The Albanian Alps & Accursed Mountains
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Overview

The Albanian Alps & Accursed Mountains is a tour for intrepid travelers who are eager to explore the highlights of the Albanian Alps on their own (an 8-day tour, suitable for average fitness levels).

Experience European hiking as it used to be.
The Albanian Alps and Accursed Mountains offer breathe taking natural scenery and offer the best hiking through some of the last untamed natural locations and wilderness available in Europe.

From your starting point at historic Shkoder on Lake Skadar you’ll have the chance to visit Rozafa Fortress. Your journey to the heart of the Accursed Mountains is an integral part of the Albanian Alps experience and includes a ride on the Koman Ferry (described as one of the world’s great boat journeys).

The tour offers the chance to visit two of the most spectacular valleys: Valbona and Theth National parks. Both are dominated by towering mountains and include a walk through the Valbone Pass, along an old mule trail with breathtaking panoramas of the Accursed mountains. There’s also hike to the Peja Pass in Theth with spectacular views of Mount Arapit, the “Albanian Matterhorn”, with its magnificent 800m sheer rock face. Included in the itinerary is a chance to visit the Albanian Blood Feud tower in Theth and the Blue Eye karst spring.

The Albanian Alps & Accursed Mountains hikes include rugged mountain terrain but also take you through beautiful mountain valleys, alpine meadows, and remote villages surrounded by the majestic peaks of the Albanian Alps.

The return journey includes a panoramic drive over the Terthoria Pass to the low lands and onto Albania’s capital Tirana for sightseeing.

The Albanian Alps self-guided walking holiday highlights:

  • Historic Shkoder and Rozafa fortress;
  • Journey into the Accursed Mountains: Koman ferry ride on fjord-like Lake Koman;
  • Spectacular views on scenic hikes in the Valbona and Thethi National Parks;
  • The Grand Crossing- the hike across the Valbona Pass (1811m);
  • Peja Pass –hike through the valley below Mount Arapit;
  • Tower of Theth – Albanian blood feud tower;
  • Blue Eye karst Spring;
  • Discover traditional Albanian mountain lifestyle and warm hospitality.

Itinerary

Day 1 - Arrival in Albania and Visit of Shkodra

Your driver welcomes you at the airport in Tirana. During the transfer (90 min) to the hotel close to Shkoder’s centre you can gather first impressions. If the weather allows it you have the choice to swim at the Balkans biggest lake or visit the Rozafa Castle. Learn about its legend and enjoy fabulous views which excite your curiosity for the days of travel through the Albanian Alps. In the city the cafés burst with people who flock for a stroll on the pedestrian area. Lined with bourgeoisie town houses, reminder of the city's rich past, it has a certain Italian atmosphere to it. Immerse in the buzz of the bazaar, at the Marubi photo library in Albania’s past, visit the museum, or enjoy an espresso with the locals. When daylight fades you can choose between restaurants that offer carefully crafted traditional meals. On the next day you are heading off to the Albanian Alps!

Additional Info
Transfer from Tirana or Podgorica airport to Shkodra (90min).
Check-in at boutique hotel in Ottoman Villa, bicycles available free of charge.
City tour with notes and maps.
Overnight at Shkoder boutique hotel (Hotel Tradita).

Day 2 - Journey into the Accursed Mountains

You rise early for the transfer through a scenic gorge to the Koman Dam (55km/1:30h). The picturesque reservoir loops similar to a Norwegian fjord through sheer rock walls and is considered a highlight of the Alps. The custom made ferry stops at several points to pick up locals from remote villages before arriving at Fierze (46km/3h). After lunch you travel by minibus past traditional villages, composed of wooden shingle-covered stone houses, into the highlands and the Valbona National Park (35km/1:15h). On a first warm-up walk you continue on foot along the crystal clean stream and on quiet berry-lined trails through the forest to the secluded Xhemes Lake for a swimming break. The walk ends at your cozy accommodation in a small hamlet. You will have itchy feet when you see the jagged peaks from the terrace, the next day will be "the day".

Additional Info
↑250m ↓50m ↔ 7km ⌚ 3h
Transfer by public minibus (6:30am pickup time) or private car to ferry port Koman (90min).
Boat ride through the canyons of the Koman Lake (3h).
Transfer from Fierze via Bajram Curri (optional lunch stop) to trailhead in Valbona (75min).
Luggage transport by car.
Warm-up walk with swimming opportunity (3h).
Overnight at Valbone Hotel / private ensuite (Vila Dini or  Guesthouse Kol Gjoni).
Meals included: Breakfast, lunch, dinner.

