Overview for Accursed Mountains Short Break
The Albanian Alps Short Break is a 6 days (5 nights) tour for intrepid travellers who are eager to explore the highlights of the Albanian Alps on their own but have limited time. For those who would like to experience the Albanian Alps in full, we recommend the 8 days (7 nights) version of this itinerary.
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.
- Historic Shkoder and Rozafa fortress
- Accursed Mountains
- Koman ferry ride on fjord-like Lake Koman
- Theth National Park
- The Grand Crossing- the hike across the Valbona Pass (1,811m)
- Tower of Theth – Albanian blood feud tower
Itinerary for Accursed Mountains Short BreakGo to top of page
Day 1 – Arrival in Albania and Visit of Shkodra
Your driver will welcome you at the airport in Tirana or Podgorica. During the transfer to the hotel close to Shkodra’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 townhouses, a 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!
- Transfer from Tirana or Podgorica airport to Shkodra (90min)
- Check-in at a 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 cosy 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”.
- ↑250m ↓50m ↔ 7km ⌚ 3h
- Transfer by public minibus (6:30 am 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 the 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 colours of a variety of spring flowers to a shepherd hut at 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 old 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 the 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.
- ↑750m ↓700m ↔ 12km ⌚ 5:30h
- Hike to hamlet Kukaj and over flower-rich meadows to shepherd hut on 1650m, return on other to the 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 the 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 colourful 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 traveller. 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 enter another inviting guesthouse in the centre of the village.
- ↑750m ↓1125m ↔ 15km ⌚ 6-7h
- Short transfer by car to the trailhead
- Transfer hike on caravan route accompanied by horsemen across the Valbona Pass to Theth
- Luggage transport on a horse
- Overnight at Guesthouse Theth / private ensuite (Bujtina Polia)
- Meals included: Breakfast, packed lunch, dinner
Day 5 – Waterfall and Canyon – From Theth to Nderlysa and back to Shkoder / Tirana
The short trail downstream follows an ancient bridle path that connected Theth with the lower villages of the Shala region. Without mobile phone coverage, electricity, and road access busy everyday life seems completely forgotten. After a meal at a 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 élite it turned now into a chic upmarket neighbourhood 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 last dinner, you recall the past week of travel and celebrate a successful and memorable journey through Albania.
- 9 km ↑ 150m ↓ 300m ⌚ 3:30h (Theth – Grunas – Nderlysa)
- 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 6 – Tirana – Departure or Onward Travel
If time permits you can further explore the city prior to your departure.
- Depending on departure time possibility to further explore the capital
- Transfer to Tirana or Podgorica airport (1,5h – 2h)
- Meals included: Breakfast
Hotels for Accursed Mountains Short BreakGo to top of page
Simple, clean family-run guesthouses and middle-class hotels. Accommodation includes a boutique hotel in Shkoder, a hotel in Valbone, and several guesthouses.
*Hotels and guesthouses are subject to availability. In case a particular hotel is fully booked for your desired dates it will be replaced with a hotel of equal value and quality level; sometimes you will need to spend the night in a different building in close vicinity to the main building. While we try to arrange accommodations with en-suite bathrooms, this might not be possible on this particular trip on all days, especially in the high mountain. Exact accommodation details will be provided to you upon booking confirmation.
Meals as specified, mostly full board with picnic lunch package. When not in the mountains, dinner is available either from the restaurant in your hotel or from restaurants and taverns in the village/town near your hotel.
Travel for Accursed Mountains Short BreakGo to top of page
Recommended airports for this trip:
- Tirana Airport
- Podgorica Airport
Transfers to/from Airports: Included in the price of the trip (Tirana and Podgorica airport only).
Please note that only one airport transfer per party from the airport is included, though additional transfers can be arranged. It is advisable therefore that all party members arrive on the same flight or at least at a similar time. Night transfer extra charges may be applicable on private transfers in case of late night arrivals.
Flight information can change rapidly, and not all flights run daily. Please do check directly with the airlines’ websites or Skyscanner before finalising any booking with us. Please do not book your flights before we have confirmed your booking.
