It is located in the middle of nowhere and can only be reached via an hour-long drive by minibus through the mountains. But once you are here, the beauty of the landscape at the artificial Lake Komani almost takes your breath away. Today we would like to introduce you to this trip by ferry across this beautiful spot of the world. Cast off across Komani Lake!
Ride into the mountains and through a tunnel
We leave early in the morning from Shkodra, a city in the north of Albania, which is still quite sleepy this morning. Only one cab driver washes his old German Mercedes for today’s passengers. From a bus stop in front of a hotel we take a minibus we have been looking forward to for a while. After a drive of a little less than two hours through the mountain roads leading us towards Kosovo, we pass through a tunnel. At the other end is a jetty and nothing else. If the bus driver had stepped on the gas and not on the brake – we would have gone straight into the lake.
Huge rocky slopes on both sides of Komani Lake
But we are lucky and instead we are allowed to have the first views of this partly artificial landscape. On the right, the dam wall of the Koman reservoir rises out of the water. Behind it, it descends a few hundred feet. On either side loom the mountains of Prokletije, the Albanian Alps, part of the Western Dinarides, which form the mountain range in the Western Balkans. The Albanian Alps are also considered the “enchanted mountains”, which is what their name translates to. Here, Jezerca, one of the highest mountains in Albania, also rises to the sky, although at some distance. However, the people have wrested a lot from the mountains.
The small Koman Reservoir between the Fierza and Vau Deja Reservoirs
The 115-meter (377 feet) high rockfill dam is not the highest in Albania. Nor, by the way, is it the only reservoir on the river, but the middle and even the smallest of three reservoirs, all built to generate electricity. The Koman reservoir was built under the communist Albanian dictator Enver Hoxha from 1980 to 1988. It is not even particularly wide. In some places, the ferry only crosses a 50-meter (165 feet)-wide body of water. At its widest point, however, it is only 400 meters (1300 feet) wide. The lake stretches like a tube through the Malgun Gorge, which is about 35 kilometers long.
Kosovo Albanian on family visit
Next to me are many men and women with plastic bags. They are all waiting for what is probably the strangest vehicle in Albania. A car ferry, which is circling the Koman reservoir. After a few minutes, a ship actually emerges from the tangle of gorges. It is a small car ferry with a bow loader. Shortly after, it docks at the jetty. Some cars drive down. Then passengers and the other cars are allowed up. Some of them have German license plates. They are Kosovo-Albanians, who were in Albania before to visit their relatives there, as I learn later from one of them.
Bright blue water in the rock gorge
Travelers are still rare in this remote area at that time. And even today, Lake Komani is far from being a tourist magnet. However, the river actually has more than enough potential to do so. In the Drin gorge, this river coming from Montenegro, has dammed up. It is up to 96 meters (314 feet) deep in some places. The rugged mountain slopes, on the other hand, rise several hundred meters out of the water. The water shines blue to turquoise, just as you would wish for water. It makes you immediately want to jump in.
Happy ending in the fight against plastic trash at Komani Lake
But there is a small but considerable obstacle. Again and again, the ferry’s passengers throw their Coke cans and bottles into the water. Everywhere, the plastic pouches float through the blue of the river. It’s enough to make you cry. I get upset, want to say something, but what’s the use? The river is already full of them, only a collection campaign and probably an official ban by the Albanian authorities would help. Unfortunately, I don’t even speak Albanian and I am only a guest in this country. With this trip having happened a few years ago, there are some good news though. A garbage collection ship is cleaning the lake and picking up the trash. Whether throwing it away is forbidden in the meantime, I do not know. I sure hope so.
The cannabis farmers of northern Albania
On the way, the small ferry stops every now and then and lets people on or off the boat. They then disappear into the mountains. A fellow passenger tells me that because of the inaccessibility of the mountains, marijuana is often grown here by the farmers, which would then be smuggled to Europe. Indeed, on the way we see a slope where apparently cannabis plants grow.
The village at the end of Lake Komani
For about two hours we cross the mountain valleys until we end up in Fierze, a small village in the north. From there, a road leads further into Kosovo to Prizren. For me, however, the journey ended here this time. I wanted to travel to Kosovo only in the following year. This time I was heading to Montenegro. Fierze itself was hardly worth seeing. It is a typical village in the Albanian province, not even a particularly beautiful one. A few concrete blocks, the jetty for the Lake Koman ferry, which was really just a pile of rubble. After an hour we went back, the same route. But with this landscape I even enjoyed going the route a second time.
Travel tips for Lake Komani and Koman lake ferry
To get the ferry to Fierze you must first get to the pier. From Shkodra there are mini-buses that go there. The tickets for the mini-buses and the ferry you buy on board. In 2008 this was still separate.
Meanwhile, there is this useful website in English, where you can find the current prices (per person currently 6 euros for the ferry, with minibus from Shkodra and further to Valbona it costs 17 euros). The trip from Shkodra is currently scheduled to start at 6:30 am.
From Fierze you can also go further to Kosovo. There are also minibuses there. Hitchhiking is sometimes also possible, but it can take a long time, because there is little traffic in the north of Albania.
Overnight stay at Lake Komani
On the way to Fierze there is a small guesthouse. There you can stay overnight and from there explore the beautiful surroundings with the mountains. More info on the website of the guesthouse on the Lake Komani.