Day 3 - Valbona – Queen of the Mountains

You start your hike to Kukaj, an isolated hamlet where only two families reside, below bunkers that once protected the border and 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 this was a no-go area and the building used as a military barrack. Admire the wild and romantic jagged mountain scenery, sample fresh milk products should the shepherd be present, or opt to climb higher to an ancient crossing at the Montenegrin border.

At 2.040m a weathered border pyramid is a 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 another guesthouse. When daylight fades you can watch the alpine glow over dinner in the idyllic garden.

Additional Info
↑750m ↓700m ↔ 12km ⌚ 5:30h
Hike to hamlet Kukaj and over flower-rich meadows to shepherd hut on 1650m, return on other to guesthouse in Rragam - extension to Montenegrin border (+2h).
Luggage transport by car.
Overnight at Guest house Rragram** (private ensuite).
Meals included: Breakfast, packed lunch, dinner

Day 4 - The Grand Crossing: Hike from Valbona to Theth

Accompanied by a local and a mule that carries your load you set out for the transfer hike across Valbona Pass (1.811m) – another highlight and highest point of your journey. After passing the village Rragam few steep segments need to be tackled. You can pause regularly near springs and on colorful meadows to enjoy the splendid views. Reaching the pass the surrounding peaks appear on par and sweeping views of both valleys fascinate even the seasoned traveler. Enjoy the picturesque landscape during a lunch break ahead of the descent to Theth. The fairy-tale beech forest provides cover from the sun in the afternoon for you. By the time the woods thin out Mt. Arapi (2.217m) is visible and soon the upmost houses of the village are reached. Spread below are the different hamlets. On a broad path you reach another inviting guesthouse in the center of the village.

Additional Info
↑750m ↓1125m ↔ 15km ⌚ 6-7h
Short transfer by car to the trailhead.
Transfer hike on caravan route accompanied by horse men across the Valbona Pass to Theth.
Luggage transport on horse.
Overnight at Guest house Theth / private ensuite (Bujtina Polia).
Meals included: Breakfast, packed lunch, dinner

Day 5 - The Peja Pass or Meadows above the Clouds

Today you have the choice between the Peja Pass (located at the northern end of the valley below the Matterhorn of Albania, Mt. Arapi) or the panoramic trail to the Meadow of Deneli. For the hike up the Peja Pass we recommend an early start and using transport to and from the trailhead, otherwise add 4km or 1h walking time each way. One-way transfer is 20€, return 30€. The trail starts near the source of the Thethi River and follows an ancient caravan path.

To reach Deneli you start from the guesthouse and walk through the green Ulaj neighborhood. After crossing the river the ascend leads through light forest and on path in the cliffs to the football field size plain in the middle of the mountains.

Both routes return the same way and you stay in the previous night’s guesthouse.

Additional Info
Choice between two hikes, can also be used as relax day or exploring individually on a walk
A) Peja Pass: Hike on caravan route to the karst plateau, can be shortened one hour each way with transfer, 18 EUR one way, 35 EUR return.
↑950m ↓950m ↔ 7-15km ⌚ 5:45-7:45h
B) Field of Denelli: Hike on a cliff walk to the shepherd hut on a mountain plateau.
↑1000m ↓1000m ↔ 10km ⌚ 6:30h
C) Shorter walks up to 4h within the valley.
Overnight as previous night's accommodation (Guest house Theth (private ensuite)).
Meals included: Breakfast, packed lunch, dinner.

Day 6 - Theth – In the Heart of the Albanian Alps

A walk through the village and the green gardens reveals the full extent of Theth. Visit the iconic church, well-kept fields and dive at the lock-in tower that offered protection for men threatened by blood feud into the history of the “kanun”. It is the perfect place to learn about the highland law code of Leke Dukagjini, its origins, impact and present day relevance.

Onward along the water channels you ascend to the waterfall. On a cliff above the river archeologists discovered stoneaged terraces. You can rest there, enjoy picnic lunch and gaze into the adjacent 50m deep Grunas Canyon. Along the river a well-worn bridle path leads downstream to Nderlysa where you stay on a farmstead. You can use your free time to sample mulberries, grapes, and plums in the garden, harvest corn and milk sheep with the family, learn to cook a typical dish, explore the surroundings, or swim.

Additional Info
↑150m ↓400m ↔ 8km ⌚ 3:30h
Walk through the village to waterfall, canyon and blood feud tower. Hike on bridle path to Nderlysa. Free afternoon with swimming possibility and many other options.
Luggage transport by car.
Overnight at Guest house in Nderlys / private ensuite (Bjeshka Guesthouse).
Meals included: Breakfast, packed lunch, dinner.

