Lakes and Rivers Albania is very rich in underground and ground waters. The hydrographic network is composed of 11 main rivers which, combined with their branches and big streams with running waters, reach the number of 152
Besides the great lakes, there is a large number of small lakes, five big artificial lakes and several water irrigation reservoirs and also 200 sources of underground water, with a capacity of 200 l/second each. As mentioned above, Albania has parts of the three most important lakes of the Balkan Peninsula, which are of big values and tourist importance. In the north-western part of the country, at the border with Montenegro, lays the Lake of shkodër, which is the largest lake of the Balkan Peninsula. It has an area of 368 km2, from which 149 km2, and 57 km of shore belong to the Republic of Albania. An interesting legend explains the formation of the lake according to which, it used to be a small stream fed by a source of water, which was always kept closed and was opened only when women went there to getwater. One evening, while a woman was getting water at the fountain, she received the news that her husband had returned home from immigration. She was so happy that she left quickly and forgot the water source open. The water flowed during the entire night and in the morning Shkodër lake was created. The shores of the lake are very attractive and divers. The northern part of it is low, while the southern part at Tarabosh mountain foot is rocky and high. Here are to be visited the two most important tourist sites, Shiroka and Zogaj. Sunbathing, water, fishing and rowing are the main activities on the Lake of Shkodër. Shirokë Beach has 250-260 sunny days a year. In addition to these values, this lake represents a very important natural ecosystem. It shelters 270 species of birds, which constitute 87 percent of the entire ornifauna (poulty) of Albania. In this lake, migrate in winter 24 thousand of water birds. This site offers very good opportunities for nature lovers and observation of poultry. The lake waters are rich in fish. There are 45 species of fish, of which the most important are carp, shtojza, eel etc.
Lake ohrid is one of the most important natural tourist sites of Albania. It lies in the south-eastern part of Albania, up to 695 meters above the sea level, with an area of 358 km2. 1/3 of its surface belongs to Albania. A special characteristic of the lake is its depth of 289 meters, which makes it the deepest lake of the entire Balkan Peninsula. Lake Ohrid is 4 million years old. Its waters are known for high clarity, up to 22 meters of depth. It conserves in its waters a very old fauna and in this context, it may be considered a relict lake. Here lives the fish of Koran, a kind of trout that is found only in this lake in the entire world. Koran dish is also well known in this area. There are 17 species of fish, more than 30 mollusks as well as Ohrid sponge, which are found only in Lake Ohrid and in Lake Baikal. Albania has a lake shore of 30 kilometres, with several suitable areas for tourism, such as Lin, Pojskë, Pogradec and Tushemisht. Since ancient times, Ohrid Lake is known as a place for vacation. Thus, the parents of Emperor Justinian used to rest in Lin eninsula. Some of the activities to be exercised include swimming, motor boats, diving, water skiing, as well as sport fishing. In addition to the hotels built on the shore of the lake, family tourism is traditionally well known here, especially in Tushemisht area. prespa Lake is located in the southeastern part of Albania. Located 850 meters above the sea level, it represents the highest tectonic lake of the Balkan Peninsula. It is composed of the Great Prespa Lake, with an area of 285km2. It is a contact point between Albania, Macedonia and Greece. Small Prespa Lake lies in the territory of Albania and Greece, with an area of 44 km2, out of which 38.8 km2 belong to Albania. The waters of Great Prespa Lake are known for their high clarity, up to 20 meters of depth. The rugged character of the lake shore makes Prespë a very attractive place. During the summer, as a result of moderate temperatures, you can sunbathe and swim in the lake. Another important tourist potential is ecotourism. You can find 11 types of fish in Prespa Lake. Most important of which are carp, eel and the common bleak. Fauna is represented by pink pelican, the eagle, the Dalmatian Pelican, lutra, the bear etc. This area shelters 12 species of reptiles and 56 species of plants. As a result of poultry nesting, tourist can enjoy bird watching. The most suitable place for this activity is a place called “Beli Hill”. Prespa National Park constitutes the largest park of the country. Rural tourism is developed in this area, where tourists and visitors can be accommodated in the houses of villages of the area (Zaroshke, Pustec, Goricë e Vogël, Gollomboc, Goricë e Madhe etc.), which are rented to tourists. Albania is a country rich in rivers. They create numerous valleys with spectacular view and offer opportunities for development of water sports. We should mention here the osumi canyons in Çorovodë, Gradec canyon in Osum River, Këlcyra gorge in Vjosa river, the canyons of Bënça in the Kurvelesh area, the Valleys of Valbona and Shala in the Albanian Alps, the valleys of Tomorricë, Skorana gorge on Erzeni river, etc. You will also find waterfalls with magnificent view, such as that of Grunas in Theth, in Albanian Alps, that of Shoshan in the valley of Valbona, the waterfall of Kokotraf in Konispol area, the waterfall of Progonat in Kurvelesh etc.
