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Peaks of the Balkans Highlights (8 Days, Guided) 79

Peaks of the Balkans Highlights (8 Days, Guided)

Overview

The Peaks of the Balkans trek stands for everything adventure travel is about: discovering a remote corner of the world, marvel at pristine natural landscapes, get away from everyday life and experience a simple and authentic lifestyle. This trip will take you through the highlights of a complex region defined by rich cultural diversity, century-old traditions, national borders, stunning nature and genuine hospitality.

To enrich the experience, we offer you to join an international group led by a local English-speaking tour leader, who will show you the best the region has to offer, guide you through the wild mountain paths and borders of the Accursed Mountains and help you immerse in the complex cultural background and history of local communities.

In case our fixed departures don’t fit your schedule or you would prefer to explore the region at your own pace you can also check our self-guided offerings here and here

Highlights

  • Boat across the fjord-like Komani Lake to reach amazing Valbona National Park
  • Hike beyond borders through the stunning Accursed Mountains of Albania & Montenegro
  • Experience the local way of life with a memorable overnight in a shepherd’s hut
  • Ascend the panoramic peaks of Mt. Trekufiri, Hajla, Taljanka and Arapi (optional)
  • Marvel across awe-inspiring scenery in Grbaja & Ropojana Valley
  • Meet a colourful selection of local characters

Click to view map

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Albania

Our driver meets you at Tirana (TIA) or Podgorica (TGD) airport for a two-hour transfer (included) to the hotel in Shkodra. Those getting in earlier during the day will be provided with recommendations on what to do in town. Should you have any questions before meeting your guide, you may contact our local office through the hotel. At 5 pm the group gathers for an introduction meeting and tour briefing at the accommodation. Afterwards, you can look forward to a sumptuous traditional dinner! But don’t stay up too long, we’re starting tomorrow at 6 am. This is the latest time by which you may join the trip.

  • Complimentary transfer from Tirana or Podgorica airport to Shkodra (90 min)
  • Overnight at Shkoder boutique hotel (Hotel Tradita, or similar)
  • Meals included: Dinner

Day 2: Journey into the Accursed Mountains | 7 km

We rise early for the scenic drive through the Drin Gorges and the Komani Lake (55 km/1:30h). The picturesque reservoir loops similar to a Norwegian fjord through sheer rock walls and makes for the most attractive route into the Albanian Alps. You’re in for a surprise by the custom-made boat, which stops several times to pick up talkative locals from remote villages before arriving at Fierze (46 km/3h). After lunch, we travel by car further into the Valbona National Park’s highlands into a traditional village composed of imposing tower houses. The afternoon warm-up walk follows a crystal clear stream through ancient beach forests speckled with the sweetest strawberries. Along the way, we can enjoy a swimming break at the river or a secluded pond. The walk ends at our cosy guesthouse in upper Valbona, and there’s opportunity to explore the close surroundings further. Tonight we enjoy a hearty home-cooked meal and well-earned rest after your introduction to the Accursed Mountains.

  • Walking for the day: 7 km, 3 h, ↑250 m ↓50 m
  • Transfer by public minibus (6:30 am pickup time) or private car to ferry port Koman (90 min)
  • Boat ride through the canyons of the Koman Lake (3 h)
  • Transfer from Fierze via Bajram Curri (optional lunch stop) to the trailhead in Valbona (75 min)
  • Warm-up walk with swimming opportunity (3 h)
  • Overnight at Valbone guesthouse / private ensuite (Vila Dini or similar)
  • Meals included: Breakfast, packed lunch, dinner

Day 3: High Route into the Remote Border Triangle | 16 km

After a 45 min drive to Cerem, we start across the flower field towards the remote border triangle. Along the way, we enjoy forest fruits, admire plant life and the views to Mt. Kolata (2534 m). Reaching the rim of the deep cut river canyon and following the high route through the conifer forest, we notice just how much the relief changes between the Western and Eastern Alps. Slopes are speckled with alpine pastures, and at one we stop to meet the herdsmen over coffee and raki. In the glacial-shaped valley of Doberdol (1750 m) animals roam the grazing grounds freely. Locals still live in harmony with nature, the way they did many years ago. The overnight will be spent in the simple shepherd huts where we will relinquish comfort for one night in return for hospitality. The family prepares our meals and we learn more about the seasonal lifestyle of the shepherds at the campfire.

