Europe’s first Wild River National Park protects the Vjosa River, which runs uniquely untamed from source to sea. Its resources have brought vibrance to many habitats and communities for generations. Exploring its terrain offers visitors both adventure and admiration of this park’s history. Home to diverse life, Vjosa has many stories to tell.
Vjosa Wild River National Park was established by the Council of the Ministers on March 13, 2023. The park protects the entire flow of the Vjosa River and four tributaries (Drino, Kardhiq, Bënça, and Shushica) covering 12,727 hectares. This ecosystem contains important biodiversity: over 1,100 animal species, including 13 animal and 2 plant species assessed as globally threatened on the IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM.
To build a successful national park, we are working to find the balance between local communities, tourism impact, and the urgent protection needs of the natural wilderness. It took 10 years to protect this area, and we are committed to creating a park that respects the important biodiversity, natural splendor, and the passionate community that calls it home.
A Wild River National Park is a protection concept that is designed to safeguard rivers and their threatened habitats. Today, freshwater ecosystems are the most threatened in the world. According to the Living Planet Index of WWF, the populations of freshwater species have globally declined by 84% since 1970. In Europe, the populations of migratory fish species have collapsed by 94% in the same period.
The Vjosa Wild River National Park is a National Park corresponding to IUCN's Protected Area Management Category II. The primary objective of the park is to protect natural biodiversity along with its underlying ecological structure, support environmental processes, and promote education and recreation. The Vjosa WRNP is a huge achievement for the Vjosa, Albania, and its 1,175 species. The Vjosa is Europe's first Wild River National Park, and it shouldn't be the last.
The river valleys of Vjosa have played a vital role in the lives of people for thousands of years. A myriad of prehistoric sites, aqueducts, and ancient settlements give a good indication of the region’s historical identity, a place of vibrant life, which continues today. Vjosa is home to Gjirokastra, a Cultural World Heritage Site since 2008, and a testament to the coexistence of various religious and cultural communities over its 2,400-year-long history.
Thanks to its Ottoman roots, visitors can enjoy delightful dishes that exult both local history and local sources. Enjoy the “pashaqofte”, a soup with small meatballs, or “qahi”, tiny spinach pies after your adventure. Oh, and don’t miss the local dessert in Gjirokastra, “oshaf”, with sheep milk and cinnamon.
The meandering streams, islands, canyons, and impressive tributaries of Vjosa Wild River National Park are home to substantial natural ecosystems. The outstanding scenic values of the valley are the result of undisturbed major natural processes and the harmonious settlement by local people. The ecosystem is host to more than 1,100 species of animals, including 13 that are globally threatened.
Today, there are a great many ways to experience the Vjosa Wild River National Park. From rafting, trekking, and climbing to exploring the cultural sites and their culinary history, visitors could spend months in this unique river park. The Adriatic Sea beaches, Bënja Thermal Baths, and Lekli Castle all offer a diverse playground for anyone interested in an adventure.