mountain tourism Besides the seacoast, inland, Albania offers countless opportunities for practicing other types of natural tourism. Being a rich territory in mountains and heights, Albania is a very suitable country for the development of mountain tourism. This is the type of white tourism (activities that take place during the cold season of the year) and green tourism (activities held during the warm season of the year). Due to the significant layers of snow and suitable steep slopes, there are great opportunities for practicing the skiing sport. The main area for practicing winter sports is the mountainous spot of Voskopoja in Korçë District, 20 km west of Korça. Voskopoja is located 1.160 meters above the sea level and the snow layer there lasts for up to three months. There is a “ski platform” in Voskopoja, where the races of National Ski Championship take place. Other places where the winter sports are practiced, are the Albanian Alps in the North of the country, in the spots of Razma, Boga, Theth, Shishtaveci in Kukësi District, Grabova in Gramshi District, Dardha in Korça District, Dajti in Tirana District, etc. The territory of Albania offers numerous opportunities for trekking activities and mountain climbing. These sports can be practiced in the whole territory of Albania, from north to south of the country. Quite attractive is the trekking program called “Çika Trekking”, which takes place in the south-western area of the country and goes through the valley of Dukat, Çika mountain range, Kurveleshi area and ends in the Ionian coast. This trekking takes place along the itineraries Dukat-TërbaçVranisht-Kuç-Kudhës-Qeparo. Other areas suitable for trekking and mountain climbing are the Albanian Alps in such spots as: Vermosh, Theth, Razma, Boga, Valbona, Tomori mountain extending to the districts of Berat and Skrapar; Vithkuqi, Voskopoja, Drenova in Korça District, Guri i Kamjes in Pogradec, Llogara in Vlora District, Korab Mountain in Dibër, Gjinari in Elbasan District, Drino valley in Dropulli area, in Gjirokaster District, Borsh-Zhulat route that goes through Kurvelesh, etc. Albania offers excellent opportunities for practising air sports, due to its suitable topographic and natural conditions. The best spot for practicing this sport is Llogora Pass, up to 1.052 meters above sea level, where the direction of the wind is quite favourable. The parachutes jumpers from this site, land in the beach of Palasë, making this passage from the mountain to the sea an unforgettable experience. Llogara Pass is a place where several international events are held for such activities. Other sites for practicing such a sport are Morava, in the District of Korçë, Dajti in Tirana etc. Mountain relief is very attractive for outdoor camping and staying in tents during the warm seasons. Some of the camping areas are: Biza in Tirana District, Razma in the Alps, Llogara in Vlora District, in the forests of Hotova firs in Përmet District, in the coniferous forests of Gërmenj in Kolonja Disttrict, in Kurvelesh Region in the south of the country, QafëShtama Park in Kruja District, that of Lura in Dibër District, etc. You can enjoy fishing in the numerous rivers and streams in Albania. They are perfect for fishing the cold water trout and other fish species of warm waters. The most suitable areas of natural beauty for the fishing activity are the Valbona valley, Thethi stream, Shala river in the Albanian Alps, the upper valley of Vjosa etc. In the attractive valleys of numerous rivers and streams you can practice different water sports like rafting and kayaking. Such sports are mainly practiced in the upper valleys of Osum along QafëzezMican-Çorovodë route. During this route, you will see the wonderful Osumi canyons. Another route is the one that crosses the Bridge of Dash – the Lengarica canyon in Vjosa valley. Other regions where you can practice these sports are