The hike is 15-16 km long, depending on where you start it, and we would say the difficulty level is medium. You don’t need to be fit or have a lot of mountain experience, but some parts will make you sweat. Just make sure you can walk for 6-9 hours.

Some people do it in 5 hours, others in 10. We spent roughly 6 hours hiking and less than 2 hours resting and chilling. The trail profile is up and down, with an elevation gain of 1000 meters, not bad.

Day 1: Arrival in Shkodra (Shkodër)

Close to the border with Montenegro, Shkodra in Albania is the entry point for the sublime natural landscapes in almost every direction from the city. To the east, the Drin River flows through gorges; to the west, the Adriatic Sea and its sandy beaches; and to the northeast, the Albanian Alps, where the country’s highest peaks can be conquered. For those interested in history, there is much to discover, as Shkodra has stood on an important trading post for thousands of years and both the ancient Greeks and Romans settled here. In Shkodra you can learn about Albanian history and culture and visit mosques, cathedrals, workshops and photo archives.

Top Activities in Shkoder:

Rozafa Fortress

Every civilisation in the history of Shkodra has used this strategic site on a rugged hill next to the confluence of the Drin and Bojana rivers. There was an Illyrian fortress here 2,500 years ago, and its elements were adapted for later fortresses. The Romans also left their mark, but most of the ruins date from Venetian times, when the castle was sacked after a siege by the Ottomans in 1478. The castle was defended by the Ottomans against Montenegrin and Serbian forces until 1912.

Blick von der Rozafa Festung ins Tal mit dem Shkodra See

Marubi Photo Collection

Pietro Marubi was an Italian photographer who fled to Shkodra in the mid-19th century for political reasons. He had supported General Giuseppe Garibaldi, who himself had to flee to America after the failed siege of Rome in 1849. Over the course of his career, Marubi took some 500,000 photographs, which are archived or on display in this attraction on Muhamet Gollesha. They document life in Shkodra in the 19th and early 20th centuries in the most vivid way possible, capturing the dress and social norms of the time. The archive was later curated by the local Kodheli brothers, who adopted techniques and continued to photograph until Kel Khodeli’s death in 1940.

Marubi-Museum,Albanien-Reise_Abenteuer-Albanien_Wandern_Berge_Meer_Kultur_Kulinarik

Shkodra Historical Museum

This museum is in a sensational location on a steep hill overlooking the town. The building is a former Venetian merchant’s house with authentic stone fortifications. So the History Museum has the dual appeal of housing culturally important artefacts and being historical in its own right. The exhibits are compact and offer details about ancient activities in the region, the Byzantine era, the Ottoman period to the oppressive regime under Enver Hoxha. Look for the original Venetian stone fountain and the remains of a Roman tomb in the garden.

Lake Shkodra

This vast lake, the largest in the Balkans, forms a natural border between Albania and Montenegro. You can rent a bike in Shkodar to get there, or take a bus to the western edge of town and walk the remaining five kilometres. Not far from the border with Montenegro is Lake Shkodra Resort, a campsite with chalets and campsites where tents can be rented right on the shore, where the lake is set off by the Albanian peaks in the distant background. Here you can rent kayaks or take a hike around the beautiful lake.

Shurdhah Island

A day trip southeast of the city is Lake Vau Dejes, formed when the Drin River was dammed. In summer, you can take a boat to Shurdhah Island, which is almost 400 metres long and covered in dense vegetation. Climb ashore for a little adventure and discover the last remaining fragments of Sarda, an ancient city. This was an Illyrian settlement and later a Roman citadel. In the Middle Ages, it was a town famous for its 365 altars and was the seat of the bishops of Sarda and Sapa. Eventually, the city was destroyed by the Ottomans and when the dam was completed, the ruins formed an island near the left bank of the Drin.

Mesi Bridge

This magnificent Ottoman bridge spans the Khir River five kilometres northeast of Shkoder. For starters, the setting is almost idyllic, framed by the hills of the Maranai Nature Park and with evergreen vegetation on the banks of a shallow river that attracts swimmers in summer. The Mes Bridge is the largest river crossing in Ottoman Albania, 100 metres long and dates back to 1770. The river has been crossed at this point since time immemorial and was on the trade route between Shkodra and Pristina in Kosovo.

