Albanian Alps: Theth & Valbona

This is an example itinerary, tours often start from Shkoder and last 3-8 days.
For other versions please inquire or have a look here.

This  individual tour is very similar to our Albanian Magic itinerary but designed for people who prefer the freedom of planning and hiking independently with friends and family.

The Albanian Alps self-guided tour covers the capital Tirana as well as the north’s two most interesting cities and valleys.
It’s a point-to-point trekking adventure that changes lodging every day/night using the minimum number of transfers. Your hosts are handpicked for being excellent examples of hospitality, authentic traditions, vision and engagement.
Traveling by yourself gives you the opportunity to meet and interact with natives and get to know local customs and history in a natural way. Meeting friendly and welcoming malisores (highlanders) is guaranteed.

The hikes are ideal for walkers of average fitness levels and with basic orientation skills. Different routes and extensions are described in detail and marked on maps to cater for the ones looking for a more demanding hiking experience.

The effective walking time per day is about 4 hours on average, with the exception of one longer transfer hike from Theth to Valbona across the Valbona pass.

Trip duration 3-8 days
Average daily walking time 3-7 hours
Difficulty 2 / 4
Comfort level standard

1-4 persons

Crossing the river next to the Blue EyeCenter of Theth with reconstructed catholic church during harvest timeThe top of Valbona Pass

“Albanian Alps: Theth & Valbona” Highlights

  • being an explorer in the Albanian Alps
  • the Blue Eye’s fascinating play of colours
  • close contact with the highlanders – experiencing traditional mountain lifestyle and hospitality first hand
  • on the edge of two magnificent valleys: the hike across the Valbona pass (1820m)
  • a tranquil bus-turned-into-ferry ride on breathtaking Lake Koman

trip price per person starts from 375€ (assuming two travelers on a 5-day tour)
private trip: 1-4 persons

available dates:
June to September

Please note that August can be very hot

The itinerary covers Albania from the capital Tirana to much more relaxed but lively Shkoder, historical hilltop castle town Kruja and two of the most remarkable valleys in the Dinaric Alps: Thethi and Valbona. Both are dominated by towering mountains, gushing rivers and traditional alpine stone houses. Leaving the mountains behind you will enjoy a not less beautiful scenic ferry ride across the Koman Lake.

After your rendezvous with our driver at the airport the journey continues to Shkoder, the North’s dynamic hub to the mountains. Explore the city on foot or bike, visit one of the many sights, join a workshop and sleep and dine in a traditional Ottoman-style house turned into a hotel.

Leaving the city behind transfer along your preferred route through either Boga Valley or Kiri and Shala towards Nderlysa on the next day. You can choose between different walks and will stay in a farm-style guesthouse next to swimming spots.

If you haven’t done so on the previous day visit the beautiful “Blue Eye“, a hidden karst spring, and the almost deserted Kapreja Valley, before you continue on a bridle path to Theth. On your way you may visit the hydro-power station, Grunas canyon and waterfall or a historic lock-in tower. Overnight with an Albanian-Kosovan family in the village center near the often pictured church.

Considered the highlight of many visitors you hike from Theth to Valbona Valley on day four. At above 1800m feel on par with the surrounding peaks and stay with who’s been described by New York Times as a “Balkan cowboy with jeans and glorious Sam Elliott mustache”.

In more dramatic and inaccessible Valbona Valley ascend along a glacial valley perched between mountains to a meadow below Mt. Rosni (2524m). Stay in the first hotel that opened after the crisis 1997 with a visionary activist Albanian-American couple.

Early morning transfer to and ferry ride on Koman Lake with an unique vehicle. Head for the beach, a slow food restaurant or right away to the interesting hilltop city and castle of Kruja. Sleep well in a comfy hotel overlooking the revived bazaar close by the castle.

Transfer to Tirana where you can visit the National History Museum or what is known as the capitol’s balcony by taking the cable car to Mt Dajti. Join a local for a walking tour of the colorful city and discuss Albania’s state of affairs over a sumptuous dinner in one of the many fabulous restaurants. Not tired yet, join the nightlife in Blloku district.

Depending on your departure time keep exploring the city or head right away for the airport with many unforgettable memories of the last secret of Europe. Don’t want to leave and rather spend more time at the South’s beaches – we help you find the right spot.

  • meeting at Tirana airport and transfer to Shkodër (1:30h / 85km)
  • check-in at the hotel placed in an ottoman-style house
  • explore the city with taxi, on foot or bike
  • plenty of activities and places
    – visit Rozafa Castle, Lead Mosque, the historical museum or Marubi photo library
    – swim at the shores of Lake Shkodra, bike to the Drisht Castle and explore the bazaar

View over ShkoderAM-day-by-day-2Fish from River Drin and the nearby Adriatic

  • take the minibus through Boga Valley (3:30h / 84km) or hire a jeep to drive through scenic Kiri and Shala Valley to Nderlysa around (5h / 75km)
  • transfer to the guesthouse or hike the last kilometers on one of the many paths through the mountains to arrive on foot
  • explore the farm, village and surrounding area or cool down in a nearby natural pool
  • you’re invited to milk the sheep, learn something about farming or help with the preparation of meals

Unique mountain scenery: Thethi valley from Maja e Zorzit Daniela and Denisa enjoy having many people aroundDeda and his mother milking their sheep (around 100)

Hike details

Effective walking: 3.5 h
Distance: 6.5 km
Ascending: 500 m
Descending: 500 m

  • you could walk to the Syri i Kalter (“Blue Eye”) a beautiful karst spring fed by melting snow, surrounded by butterflies in summer
  • or visit Kapreja Valley, surrounded by mountains this secluded hamlet is almost deserted, a single family remains
  • examine the bizarre glacial mill formations near the Black River Canyon
  • say hello to the workers at the hydro-power plant and take control of it
  • hike to Grunas Canyon or the waterfall high above
  • learn more about the ancient laws of the Kanun and Blood Feud in Thethi’s lock-in tower
  • visit the church and small ethnographic museum

