Day 1: Arrival to Shkodra - historic capital & gateway to the Alps (included transfer from Tirana or Podgorica airport)
Welcome to the Balkans! You're met by a driver at Tirana (TIA) or Podgorica (TGD) airport/city for the two hour transfer to Shkodra. Meet our local partners' staff in the afternoon to receive materials (road book, maps, GPS & SIM card), get a walk thru of the trip and have all your questions answered. Arriving early, go swim in the Balkans largest lake and visit the Rozafa Castle to learn about its legend and enjoy the fabulous views of the Alps. Immerse in the buzz of the bazaar, at the Marubi photo library in the town's past or enjoy an espresso with the locals. In the evening bars bust with locals flocking for the evening stroll into the pedestrian zone. Lined with bourgeoisie town houses, reminder of the cities rich
past, it has a certain Italian atmosphere to it. When daylight fades you can choose between restaurants that offer carefully crafted traditional meals. We are wish you a good night after an interesting first day in Albania. Tomorrow you start early into the Albanian Alps! (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 starts affords a scenic drive through the Drin Gorges and to the Komani Lake (55km/1:30h). The picturesque reservoir loops similar to a Norwegian fjord through sheer rock walls and makes for the most attractive route into the Albanian Alps. You're in for a surprise by the custom made “boat”, which stops several times to pick up talkative locals from remote villages before arriving at Fierze (46 km/3h). After lunch, you're taken by car further into the highlands of the Valbona National Park into a traditional village composed of imposing tower houses. The afternoon warm-up walk follows a crystal clear stream through ancient beach forests speckled with the sweetest strawberries. Along the way, you can enjoy a swimming break at the river or a secluded pond. The walk ends at a cozy accommodation in upper Valbona and there’s opportunity to explore the vicinity further. The jagged peaks towering high above leave you with itchy feet, tomorrow will be the day! Tonight you enjoy a hearty home-cooked meal and well earned rest after this impression packed introduction to the Accursed Mountains
Day 3: Heights of Valbona: hike to Hamlet Kukaj, colorful meadows & meet hospitable shepherds (12km, 5-5,30hrs, +750m/-700m)
Refreshed you start the hike to Kukaj, an isolated hamlet where only two families reside. Below bunkers that once protected the border are now scattered in the riverbed. The windy path takes you over lush meadows ablaze with the colors of a wide variety of spring flowers to a shepherd hut on 1.650m. In the communist period, when this was a no-go area, the building used to be a military barrack. Admire the wild and romantic jagged mountain scenery, sample fresh milk products with shepherd s present or opt to climb higher to an ancient crossing at the Montenegrin border. At 2.045m a weathered border pyramid is the only reminder of the isolation Albania once endured, from here views reach to the most dramatic parts of Montenegrin Prokletije. Catching a last glimpse at the Alps highest peak Jezerca (2.694m) you descent on a different path to the accommodation. When daylight fades you admire the alpine glow over dinner in the idyllic garden. No surprise many local women are named after the beautiful valley.
Day 4: The grand crossing: hike from Valbona to Theth (15km, 6,30hrs, +750m/-1125m)
Another highlight and with with the highest point of the journey await today. After a short ride over a rough road, you meet the mule porter who carries the main luggage and set out for the hike across Valbona Pass (1.811m). Above the village Rragam few steep segments need to be tackled. Pause regularly near springs and on colorful meadows to take a breath of herb filled aromatic mountain air and enjoy the splendid views. Reaching the pass, the surrounding peaks appear on par and sweeping views of both national parks fascinate even the seasoned traveler. Enjoy the picturesque landscape during a lunch break ahead of the descent to Theth, where the fairy-tale beech forest provides cover from the sun in the afternoon. Close to the village the woods thin out, Mt. Arapi (2.217m) becomes more dominant and soon the upmost houses of the village are reached. Spread below are the the valleys many hamlets and a broad path takes you through the village to another inviting guesthouse in the center.
Day 5: The Peja Pass or meadows above the clouds (10km, 6,30hrs, +1000m/-1000m)
Choose for today's hike between the route to Peja Pass at the northern end of the valley below the Matterhorn of Albania or the panoramic trail to the Meadows of Denelli. Both are return routes and you stay for a second night at the same guesthouse. For the first sun exposed option an early start and optional transfer to the trailhead, 4 km drive or one hour walking time each way, are recommend. From where the trail starts near the source of the Thethi River, the wall still looks impenetrable. The ancient caravan path is hidden in the sheer 900 m drop below Mt. Arapi and named after the Kosovarian city Peja, where the route connected to. On top is a little lake where you cool down your feet. The Denelli walk starts from the guesthouse, leads through green Ulaj neighborhood and ascends after a river crossing in light forest to a path in the cliffs & football field sized plain in the middle of the mountains. You find shepherds here in July & August.
Day 6: Explore Theth – the heart of the Albanian Alps (8km, 3,30hrs, +150m/-400m)
A walk through the village and green fields reveals the full extent of Theth. Visit the iconic church and dive into the history of the “kanun” at the lock-in tower that offered protection to those affected. It is the perfect place to learn about the highland law code of Leke Dukagjini, its origins, impact and present day relevance. Onward along water channels the paths ascends to the Thethi waterfall and drops again to a cliff above the river where archaeologists discovered stone aged terraces .Gaze into the adjacent 50m deep Grunas Canyon before starting the second part of the hike on a well-worn bridle path that leads along the river downstream to Nderlysa Tonight's accommodation is a simpler, but very welcoming homestay in a much less visited hamlet. Use your free time to sample mulberries, grapes and plums in the garden, ask your host about bee keeping, explore
the surroundings or swim in the nearby pools. Find this walk too short? Hike yesterday's alternative option and transfer to Nderlysa.
Day 7: The “Blue Eye” and the modern face of Albania (10km, 3,30hrs, +275m/-275m)
The hike through a canyon leads to a karst spring called the “Blue Eye”. The bravest can take a dip in the icy, butterfly surrounded waters - truly a hidden oasis to relax at. Without mobile phone coverage, electricity and road access, busy everyday life feels completely forgotten. The walk can be a extended to a closeby abandoned hamlet. The public minibus collects passengers at around 1-2 pm, it's a scenic drive across the Terthoria Pass into the Valley of Boge and along Lake Shkodra (3 h), riding with the locals certainly add some flavor. After refreshments and changing cars it takes another two hours to arrive at the central hotel in the early evening. Tirana represents the modern, very different side of Albania. Conclude your day with dinner and a drink out in chic "blloku" district, recall the past week of travel and celebrate the memorable journey through the Albanian Alps. Want to combine yesterday and today's shorter hikes into one or just leave earlier for Tirana - opt for a private 4x4 transfer.
Day 8: Farewell Albania!
Airport transfer at your preferred timing
690 Euro per person in twin/dbl room (triple rooms also possible for odd number of travelers)
Single room supplement
N/A (triple rooms possible for odd number of travelers)
Best period: June - 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.
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). 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.