Mesi Bridge Shkodra

Theth Valbona Hike: Mesi Bridge Shkodra

Day 2: Shkoder – Koman Reservoir – Valbona Valley

We started early in the morning and made our way into the mountains by public shared minibus (2.5 hrs). On the way, we passed numerous small villages and lakes until we reached the Koman reservoir after about two hours. There we had another coffee to wake up and waited for our ship „Dragobia“. When the ship came into sight, we could hardly believe our eyes. The passenger compartment of an old bus had been built onto the ship. This would take us across the 34-kilometre-long lake.

Lake Koman is a reservoir and just before you reach the ferry dock, you pass the mighty 115-metre-high dam wall. Behind it, the Drin is dammed to generate electricity and forms a 34-kilometre-long reservoir that winds through the narrow gorges of the Albanian Alps created by the Drin. By ferry, you can view these breathtaking cliffs at your leisure.

The journey was long but impressive. The rock faces rose steeply to our left and right, and again and again, families boarded, seemingly waiting abandoned somewhere on the shore for the next ride. There was also food and even a large refrigerator on the boat, which was unloaded on the way and transported up the steep slopes with pack horses.

Koman, Berge, Peaks of the Balkans Albanien

Once we reached the end of the lake, we continued by taxi towards the Valbona valley. After a hearty lunch, it was a short drive to the start of the first hike. And it was really spectacular right away. Right next to the crystal clear Valbona River, we continued on foot. We were happy to stretch our legs and enjoyed the hike through the untouched forests. We met few people on the way, but the paths were well marked and easy to find.

We stopped at a small café, tried some Albanian white wine and then it was only a few steps to our accommodation at the end of the Valbona valley.

Valbona is very long and has no real centre. A large hotel complex is being built, which seems somewhat oversized next to all the small farmhouses. Valbona is supposed to be the most popular holiday destination in the Albanian highlands, but for us, it makes a very sleepy impression. We spend the night with a family in a simple room with a balcony. Unfortunately, we can only communicate with hands, feet and our limited Albanian vocabulary. But it seemed as if we were the only guests for a very long time, as so often on our journey.

Majestic mountains surround the Valbona valley with its dense forests and numerous hiking trails. The autumn travel season is ideal and we see the first falling leaves here after weeks of over 30° degrees. For hiking, the temperatures around 24° and the partly cloudy sky are absolutely ideal. In a guesthouse on the way we get a beer with a view, here too, no one has knocked on the door for a long time. By the way, dinner is always included in the guesthouses in Valbona, which makes perfect sense. The restaurants seem to be closed and there is no supermarket in Valbona. We are fed with what the garden has to offer. For the next few days, we got a lot of tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese, bread and eggs. Simple, but very fresh and tasty cuisine.

Day 3: Valbona – Valbona Pass – Thethi

Berge, Peaks of the Balkans Albanien

The next day we set off from my accommodation and walk along the well-surfaced road towards the end of the valley. After a few kilometres, the road ends and a gravel path continues towards the mountains. Here, the hiking trail to Theth soon branches off. The hiking trail is not only part of the long-distance hiking trail „Peaks of the Balkans„, but is also super suitable for a one-day hike into the Theth valley. The trail climbs gently upwards.

We trudged off, enjoying the many beautiful flowers along the way and the great views of the steep peaks of the Albanian Alps. We meet plenty of fellow hikers. We already knew many of them from the shuttle to Valbona and the Lake Koman ferry. There is a wonderful atmosphere on the trail. People chat, cheer each other on and support each other on the way over the Valbona Pass, also called Qafa e Valbonës. The path went steeply uphill and led us past the „Simoni Café“. For five years, a small family has lived here on the side of the path and served thirsty hikers throughout the summer. They counted around 1,000 people here last year. If there is enough money at the end of the season, he would like to expand and beautify his café, but who knows if that will work, he said. We enjoyed herbal tea, coffee and a fine Albanian cake and were thus freshly fortified for the last ascent.

With so much energy, we hadn’t had enough at the top of the pass and walked a few metres further up to a viewpoint from where we had great views of the two valleys. We had probably arrived a little too leisurely because on the way our horse suddenly overtook us with our suitcases. But we could understand the horse driver’s haste when we realised that he was going back to Valbona with the horse in the evening. We were already well served half the way to Thethi.

