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Hidden Gems
The Mountains of Albania and North Montenegro (Extended)

Trekking in Albania and North Montenegro

Overview

This self guided walking holiday combines some great hikes in the Albanian Alps (Accursed Mountains), and the mountains of North Montenegro.

The Albanian Alps trails will take you through beautiful mountain valleys, alpine meadows, and remote villages surrounded by the majestic rugged peaks of the Accursed Mountains.

The North Montenegro stage features two of the most untouched natural environments in Europe, including the beautiful Biogradska Gora, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, one of the last three primaeval rainforests in Europe and Durmitor National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Highlights

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Itinerary

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, (90 minutes) 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. 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. When daylight fades you can choose between restaurants that offer carefully crafted traditional meals.

Day 2: Journey into the Accursed Mountains | 7 km

You rise early for the transfer through a scenic gorge to the Koman Dam (55 km/1:30 h). 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 (46 km/3 h). After lunch, you travel by minibus past traditional villages, composed of wooden shingle-covered stone houses, into the highlands and the Valbona National Park (35 km/1:15 h). On a first warm-up walk, you continue on foot along the crystal-clear 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.

Day 3: Valbona | 12 km

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. At 2040 m 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 (2 694 m) you descent on a different path to another guesthouse.

  • Walking for the day: 12 km, 5-6 hrs, ↑750m ↓700m
  • Overnight at guesthouse Rragram** (private ensuite)

Day 4: The Grand Crossing: Valbona to Theth | 15 km

Accompanied by a local and a mule that carries your load you set out for the transfer hike across Valbona Pass (1811 m) – 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. 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 (2217 m) is visible and soon the 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.

  • Walking for the day: 15 km, 6-7 hrs, ↑750m ↓1,125m
  • Overnight at Guesthouse Theth / private ensuite (Bujtina Polia)

Day 5: From Theth to Nderlysa and back to Shkoder | 9 km

The short trail downstream follows an ancient bridle path that connected Theth with the lower villages of the Shala region. Without mobile phone coverage, electricity, and road access busy everyday life seems completely forgotten. After a meal at a guesthouse the minibus takes you to the Edith Durham Memorial, over a scenic pass road to the Boga Valley and Shkoder (3 hours). Overnight in Shkoder.

  • Walking for the day: 9 km, 3-4 hrs, ↑150m ↓300m
  • Overnight at a Shkoder boutique hotel (Hotel Tradita or similar)

Day 6: Transfer Shkoder (Albania) – Kolasin (Montenegro)

Private car transfer from Shkoder to Kolasin (130 km / 3 hours). On the way to Kolasin, you will pass through the impressive Moraca Canyon where you can take a break and visit the 13th-century Moraca Monastery. The Moraca Monastery is one of the best-preserved  Serbian medieval orthodox monasteries. Overnight in Kolasin.

  • Accommodation: 3-star Hotel Čile in Kolasin or similar

Day 7: Bjelasica Mountain | 16 km

This morning, after breakfast, you will start your walking. The path leads you to the heart of the Bjelasica Mountain. The hiking is mostly uphill and on pastures and grassland. At the end of your invigorating first hike, you’ll arrive at the Katuns or Shepherds’ huts, which are traditional mountain houses found all over Northern Montenegro. Traditionally, rural farming families close their village homes and move to these simple cottages during the summer months. Life in the katuns is rustic and simple and you will have a chance to feel the real rural life of the Montenegrins.

  • Walking for the day: 16 km, 6-7 hrs, ↑950m ↓250m
  • Overnight in the traditional mountain hut Katun Vranjak (private rooms/huts but shared facilities!)

Day 8: Crna Glava Summit (2139 m) | 16 km

During this day’s walk, you will hike the gentle green slopes and summits of Bjelasica. This is a circular walk heading to Crna Glava (2139 m), the peak of Bjelasica, passing by two lovely mountain lakes. There are excellent views to the shepherds’ villages below your trail as well as to the surrounding mountains. On the way back you will have time to take a short break and taste the crystal clear water from the spring of the Biogradska river which is the main water supply for Biogradsko lake.

  • Walking for the day: 16 km, 6-7 hrs, ↑700m ↓750m
  • Overnight in the traditional mountain hut Katun Vranjak (private rooms/huts but shared facilities!)

