Peaks of the Balkans Trail (7 days, self-guided hiking tour)

Explore the peaks of the Balkans on your own, with transfers, accommodation, meals in the mountains, GPS files & route description.

Peaks-of-the-balkans

Start/End                                Shkodra

Duration                                 7 Days

Difficulty                                 Medium 

Reisezeit                                  June – Oct.

per person                               € 490,00

(min. 2 people)

Highlights

Viewpoints – Experience breathtaking views of rocky valleys and forests in the Albanian Alps.

Shkodra – Walk through the picturesque city centre and experience local highlights such as the Marubi Photo Collection, Lake Shkodra and the view of the city from the Illyrian fortress of Rozafa.

Village of Theth – You will visit one of the most picturesque villages in Albania, located in the middle of Theth National Park. Experience the „Blue Eye“, the waterfall-fed limestone pool, located in the middle of the forests of Albania’s cursed mountains.

Taljanka and Grebaje Valley – Climb the Taljanka peak with breathtaking views of the surrounding peaks and the Grebaje Valley, considered the most beautiful in the former Yugoslavia.

Valbona Pass – Embark on the epic hike from Theth to Valbona, one of the most beautiful hikes in Albania, and enjoy the spectacular views from the pass into the Valbona Valley.

Bunkers – Explore the country’s scattered bunkers and learn why Enver Hoxha built some 200,000 of them.

Culinary – Discover the unique cuisine of Albania and be impressed by the hospitality of the locals in the mountains.

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Itinerary

Experience rural Albania and Montenegro on a 7-day self-guided hiking tour starting from Shkodra. All transfers, accommodation and meals in guesthouses are included.

Day 1: Arrival and overnight stay in Shkodra

Day 2: Transfer to Theth (07:30) – Blue Eye & Grunas Waterfall

Day 3: Valbona Pass – Valbona National Park & Valbona Valley

Day 4: Transfer to Cerem – Pass Crossing – Zarunica Valley – Vusanje

Day 5: Transfer to the Grebaje valley – circular hike Taljanka – transfer back to Vusanje

Day 6: Pejës Pass and Karanfili Summit – Theth

Day 7: Transfer back to Shkodra (Arrival 14:00)

You will arrive in Shkodra on your own. Your double room in the guesthouse will be at your disposal from 15:00. Use the day to visit the Marubi Photo Museum, explore the old town, climb the Rozafa Fortress or have dinner near Shkodra Lake. You are welcome to leave your luggage at the guesthouse for the tour and simply collect it when you return. We recommend taking only a daypack.

Early in the morning at 07:30 after breakfast, you will leave Shkodra with a pick-up at your accommodation and drive through the stunning landscapes of northern Albania to the mountain village of Theth. Arrive at the guesthouse.

You will start your adventure with a short hike to the fabulous „Blue Eye“ (Syri i Kalter), a natural pool of water located about 10 kilometers from the center of Theth. The 5-metre deep and ice-cold water (8 °C) of the „Blue Eye“ was formed by rock erosion caused by water falling from the mountains. Enjoy a picnic lunch at the Blue Eye and return to the guesthouse in the afternoon. On the way back, it is worth taking a short detour to Grunas Waterfall.  Dinner, overnight at the guesthouse.

You will already wake up in the Albanian Alps. After breakfast, you make your way across scree fields to the foot of the mountains and up to the pass to Valbona, following the old path that was once the only way to travel between Valbona and Shkoder.

You will pass through old villages where people still live in their 100+ year-old stone towers. Enjoy the spectacular views of the long, rocky valley intermingled with quiet, restful forests, and stop for lunch at one of the traditional cafés of your choice. On arrival in Valbona, be amazed by the unique nature, history and traditions of the village. Dinner and overnight at the guesthouse.

A transfer will take you to Cerem. A very picturesque stage awaits you there, winding through beech and birch forests. Cerem came into being in the early 1950s when shepherds from Vusanje began to exploit pastures in Albania. After these incursions, the Albanian state decided to send in the armed forces and seal off the borders. The descent is on a well-marked path through the Zarunica valley to Vusanje, with the wild peaks of the Prokletije mountains in front of you. The small village of Vusanje (Vuthaj in Albanian) at the entrance to the impressive Ropojana Valley is in Montenegro, but the population is Albanian. Dinner and overnight stay in the guesthouse.

Begins with a transfer to the Grebaje Valley, the heart of the Prokletije (Cursed Mountains). The detour from the Peaks of the Balkans Trail brings you to perhaps the most spectacular section of the hike. The hike up to the ridges of the Taljanka (2056m) and Volušnica mountains leads into a green sky with fabulous views of the rugged rock massif of the Karanfil peaks.

After the descent down to the Grebaje valley, a transfer brings you back to Vusanje with breathtaking impressions in your luggage. Dinner and overnight stay at the guesthouse.

