This New European National Park Is a Historic Win for Mother Nature

The Vjosa River in Albania is one of the last wild rivers in Europe

Vjosa river valley albania and the snow capped mountains beyond it under a cloud-blue sky on a sunny day from aan elevated position above the valley
Albania's Vjosa River Valley, a gorgeous locale to be sure
Getty Images

Wild rivers are very uncommon. They’re often manipulated by human hands with dams and other artificial barriers, which is why a new European national park is such a big deal. Today, after an almost 10-year campaign by environmental Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs), the Vjosa River in Albania has been declared the first wild river national park in Europe. As a home to more than 1,000 species of animals and plants, including the endangered Egyptian vulture and critically endangered Balkan lynx, the designation is considered a huge win for Mother Nature.

The Vjosa River is 168 miles long and flows from Greece’s Pindus mountains, through Albania to the Adriatic coast. The region used to have about 45 hydropower plants, but now the once-communist nation is setting a prime example for the rest of Europe — and the world, in our opinion. 

“Vjosa is a symbol of human history and also a very important part of the history of our country,” Mirela Kumbaro Furxhi, Albania’s tourism and environment minister, told The Guardian. “Maybe Albania does not have the power to change the world, but it can create successful models of protecting biodiversity and natural assets, and we are proud to announce the creation of this first national park on one of the last wild rivers in Europe.”

Tourism in Albania is on the rise after many decades of unrest. The country welcomed 7.5 million visitors in 2022, and it hopes to regenerate villages in the Vjosa region through ecotourism. According to Albania prime minister Edi Rama, “national parks attract 20% more tourists compared with non-protected areas.”

The new park is 31,500 acres, and the years-long campaign was a collaboration between the Albanian government, Save the Blue Heart of Europe, International Union for Conservation of Nature and everyone’s favorite do-good retailer Patagonia, among others. The Albanian government is in talks with Greek authorities to protect the river across both countries.

Europe’s rivers are the most obstructed in the world, another reason why this is seen as such a huge win for conservationists. Here’s hoping other countries can take note, which doesn’t see so out of the question, especially if tourism dollars are at stake.


Join America's Fastest Growing Spirits Newsletter THE SPILL. Unlock all the reviews, recipes and revelry — and get 15% off award-winning La Tierra de Acre Mezcal.