Ulza: A Friendly Town and Stunning Eco-Park
Ulza (or Ulëz) is a small charming town in the municipality of Mat in north-central Albania. This village occupies an acropolis-like plateau overlooking Ulza Lake, a water formation created by the nearby Ulëz Hydroelectric Power Station’s Dam. The town of Ulza stands within the Ulza Regional Nature Park, where ecotourism has emerged quite rapidly in recent years.
The credentials of Ulza
Ulza is still not a popular place among mainstream tourist guides. Yet, because it packs valuable natural beauty, the village is ideal as a family-friendly destination. The site is perfect for families, friends, or solo travelers on a budget. You only need a modest budget to enjoy all the beauties of Ulza and the surrounding area.
The town of Ulëz is rich in natural wonders made of forests with hiking trails, lakes, old towers, and churches. The main natural attraction is Ulza Lake, situated right beneath the town. This lake was formed in 1957 after a dam enclosed the stream of the Mati River here. The small 13.5 km² lake (5.2 mi²) offers a great deal. People of all ages can use the lake for fishing, cruising, boat-riding, kayaking, and bird-watching.
Another nearby lake you can visit is the Shkopetit lake. The Shkopet gorge to the east of Ulza awaits visitors into a lush getaway. This water body was formed similarly to Ulza Lake back in 1963. You can enjoy the lake by following hiking trails surrounding it, renting a boat, or simply sitting in an adjacent cafe. If you’re lucky, you will discover some stunning waterfalls in the hills surrounding the turquoise-colored lake.
Ulza in the previous century
The town of Ulza took its current shape in the 1950s. It developed in tandem with the construction of the nearby Hydroelectric Power Plant. The urbanization style followed Soviet-inspired patterns. At its height, some 2,000 people lived in this village, many coming from other districts such as Skrapar, Korça, and Berat.
After some careful refurbishments conducted throughout the years, the community somewhat abandoned the outdated Soviet-style urbanization. Now, it resembles similar lake-view settlements found in Italy or Greece. Indeed, the town is now more colorful, eco-friendly, self-sustainable, open, elegant, and dynamic.
Ulza village covers at most some 200 km² (77 mi²) with five neighborhoods and two forested areas (the forests of the Ulza and Shkopetit lakes). About 1,800 people live now in this area focusing on agriculture, fruticulture, tourism, and other businesses in the service industry.
What To Do In Ulza
Ulza is only some 70 km (43 mi) away from the capital of Tirana or about a 1 1⁄2 hour drive. One can visit Ulza throughout the whole year. However, to enjoy the best of Ulza lake, visit it during summer weekends. It’s during summer days when most outdoor fans visit the village, lake, and surrounding.
The area in and around Ulza is the only eco-park in Albania seeking sustainable development according to the best international standards. You can explore on a boat ride with seagulls as companions. Another upcoming activity in this tourist destination is cross-country mountain cycling. Whether on a mountain bike or an E-bike, you can pedal into some crude, moderate, or challenging trails. Horse riding and trail jogging constitute other outdoor sports options.
The food in Ulza is also very delicious. You ought to try the iconic dish of the locals, the lake-dwelling carp fish on the grill. A good fish-based meal will help you relax after your engaging outdoor adventures.
P.S.: When engaging in activities in and within the lake, follow the instructions of the local guides and use the services of licensed boat providers. Those with children should also take caution. The Ulza and Shkopetit lake have significant depth and length for minors to enter, swim, or dive alone.
* Ulza features in our top 10 Albanian villages *