Day 9: Biogradska Gora National Park and Biogradsko Lake | 12 km

The first part of today’s hike passes through the highlands of Lica mountain – heading to the hidden shepherd’s village of Goles Katun where you can stop for lunch or try a selection of home-made products. The forests are the most important natural feature of the park, as the 1600-hectare woods are one of the last three primaeval forests in Europe so that you will be passing by 400 to 500 years old trees. On arrival at Biogradsko Lake, you will have plenty of time to relax and take a walk around the lake. We will then transfer you to Durmitor National Park through the canyon of the river Tara. Before you arrive in Zabljak, which is located in the heart of Durmitor National Park, you will be able to view one of the most beautiful bridges in this part of the world – Djurdjevica Tara bridge.

  • Walking for the day: 12 km, 5 hrs, ↑350m ↓950m
  • Accommodation: local guesthouse (optional upgrade to 4* hotel)

Day 10: The Three Lakes Tour | 12 km

The last circular walk by the three Durmitor lakes is a relaxing one, with an optional rest/swim in Crno Jezero (the Black Lake). The terrain is flat, and a path leads through a fir and pine forest. During this hike you are going to see Barno, Zminje and Crno lakes, Barno being the smallest and Crno the biggest. Return to your accommodation.

  • Walking for the day: 12 km, 4-5 hrs, ↑150m ↓150m
  • Accommodation: Local guesthouse (optional upgrade to 4* hotel)

Day 11: Departure or Onward Travel

Optional private transfer to Dubrovnik or Podgorica Airport.

What to Expect

Accommodation

2 and 3-star hotels, guesthouses and mountain lodges as indicated in the itinerary. We have carefully hand-picked all the hotels and lodges and we regularly monitor their quality. We have tried to choose accommodations that offer friendly service, clean and comfortable rooms, and great local cuisine.

Click to view default accommodations

Hotel Tradita, Vila Dini, Guesthouse Kol Gjoni, Bujtina Polia, Bjeshka Guesthouse, Vila 60, Eco village Katun Vranjak, Hotel Čile

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

Breakfast is included. In the Albanian mountains, dinner is also included as well as a picnic lunch package. When no restaurant location is available on route lunches and snacks should either be bought from local shops, or you can pre-order packed lunch from your hotel the night before. Dinner is available either from the restaurant in your hotel or restaurants and taverns in the village near your hotel.

Difficulty & terrain

The tour is appropriate for regular walkers. Requires a reasonable level of fitness. The trip covers an average of 15 km (6 hours) of hiking per day, and average daily elevation gain is 500 m (read more about difficulty grades). Most of your walks will be on unpaved timber roads and hiking trails, although a few sections may include walking on asphalt. 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.

Getting there

FCO up-to-date travel advice is available here for Albania and here for Montenegro

Recommended airports for this trip are Tirana or Podgorica.

Inclusions

Included

  • 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 5 nights in hand-picked 2 to 4-star hotels or family-run guesthouses in Albania as listed in the itinerary
  • Accommodation for 5 nights in hand-picked 2 to 3-star hotels or family-run guesthouses in Montenegro as listed in the itinerary (including 2 nights in a simple but charming mountain lodge, private huts but shared facilities and no electricity)
  • 10 breakfasts
  • 3 days full board (dinners and packed lunches) in Albania
  • Daily luggage transport to the next accommodation of one bag of up to 15 kg per person*
  • All internal ground transfers and baggage transfers as listed in the programme
  • 24/7 phone assistance by our local office/representative

*Please note that suitcases are not suitable for transport on horses (day 4) 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 Shkodra, where you can collect it on your way to Montenegro on Day 6.

Excluded

  • Airfare
  • Departure airport transfer
  • Lunches, dinners, drinks & snacks (3 dinners and 3 packed lunches included in Albania)
  • Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
  • Personal expenses such as phone calls, extra transfers, tips, etc.
  • Any items not explicitly mentioned in the programme

Options, extras & supplements

  • A supplement applies to members of a group who require a single room. Due to limited availability in the Albanian mountains, single room supplement for group members is not possible on Days 2, 3 and 4
  • This holiday is available for solo travellers. As costs are not shared, a supplement is payable on the standard trip cost. Please note that you might have to share a room with other travellers in the Albanian Alps on Days 2, 3 and 4, due to limited availability
  • Extra nights before, after and during the trip are available upon request

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