Albanian Alps Explorer
Journey into the Accursed Mountains Tranquil ferry ride & warm up walk in the Valbona National Park
You rise early for the transfer through a scenic gorge to the Koman Dam (55km/1:30h). The picturesque reservoir loops similar to a Norwegian fjord through sheer rock walls and is considered a highlight of the Albanian Alps. The custom made ferry stops at several points to pick up locals from remote villages before arriving at Fierze (46km/3h). After lunch you travel by minibus past traditional villages, composed of wooden shingle covered stone houses, into the highlands and the Valbona National Park (35km/1:15h). To warm-up for the anticipated trek you continue on foot along the crystal clean stream and on quiet berry-lined trails through the forest to the secluded Xhemes Lake for a swimming break. The walk ends at our cozy guesthouse in a small hamlet. You will have itchy feed when you see the jagged peaks from the terrace, tomorrow will be the day.
Valbona â€“ In the Footsteps of the Miners The Workers Trail to the Mines of Pecmarra
The trail starts at the doorstep of the guesthouse, passes a scree field and snakes its way up to the Bauxite mines of Mt Pecmarra. In the 1970s and 80s miners created this path to reach the small mineshafts that still exist on top of the mountain. Along the way you will see the last remains of plumbing, machinery and destroyed buildings. The path is narrow and has a fair gradient, it is not suitable for those who suffer from vertigo as it is exposed on one side to a sheer drop â€“ the views towards Kolata, the highest peak of Montenegro, are rewarding. Just before reaching the cirque where the mines are located you pass a cave inhabited by bats, the shafts on top are dark, cold and damp, it is not advisable to enter them. Return on the same path to the guesthouse and use the afternoon to explore the surroundings, swim at Xhemes Lake, help with farm work or learn how to prepare a traditional Albanian dish.
Valbona â€“ Colorful Meadows, Stanet e Plan Hamlet Kukaj, colorful Meadows and hospitable Shepherds
Refreshed you start your hike to Kukaj, an isolated hamlet where only two families reside, below the trail bunkers that once protected the border are now scattered in the riverbed. The windy path takes you over lush meadows ablaze with the colors of a wide variety of spring flowers to a shepherd hut on 1.650m. In the communist period this was a no-go area and the building used as a military barrack. Admire the wild and romantic jagged mountain scenery, sample fresh milk products and opt to climb higher to an ancient crossing at the Montenegrin border or to stay and enjoy the views. At 2.040m a weathered border pyramid remains as a reminder of the isolation Albania once endured, from here views reach to the most dramatic parts of Montenegrin Prokletije. Catching a last glimpse at the Alps highest peak Jezerca (2.694m) you descent on a different path to another guesthouse. When daylight fades you can watch the alpine glow over dinner in the idyllic garden, no surprise many women are named after the beautiful valley.
Hike from Valbona to Theth: The Grand Crossing On par with the Mountains on Valbona Pass (1.811m)
Accompanied by a mule that carries your luggage you set out for the transfer hike across the Valbona Pass (1.815m) â€“ another highlight of this journey. After the village Rragam few steep segments have to be tackled, you can pause regularly near springs and on colorful meadows to take a breath and enjoy the splendid views. On the pass the surrounding peaks appear on par with you and sweeping views of both valleys fascinate even the seasoned traveler. Fully take in 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, by the time the woods thin out the majestic silhouette of Mt. Arapi (2.217m) becomes visible and soon the upmost houses of the village are reached. Below lie scattered the hamlets of Theth, their houses are built from stones of the riverbed and are covered with wooden shingles. You make your way through the outskirts and reach another inviting guesthouse in the center.
Theth – An ancient Caravan Trail The Peja Pass and Mt Arapi – Matterhorn of Albania
For the hike up the Peja Pass we recommend an early start and using transport to and/or from the trailhead, otherwise add 4km or 1h walking time each way (one-way transfer is 20€, return 30€). The names derives from a city in Kosovo that used to be an important trade center. The initial approach follows an un-made road through the village, past colorful meadows, decorated cows and stone houses. The ascent starts near the source of the Thethi River and follows an ancient caravan path hidden in the sheer wall of Mt. Arapi, which from afar looks impenetrable. It is the main connection to Montenegro and Kosovo and used to climb the highest peak of the Alps, Jezerca. Shepherds reside on several points nearby that you could extent your walk to. Return on the same way to the previous night’s guesthouse. The circular route around or climb of Arapi (2.217m) is recommended only with a guide as they are of higher difficulty degree.
Theth - Meadows above the Clouds Meet the Shepherds on the Field Denelli
Panoramic views await you on the hike to the Meadow of Denelli in the Southern part of the valley. After passing the lush Ulaj neighborhood and crossing the bridge over the Grunas Canyon the beech forest spends shade during most of the ascent. On donkey trails, used by shepherds to transport cheese back to the village, you reach a first magnificent viewpoint and continue on a path hewn into the cliff towards the upper meadows. On about 1.600m lies hidden a football field sized almost level field where two families reside in summer time. Visit them to sample fresh cheese, yoghurt or a typical dish before returning to Theth. The inexhaustible can climb higher to the Kakise Pass, with a guide also to the peak of Mt. Drenit. Both offer views into the neighboring valley of Curraj. Return on the same or similar way for a last overnight in Theth.
Theth - In the Heart of the Albanian Alps Grunas Waterfall & Canyon | Kanun & Blood Feud
A walk through the village and the green gardens reveals the full extent of Theth. You visit the iconic church, well-kept fields and at the lock-in tower that offered protection for men threatened by blood feud dive into the history of the “kanun”. It is the perfect place to learn more about highland law code of Leke Dukagjini, its origins, impact and present day relevance. Onward along the water channels you ascend the plateau of the famed waterfall at which’s base often a rainbow appears. On a cliff above the river archeologists discovered stone-aged terraces: Rest, enjoy the picnic lunch and gaze into the adjacent 50m deep Grunas Canyon. Along the river a well-worn bridle path takes you downstream to Nderlysa where you stay on a farmstead. Use your free time to sample mulberries, grapes and plums in the garden, harvest corn and milk sheep with the family, learn to cook a typical dish, explore the surroundings or swim at the glacial mills and pond formed by the icy black river.
The “Blue Eye” and Thores Mountain Road Walk to a hidden Oasis & Scenic Drive to Shkodra
Through a canyon you hike to the deserted hamlet Kapreja and a karst spring named for its shape and color the “Blue Eye”. Only the bravest dare to take a dip in the icy waters. VERWEILEN while butterflies swirl around you – truly a hidden oasis to relax at. Without mobile phone coverage, electricity and road access busy everyday life seems completely forgotten and you can feel the isolation of the Accursed Mountains for a last time. After lunch at the guesthouse the local minibus waits already for the transfer across the scenic Thores Pass into Boga Valley. The route passes the Edith Durham Memorial where you can joyfully take in the last views of the dramatic mountains you explored in the last days. Expect to arrive in Shkodra about 4-5pm, we are glad to help with accommodation or onward transfer arrangements throughout Albania and into the neighboring countries.
Tailor-made self-guided / individual hiking trips in the Albanian Alps, 3 to 8-day trips possible.