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Peaks of the Balkans Extended Route 1

Peaks of the Balkans Extended Route

Overview

Building upon our vast experience in developing walking itineraries in the Balkans, we are happy to offer an extended version of one of the best long-distance trails in the region, guaranteeing a truly authentic experience that will take you completely away from the everyday life.

Peaks of the Balkans is the first transnational long-distance hiking trail traversing the Western Balkans, taking you on an unforgettable circuit in the mountains of Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro through some of the finest scenery this corner of Europe has to offer. It is an epic walk along shepherd paths and footpaths winding through alpine scenery up to 2300m above the sea level, with a diversity of breathtaking landscapes, varying from green valleys to crystal-clear mountain lakes and rugged peaks.

In case you would like to enrich your experience by joining and international group with an English-speaking local tour leader, you can check our guided itineraries here and here.

Highlights

Our Co-Founder Peter Duncan hiked in Montenegro and Kosovo in 2016. You can read his Mail on Sunday article here

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival and transfer to Shkoder

This day a private transfer will be arranged to pick you up at the airport (Tirana or Podgorica) and transfer you to the city of Shkoder.

Day 2: Shkoder – Nderlyse – Theth

The village of Theth is one of the most picturesque places in Northern Albania. Preserved by the wild nature and very bad roads, the village has still the kulla and other buildings dating back in middle ages. Kulla e Ngujimit is a three-story rock building with no windows. It served as the self-imposed exile for people who were involved in blood feuds. You will spend this day walking in the village toward the waterfalls and naturally created “bath-tubs” of the river Shala. This is a short relaxing walk full of culture and natural beauties.

  • Distance for the day: 10 km, 3-4 hours ­ ­↑­­­­266m ↓435m
  • Accommodation: Guesthouse Polia or similar
  • Meals: breakfast, lunch box and dinner

Day 3: Theth – Valbone

Today you will do one of Albania’s most iconic hikes from Theth (728 m) over the Valbona Pass (1759 m) to the town of Valbona (995 m) in the heart of the eponymous national park. This 14-kilometre route follows the path of an ancient mule track linking the tribal regions of Shala and Nikaj. The trail goes through a narrow crest that gives a view onto both valleys and the most southern glacier in the northern hemisphere. After a demanding ascent, you will reach the village of Valbona. You will be walking between the catholic valley of Shala and the Muslim valley of Valbona. The Albanian Catholics are descendants of pro-Venetian Albanians living in the city of Shkodra. These are the most southern Roman Catholics in Europe – the Albanian Catholics have moved to these mountains to preserve their religion from the Ottoman rule.

  • Distance for the day: 20 km, 7-8 hours ­ ­↑­­­­1068m ↓850m
  • Accommodation: Vila Dini or similar
  • Meals: breakfast, lunch box and dinner

Day 4: Valbone – Cerem

There are two possible routes from Valbone to Cerem: the low (valley) route and the spectacular high route via Prosllopi Pass (the one we recommend). The high route is quite demanding but also rewarding, revealing views on the steep rocky mountains of Kollata, which are popular among climbers. The low trail is mostly a tractor road offering less in terms of scenery but is suitable for those who would like to have an easier walking day.

  • Distance for the day: 14 km, 6-7 hours ­ ­↑­­­­1200m ↓950m
  • Accommodation: Gueshouse Kujtim Gocaj or similar
  • Meals: breakfast, lunch box and dinner 

Day 5: Cerem – Doberdol

Today you will walk between two shepherds’ villages which are inhabited only during the summer because of the abundant pastures. Doberdol is a village connected to the world only by small tracks, and it is not reachable by car. The village is situated below the triple-border point between Albania, Kosovo, and Montenegro. On the way, you will pass through the village of Balqin where you can stop for a glass of fresh milk served by the local shepherds.  This part of the mountains is under strict protection, as they are also home to the glacial lakes of Sulbica plateau. Gashi Valley was included in UNESCO’s Natural World Heritage list in 2017.

  • Distance for the day: 16 km, 6 hours ­ ­↑1030m ↓440m
  • Accommodation: Guesthouse Leonardi or similar
  • Meals: breakfast, lunch box and dinner

Day 6: Doberdol – Gjeravica Peak – Doberdol

Today you will be climbing the highest mountain of Kosovo and the second-highest of the Accursed Mountains after Jezerca peak. The route to the summit from Doberdol is a straightforward hike. This is a loop path that will take you to Kosovo and then back to Albania.

  • Distance for the day: 18 km, 6-7 hours ­ ­↑915m ↓915m
  • Accommodation: Guesthouse Leonardi or similar
  • Meals: breakfast, lunch box and dinner

Day 7: Doberdol – Three Border Peak – Milisevac

You will be hiking again between two shepherds’ villages in two different countries, however sharing the same traditions and language. These two valleys have been connected by culture but disconnected by political borders. Around one hour walking from the guesthouse, you will reach the narrow pass on the border with Montenegro, offering spectacular views. From here you will be climbing the 2366m Tromedja (Three Border Peak).

