Overview for Albanian Alps Explorer
The Albanian Alps Explorer is a walking tour for intrepid travellers who are eager to discover the beauty of the Albanian Accursed Mountains at their own pace.
Experience European hiking as it used to be
The Albanian Alps offer breathtaking natural scenery and 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 Valbona 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 scenic 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)
- Peja Pass
- Tower of Theth – Albanian blood feud tower
Itinerary for Albanian Alps ExplorerGo 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 – The Peja Pass or Meadows above the Clouds
Today you have the choice between the Peja Pass (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. The 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 neighbourhood. After crossing the river the ascend leads through light forest and on a 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.
Choice between two hikes, can also be used as relax day or exploring individually on a walk
A) Peja Pass: Hike on the caravan route to the karst plateau, can be shortened one hour each way with a 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 (Guesthouse 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, archaeologists discovered stone-aged 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.
↑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 Guesthouse 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 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.
↑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. Depature on Onward Travel
If time permits, you can further explore the city before 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 Albanian Alps ExplorerGo 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, 5 days full board with picnic lunch package, and 2 days breakfast only. Dinner when not in the mountains is available either from the restaurant in your hotel or restaurants and taverns in the village/town near your hotel.
Travel for Albanian Alps ExplorerGo 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 Albanian Alps ExplorerGo 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.
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 rainwear during the winter. If travelling 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, 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 Albanian Alps ExplorerGo 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 7 nights in hand-picked 2 to 4-star hotels or family-run guesthouses as listed in itinerary
- 5 days full board, 2 days B&B
- Daily luggage transport to next hotel of 1 bag of up to 25 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 7
- This holiday is available for solo travellers. As costs are not shared, a supplement is payable on the standard trip cost
- On request, we can provide a private guide (choose when booking)
- Lunches and dinners on Days 1 and 7, 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)