So you are wondering about the Shala River Tour in Albania? Do you want to know how to actually see Lumi i Shala, if you should stay for the night or opt for the day tour? Are you wondering if Shala River is worth visiting? Or controversially – should it even be visited?
Good news. You landed on the right page.
In this short post, I will tell you everything you need to know about visiting the beautiful Shala River in northern Albania.
Disclaimer: This is not your typical guide to the Sahala River. I am a little torn while writing this post, and I will also rant a bit. I will of course provide you with all the information you need in order to visit Shal River, but I will also debate on whether Shala River should be visited at all.
I wanted to see the Komani Lake. Very much. I heard legends about how beautiful it is and that it is called the Thailand of Europe. I have a soft spot for beautiful lakes, so I started researching how I could spend my time at Lake Komani.
This is when I came across the possibility of taking a day trip to the Shala River. This sounded like a great option as I could travel along the lake in one day, but also swim in the river and just spend the day in nature. That sounded like my kind of fun.
So after some research, I booked my trip and set off. And although I had a wonderful time and am totally glad I went, I returned with mixed feelings. I’ll tell you why later in this post.
For now, let me provide you with some logistics and general information on how to visit the Shala River.
Table of Contents
What is Lumi i Shala (Shala River)
Shala is a river and protected area in Northern Albania. It is a side branch of the Komani Lake and flows through the Albanian Alps with the actual source being in the famous village of Theth. Shala River is famous for its crystal clear water, and although it is pretty cold, swimming in Shala is a true delight!
How to visit Shala River
On a day tour from Shkoder
The most popular way of getting to Shala River is by taking a day tour from Shkoder.
The only way to reach the Shala River is by boat from the Koman ferry port so if you book a tour they will take care of your transportation to Koman and then provide the boat to Shala. The boats leave between 9 and 10 a.m. from May to October. These are the smaller boats, the big boats go as far as Fierza.
If you book a tour through your hotel or travel agency you will be picked up by bus from Shkoder, dropped off at Koman and shown into your boat. Keep an eye on your driver because the ferry station gets very hectic. Also, you will want to remember the bus and driver for your return journey.
If you take a tour from Shkoder, departure is at 6:30 a.m.
I recommend booking your bus seat the night before as they get pretty full. If you book your trip from a hostel/hotel it will cost between 25 and 30€. When you book a Shala River bus you can provide them with your hotel/hostel name and they will pick you up from there.
If you want to book your tour directly (possibly avoiding hotel commission costs) you can book it by messaging Lumi I Shares Tour on Instagram.
Visiting Shkoder? Read my complete guide to all the wonderful things to do in Shkoder. And if you are planning a visit to Theth and hiking the Albanian Alps I have you covered too!
On a day tour from Tirana
To get to Shala River from Tirana you will have to either book a bus or drive to Koman ferry port first. Buses from Tirana leave from Gazheli Petrol Station at around 5 in the morning. I strongly recommend you book your bus in advance.
It takes between 4 and 5 hours to get to Koman ferry post. You will then board the Shala River boat (see above).
If you want to visit the Shala River from Tirana, an organised tour like this one would also be a great option.
How to get to Shala River Independently (Car + Ferry)
There are several ways to get to Koman, but ultimately you have to head to Koman first before getting on a boat to Shala.
So If you decide to rent a car you can drive to Koman before hopping on a boat. I don’t really recommend it as at the moment the road is pretty atrocious. I wouldn’t even call it a road, to be frank. But if you have an SUV, then go for it. But I have seen many regular cars going this way so it’s of course, an option. The journey from Shkoder to Koman is around 3 hours. Mostly due to the condition of the road.
Please be aware that if you want to visit Shala River independently you will have to book a boat to Shala online. Here is the Komani Lake Ferry website.
Once you arrive at the Koman ferry port you can proceed to the pier. You will have to walk through a tunnel first before arriving at the pier.
As far as I know, there is a small car park near the ferry port but I cannot confirm this. I know however that the place is jam-packed with buses and cars and it is pretty crazy. If you are determined to drive, you could also consider getting accommodation in the village of Koman where possibly you could leave your car for a day or two.
But given the bus ticket is 10€, I wholeheartedly don’t recommend driving.
Finally, there is always hitchhiking. It is safe to hitchhike in Albania and I personally met people who did so. I also know someone who hitchhiked to Koman. So if you prefer that then go for it!
Staying Overnight at Shala River
Accommodation at Shala River is not cheap, but there are very obvious advantages to spending a night there. When all the day-trippers are gone, the place returns to its glorious, tranquil self. And waking up by this beautiful river, surrounded by the lush mountains, could be quite a spectacular experience!
Things to do at Shala River
If you’ve decided to visit the Shala River, you’re probably wondering what there is to do there. Apart from spending a day by the river and swimming in crystalline waters (cold!), you can also rent a kayak. This is a great way to experience the river and enjoy the surroundings.