The colourful "Blue Eye" karst spring Local woman knittingThe Kulla, traditional blood feud lock-in tower

Effective walking: 4 h
Distance: 12 km
Ascending: 325 m
Descending: 325 m

  • carry your pack or hire a mule to accompany you
  • walk through other neighborhoods of Theth to the trailhead
  • ascend through beech forest to Valbona Pass at 1815m
  • marveling over the dramatic mountain landscape during lunch at a viewpoint
  • descend to the semi-deserted summer village Rragam
  • walk or transfer to the guesthouse further down the valley

Crossing from Theth to Valbona while luggage is transported on mulesQafa e Valbones, with Mount Poplluks (2569m) to the left in the backgroundAwesome views of Valbona valley

Effective walking: 3 h
Distance: 9 km
Ascending: 375 m
Descending: 100 m

  • initial ramble to the elevated hamlet Kukaj (1115m), two families reside here in summer and lunch on your return can be organized
  • ascend on  a mule path to the pasture and shepherd’s hut at the meadows of Buni i Valbones
  • picnic surrounded by the blazing colors of variety of flowers
  • possibility to continue to the pass at the border with Montenegro or even to the top of Maja e Roshit (2524m) – some serious hikes
  • return to Kukaj and descend to Valbona on a different trail
  • transfer or walk along a pleasant path to the hotel
  • overnight at Valbona’s first hotel run by local activists – one of them a lady from New York living here since four years

Yard of our guest house with chicken and goatsBeautiful butterflies everywhereWalk from Qafa e Roshit to Valbona with wonderful panoramic views

Effective walking: 7 h
Distance: 12 km
Ascending: 1125 m
Descending: 725 m

  • early morning transfer via Bajram Curri to the ferry dock in Fierze (2h / 40km)
  • ferry ride on Lake Koman, last about 2:30-3h
  • transfer from Koman to hilltop town Kruja (2:15h / 115km) or another destination like
    – one of the beaches and lagoons
    – amazing slow food restaurant that uses only local ingredients
    – national hero skenderbeg’s grave and castle in Lezha
  • explore Kruja’s bazaar, castle, Bektashi Tekke, Skenderbeg or Ethnographic museum
  • walk through the olive groves surrounding the castle or hike to the Sari Saltik shrine on the mountain above Kruja
  • overnight in a comfy hotel overlooking the market and facing the castle

Effective walking: 5 h
Distance: 10.5 km
Ascending: 700 m
Descending: 700 m

  • transfer to Tirana and check-in at hotel close to the center
  • visit the National History Museum, Art Gallery, E’them Bey Mosque, Bektashi headquarters or one of many other sights
  • take the cable car to what is known as the balcony of the capital, from here it’s possible to hike to Mt. Dajti
  • join a local for a walking tour of the colorful capital and discuss the current state of affairs over dinner at one of the many restaurants
  • not tired yet, join the night life in previously off limit living district of the politburo members, now upmarket and most trendy neighborhood

Mosaic decorating the National History Museum, TiranaEt'hem Bey Mosque, TiranaStatue of national hero Skenderbeg, Tirana

depending on your departure time:

  • keep exploring the city
  • visit the Pellumbas Cave
  • head for the airport with a load of unforgettable memories

→ You like to extend your holidays? Let us know and we help you find the right place at one of the beaches at the Ionian coast.

The idea behind our self-guided tours is to leave you as much freedom and offer plentiful options to personalize your trip as possible:

  • Carry your own rucksack with all things needed or choose a light weight daypack and every day luggage transfers will be provided.
  • You like to join the locals and use public transport, that’s fine. Loving the freedom to stop for pictures or a coffee and the comfort of a 4×4, this can also be organized.
  • Preferring to avoid a fully escorted tour but looking for a hiking guide to lead you on a difficult path, archaeologist to tell more about history or a local that shows you his city? We offer these options, too.

Services included:

  • 4 nights accommodation in hotel (bed and breakfast)
  • 3 nights accommodation in guesthouse (full board)
  • pickup from the airport and transfer to the 1st hotel by one of our drivers that can help answer open questions
  • number of transfers but not all (see below)
  • preregistered mobile phone with important phone numbers
  • roadbook with detailed descriptions of
    • your personalized journey
    • manifold day by day options
    • background information on the places you’re going to visit
    • your hosts (4x)
  • map material
    • trip overview
    • city maps with points of interest and suggested walking routes
    • topographic maps with different trail options for every hiking day

Optional (see the booking process for more details):

  • additional private transfers instead of public transport
  • different guides (hiking, archaeology…)
  • handheld GPS unit with recorded trails and points of interest
  • additional travel guide books (Bradt, Lonely Planet… in English and/or German)
  • cable car ride in Tirana (one way 3.50€ / return 5€)

At your own:

  • insurance
  • airfare
  • ferry fare (3.50€)
  • tips and personal expenses for drinks and souvenirs
    expect 50cent for coffee, water or raki shot, 1-2€ for a bottle of beer or glass of wine
  • lunch & dinner where not provided
    not more than 8-10€ for a lovely sumptuous meal, quick eats from 1€
  • entrance fares to museums, castle and tower
    ~10€ / if you visit all the places, which is unlikely

 

 

Didn’t find what you were looking for? Get in touch with us and we’ll be happy to tailor a tour that suits your needs, organise transport or accommodation, or simply give advice for your independent visit to Albania.