This self-guided holiday hiking in the Albanian Alps over eight days is a very exciting way to delve deeply into the awe-inspiring and untouched landscapes of the Accursed Mountains This is a natural adventure that takes you into Theth National Park and Peja pass, over the iconic Valbona Pass (1,811m) and to the icy waters of Blue Eye natural springs. Staying at a wonderful mix of hotels and mountain guesthouses, this is a trip into Albania at its most authentic.
- Historic Shkoder and Rozafa fortress
- Accursed Mountains
- Koman ferry ride on fjord-like Lake Koman
- Theth National Park
- Valbona National Park
- The Grand Crossing- hike across the Valbona Pass (1,811m)
- Peja Pass
- Tower of Theth
Click to view map
Day 1: Arrival in Albania/Shkodra
You are met at Tirana airport in Albania or Podgorica in Montenegro. En route to Shkodra, you can swim at the Balkans’ biggest lake or visit Rozafa Castle. In Shkodra, enjoy cafe life, elegant architecture, the buzz of the bazaar and myriad museums and galleries. We also offer bikes free of charge.
- Complimentary transfer from Tirana or Podgorica airport to Shkodra (90mins)
- 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: Koman Lake – Accursed Mountains | 7km
An early start today as you are transferred to Koman Lake which is often compared to a Norwegian fjord because of the way it cuts into the sheer rock of the mountains. Take a 3h ferry trip across the lake to Fierze. After lunch, travel by minibus past traditional villages into Valbona National Park. On a first warm-up walk, you follow a crystal-clear stream and through the forest to Xhemes Lake, perfect for a swimming break. The walk ends at your cosy accommodation in a small hamlet.
- Walking for the day: 7km, 3h, ↑250m ↓50m
- Transfer by public minibus (06.00 pickup time)
- Boat ride across Koman Lake (3h)
- Transfer from Fierze via Bajram Curri (optional lunch stop) to the trailhead in Valbona (75mins)
- Overnight at Valbone Hotel / private ensuite (Vila Dini or Guesthouse Kol Gjoni)
- Meals included: Breakfast, lunch, dinner
Day 3: Valbona – Queen of the Mountains | 12km
Start your hike to the isolated hamlet of Kukaj. The windy path takes you over lush meadows ablaze with the colours of various spring flowers to a shepherd’s hut at 1,650 m. In the communist period, this was a no-go area and the building was used as a military barracks. Continue on up to an old crossing at the Montenegrin border at 2,040m, marked by a weathered border pyramid, with panoramic views over the Montenegrin Prokletije. You can see Mount Jezerca (2,694m) as you descend on a different path to your guesthouse.
Day 4: The Grand Crossing: Valbona to Theth | 15km
Accompanied by a local guide and a horse that carries your luggage, today’s the day to hike across Valbona Pass (1,811m), after a short transfer to the trailhead – another highlight and the highest point of your journey. After passing the village of Rragam, a few steep segments need to be tackled. There are plenty of places to rest by natural springs or in flower-filled meadows with panoramic views. Reaching the Pass, you are rewarded with sweeping valley views, perfect for a lunch stop. Start your descent to Theth, walking through shady beech forests, taking in views of Mount Arapi (2,217m) all the way to your next charming guesthouse.
- Walking for the day: 15km, 6-7h, ↑750m ↓1,125m
- Short transfer by car to the trailhead
- Hike on a caravan route accompanied by horsemen across the Valbona Pass to Theth
- Luggage transport on a horse
- Overnight at guesthouse in Theth / private ensuite (Bujtina Polia)
- Meals included: Breakfast, packed lunch, dinner
Day 5: Peja Pass / Meadows above the Clouds | 7-15km
Today you have the choice between the Peja Pass (at the northern end of the valley below Mount Arapi) or the panoramic trail to the Meadow of Denelli.
- For the hike up to Peja Pass, we recommend an early start and using transport to and from the trailhead; otherwise, add 4km or one hour of 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 mule path.
- To reach Denelli, you start from the guesthouse and walk through the green Ulaj neighbourhood. After crossing the river, ascend through the forest on a cliff path.
Both routes return the same way, and you stay in the previous night’s guesthouse.
- Option 1: Peja Pass: Hike on the caravan route to the karst plateau, which can be shortened one hour each way with an optional car transfer (not included, payable on-site), 7-15km, 6-8h, ↑950m ↓950m
- Option 2: Field of Denelli: Hike on a cliff path to the shepherd’s hut on a mountain plateau, 10km, 6-7h, ↑1000m ↓1000m
- Option 3: Shorter walks up to 4h within the valley
- Overnight in the previous night’s accommodation (Guesthouse Theth (private ensuite))
- Meals included: Breakfast, packed lunch, dinner
Day 6: Theth, in the heart of the Albanian Alps | 8km
A walk through the village reveals the full beauty of Theth. Visit the iconic church and dive into the Kanun history at the lock-in tower that offered protection for men threatened by historic blood feuds. Continue your walk along water channels ascending to the waterfall. On a cliff above the river, archaeologists discovered stone-aged terraces, a perfect picnic spot, with views of the adjacent 50m deep Grunas Canyon. Along the river, a well-worn bridle path leads downstream to Nderlysa, where you stay at a farmstead. 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 just enjoy a relaxing swim.