  • Walking for the day: 16 km, 7 h, ↑1250 m ↓650 m
  • Overnight in a simple but cosy shepherd hut
  • Meals included: Breakfast, packed lunch, dinner

Day 4: Via the Three-Border Peak into Montenegro | 13 km

Wishing farewell to our hosts, we climb out of the valley towards Mt. Trekufiri (2366 m). On the very top, the borders of three countries merge in sweeping vistas of the borderlands. The blueberry covered border trail leads us into Montenegro, around Bogicevica (2374 m), and secluded Lake Hrid. The tranquil pond reflecting the surrounding mountains is shrouded in legends and provides habitat for newts, salamander, and fireflies. After a refreshing dip, we continue on a trail encompassed by dense pine forest towards a hamlet of seasonal huts called “katun”. Further down a forest road, we reach the scattered settlement of Babino Polje and two cabins at the rim of the national park. Your guide may also choose an alternative, longer trail along the border ridge.

  • Walking for the day: 13 km, 6 h, ↑600 m ↓850 m
  • Overnight at a local guesthouse
  • Meals included: Breakfast, packed lunch, dinner

Day 5: Grbaja Valley – The Highlight of Prokletije | 12 km

The Grbaja Valley is one of the most awe-inspiring in the Balkans. An hour transfer past Lake Plav leads into a narrow valley, wedged between the karst towers of Karanfili (2461 m). Arguably one of the most rugged and dramatic peaks in the Prokletije, it’s a dream of many climbers. Ascending through shaded fairy-tale beech forest, a last steep climb takes us to the double peak of Popadija and Taljanka (2056 m). Here the hostile walls across seem almost within our reach and views gaze across the border into the Kelmend region of Albania. Your guide will choose the most suitable route, traversing the narrow spine to a series of panoramic viewpoints back onto the shaded forest path, where the balloon hike closes. We celebrate the adventure at a beer garden on the valley floor before travelling to our guesthouse in Vusanje at next days’ trailhead. The nearby waterfall invites for a stroll, but views from the house are equally beautiful. You have a choice between two hikes and can also use the day for a rest or individual exploration.

  • Walking for the day: 12 km, 6:30 h, ↑950 m ↓950 m
  • Overnight in a local guesthouse
  • Meals included: Breakfast, packed lunch, dinner

Day 6: Through the Heart of the Accursed Mountains | 11 km

Travelling up the Ropojana Valley, formed by a 26 km long glacier, we stop at a pupil-shaped karst spring where an ice-cold river emerges from the melting snow high up in the mountains. A weathered border stone is the only reminder of the once tightly sealed borders of former communist Albania. The mountain framed corridor takes us passed a dry lake, shepherd huts, and an abandoned military post to the heart of the Albanian Alps. Here the canine tooth of Mt. Arapi (2217 m) stands high above the Thethi National Park forming the largest big wall in the Balkans. As you arriving at Peja Pass (1711 m), your guide will decide whether the summit can be tackled. The ones who would like to skip the challenging peak, suitable for experienced and sure-footed hikers only, can rest or start the descend with the horsemen. A steep well-trodden caravan path leads to the local watering hole, followed by a short ride to a guesthouse in the centre of the lively village.