Devoll Valley in the south, the Valleys of Shala and Valbona in the Albanian Alps, etc. As a result of the widespread limestone formations in the territory of Albania, there is a development of various karst forms, which has enabled the existence of many karst caves of great interest for the tourism, or otherwise known as Speleology. You can find 35 such caves only in the region of Shkodër. A cave of particular tourism interest is “pëllumbas cave”, also called the “Black Cave”, to be found in the southeast of Tirana on the panoramic gorge Skoranë, created by Erzen River. It is located 25 km southeast of Tirana, 10-35 meters wide, 15-40 meters high and up to 300 meters long. The cave is in a very good condition. Besides the numerous stalactites and stalagmites, is worth mentioning that theskeletons of the cave bear (ursus speleus), who lived around 400,000 years ago, were found in this cave. In the entire European continent are known only five such caves. Another attractive cave to visit is pirrogoshi cave, located in Skrapari District in the south of the country, which represents the largest cave in Albania. It is located on the right slope of Çorovoda stream, in Radesh village, at a height of 450 meters above the sea level. The entry to the cave is 5 meters wide, while its length reaches 1.500 meters. The most attractive part of it is the wide corridor. The cave ends up in a deep well, populated by a colony of bats. Other interesting caves are those of Jubani, Zhyla, Murriqi and Pusi in Shkodër and Alps area, the cave of Lekë Petë in Kurvelesh, etc.
Flora and fauna Albania is considered a country rich in flora. You will find 3250 types of plants in Albania, which constitute 29% of the flora of the entire European continent, 11% of which are endemic plants. Half of the endemic plants are found in the north-eastern and northern part of the country. From the fund of vegetation, 489 of the plants are typical for the Balkan Peninsula. The Mediterranean shrubs cover 35 % of the forest. The coniferous trees are spread along the Adriatic coast, especially between the estuary of Shkumbin and Seman rivers, precisely in Karavasta lagoon and on both sides of Vjosa estuary, in Pish Poro in Fier and the one in Vlora area. In this area you will find areals of soft and wild pines. The surfaces with black pine are found in areas situated 600-1000 metres above the sea level, in the zones of Puke, Mirdite, Martanesh, Tomorricë, Kolonjë, etc. Worth to be mentioned are the beautiful fir areals, such as “Hotova Fir” in Përmet area and fir of Bozdoveci in Korçë District. Both areas are National Parks. Regarding the tree coverage, the main tree is the oak, which grows 400 metres above the sea level and up. Beeches are found especially in the northern and north-eastern part of the country. There are 12 National Parks in Albania, the largest of which is that of Prespë, with an area of 22,00 hectares. These areas are important for tourism facilities. The Albanian Fauna is noted for its variety, which is due to Albania’s contrasting landscape and the rugged terrain. Some of the mammal species found in Albania are: the brown bear, wolf, fox, lynx, the marten, the weasel, the wild swine, roe, wild goat, wild rabbit, the squirrel, the otter, the badger. Among the endangered species are: the jackal, the marten and the skunk. The avifauna of Albania consists of 350 species, among which are the mountain eagle, the pelican, wild ducks and geese, the heron, the swan, the crane, falco tinnunculus, the owl, etc. In the waters of Albanian seas are found 260 species of fish, which belong to the family of the Mediterranean fishes. The “Mediterranean seal” (in Karavasta lagoon), a very rare species, can be found here. The world of reptiles is composed of turtles, snakes, wall lizard, salamanders, etc. Albania has several hunting reservoirs, where you can practice the “sport of hunting”.