Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Lake Koman Ferry

When a guidebook for a country you're planning to visit describes something as "one of the world's great boat trips," how can you skip that opportunity?

So it was because of a little blurb in a guidebook that I found myself riding in a van up into the Albanian Alps at 6 o'clock in the morning.

My hostel keeper, Florian, arranged this part of the trip for me - which was a big relief, because everything I read beforehand about managing transportation in the region made me not-at-all-excited about having to figure it out for myself. (Compared to the rest of Europe, there's a dearth of information on the web about Albania - and due to ever-shifting ferry schedules much of the information I was able to find about riding across Koman Lake was contradictory.)

...After about two-and-a-half hours of driving up bumpy and sometimes precarious mountain roads, we drove through a tunnel and found ourselves at the end of the road - literally. The lake started and the road just stopped.

The end of the road...
Anyways, I hope you like pictures of lakes and mountains, because there's going to be a lot of those in this post.

On board the Lake Koman ferry...

The Ferry Ride

Our home for the next 6.5+ hours

Lake Koman is a reservoir located high up in the Albanian Alps. The ferry was originally intender for locals who live and work along the slopes of the mountains (primarily farming or herding goats), but it slowly caught the attention of the wider world - in no small part thanks to that blurb in that guidebook. There used to be only one ferry - now there are several, and some of them specifically cater to tourists. 

What makes it so distinctive? The tall, steep mountains that plunge directly into the lake. It's long, narrow, and as gorgeous as I had heard. 

The scenery of Lake Koman
The ship wasn't very full - there was a group of Slovakian (?) bikers (who must have been having the time of their lives riding through the Balkans), a few Germans, and one or two Americans. 

But you know what? There's really not much for me to say about a ferry ride. So I'll just let the pictures do the talking. 

A small waterfall running into the lake

Ok, I will say this: Every once in a while we'd pass a house or spot someone tending animals along the shores of the lake - and I had a really hard time imagining what life must be like in a place so remote.

Some of the houses along Lake Koman

Now back to more mountain pictures:

Sometimes the landscape is green and rolling

...Other times it's stony and sheer

We finally reached the other end of the lake, where we were greeted with a rather dismal little town where we stopped and ate some snacks before turning back.

An unappealing ferry in the port of Fierze

It was a wonderful ride. If anything, it was a little bit too much of a good thing - you take 2+ hours to get there, and then 3+ hours to get across the lake - and then you turn around and do it all over again in reverse. It adds up to more than ten hours of riding in vans and boats. 

Ideally, the ferry would be used as a part of a longer journey further into the apparently gorgeous (and remote) Valbona Valley. Go on some hikes, visit an old communist ski resort, and then take a bus into Kosovo.

But ain't nobody got time for that.

So I headed back to Shkoder (I made it in time for one more delicious dinner at Florian's!), and then on towards Montenegro the next morning.


  1. I think it all may have been worth it,the long van and boat rides, that's quite the scenery. You've officially been to the end of the road. What some truly gorgeous and amazing places you have visited.