  • Walking for the day: 11 km, 6:45 h, ↑650 m ↓900 m
  • Overnight at a local guesthouse in Nderlys
  • Meals included: Breakfast, Packed lunch, dinner

Day 7: Theth – Tradition in the Albanian Highlands | 16 km

In Theth we visit the iconic church and lock-in tower (kulla) that offered protection to men threatened by blood feud. It’s the perfect place to dive into the history of the “kanun” and get a deeper explanation of the highland law code. Following the water channels, we climb to the famed waterfall and descent along a well-worn bridle path to the quieter hamlet Nderlysa for a hearty lunch. Continue the hike to the colourful karst spring called the “Blue Eye” or spend an easy-going afternoon with swimming at the glacier-shaped rock formations. In the late afternoon, we ride across the scenic Terthorja Pass (1630 m) back to Shkodra (75 km/3 h) and our hotel from the first night. At night we celebrate the eventful trek with our new friends over a somewhat different dinner from the last days. How about drinks at the bustling bar zone of Shkodra? With all the party in mind, please also double-check with your guide for tomorrow’s departure transfers.

  • Walking for the day: 16 km, 5:30 h, ↑225 m ↓500 m
  • Overnight at a local guesthouse.
  • Meals included: Breakfast, lunch, dinner

Day 8: Departure

After breakfast, an airport transfer is arranged or onward travel plans accommodated. Depending on your further plans, you can head to the nearby beaches in Velipoja and Ulcinj (Montenegro), experience Albania’s modern side in the capital Tirana or spend your beach holidays at the Albanian Riviera (5-7 h travel time).

  • Complimentary transfer to Tirana or Podgorica airport (1.5 h – 2 h)
  • Meals included: Breakfast

What to Expect

Accommodation

Accommodation is in private en-suite hotel rooms on the first and last night in Shkodra. For the rest of the tour, you will spend the overnights in shared rooms (2-5 people) in simple and cosy guesthouses, where you will be hosted by local families who will take care of you and prepare you a dinner table full of traditional dishes. On day 3 you will spend the night in basic shepherd hut. Exact accommodation details will be provided to you upon booking confirmation.

Click to view hotel photos

Meals

Meals are included as described in the itinerary: all breakfasts, 6 lunches and 7 dinners. While in the mountains all the meals will be prepared and served by your local hosts. 

Difficulty & terrain

The tour is suitable for active hikers with a moderate level of fitness. Previous hiking experience is not vital as long as you are confident in your physical condition and sure-footedness. Walking days are usually between 5 and 8 hours, although they can be longer to cross passes or peaks (mostly optional). Daily ascents will likely be around 900 m to 1.000 m, perhaps with the odd day ascending around 1.100 m to 1.300 m. The tour also includes high mountain terrain, rugged and rough underfoot, and some scrambling sections (read more about difficulty grades). This is a guided tour, so you will have a local English-speaking tour leader who will guide you throughout the trip, manage the trip’s logistics, and provide you with all the information you might need.

When to go

This trip is available from June until September, weather is best in July – September. You can see the available departure dates by clicking the See Dates and Prices or Book Now menus.

Getting there

Up-to-date travel advice on Albania is available here, and on Montenegro here

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).

Inclusions

Included

  • English speaking tour leader (plus an assistant if the group is larger than 8 persons)
  • Accommodation for 7 nights in small hotels and family-run guesthouses, as listed in the itinerary
  • All breakfasts, 6 lunches and 7 dinners
  • All ground transfers and baggage transfers* as listed in the itinerary, including airport transfers Tirana or Podgorica
  • Luggage transport: one piece up to 15 kg
  • All entrance fees, trekking and border crossing permits

*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 permitted. We can safely store your extra luggage in Tirana or Shkodra.

Excluded

  • Airfare and connecting land transfers other than Podgorica and Tirana
  • Meals not listed in the itinerary
  • Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
  • Personal expenses
  • Any other items not explicitly listed as included

Options, extras & supplements

  • Due to limited availability in the mountains, single room supplement for group members is possible only on Days 1 and 7
  • Please note that if you are a solo traveller who wants to join the group, you will have to book a single room supplement in case there is no other solo traveller willing to share
  • One extra night in Tirana and/or Skodra before or after the holiday

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