Japanese Media on Theth: A Place Out of a Fairy Tale


A slew of international media has sung its praises to the spectacular Albanian Alps throughout the last decade. But, this is the first time that Japanese media focus on the small, but mighty, alpine village of Theth.

Mizuho Ota, the well-known Japanese travel journalist has dedicated one of her signature detailed columns in the newspaper Asahi Shinbun to none other than Theth. For those of you who have been there, you know why! Theth, as Ota claims, is one of the most paradisiacal places on earth where times has stopped.

“The mountain range with peaks that reach over 2,000 meters above sea level, are also called the Albanian Alps. Theth, a beautiful village, looks as if out of a fairy tale. It is located only 15 kilometers from the border with neighboring Montenegro. Theth River gracefully crosses the entire village, passing by many characteristic old stone houses that seem frozen in time. It’s a tourist’s paradise, which is why they rush here during the summer,” writes Mizuho Ota.


National Park of Theth, Photo by IntoAlbania

Ota describes her visit to Theth in detail, including her new local acquaintances, most of them guesthouse owners like Gjon Shpella, of Shpella Guesthouse. Shpella recalls the Communist era for the Japanese journalist, during which all the mosques and churches were either demolished or given new functions. For instance, the Church of Theth, the icon of the village, was once a clinic. “It’s where I was born,” Shpella says.

Around 200 families lived in Theth when the Communist regime fell in 1991. The villagers faced especially challenging times ahead with most eventually emigrating to neighboring countries. However, with the passing of the years, tourists found their way to Theth, eventually helping the small village become the “must-see” it is today.

Gjon was one of the people who returned from emigration to invest in his birthplace and satisfy the growing demand from both local and international tourists. In the very beginning, he says, the number of guests was around 200 but, in a decade, it has grown to more than 8,000.

Especially now, people are looking for replenishing vacations, fresh air, soothing vistas and distance from crowds and pollution. Theth is bound to have more guests this summer!