Banner Albanien Reise Wandern mit Bergen im Hintergrund

Theth Valbona Hike: Viewpoint on top of the pass

The descent was steep and a bit rocky in parts, but in the end, we reached the settlement of Thethi safely. There are no real streets or village centre here and the houses are scattered all over the valley floor. Our guesthouse was right next to the church of Thethi and therefore easy to find.

We hadn’t had enough yet and made our way from here to a small waterfall. A small stream ran along the path down into the valley and showed us the way to this sight. The sun was already quite low in the sky and conjured up small rainbows in the spray. This excursion was definitely still worthwhile.

Wasserfall, Berge, Peaks of the Balkans Albanien

Back in Thethi we checked into our room, showered and looked forward to dinner and a cosy evening with the other visitors from all over the world.

Berge, Peaks of the Balkans Albanien

Albanien Highlights: Theth – Valbona Trail

However, our thirst for adventure was not yet completely satisfied. We paid a visit to the Blood Feud Tower in the centre of Thethi. A little girl collected the entrance fee and we climbed the ladders inside this sparsely furnished tower. It’s hard to fathom that people who feared for their lives once found refuge here.

Day 4 Denelli Heights and Nderlysa

We chatted, had breakfast, exchanged stories and thought about where to go today. According to the plan, it would only be a short stage to Nderlysa, but we wanted to go a bit further. Therefore, after mature deliberation, we decided to visit the Denelli plateau.

Unfortunately, we were a bit late because of the advice, after leaving the village and crossing a dried-up river bed, we started to climb steeply and the temperatures rose sharply. While we were sweating and panting, we diligently made up metres in altitude and reached the first junction after about fifty minutes. Here we could have done a round hike, but we decided to do the full programme and continued towards the plateau. The path was excellently marked and also very well prepared, we only had delays because of the many wild strawberries along the way and because of the beautiful view of the valley of Thethi that spread out behind us.

When we reached the plateau, we also had reason to marvel. A wonderful plain full of flowers and blossoms awaited us here. Unfortunately, there was also the blazing midday heat and not a bit of shade far and wide. Our rest was therefore correspondingly short and we started our descent again shortly afterwards. But today we had underestimated the heat somewhat. At every open space, the sun burned mercilessly on our heads and we were glad when we reached the turn-off and a familiar path led us back to the waterfall.

However, we left this one to the left and made our way to the nearby canyon. First, however, we had to cross the stream after the waterfall. There was no bridge far and wide, so there was only one thing to do: take off your shoes and walk through. The cooling down did us good, but at the subsequent rest we had used up the last drops of water. We were glad when we reached a small kiosk shortly afterwards. We filled up our bottles and drank a cool Coke.

Berge, Peaks of the Balkans Albanien

The owner of the kiosk was apparently not very happy with the season so far. He said that he hoped for more tourists in July. We took a quick look at the canyon and then went on. On the way we met some familiar faces who had stayed with us in Thethi before. We remembered the poor vendor a few metres ahead and again advertised the kiosk with the little fountain next to the canyon.

The rest of the way was wonderful. Varied, with great views of the foothills of the canyon and beautifully laid out on the edge of the valley floor, it led out of the valley. However, our steps became heavy and when we reached the bridge of Nderlyssa, we could no longer resist and jumped into the cool river. However, only for a short while, because suddenly a herd of goats appeared and ran down to the river right next to our bathing place.

We finished our rest and walked the last few metres into Nderlyssa. But suddenly a small woman waved at the side of the road, looking for fodder for her cows. She showed us the way to a small mill and switched on the millstone for us. With hands and feet she explained to us that tourists kept setting the stone in motion and afterwards did not know how to turn it off again. She accompanied us on the way to our accommodation on an old farm and we wearily moved into our room.

Day 5: The blue eye (Syri i kalter)

An excellent breakfast with homemade honey and great jam awaited us this morning. Chickens were running around between our feet and we were looking forward to today.

On sneaky paths, we made our way through the small village and hiked back towards the mountains. The paths were again not difficult to find and soon we passed the first small swimming pools. Crystal clear water was dammed here and poured down the valley in cascades. A great view, but we left these bathing possibilities to the left and hiked along a rocky path into the gorge.

