Shala River: Albania’s Alpine Beach

Shala River combines an alpine-style beach you can chill in and the famous Albanian hospitality, including traditional delicacies and cozy rooms.

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The first time I heard about Shala River was in a hostel at Shkodra. Two Belgium couples came back from there with sparkling eyes. Indeed, many of the best places I visited in my travels were through traveler’s recommendations.
Don’t stop talking with others during your travels. It will get you places.

At Shala River, your finger won’t leave the click button of the camera. It’s the most photogenic place in such a photogenic country. Without wifi and cellular signal, Shala provides a rare opportunity to avoid distractions and experience the present. The freezing river, crystal clear water, and steep mountains you’re surrounded by will bring you an intense feeling of well-being and happiness.

For us, Shala river was an opportunity to discover what the Albanians see as a weekend attraction: eating homemade dishes in a restaurant with self-sustained products and enjoying a different kind of beach from what we usually see.

The Beach of Shala River

The Shala river’s source is in the Albanian Alps, which provides a rare combination of bathing in Alpine water with the hot climate of Albanian summer. The beach of Shala is a part of the river that dries up in summer, so the only time to visit is between May and September. On the beach, you’ll find beach chairs, two bars, mineral water flowing from the river stream with a jungle scenario.
People who live and run the business in Shala preserve and appreciate this piece of nature, a rare thing to see in the tourism world. Shala is their home, a land they cherish passing in the family and tribe.

It affects the energy of the place. Tourism didn’t spoil it because it’s not just a business. It’s a home.

A bridge built above Shala River with nature around
The third bridge leading to Eagles Land Guest House

Tours to Shala River

If you’re pressed for time in Albania, or perhaps not keen on making the lengthy journey alone, but still want to experience the Shala River beach, taking a tour is a great solution.

A day tour to Shala River beach from Tirana with Lunch

This tour starts bright and early with a 6:00 AM pickup from your accommodation, followed by a scenic 3-hour drive. Next up, you’ll embark on a boat ride across the stunning blue waters of Komani Lake, leading you to the Shala River beach. Once there, you’ll have plenty of time to unwind, soak up the sun, or take a refreshing dip in the ice cold waters. Included in the tour is a lunch at Bee Eco restaurant, our favourite place in Shala River area. At 3:30 PM, it’ll be time to say goodbye to the beach and embark on the journey back to Tirana. Remember, you can cancel your ticket up to 24 hours in advance for a full refund. Click here to book this day trip to Shala River from Tirana.

Where to Stay in Shala River

There are three guest houses in Shala River: Blini-park, Bee-Eco, and Eagles Land. All offer a price for accommodation plus breakfast, or accommodation plus breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Bee Eco Guest House

After short bargaining (it’s never a bad idea), we stayed at Bee Eco and agreed on 3,500 Lek per person (30€), including the accommodation and three meals a day. What’s on the menu? Well, too much. You can ask for anything you wish: Eggs, salad, butter, freshly baked bread, a variety of handmade jam, honey, a variety of cheese, fresh fish on the grill, meat made in every possible way from any optional mammal, soups. Even reading that is too much. Every meal was freshly made and given with love.

Most people visit Shala river as a day trip: drinking, eating, dancing, chilling on the beach, and returning home. That’s a great option if you don’t have much time in Albania. We stayed for a few nights, and one day before leaving added an extra night.

Bee-Eco guest house in Shala River
Bee Eco Guest House

At noon Blini park guest house plays loud music for the day tour guests that visit the beach, we could do without the music, but it didn’t bother us too much. If you’re thinking about a peaceful time in Shala river, Eagles Land guest house is far enough so you won’t hear Blini’s music. If it’s your style, stay close to the music 🙂 Bee Eco is in the middle.

What to Pack to Shala River

Our recommendation is to take what you’ll pack to Shala river for any day out on the beach, with some additions. 

Arriving at Shala river includes a ride in a small motorboat, so we recommend coming with one comfortable backpack or a small trolly.

The midday sun on the beach is extremely strong, so take a good sunscreen

Pack sandals for Him & for Her for your daily walks exploring Shala’s river banks.

As the water in Shala’s stream is delicious and rich in minerals, bring a water bottle. You will be able to fill it directly from the stream and avoid unnecessary use of plastic.

The famous Spotted Trout swims in Shala river, so bring fishing gear if you love fishing. Whatever you’ll catch, the lovely hosts around Shala will cook it for you free of charge. 

We always carry a quick-dry beach towel when going to the beach.

Ensure you have a headlight or a flashlight because the guest houses in Shala river use a generator to light up the area at night. Somewhere at midnight, they turn it off to avoid noise and unnecessary fuel use.

Some extras to spoil yourself with can be a GoProKindle. Oh, and don’t forget a swimsuit for Him & for Her

How to Get to Shala River

From Shkodra

From Shkodra, get a taxi or a minibus to Komani Lake. The prices of the taxi can match the minibus if you’re more than two people. The minibus departs from Shkodra center next to the tourist information and costs 700 Lek, 6€. Ask your host about the hours of the minibus. The ride to Komani lake starts on a paved road, and after 20 min it becomes winding. We paid 700 Lek per person, 1400 Lek in total in a private taxi.

With your arrival at Komani lake, you can have a cup of coffee and relax till your boat to Shala River departs.

From Koman lake, join one of the small boats, no need to book in advance. It takes one and a half hours to reach Shala river, 500 Lek per person, 4€.

From Valbona

If on your journey to Albania you have hiked from Theth to Valbona and you feel like being pampered, Shala river is the answer.

Usually, most people go back to Shkodra or Tirana to regroup after the hike.
Instead, you should finish it the proper way and go recharge at Shala River.

First, take the bus from Valbona to Fierze– one hour, 700 LEK per person.
Second, take a ferry from Fierze to Koman lake– 2 hours, 800 LEK per person.
If it’s the high season, you should book a ticket online in advance.
And third, from Koman lake, join one of the small boats sailing to Shala, no need to book in advance. It takes one and a half hours to reach Shala river, 500 Lek per person, 4€.

Koman lake with mountains around
Koman Lake

Lake Koman

I promise you that the time on the boat from Koman to Shala will compensate for the winding car ride. The boat sails on a liquid turquoise surface, creating a mirror look to the mountains around, a sight even the cynical among us can’t stop photographing. While sailing further upstream, my bare feet froze just from touching the bottom of the boat. The water’s temperature cools down, and you can feel the air cools down as well. Eventually, the boat stops on one of the river banks next to a fairy tale bridge that will lead you to a legendary spot.
The arrival to Shala happens in a series of steps.
Enjoy every one of them.

Final Thoughts

Shala river, for us, felt like an actual vacation. To finally find a place without cellular reception that helps concentrate only on what’s around you. The steep mountains contribute by providing the feeling nothing else exists but this heaven. All that, together with fantastic Albanian hospitality.


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