Day 7 - The “Blue Eye” and Modern Face of Albania

The hike through the canyon leads to a karst spring called “Blue Eye”. The bravest can take a dip in the icy waters while butterflies swirl around you - truly a hidden oasis to relax at. Without mobile phone coverage, electricity, and road access busy everyday life seems completely forgotten. After a meal at the guesthouse the minibus takes you to the Edith Durham Memorial, over a scenic pass road to the Boga Valley and Shkodra (3h).

Depending on the time of your flights (and the selected airport) you can choose to spend the last evening of your trip in either Shkoder or Tirana (to be clarified upon booking).

If you'd like to spend the evening in Tirana:
You change cars and continue for another 90 minutes. In the capital you can visit museums, admire historic buildings and explore the “blloku” district. Once the living quarters of politburo elite it turned now into a chic upmarket neighborhood packed with boutique shops and cafes. Tirana stands in stark contrast to the rural areas of Albania you explored in the Accursed Mountains. Your day concludes with a final dinner, you recall the past week of travel and celebrate a successful and memorable journey through Albania.

Additional Info
↑275m ↓275m ↔ 9km ⌚ 3:30h
Return hike along the river to a karst spring (3-4h).
Transfer by public minibus (1-2pm departure) over the Thoria Pass (1645m) to Shkodra (3h).
Transfer to Tirana or Podgorica airport - depending on flights.
City tour with notes and maps.
Overnight at Shkoder boutique hotel or Tirana - depending on your flights.
Meals included: Breakfast, lunch.

Day 8 - Tirana - Mirupfashim and Faleminderit Albania

If time permits you can further explore the city prior to your departure. 

Additional Info
Depending on departure time possibility to further explore the capital.
Transfer to Tirana or Podgorica airport (1,5h - 2h).
Meals included: Breakfast.

Hotels

Accommodation

Simple, clean family-run guesthouses and middle-class hotels. Accommodation includes a boutique hotel in Shkoder, a hotel in Valbone, and several guest houses.

Sample hotels for the The Albanian Alps self-guided walking holiday itinerary: Hotel Tradita, Vila Dini, Guesthouse Kol Gjoni, Bujtina Polia, Bjeshka Guesthouse, Vila 60

Meals

Meals as specified, mostly full board with picnic lunch package. Dinner is available either from the restaurant in your hotel or from restaurants and taverns in the village/town near your hotel.

Travel Info

Flights info for this trip

  • Recommended airport for this trip: Tirana or Podgorica Airport.
  • Transfers to/from Airports: Included in the price of the trip (to Tirana or Podgorica airport).

Baggage Transfers

Baggage transfer is included and your bags will be transferred by your current hotel (or by private transfer) to your next hotel. Please note that suitcases are not suitable for transport on horses and only one piece of soft baggage (duffel or backpack) with maximum weight of 15kg is included.

Albania: County Info

Timezone: GMT +1. Language: Albanian. In big cities many people speak English, but in remote areas this might not be the case. However most of the hotel personnel where we stay speak English and are ready to help you. You can always call our 24/7 help line in case of problems.

Electric supply and plugs: 220V, 50Hz, two pin round plugs.

Currency: The official currency in Albania is the Albanian Lek. 1£ is approximately 190 Albanian Lek. We strongly advise taking adequate cash for your daily requirements. Banks and ATMs are available and credit/debit card payments are widely accepted in towns and cities and in big petrol station chains, but might be limited at some of the villages we visit.

Cost of living: in Albania is lower than in the UK. Some sample prices follow:

  • 3-course meal in a standard restaurant: 2500 Albanian Lek or £ 13.
  • A litre of mineral water from a street shop: 57 Albanian Lek or £ 0.30.
  • A cup of coffee: 120 Albanian Lek or £ 0.60.

Up-to-date travel advice on Albania is available here.

Detailed up-to-date travel information and hints will be provided in your holiday information pack.

Useful Info

DIFFICULTY GRADE: MODERATE

Fitness Level

The Albanian Alps self-guided walking holiday is suitable for active hikers with a moderate level of fitness (one long transfer hike). Moderate itineraries may include extended steep ascents and descents along routes. May also include high mountain (alpine) terrain which is rugged and rough underfoot and some sections of scrambling (read more about difficulty grades).

Route Navigation

You will walk mostly on hiking trails. Most of the trails are well marked and sign posted. Still, you will be provided with detailed road notes, visual photo guide and maps, and you can call anytime our 24/7 local assistance phone number.

