With wild rivers, mountains and Unesco sites aplenty, Albania is emerging as an exciting Mediterranean destination – but its wilderness could be devastated by huge dam-building projects
‘Go, go, go!” The white-water rafting guide shouted orders from the back of the boat and our five-strong crew paddled hard to stay on course. We were tackling a stretch of the Vjosa, a 270km river that begins in Greece (where it is called the Aoös) and flows through Albania and into the Adriatic just north of the city of Vlora. I was on a recce trip for a new southern Albanian break with Much Better Adventures, which specialises in long weekends to wild places in Europe and North Africa. But this trip was not just a fun adventure – rather just part of a campaign to save the river, which is under threat from proposed dams. A documentary film, Blue Heart, out this month, will highlight the fight to protect Europe’s last wild rivers, with help from ecotourism.
From May to October, the Vjosa’s canyons are navigable by raft – at thrilling speeds and with waves well over a metre high. We were there in early March, when these narrow stretches of water were too dangerous, so rafted a wider, gentler section: it offered less adrenaline, but gave a flavour of the full trip. Swirling downriver, we seemed to be journeying through an untouched land.