll have a wicked view of the Shala River (on both sides of the mountain), and there’ll be a little tunnel going through the rock to the other side which is super cool.

The trail can be quite difficult to follow on your own, so I’d suggest going with the locals who run the guesthouses – they know best!



3. The VIBES
Shala River, Albania
Komani Lake, Albania

Okay I have to point out the evening vibes on the Shala River – they’re impeccable!

At night, you’ll find only the people who are staying at the guesthouses on the river. It’s totally quiet and there’s super vibe-y tropical music playing. You can see all the stars in the sky, there are fire pits, hammocks, and cute little riverside bars run by the guesthouses.

This is where I ended up post-hike which was absolutely unreal. I grabbed a beer by the river and got that whole tingly “happy to be alive” feeling.

Then, of course, I was coerced into a raki shot by the locals… If you haven’t tried raki, you must while you’re in Albania. It’s their local liquor and it’s absolutely disgusting… But it’s tradition!



4. Kayaking in the Albanian Alps
Shala River, Albania

If you’re a kayaker, you’ll absolutely love kayaking on the Shala River. This is easily the most beautiful location in all of Albania to go kayaking!

There’s a cave you can explore in the area and you can jump in and go for a swim at any time.



5. You can Drink Fresh Mountain Water

In many of Albania’s cities the tap water is deemed unsafe to drink due to heavy metals and other toxins 🙁

Luckily, the water in the Shala River is perfectly safe and clean to drink! The water comes directly from the National Park of Theth and is free of any manmade materials, chemicals, or additives. Plus it tastes soooo fresh!



6. Enjoy the Outdoors!
Hike over the Shala River, Albania
Hike over the Shala River

Finding quiet nature in Albania can sometimes be challenging, however on the Shala River you’ll be completely immersed in it!

You can spend your days swimming in fresh mountain water, paddling down the Thailand-like river, hiking exciting trails, or relaxing under the stars.

The Shala River boasts some of the most scenic views in all of Albania which makes it a great place to relax and enjoy just being in nature.



7. Try Locally Sourced & Produced Food
Fresh, locally sourced, homemade food from Riverside Komani Lake
Fresh, locally sourced, homemade food from Riverside Komani Lake
Shala River, Komani Lake
One more pic of the food because yum!

I can’t speak for all the guesthouses on the Shala River, however when I stayed at Riverside Komani Lake everything they served was locally sourced and homemade. Like absolutely everything!

The fish came straight from Komani Lake, the honey was sourced from a bee farm down the river, the cheese was made fresh by some of their local friends, the bread and tzatziki was made right there at the guesthouse. The food was freakin’ delicious and plentiful!



8. Take a Boat Ride on the Most Beautiful Lake in Albania
Shala River, Komani Lake, Albania

If you’re a view chaser and are looking for the “best of the best” you needn’t travel any further than Komani Lake and the Shala River. These two bodies of water are 100% the most beautiful in all of Albania!

9. Extend Your Time in the Alps!

One of the reasons I wanted to spend time on the Shala River during my Albania travels was so that I could spend more time in the alps, and see more of the alps too!

If you’re venturing over to Valbona Valley National Park, the Shala River is on the way and it makes for the perfect location to break up your travels.

I’d recommend spending 1-2 nights on the Shala River before venturing over to Valbona.



10. It’s Easy to Plan!
Shala River
A secret side branch of the Shala River

Planning adventures in Albania can be ridiculously complicated, sometimes. The public transportation system isn’t great here and there’s extremely limited Albania-based information online.

Visiting the Shala River is easy though! If you book a tour or book a nights stay at one of the guesthouses along the river (I talk about the guesthouse options here) the operator or host will figure out all the nitty-gritty details like ferry times, transportation to/from Fierza or Lake Komani, etc.

This is probably one of the most headache-free trips available in Albania – and one of the most beautiful too!