When to go

The whole summer and early autumn are beautiful in Albania with colorful foliage in late spring, gorgeous sunsets in summer and warm panoramas in autumn.

Weather

Since it has coastlines on the Adriatic and Ionian seas, highlands, Albania experiences a variety of weather patterns depending on the area. Generally Albania has a Mediterranean climate with hot summers and generally mild winters, especially on the coast. Throughout the year, there is abundant rainfall. Albania also has a lot of mountainous regions, where the winters can be very harsh with snowfall and low temperatures.

In the coldest month, January, Albania is about 1.6 deg C. In July, which is typically the warmest month, the weather reaches about 32 degrees Celsius. The dry period of the year is from June to September while it is predominately cold and wet from October to May. The lowlands have milder winters and milder summers than the coast; in the coastal regions, the daily temperatures fluctuate more. Throughout, the nights cool down significantly; all tourists should bring warm clothing and rain wear during the winter. If traveling during the summer tourists should bring light, cotton clothes but also a light sweater for summer nights.

What to Bring

We recommend that you travel as light as possible - airlines might charge you an extra fee, and during ground transfers place might be limited. Ideally, you should bring one piece of luggage weighing no more than 15 kg (due to limitation in baggage transfers) and a daily pack for your daily essentials (snacks, drinking water, camera, etc). Below is a non-exclusive list of what you should bring to this trip. More detailed info will be included in your holiday information pack. If you need further advice, please contact us or a reputable outdoor retailer.

  • Good hiking boots;
  • Hiking socks;
  • Several t-shirts (cotton or preferably breathable/fast drying);
  • Packable Waterproof and windproof jacket with hood;
  • Synthetic mid layer or warm fleece;
  • Trainers and/or sandals – to relax and wear inside accommodation;
  • Sunglasses, sunscreen and lip salve;
  • Hat/Baseball cap;
  • Personal First Aid kit (wet wipes, flu remedies, stomach remedies).

Prices

This trip is available from June until September. Weather is best in July - September.

The flexibility of self-guided holidays means that there are no fixed dates and you can start your holiday on any date in the season - so please indicate desired starting date when booking.

You will not be asked to make any payments to us before your trip availability has been explicitly confirmed.

PRICE: GBP 510 per person

(group discounts applicable to parties of 4 or more)

Included

  • accommodation: private ensuite rooms,
    4x overnights in alpine guest houses,
    3x selected hotels with B&B in central location in Shkodra and Tirana;
  • all transfers within Albania, including transfers from/to airport in Tirana or Podgorica;
  • meals as specified, mostly full board with picnic lunch package;
  • luggage transport between guesthouses by car and on horse;
  • local SIM card (to contact the office);
  • road book including:
    • optional pre-departure information with readings and movies;
    • day by day notes (city tour, walking directions, cultural background information);
    • maps for the hiking areas as well as cities.

Options

  • Single room supplement: add 20% to standard trip price. Where solo travellers or individual members of a group require a single room, a single room supplement is applicable. (for further details of costs applicable to solo travellers see section below);
  • You can rent from us a Garmin handheld GPS with preloaded tracks for all walks: GBP 20 for 7 days.

Solo Traveller supplement

The Albanian Alps self-guided walking  holiday is available for solo travellers. As costs are not shared a 20% supplement is payable on the standard trip cost (including the single room supplement above) and also on any private transfers required which are not included in the trip price.

Self Guided+

On request, we can provide a private guide (£40 per day for a group of up to 6 persons).

Excluded

  • Flights and connecting land transfers not mentioned as included in the itinerary;
  • Excluded meals;
  • Travel insurance;
  • Personal expenses such as drinks, phone calls, extra transfers, tips, etc.;
  • Any items not specifically mentioned in the program;
  • Entrance fees (circa 5 EUR per person).

Booking and Payment details

  1. When you book (deposit payment):
    No payment is needed when you book initially. Within 48 hours (72 hours on weekends and bank holidays) we will send you a confirmation email with deposit payment instructions (you can pay online by credit card, debit card or by bank transfer). Deposit is 20% of the trip price including options.
  2. Balance payment:
    Four weeks before the trip, the full balance will be due for payment (we will send you a reminder email with payment instructions at least 7 days prior to this).
  3. Receiving Information pack and trip notes:
    Upon confirmation of your balance payment you will receive the information pack and detailed trip notes (no later than 3 weeks before your trip).
    A member of the Natural Adventure Team will always be available to answer any questions you may have right up to the time of your trip. During the trip you will also be able to call a member of our team any time (24/7).

For detailed information on payment and booking please see below links:


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