- Walking for the day: 8km, 3-4h, ↑150m ↓400m
- Overnight at a guesthouse in Nderlys / private ensuite (Bjeshka Guesthouse)
- Meals included: Breakfast, packed lunch, dinner
Day 7: The Blue Eye. Tirana or Shkodra | 9km
The hike through the canyon leads to a karst spring called Blue Eye. Water lovers can take a dip in the icy waters while butterflies swirl all around this true oasis. After a meal at the guesthouse the minibus takes you to the Edith Durham Memorial, over a scenic pass to Boga Valley and Shkodra.
Depending on the time of your flights (and the selected airport) you can choose to spend the last evening of your trip in either Shkodra or Tirana.
If you’d like to spend the evening in Tirana:
You change cars in Shkodra and continue for another 90mins. In the capital, there are myriad museums, galleries and the you can visit museums, admire historic buildings and Blloku District is always a favourite.
- Walking for the day: 9km, 3-4h, ↑275m ↓275m
- Transfer by public minibus (13.00-14.00 departure time) over the Thoria Pass (1,645m) to Shkodra or onto to Tirana
- City tour with notes and maps.
- Overnight at Shkoder or Tirana hotel- depending on your flights (Hotel Tradita or Vila 60)
- Meals included: Breakfast, packed lunch
Day 8: Departure
- Depending on departure time possibility of further exploring the capital
- Complimentary transfer to Tirana or Podgorica airport (1.5h – 2h)
- Meals included: Breakfast
What to expect
Accommodation includes a boutique 3-star hotel in Shkoder, a welcoming hotel in Valbone, and several traditional guesthouses in the mountains. We have carefully hand-picked all places and regularly monitor their quality. They have been carefully selected based on a variety of criteria including their location, warm hospitality, fine local food or commitment to responsible tourism.
Click to view default accommodations
Hotels are subject to availability. In the event of a particular hotel being fully booked for your chosen dates, we will replace it with a hotel of equal value and quality level. We will provide exact accommodation details to you upon booking confirmation.. In rural areas, sometimes you will need to spend the night in a different building in close vicinity to the main building.
Meals are included as detailed in the itinerary: Five days in the mountains full board with picnic lunch package and two days in towns breakfast only. When not included, dinner is available either from the restaurant in your hotel or restaurants and cafes in the village/town near your hotel.
Difficulty and terrain
The tour is suitable for active hikers with a moderate level of fitness. Some stages include extended steep ascents and descents and terrain, which is rugged and rough underfoot (read more about difficulty grades). 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 unknown and unmarked terrain. We will provide you with detailed road notes, maps and GPS tracks, and you can call our 24/7 local assistance phone number anytime.
When to go
This trip is available from June to beginning October. The best time for walking is between July and mid-September when the weather is generally stable. Some residual snow patches may be earlier in the season, but this will not require special equipment or skills. On request, snow cover permitting, we could also organise this trip during the second half of May. While the trip may start earlier, tours in May and up till the first week of June can be affected by snow on the Valbona Pass. This varies from year to year and depends on the amount of snow during the winter as well as weather conditions in spring.
During the tour briefing, you will receive the latest update on snow conditions at the pass. In case there is snow, we have three options. If Valbona Pass and the regular summer route are open, we proceed according to the itinerary. If the summer route is closed and winter one has to be used, our policy is that you are supported by a local guide (€60 supplement paid on spot) as you ascend on a steep, snow-covered section directly to the Pass (10 mins). And if the Pass is closed, impassable for hikers and luggage, a reverse transfer from Valbona to Shkodra (via Koman Lake) and 4×4 to Theth are organised. This adds €100 supplement paid on spot, requires a departure at around 05.00 and takes in total around nine hours to arrive in Theth. The flexibility of self-guided holidays means that there are no fixed dates, and you can start your trip on any date during the season.
Recommended airports for this trip are Tirana or Podgorica. Complimentary private return transfers to these airports are included in the trip cost (one arrival and one departure transfer per party). It is also possible to reach Albania without flying. See The Man in Seat 61 for more details.
- 7 overnights as detailed in the itinerary (2 nights in hotels, 5 nights in guesthouses)
- 5 days full board, 2 days B&B
- Luggage transfers when changing hotels (one piece of luggage per person*, max 15kg)
- Complimentary airport transfers (Tirana or Podgorica, one arrival and one departure transfer per party)
- Arrival briefing
- Detailed route notes, maps (one per room) & GPS tracks
- 24/7 phone assistance by our local office/representative
*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 15kg is permitted. We can safely store your extra luggage in Tirana or Shkodra.
- Airfare and connecting land transfers other than Podgorica and Tirana
- Lunches and dinners on Days 1 and 7
- Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
- Personal expenses
- Any other items not explicitly listed as included
Options, extras and supplements
- Single-room accommodations are not available on this tour
- This tour is not available for solo travellers