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 (duffle or backpack) with a maximum weight of 15 kg is included.
Albania: Country 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 staff 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 about 190 Albanian Lek. We strongly recommend taking sufficient cash for your daily requirements. Banks and ATMs are available, and credit/debit card payments are widely accepted in towns and cities and big petrol station chains but might be limited at some of the villages we visit.
Cost of living: in Albania, it is lower than in the UK. Some sample prices follow:
- A 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.
Trip Info for Accursed Mountains Short BreakGo to top of page
Difficulty Grade: Moderate
Suitable for active hikers with a moderate level of fitness. 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).
You will walk mostly on hiking trails. Most – but not all -of the trails are well marked and signposted. We strongly advise you to follow only marked trails and never try to shorten the path through the unknown and unmarked terrain. We will provide you with detailed road notes and maps and you can call our 24/7 local assistance phone number anytime. More detailed info on route navigation will be included in your holiday information pack.
When to Go
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.
Since it has coastlines on the Adriatic and Ionian seas and highlands, Albania experiences a variety of weather patterns depending on the area. Albania has a Mediterranean climate with hot summers and 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.
What to Bring
We recommend that you travel as light as possible – airlines might charge you an extra fee, and during ground transfers, the place might be limited. Ideally, you should bring one piece of luggage weighing no more than 15 kg (due to the limitation in baggage transfers) and a day pack for your daily essentials (snacks, drinking water, camera, etc.). Below is a non-exclusive list of what you should bring to this trip. If you need further advice, please contact a reputable outdoor retailer or us.
- 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).
Included for Accursed Mountains Short BreakGo to top of page
- Detailed pre-departure holiday information pack including GPS-checked and regularly updated route descriptions and road notes; maps with daily routes and optional hikes marked
- Accommodation for 5 nights in hand-picked 2 to 4-star hotels or family-run guesthouses in Albania as listed in itinerary
- 3 days full board, 2 days B&B
- Daily luggage transport to next hotel of 1 bag of up to 15 kg per person
- All ground transfers and baggage transfers as listed in itinerary
- 24/7 assistance by phone
Single Room & Solo Traveller Supplements
- Single room supplement: due to limited availability in the mountains, single room supplement for group members is possible only on Days 1 and 5
- Lunches and dinners on Days 1 and 5, drinks & snacks on all days
- Travel insurance
- Personal expenses such as phone calls, extra transfers, tips, etc.
- Any items not explicitly mentioned in the program
- One extra night in Tirana and/or Skodra before or after the holiday (please choose when booking)
Gallery for Accursed Mountains Short BreakGo to top of page
Reviews for Accursed Mountains Short BreakGo to top of page
The Valbone to Theth crossing was fantastic, a nice challenge but very rewarding. Great holiday overall. We had a fantastic time thank you. [The most memorable parts of the holiday were] The trek to Theth, first seeing the mountains as we walked along the river to valbona, a scorpion running over my foot, seeing a tiny humming bird the size of a butterfly in the mountains, continuing the day 3 trek to the shepherds hut further for another hour to the Pyramids and seeing a view across to the black mountains in Montenegro which quite literally took my breath away 🙂 [...] [The smartphone navigation app was] Fabulous! So so easy and gave total peace of mind. It still felt like an adventure but not a dangerous one!
Hotels were much nicer than I was expecting, transfers were stress free, local reps v helpful. We would both heartily recommend and are hoping to do another next year.
The Valbone to Theth crossing was fantastic, a nice challenge but very rewarding. Great holiday overall.
We had a fantastic time thank you. [The most memorable parts of the holiday were] The trek to Theth, first seeing the mountains as we walked along the river to valbona, a scorpion running over my foot, seeing a tiny humming bird the size of a butterfly in the mountains, continuing the day 3 trek to the shepherds hut further for another hour to the Pyramids and seeing a view across to the black mountains in Montenegro which quite literally took my breath away 🙂 [...] [The smartphone navigation app was] Fabulous! So so easy and gave total peace of mind. It still felt like an adventure but not a dangerous one!