The trail will lead you along vast mountain meadows and pine forests, at the foot of which you can easily find wild strawberries and raspberries. To the side, the majestic Karanfili peaks, which you saw yesterday from the other side in the Grebaje valley, rise. You will reach the seasonal mountain lake Gjeshtarës, and further on, Lake Pejës, situated in a huge rocky valley, inviting you to have a picnic at noon. Over the Pejës pass, from where you have a magnificent view of the mythical mountain Harapit, also known as the „jagged“, you will descend again to Theth via a steep descent. Dinner and overnight in the guesthouse. The following day, a minibus will take you back to Shkoder at 11:00.

You will start with a hearty breakfast at the guesthouse. Afterwards, you leave Theth behind at 11:00 a.m. and drive about 3 hours in a minibus to Shkoder (arrival around 2:00 p.m.). Switchbacks and narrow mountain roads give you another wonderful view of the Albanian Alps.

Included

1 Night: Guest house/Hotel in a double room

5 Nights: Guest house in shared room

All transfers by minibus

Border crossing permits

GPS files & route descriptions

Meals: 6 x breakfast, 5 x packed lunch, 5 x dinner

What to bring

Good to know

  • This is an intensive tour, which is more suitable for people in a good physical condition.
  • The maximum difference in altitude for the hike on day 6 is 1,100 meters and covers a distance of 23 km.

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Your contact
Your contactDirk Pohlers
Simply call or text us
+49 1578 1908495

Frequently asked questions

When is the best time to hike the Peaks of the Balkans Trail

The best time to hike the Peaks of the Balkans Trail is mid-June to mid-September. If you want to hike earlier or later, you should expect snow and closed huts.

The hikes usually take between six and eight hours per day, so previous hiking experience is an advantage, but not necessary for those who are in very good shape. During the hikes, you will carry your own day pack with mainly clothing, toiletries and water, as you will stay in guest houses every day in the mountains.

The tour starts at a hotel/guesthouse in the center of Shkodra. The transfer to the mountains takes place the following day from a guesthouse. The tour ends after the return from Theth at the roundabout near the central mosque, at approximately 2pm. From here, various buses depart for your onward journey.

From the north/south bus station in Tirana, buses run hourly to the north, the last one around 18:00, journey time approx. 2-3 hours. Just be at the bus terminal about 15 minutes before and get on, you pay later on the bus.

This hiking trail is characterized by many descents and ascents. The route leads over a relief that represents alpine terrain with steep slopes, river valleys carved into the mountain, rocky peaks, mountain pine belts, etc. However, the chosen paths are mostly passable and safe.

German, Swiss and Austrian citizens can enter Albania without a visa. You only need an identity card or a passport that is still valid for at least 3 months.

Neighboring countries: Currently, all neighboring countries require proof of vaccination or recovery and a negative PCR test not older than 72 hours or a negative antigen test not older than 48 hours.

Check the foreign office website of your country for entry regulations, please.

All persons entering Albania must have proof of vaccination, a negative test result (PCR test not older than 72 hours or antigen test not older than 48 hours) or proof of recovery (not older than 6 months). Children under 6 years of age are exempt from the obligation to provide proof.

The obligation to wear mouth-nose protection applies indoors and on public transport.

We will arrange the border crossing permits for your trip, the price for these is included in the package.

Rooms are usually shared, accommodating two to five people per room, and it may be necessary for male and female guests to share a room unless noted on your request, but this is not possible in every guesthouse. Bed linen, towels, shampoo, hot water and other basic items are provided, but we recommend packing a travel towel, just in case.

Euro (EUR) in Kosovo and Montenegro, Lek in Albania, Euro is also accepted here. Credit cards and ATMs are available in Peja, Plav and Gjakova. For snacks and drinks other than water besides meals, it is advisable to withdraw a few LEK in Shkodra or take some EUROs with you. You can still withdraw money free of charge from the Credins ATMs in Albania (fees charged by your card issuing bank may apply).

The food in this part of the world is something you will look forward to at the end of each day. The food is freshly prepared in the traditional way and has a mix of Balkan, Turkish and European influences. In the guesthouses, breakfast includes simple homemade bread with locally grown vegetables, dairy products and eggs. For dinner there are salads, traditional soups, meat dishes, vegetables and pies. The guesthouses will also provide you with a packed lunch, which often includes a sandwich with cheese and vegetables. Vegetarians and diets are not a problem as the host families can provide alternatives. Remember to take your water bottle with you to refill it along the way. You can get water from springs along the way or from the taps in the guesthouses, as this is also drinkable water. However, if you are concerned about drinking untreated water, we recommend that you take water purification tablets with you.

220 V, 50 Hz, two-pin round plugs. In most villages, the guesthouses have solar panels, which provide hot water and can charge electrical appliances. In some villages or on the mountain, there is sometimes mobile phone reception. Especially in Valbona and Theth you can expect a very good network.

The novel „Broken April“ by Ismail Kadare is set in these mountains. Reading it before the trip will enhance the experience it offers.

  • Sturdy (ankle-high) walking shoes, 2 pairs of hiking socks
  • A comfortable second pair of shoes or sandals
  • Hat or another form of sun protection, in addition to sunscreen and glasses
  • Light rainwear (95% of the rain falls in winter)
  • Warm fleece jumper & walking trousers as nights are cold even in summer
  • 2l water gear
  • Daypack 25-40l
  • Swimwear/shorts (optional but recommended)