  • Distance for the day: 16 km, 8 hours ­ ­↑915m ↓980m
  • Accommodation: Guesthouse Lojza or similar
  • Meals: breakfast, lunch box and dinner

Day 8: Milisevac – Reke e Allages – Hajla Peak – Drelaj

Begin with an easy 10-km hike to the village of Drelaj. This beautiful stretch will give you further insight into mountain life in Kosovo as you will pass several more villages along the way. The hike is easier compared to previous days as the elevation gain (1100 meters to 1820 meters) is gradual, especially if the climb to Hajla Mountain is skipped. Upon your arrival in Drelaj, you will stay with the family of Osman Shala. The variation of the hike extends to the top of Mount Hajla, a beautiful crest on the border between Kosovo and Montenegro. From the crest, one can see the mountains extending through all three counties. The climb of Hajla is optional, and you decide to do it or not on the day of the hike.

  • Distance for the day: 14 km, 6 hours ­ ­↑1150m ↓1110m
  • Accommodation: Guesthouse Shqiponja or similar
  • Meals: breakfast, lunch box and dinner

Day 9: Drelaj – Kuqishte – Babino Polje

This day will begin with a short 4×4 transfer to the village of Kuqishte (20 min to avoid asphalt) where you will begin your hike over the border into Montenegro. This intense 11.2-kilometre hike offers some of the region’s most breathtaking views, passing several glacial lakes. This part of the mountain offers spectacular views at the town of Peja and the rest of the Accursed Mountains.

  • Distance for the day: 11 km, 4-5 hours ­ ­↑720m ↓1250m
  • Accommodation: Eco Lodge Hrid or similar
  • Meals: breakfast, lunch box and dinner

Day 10: Babino Polje – Plav

The walk today is long but not too difficult as the elevation gain is not so big. The hike can also be shortened with a transfer from the Hrid Lake which is also the highlight of the walk. Hrid Lake is the third glacial lake you will see when entering from Kosovo. You will be hiking through the most protected part of the Accursed Mountains that belongs to Montenegro. During this hike, you will be going through the village of Treskavica where you can taste some of the local products from the sheep milk.

  • Distance for the day: 20 km, 6-7 hours ­ ­↑719m ↓1250m
  • Accommodation: Apartmani Ambiente or similar
  • Meals: breakfast, lunch box and dinner

Day 11: Plav – Vusanje

Today’s section in Montenegro is quite long; it can be done in one day, still, when you reach Katun Grlata, which is after 15 kilometres, you can cover the rest of the route with an optional car transfer (not included, payable on-site). Starting from Plav, the route climbs up to Bor Peak (2106 m). From Bor summit, follow the ridge north-west and head down from the saddle where Kolendarsko lake lies.

  • Distance for the day (full route): 27 km, 10-11 hours ­ ­↑1025m ↓450m (shorter option: 15 km, 6-7 hours)
  • Accommodation: Guesthouse Vucetaj or similar
  • Meals: breakfast, lunch box and dinner

Day 12: Grbaja Valley and Taljanka Peak

Gerbaja, situated in Montenegro, was considered as the most beautiful valley in Tito’s Yugoslavia. It’s a detour from classic Peaks of the Balkans route, however, we consider it a highlight of the region and decided to add it to our extended tour. To start the hike you will take a 20-minute transfer to the trailhead. The hike will start with a climb to Taljanka peak, offering great views onto the rigged Karanfil massif.

  • Distance for the day: 10 km, 6-7 hours ­ ­↑834m ↓908m
  • Accommodation: Guesthouse Vucetaj or similar
  • Meals: breakfast, lunch box and dinner

Day 13: Vusanje – Theth/Shkoder

From Vusanje Prokletije, you will begin the 21-kilometre hike to the historic Albanian village of Theth. The path passes along the craggiest part of the Accursed Mountains or Prokletije (Albanian Alps), which was a forbidden zone during the Communist era, so nature is entirely preserved. In addition to the dramatic cliffs that form the backdrop for the day’s hike, you will also see a military bunker and the old border crossing signs as you cross into Albania. After the hike, you will be transferred to Shkoder.

  • Distance for the day: 21 km, 8-9 hours ­ ­↑1110m ↓1440m
  • Accommodation: Hotel Rose Garden or similar
  • Meals: breakfast and lunch box

Day 14: Departure

This day private transfer will be arranged for you to take you to Podgorica or Tirana airport for your flight back.

  • Meals: breakfast

Hotels

The accommodation is in a mix of simple but welcoming B&Bs, guesthouses and homestays, most of them with shared bathroom facilities. Some rooms are likely to accommodate between two to five people, and it may be necessary for male and female groups to share the rooms. Sheets and blankets, towels, shampoo, warm water and other basic services are provided, but it’s recommended to pack a travel towel and sleeping bag just in case. Private rooms can be booked at an additional cost, but their availability is minimal.

