Nikaj-Mertur RNP has much to offer its visitors, both from the natural perspective and the cultural and historical heritage present in the area. Visitors can enjoy a wide range of sports and outdoor activities.
Alpinism & Mountaineering: Nikaj-Mertur RNP is one of the most suitable places for alpinism in Albania. The park's terrain provides excellent conditions for the development of amateur as well as professional mountaineering and climbing. The whole area is surrounded by peaks of over 2000m above seas level where you can enjoy some fantastic steep slopes. The most suitable places for mountaineering are the Ershel-Ndermanje-Kakije range and the Qafa e Kolcit, Shkami i Rajës and Kora e Merturit mountains.
Hiking: The park offers paths with varying difficulties and is accessible to people of all physical abilities. Some thematic hiking trails have been recently developed, like the chestnut trail and the strawberry path. The chestnut trail extents from the Brisa and Salca villages through the Curraj i Poshtëm and Curraj i Epërm villages.
Fly Fishing: Crystalline waters are the perfect environment to practice this sport, hence making Nikaj-Mertur an ideal location if you are interested in fly fishing. The pristine waters accompanied by the sounds of chirping birds will lead you into an unforgettable fly fishing experience. The Nikaj and Mertur rivers, along with the Curraj i Poshtëm rivers are ideal places for this activity.
Canoeing: Visitors can only go canoeing on Lake Fierza, as the rivers within Nikaj-Mertur RNP do not have enough water for this sport. Visitors should bring their own canoeing equipment, since no such equipment is available anywhere in the area yet.
Traveling on Bike: There are currently no bicycle rental companies in Nikaj-Mertur. Groups who visit this area by bicycle either bring their own bikes or rent them ahead of time.
Kayaking: Rich in rivers, Nikaj-Mërtur is an ideal place for kayaking. With prior booking, tour operators in Tirana can take visitors to paddle along the Curraj River— a quiet river with few strong currents.
Horseback riding: A very fun way of exploring the natural beauty and villages of Nikaj-Mërtur. Hosts often offer horses for rent at a reasonable price. If desired, the horses can also carry luggage and water while visitors are on their hikes.
Agritourism: The local farmers of the park invite visitors to join them as they perform their daily activities. Visitors can learn about traditional cultivation methods used to grow local fruits and vegetables and can also see how dairy products are processed.
Cultural Tourism: Nikaj-Mertur RNP is home to many places of cultural significance. These cultural sites tell stories of how people lived in this part of Albania generations ago. Must-see cultural sites include the churches of Raja and Vargu, Kalaja e Lekës (Leka’s Castle), and the various kulla (towers), some of which are over 300 years old.
Paragliding: It’s a sport that has yet to be fully developed in the area, but that has much potential in the region. The most favorable places for paragliding are in the vicinity of the Salca, Palca and Kolec villages.
Caving: Numerous caves can be found throughout the park, including the cave of Kakverr, Muldeas, Raja, Frati and Bosh. The abundance of limestone is the main reason why so many caves have formed in the region. There have also been talks by the local institutions to declare Nikaj-Mertur a Speleological Park. It is said that some of the caves have healing properties, and visitors should definitely ask locals about them. However, since many caves have yet been fully explored, visitors are encouraged to be very careful when entering them and to always hire a local guide.
The Caves of Nikaj-Mertur RNP
Shpella Bira e Zezë: This cave is located in Qeresh-Mulaj and so far 5200m of it have been explored. Numerous legends about this cave have been passed down from generation to generation. Elders often to the local children that there are dragons and evil spirits within this cave, calling these mythical beings "those who do not know God." These stories have encouraged children to stay away from this cave for generations. It is an enormous cave with a lot of potential for tourism development. You can visit it by way of all the trails that pass through Qeresh-Mulaj.
Shpella e Shkamit të Rajës: This cave (Raja’s Cave in English) is said to be over a million years old and it is located on the Lake Koman, in the middle of the Shkembi i Rajes (Raja’s Rock). Stories about this cave can be traced back to ancient times, while northern Albanians to this day see it as a holy site. It has been a place where northern Albanians have been pilgrimaging to for centuries. It is also interesting from a geological point of view: various types of rock formations are present inside the cave, as well as many stalactites and stalagmites, some of which are so large that they look like pillars that prevent the cave ceiling from falling over. Visitors here can observe a rare case of stalactites joining with stalagmites. Scientists refer to this cave as a living geological laboratory.
Shpella e Boshit or Boshi’s Cave, is located on Mount Boshi, right above the village of Curraj Epërm. Until now, only 1300m of this cave have been explored due to its long distance from the village center and its uneven terrain. Large drops of over 250m and underground lakes can be found inside.
Shpella e Kakverrit is located on the Kakia mountains and begins with a giant karst pit the shape and size of an Olympic stadium. Researchers claim that this is the only one of its kind across Europe, given its unique structure and size. Throughout the summer and fall, visitors can find various forest fruits within this cave and maybe even meet its permanent resident—the black salamander. The Shpella e Kakverrit is accessible and can be found along the Vranë-Kaki hiking trail.
Shpella e Fratit: is located on the secondary road that links Palca to Salca. It is about 100m long and holds many stalactites and stalagmites. Legend has it that a monk once entered this cave and after going about 8 to 9km, he came out at the Shkamit e Rajes cave. It can be found along the Palç-Salcë trail.
Shpella e Alisë: is located in the village of Mulaj, about 700m above Qafa e Pipit. The visit should definitely be conducted with a speleological guide, due to the high skill level required to enter this cave. Visitors will find the panorama while climbing this cave to be very unique.
Equipment Necessary for Caving:
- 1 Headlamp
- Extra batteries
- 1 Helmet
- At least 1 fully-charged cellphone per group
- Water bottle (1L per person)
- Appropriate clothing that can keep you warm