Holzbrücke in den Albanischen Alpen

Waterfalls and small bridges made this tour extremely varied and in the end, we reached a small house, which at first glance seemed to be abandoned.

As we got closer, a little girl discovered us and led us to many small terraces, which were built into the hillside with poles and branches like little tree houses. From here we had a great view of the blue-green pool of the Blue Eye.

Blue Eye, Theth

Theth Valbona Hike: Blue Eye, Theth

The water was definitely too cold for a swim, though, so after a herbal tea, we headed back. The sun was burning down quite hot by now, so we dared to jump into the cool river on the way.

After a hearty lunch with our farmer’s wife, we boarded a minibus that took us back to Shkoder over bumpy roads. From here, another transfer took us back to Tirana after a long drive.

After the silence and tranquillity of the mountains, the city was just a bit of a culture shock, but even here there was quite a lot to discover. Remnants from communism, old bunkers converted into museums and many bars, restaurants and cafes would actually more than justify a longer visit to this city.

Bergstraße mit Ziegen

Conclusion

A wonderful week of hiking as if from another time. The people in the mountains, and in Albania as a whole, are so helpful and cordial that you forget any prejudice against this country in no time. I was particularly impressed by how you can see the low level of construction and infrastructure in the mountains in nature. Even though the landscape is similar to here in the Alps, there is much more life in the meadows and forests. Everything feels a bit wilder and less used up, and the whole week you feel like you’re walking through times long gone.

When it comes to accommodation, you have to make some concessions – the people make an effort and all the rooms were always clean, but the standard is simply lower than in German-speaking countries. You should therefore bring a bit of a sense of adventure with you when you go on this trip. You will be rewarded with wonderful nature, an unspoilt alpine landscape and very warm acquaintances!

What to bring to the Valbona-Theth hike

Once you leave Shköder, think that you won’t have access to buy supplies or food, because there aren’t any stores on the way. Only in Theth, there is a very small store for basic groceries. So bring everything you may need on this trip.

We absolutely recommend going there with a comfy backpack to carry everything in.

Hiking shoes. We saw people with regular trainers or even vans doing the hike but there’s mud, puddles and for a medium-high altitude hike, we strongly suggest hiking shoes or boots.

Consider your water and food necessities. You won’t need a paella, but grab some snacks, protein bars, or fruits for the buses and the hike. In Valbona and Theth you’ll have breakfast and dinner.

Cash. Albania is still behind the times of credit card payments, and Theth and Valbona are no exception. You’ll need to pay everything in cash (including your accommodation bookings, even if you book online in advance). Also – there are no ATMs in these towns so be sure to bring more than enough cash.

What is the best time to visit Theth National Park and the Albanian Alps?

The hiking season in the Albanian Alps usually runs from May to October, with July and August being the most popular months. Even in June we still had a lot of snow on the Valbona Pass and the pass to Theth was only open for a few days. To avoid the high season, I recommend mid-late June and September as the best months to travel to Theth National Park and hike the Valbona Pass. In winter, Theth village is often cut off from the outside world for months.

Average teamperatures Valbona

Basics of the Theth-Valbona hike

  • Distance: 9.5 km from Rrogam to Theth (12 km from Valbona village; 17.6 km from trailhead to trailhead)
  • Duration: 7-8 hours on average (up to 10 hours at a slow pace; 4-5 hours for experienced hikers)
  • Elevation: 800 m minimum elevation up to 1800 m at Valbona Peak
  • Difficulty level: Medium – moderate level of fitness required (rough terrain, loose gravel in parts, steep uphill/downhill sections around Valbona Peak)
  • Guide?: Optional (not required)
  • Water: Freshwater spring & several cafés on the route (but bring plenty of water with you just in case)
  • Accommodation options: Guesthouses; camping

Tour Packages

Theth Valbona Koman Wanderung Albanien

Hiking Tour Valbona to Theth via Koman Lake (4 Days, self-guided)

Discover Lake Koman, Valbona Valley, Theth, and much more on a 4-day tour from Shkodra.

€ 180,00

Peaks-of-the-balkans

PEAKS OF THE BALKANS WANDER TOUR (7 Tage, selbst geführt)

Die Gipfel des Balkans auf eigene Faust erkunden, mit Transfers, Unterkunft und Verpflegung in den Bergen.

€ 540,00