Sample hotels and guesthouses for this itinerary: Guesthouse Polia, Vila Dini, Guesthouse Kujtim Gocaj, Guesthouse Leonardi, Guesthouse Lojza, Guesthouse Shqiponja, Apartmani Ambiente, Guesthouse Vucetaj, Hotel Rose Garden

Meals

Meals as specified in the itinerary: dinner on Day 1; three meals on Days 2-12; breakfast and picnic lunch on Day 13; breakfast on Day 14.

Travel

Recommended airports for this trip: Tirana or Podgorica.

Transfers to/from Airports: Included in the price of the trip (Tirana or Podgorica airport only).

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 Transfers

Baggage transfer is included on each day. As most of the overnight accommodations are not accessible by road your luggage will be mostly transported on a horseback. Please note that hard suitcases are not suitable for transport on horses and only one piece of soft baggage (duffel or backpack) with a maximum weight of 15 kg per person is included.

Travel Insurance

World Nomads Logo

A comprehensive and reputable travel insurance policy is essential to your enjoyment and peace of mind while on an active holiday. It is highly recommended when booking with us that all group members have valid travel insurance which includes cover for all activities included in your trip. We have teamed up with World Nomads to offer you adequate cover at a great value from a reputable insurer, and it takes only a few minutes to buy online.

Buy travel insurance online

Country Info

  • Time zone: GMT +1
  • Language: Albanian in Kosovo and Albania, Serbian/Montenegrin in Montenegro. In big cities, many people speak English, but in remote areas, this might not be the case.
  • Electric supply and plugs: 220V, 50 Hz, two-pin round plugs.
  • Currency: Euro (EUR) in Kosovo and Montenegro, Lek in Albania, however, you can use Euro freely. Credit cards and ATMs available in Peja, Plav, and Gjakova.
  • Cost of living: in the region is much cheaper than in Western Europe. Some sample prices follow:
    • A 3-course meal in a standard restaurant: EUR 7-10 pp
    • A flask of mineral water from a street shop: EUR 0.5
    • A cup of coffee: EUR 0.5 – 2
  • Up-to-date travel advice on Albania is available here, on Kosovo here, and on Montenegro here.

Trip Info

Difficulty Grade: Moderate to Strenuous

Peaks of the Balkans is a demanding trail where you are expected to walk 7 to 8 hours a day on average. Please check the kilometres and the altitude change in the day-to-day itinerary above (read more about difficulty grades).

Route Navigation

You will walk mostly on footpaths and mule paths. Before the tour, you can have a skype conversation with our destination manager who will brief you on the tour and let you know about all the details and specifics of the trip. We will provide you with GPS tracks for all possible routes and you can call our 24/7 local assistance phone number anytime.

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.

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 (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);
  • GPS device;
  • Walking poles;

Included

  • Maps and GPS tracks to use via a smartphone app or on your own GPS device (please note that for this tour we do not provide detailed paper road notes as the GPS and map guidance is very accurate)
  • Accommodation for 13 nights in a mix of hotels, guesthouses, homestays and mountain huts. All rooms and facilities are shared (except in Shkoder)
  • 13 breakfasts, 11 dinners, 12 lunches
  • Arranging the issuance of border crossing permits*
  • Daily luggage transport to the next accommodation of one soft bag of up to 15 kg per person
  • All ground transfers and baggage transfers as listed in the itinerary, including airport transfers Tirana or Podgorica
  • 24/7 phone assistance by our local office in Kosovo

*Hikers can now cross borders in theses mountains at unofficial crossing points, but they must get special permission in advance from the Border Authorities in the respective countries (Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro). We will arrange all formalities for you in this regard. The application should be sent at least 15 days before travelling to the area.

Single and Solo Supplements

  • Single room accommodations are not available on this tour
  • This tour is not available for solo travellers

Excluded

  • Flights
  • Lunches and dinners not mentioned in the meal plan
  • Travel insurance
  • Personal expenses such as phone calls, extra transfers, tips, etc.
  • Any items not explicitly mentioned as ‘included’ in the programme

Extensions

  • Extra nights in Shkoder before or after the holiday

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Peaks of the Balkans Classic Route
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by Chester on King Ludwig Way

Delightful moderate walk building up slowly to an interesting climax over the days. Varied and friendly hotels. Kirchberger in Wildsteig deseerves... Read full review

We are a retired couple of 73 and 70 years old. We enjoyed the trip very much. The trip was well organised; all went smooth, the accommodation... Read full review

This holiday not only had erupting volcanoes, fabulous hospitality and a plethora of dramatic landscapes to walk in, it also featured gorgeous... Read full review

We had a really great holiday and appreciated the good organisation from your company. Everything went to plan, very well organised and good... Read full review

We just completed the Catalan Coast and Mountain week-long self-guided walking tour. February was perfect in the off-season! [The] itinerary... Read full review

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