Day 1. Arrival to Shkodra - historic capital & gateway to the Alps (included transfer from Tirana or Podgorica airport)
An organized transfer will take you from Tirana (TIA) or Podgorica (TGD) airport/city to Shkodra (approx. a 2-hour drive). A representative will meet you in the afternoon to give you your travel documents (road book, maps, GPS & SIM card), introduce you to the tour and route and answer all your questions. If you arrive early, we recommend you have a walk at the banks of the biggest lake in the Balkans, visit the Rozafa Castle and enjoy some lovely views of the Alps. Do not miss to have a walk on the pedestrian part of the center, mingle with the locals and soak in the atmosphere of authentic Albania. Try some delicious local meals in a restaurant of your choosing and prepare for an early start of your independent hiking adventure the following day (6:15 AM departure).
Day 2. Into the Accursed Mountains: boat ride on Koman Lake and warm up walk in the Valbona National Park (7km, 3hrs, +250m/-50m)
An early morning organized transfer will take you through the magnificent Drin Gorges and to the turquoise Komani Lake (approx. 1,30hrs drive). We have prepared an exciting start to your self-guided hiking tour with a memorable boat ride of this remarkably beautiful reservoir resembling a Norwegian fjord. This is an authentic experience as you will be riding a custom-made boat normally used only by locals to get to Fierze from the remote villages. You will have the opportunity to interact with Albanian people and gather first-hand impressions on local culture. The ride to Fierze is around 3 hours. In the early afternoon, you will be transferred to an interesting traditional mountain village with peculiar towering houses in the Valbona National Park. From there, you will follow your independent walking route for your first walk. You will follow a playful stream through a beautiful beech forest sprinkled with wild strawberries. Your walk ends at your accommodation in upper Valbona where you will enjoy a wonderful home-cooked dinner in the evening.
Day 3. Heights of Valbona: hike to Hamlet Kukaj, colorful meadows & meet hospitable shepherds (12km, 5-5,30hrs, +750m/-700m)
Today’s section of the self-guided hiking tour will take you to the charming secluded hamlet of Kukaj with only two residing families. You will follow a curving trail across lush green meadows sprinkled with colorful flowers to a peculiar shepherd’s hut which used to be a military structure. If the shepherd is there, you will have the great opportunity to try some home-made local dairy products. Enjoy the breathtaking surrounding landscape as you take a well-deserved break. You can climb further up to the old border with Montenegro and enjoy wonderful views over the Montenegrin Prokletije mountain and the Albanian Alps highest peak - Jezerca (2,694m). Whenever you are ready, descend to your accommodation following a different route. Enjoy a nice meal in the garden as you contemplate the beautiful sunset.
Day 4. The grand crossing: hike from Valbona to Theth (15km, 6,30hrs, +750m/-1125m)
Today’s independent walking route will bring you to the highest point of your itinerary and is one of the most beautiful highlights of your journey. A short transfer will take you to the meeting point with the mule porter who will transport your luggage across the magnificent Valbona Pass (1,811m). The initial ascend it quite steep, make sure you watch your step and take regular breaks to take a breath and enjoy the surrounding scenery. When you reach the mountain pass you will be rewarded with splendid views over the surrounding peaks. You will later descend to Theth through an enchanting beech forest providing shelter from the sun. As you approach the village, you will be greeted by the arching Mt. Arapi (2,217m). Reach your accommodation in the village center and take the time to soak in the atmosphere.
*N.B.: There is a minor chance of snow still blocking the Valbona Pass in the beginning of June. If the pass can be navigated through the winter route, a mandatory local guide will be added (€60 to be paid directly to the guide) to ensure safety on a steep, snow-covered section leading up to the pass. The luggage will be carried by local porters. If the pass is closed, a reverse transfer will be organized from Valbona via the Koman Lake to Theth. A 5am start is required and total travel will be around 9 hours. This adds €100 for a party of 1-4 persons (higher for more), payable locally to our partners at the end of the journey.
Day 5. The Peja Pass or meadows above the clouds (10km, 6,30hrs, +1000m/-1000m)
You have a couple of hiking options for today. You can either walk to the northern side of the valley and the Peja Pass enjoying wonderful views over the ‘Matterhorn of Albania’ or follow the panoramic trail to the Meadows of Denelli. Both route options are circular and will bring you back to your accommodation in Theth. If the first option is more appealing to you, an early start is recommended. You will either be taken to the trailhead with an optional transfer (4km) or you can simply walk there (approx. 1 hour of walking). The starting point for this section of the walking tour is at the source of the Thethi River. You will follow an old caravan path leading to the Kosovan city of Peja which it is also named after. The second available walk starts from your accommodation and ascends through the woods above the Ulaj neighborhood reaching wonderful highland plains.
Day 6. Explore Theth – the heart of the Albanian Alps (8km, 3,30hrs, +150m/-400m)
Take the time to explore the magnificent gem that is the village of Theth. Visit the iconic church, learn about local history and traditions and the highland law code of Leke Dukagjini. Follow your self-guided walking route along water channels up to the beautiful Thethi waterfall and then down to a cliff offering thrilling views over the neighboring Grunas Canyon. Continue following a path along the river down to Nderlysa where your next overnight will be. You will have the opportunity to try grapes and plums from your host’s garden and learn about beekeeping.
Day 7. The “Blue Eye” and the modern face of Albania (10km, 3,30hrs, +275m/-275m)
Today’s section of the self-guided hiking route is particularly picturesque. You will walk through a canyon to the stunningly beautiful karst spring called the Blue Eye. You can extend your walk by visiting a nearby abandoned hamlet. Your transfer is with a public minibus leaving around 1-2:00 PM and taking you through the beautiful Terthoria Pass and into the Valley of Boge along Lake Shkodra (approx. 3hrs drive). After a short break, you will change vehicles and arrive at your centrally-located hotel in Tirana in the early evening (approx. 2hrs drive). Tirana will show you a different side of Albania - modern, busy and exciting. You can opt to combine the hikes from today with the ones from the day before and leave early for Tirana. A private 4x4 transfer from Theth to Tirana is also available (payable extra, to be ordered at the time of booking, contact us for details).
Day 8. Departure day
Departure transfer to the airport of Tirana depending on your flight schedule.
695 Euro per person in twin/dbl room (triple rooms also possible for odd number of travelers!) (*20 Euro per person surcharge for arrivals during August/September)
Single room & Solo Traveler supplement
N/A (triple rooms possible for odd number of travelers)
Solo Traveler supplement: solo hikers are not accepted
Daily departures between early June and late September (late May / early October can be affected by snow (ask for details). Luggage allowance: 1 bag (up to 15kg) per person. Soft bags only (no suitcases!) as some luggage transfers are being done by horses. There is an option to order private transfers instead of public transport on days 1 & 7 (higher comfort, flex timing, limited availability): 120 Euros for a group of up to 4 pax (should be ordered at the time of booking). Note that in case of lost luggage, airports to do not deliver to the mountains.
On Day 1 you stay in Shkodra (hotel). On Day 2 and Day 3 - in Valbona (hotel/guesthouse). On Day 4 and Day 5 - Theth (guesthouse). On Day 6 - Nderylsa (simple farmstay). Private rooms throughout. Shared facilities in the guesthouses (3x). On Day 7 you stay in a hotel in Tirana (for departures from Tirana Airport (TIA) or Shkodra (for departures from Podgorica Airport (TGD). The overnights in Valbona on Day 2 and Day 3 are subject to availability: if no availability for two nights in Valbona, one night will be spend in Valbona and one night in Rragam or both nights in Rragam.