There are few restaurants, bars and guest houses where you can eat, have a drink or even spend the night. There is even a small zipline.
But mostly the best thing to do in Shala River is just chilling and enjoying nature. You can take a walk along the bank of the river further away from the crowds or even hike around 45 minutes up to the viewpoint.
Is Shala River Worth Visiting?
The Reasons why Shala River is Worth Visiting
Shala River is incredibly beautiful and all the boats will drop you at a stunning river beach where the water is crystalline and the surroundings magnificent. This is currently the only way you can visit the Shala River and as it becomes more popular, yes you guessed it, it’s more touristy than ever.
But the sight is stunning nevertheless so If you are looking to see some of the most beautiful parts of Albania, touch on Komani Lake and spend a day by the most beautiful river in the country, then Shala River is definitely worth visiting.
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The Reason why you Might Not Want to Visit Shala River
As I mentioned earlier, the Shala River has become quite popular lately, and that brought some issues. While on the Komani, Lake I saw a lot of trash floating on the surface of the water, which broke my heart. Unfortunately, Albania has a problem with garbage and Lake Komani is no different.
I have read opinions that we should not visit the Shala River at all to boycott the growing amount of trash, but I am not sure that’s the solution. I have a suspicion that the local businesses are a big contributor to this problem, and of course the “uneducated” tourists. Let us face it, if I or you do not go there, it will not change anything.
However, I believe that the problem needs to be highlighted and mentioned as often as possible in hopes that action will be taken to prevent what could become a disaster.
I arrived quite early and was mesmerised by the place at first. It was peaceful, tranquil, truly resembling paradise. 2 hours later, paradise turned into a tourist hotspot with music blasting into the surrounding nature.
Why? I totally dont get it. Surely a visit to a place like this should be about spending a day in the mountains. But I think it would not happen if some visitors didn’t enjoy it.
I am hopeful, though. Albania’s travel industry is still quite immature and, to say the least, slightly overwhelmed by its recent popularity. And while prices are rising, it’s all still a bit everyone-for-themselves. And it’s all about making money. I have seen it on the coast, especially around Ksamil, where the public beach areas are slowly disappearing, replaced by overpriced sun loungers and umbrellas, where you are not allowed to put your own towel on the floor. But that’s a different story altogether.
And yes, you can call me out on this because I am writing about the Shala River and promoting this Albanian attraction on this page.
I am often torn when I do this because a part of me wants to stop promoting places that are getting ruined by tourism, and the other part wants to share my experience with you. I wrote about it in depth in this article so if you want to hear my thoughts about it go ahead and read it.
So If you asked me if you should visit Shala River I would say, it depends. If you can get there as early as possible to experience it before the rest of the tourists arrive and you don’t mind a party-like atmosphere later in the day, go for it. I dont regret going. I still had an awesome time, swimming in the river, kayaking, chilling and taking walks.
But if you asked me if I would go a second time? I wouldn’t. I would much prefer to stay at the secluded lakeside guest house instead.
Useful Tips for Visiting Shala River, Albania
- The shore of the Shara River river is pebbled and most travellers opt for a sun longer. The cost of the longer is 10€. You can bring your own towel too. If you find it hard to walk on pebbles consider bringing water shoes.
- There is no phone reception around Shala River so bring a book! You can get some wifi at the main bar in case you need to stay in touch with the world.
- There are many boat operators arriving at the river so I suggest remembering your boat as you disembark and try to remember your captain as well. They will give you the return time so be there. I couldn’t find my boat for a few minutes and panicked a bit thinking my boat had left, but luckily I found it, so don’t be me.
- The operator I used has good hours. We arrived around 10:30 am and left at 3 pm which not only gave us a good 4 hours at the river but also, we enjoyed the sight quite peacefully for the first hour or so.
- If you want to save some coins opt for a packed lunch instead of eating at the restaurants there. Those are not the cheapest. I did exactly that. I grabbed pastries and a burek from my favourite Kanela cafe in Shkoder, packed 2 litres of water and was very happy with this decision. I still had a beer there, because why not? But I spent much less than I would have spent if I didnt pack the lunch.
Heading to the beach next?
Here is a complete guide to all the best beaches in and near Himare, Albania!
Are you wondering if Ksamil is worth the hype? Oh well, I have an opinion on that, so read my Truth about Ksamil Beaches post!
If you are wondering if Vlore is worth visiting, I have a post on that too!
So, my friends, I hope you found this Shala River travel guide useful. I always say that it’s a good idea to visit places yourself and make up your own mind. Don’t believe what you’re told, go see!
Even though I went on a bit of a rant in this post, I don’t want to discourage you from going there. I just thought it was important to highlight the problems and not just ignore them.
Northern Albania is spectacular, and in fact, the whole country blew me away. Go and visit Albania, you’ll love it! Guaranteed!
Happy travels my friend!
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