Kelmend valley


Panorama point KelmendThe area around the Cijevna river (in Albanian: Cem river) has always attracted me, so the information that a Joint action plan for its ecological defense and the sustainable environmental development of the cross-border area was started this year made me quite curious. A draft feasibility study on eco-tourism development in the surrounding villages of this river has already been prepared. As you can often find us in the Kučka krajina or in the Cijevna canyon, we know how the situation looks like in Montenegro. But what has happened in Albania in the meantime?

This weekend we decided to pass the Montenegrin-Albanian border and follow the 65 km long SH20 road from Hani i Hotit to Vermosh, which is now under reconstruction. The newly built asphalt road has reached the village of Tamarë in the Kelmend region. Until recently, this road was mentioned by the website as one of the most dangerous roads in Eastern Europe. It was a dirt road without any protection rails, very steep and very winding. Two years ago we succeeded in driving the complete route with our camper (see blog post: Discover Kelmend Valley in Albania), but this time we could only reach Tamarë with our small car.

road to TamareThe first sign of change we saw was the huge white cross on the slopes of the mountain, a clear sign that this area is predominantly inhabited by Catholic Malissores. It was very quiet on the new asphalt road. Driving uphill, we left the Skadar Lake plain behind us and at the top we arrived at a magnificent panorama point, where we had a great view of the Cijevna canyon and the surrounding mountains (photo 1). We were surprised to find a new glass panorama terrace near the parking lot (photo 2) and standing on it we had the feeling as if we were on the top of the world.

Then we slowly continued downhill along breath-taking serpentines to the valley of the Cijevna/Cem river and finally we arrived in the village of Tamarë, where the asphalt road stopped. The reconstruction will continue next year and in 2016 the asphalt road should reach the village of Vermosh and the Albanian-Montenegrin border near Gusinje. In this way, it will be possible to make a round trip from Podgorica through Kelmend valley and the Prokletije mountains and back through Montenegro (Plav-Kolašin-Podgorica). A great nature tour!

TamareTamarë (photo 4) is the administrative center of the Kelmend region. The name of the village comes from Tamara, the name of the wife of the Shkodra Vizier who ordered the construction of the Vukli bridge on the Cem river in the second half of the 18th century. The bridge was given her name and the village was called the same. Tamarë has around 500 inhabitants. There is a secondary school, a hotel, policlinic, shops, bar-restaurants, etc. Everything is connected with the green river. Wild pomegranates can be seen everywhere.

We passed the bridge and made a walking tour along the river, where we discovered many springs coming from the mountains. Concrete canals and hoses lead the current water to the houses and agricultural properties. The irrigation systems are used for agriculture, but also for fish farming.

trout TamareThe Kelmend region is famous for its so-called “trout with red points” (trofta me pika te kuqe), which has its entire body covered by small red points and can have a size of up to 50 cm. This trout has become a tourist attraction for visitors of the Kelmend valley, particularly if it is prepared as tave peshku (fish casserole), where the trout is baked in the oven together with onions, peppers and potatoes. The wild fish is sweeter than the farm-raised versions, but I am sure that the products of the big fish farm we visited are excellent as well. What do you think of the giant trout the owner of the place showed us (photo 5)?

Unfortunately, Tamarë is already losing its authenticity. Big modern houses are under construction. Are the inhabitants expecting tourism development? Do they want to create accommodation facilities or are they building for their own families? I really hope that Albania has the power and the will to prevent uncontrolled development of this magnificent environment, particularly after finishing the asphalt road to Vermosh.

P.S. The new Kelmend road SH20 was opened in December 2016 (see: The new Kelmend road (SH20) in Albania.)

Tamare irrigation system

6 Comment

  1. […] from the Albanian border in Hani i Hotit to the village of Tamarë is excellent (see my blogpost: ). But believe me, the remaining stretch – 23 km – from Tamarë to Lepushë is a […]

  2. […] valley in Albania). Until Tamarë, the road had already been finished a few years ago (see: Albania, Tamare: the new Kelmend road), but at that time, it was impossible to continue further to the north with a passenger […]

  3. Cristi Dragan says: Reply

    Can anybody tell me how is the road now?
    If I will come from Hani i Hotit and go to Cijevna to cross the border back in Montenegro, the road is fully with astphalt?

    1. Yes, only the last few kilometers to the MNE border are not so good, but the complete Kelmend road is of excellent quality!

  4. erna de smedt says: Reply

    May/June 2017 we came from Montenegro via the Gusinje border (100m dirt road) to Vermosh and then the whole SH20 to Koplik and back to the mountains via SH21 direction P.K. Theti on a beautiful asphalt new road (since 2016) until the pass to Theti. From the pass the road is not asphalted for the moment and you need a 4×4.
    So we had to turn back to Koplik but nevertheless it is a magnificient road!
    Then we took the ferry on the Koman lake to Ferze (approx 3h depending on the boat) and travelled to the P.K. Valbone where we spent the night. All on good asphalted new roads.
    We are a couple from Belgium (2p) and travelling with a camper Possl on Fiat 6m36Long 2m60High and up to now we didn’t encounter any problem on the contrary we are fond of Albania and certainly come back here.
    Today is the 6th of June 2017 and we are still in Albania for at least another week (border crossing from MNE around May 20). We intend to leave Albania by boat Vlora to Brindisi (IT), approx 5 hours.
    If you need more info about anything from our journey in Albania, feel fre to contact us. bi bi

    1. Good morning, thank you for your info! It is nice that you enjoy Albania so much! We also travel Albania with a Poessl and we know all the roads you describe. Please read my more recent blog post: The new Kelmend road (SH20) in Albania. If you are still in the country I would recommend you to visit the south-eastern part: Butrinti, Permet, Leskovik (camping Garma Sotyra), Korca and Voskopoje. Undiscovered beauty!
      Have a nice trip! Kind regards, Marianne

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