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.
- 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
Day 1: Arrival in Albania
You’re met by our driver 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
We rise early for the scenic drive through the Drin Gorges and to 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 highlands of the Valbona National Park 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 vicinity further. Tonight we enjoy a hearty home-cooked meal and well-earned rest after your introduction to the Accursed Mountains.
- ↑250m ↓50m ↔ 7km ⌚ 3h
- 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 (3h)
- Transfer from Fierze via Bajram Curri (optional lunch stop) to the trailhead in Valbona (75 min)
- Warm-up walk with swimming opportunity (3h)
- 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
After a 45 min drive to Cerem, we start out across the flower field towards the remote border triangle. Along the way we enjoy forest fruits, admire plant life and the views of Mt. Kolata (2.534m). 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 (1.750m) animals roam freely the grazing grounds. 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.
- ↑1250m ↓650m ↔ 16km ⌚ 7:00h
- Overnight in a simple but cosy shepherd hut
- Meals included: Breakfast, packed lunch, dinner
Day 4: Via the Three-Border Peak into Montenegro
Wishing farewell to our hosts, we climb out of the valley towards Mt. Trekufiri (2.366m). 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 (2.374m) and to secluded Lake Hrid. The tranquil pond reflecting the surrounding mountains is shrouded in legends and provides habitat for newts, salamander and firefly. 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.
- ↑600m ↓850m ↔ 13km ⌚ 6h
- Overnight at a local guesthouse
- Meals included: Breakfast, packed lunch, dinner
Day 5: Grbaja Valley – The Highlight of Prokletije
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 (2.461 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 (2.056m). 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. At a beer garden on the valley floor, we celebrate the adventure 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.
- ↑950m ↓950m ↔ 12km ⌚ 6:30h
- Overnight in a local guesthouse
- Meals included: Breakfast, packed lunch, dinner
Day 6: Through the Heart of the Accursed Mountains
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 (2.217m) stands high above the Thethi National Park forming the largest big wall in the Balkans. As you arriving at Peja Pass (1.711m), 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.
- ↑650m ↓900m ↔ 11km ⌚ 6:45h
- Overnight at a local guesthouse in Nderlys
- Meals included: Breakfast, Packed lunch, dinner
Day 7: Theth – Tradition in the Albanian Highlands
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 (1.630m) back to Shkodra (75km/3h) 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.
- ↑225m ↓500m ↔ 16km ⌚ 5:30h
- 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 (5-7h travel time).
- Complimentary transfer to Tirana or Podgorica airport (1.5h – 2h)
- Meals included: Breakfast
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.
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.
Baggage transfer is included throughout the trip, and your bags will be transferred by your current hotel (or by private transfer) to your next hotel. Please note that the luggage is transported on horses for some days so suitcases are not suitable. We recommend packing in only one piece of soft baggage (duffle or backpack) with a maximum weight of 15 kg. It is not a problem to leave your main luggage in your hotel in Shkodra and collect it on the way back.
We strongly recommend protecting the cost of your trip and other non-refundable travel expenses with travel insurance. Our Signature Travel Insurance allows you to insure all of your expenses. While a Signature Travel Insurance policy can be purchased at any time, purchasing a policy within 20 days of making your initial trip deposit gives you the widest range of policy options, including a Cancel for Any Reason coverage. For complete peace of mind, we also recommend enrolling with Global Rescue, the worldwide leader in field rescue, evacuation and security extraction services.
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 helpline 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. Up-to-date travel advice on Albania is available here.
Timezone: GMT +1. Language: Montenegrin (a variety of Serbo-Croatian). In big cities, many people speak English, but in remote areas, this might not be the case. However, most of the hotel staff where you stay speak English and are ready to help you. Road signs/markers are normally in the Latin alphabet – and you can always call our 24/7 helpline if there are any problems. Electric supply and plugs: 220V, 50hZ, two-pin round plugs. Currency: Euro. 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. Up-to-date travel advice on Montenegro is available here.
Detailed travel and country information is provided in your holiday information pack.
Difficulty Grade: Moderate
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 900m to 1.000m, perhaps with the odd day ascending around 1.100m to 1.300m. The tour also includes high mountain terrain which is rugged and rough underfoot and some sections of scrambling (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 logistics of the trip, 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.
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.
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 (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).
- 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
Single Room Supplement
- 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.
- Meals not listed above as well as drinks other than table water
- Travel insurance
- Personal expenses such as phone calls, extra transfers, tips, etc.
- Any items not explicitly mentioned as ‘included’ in the programme
- One extra night in Tirana and/or Skodra before or after the holiday