Albanian Alps – The Accursed Mountains of Albania

The Albanian Alps (Alpet Shiqptare) also known as Accursed Mountains (Bjeshket e Namuna, some might say Nemuna; Проклетије / Prokletije) in English, are part of the Dinaric Alps that span all the way across South Eastern Europe from Slovenia in the North via Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro and Albania in the South to end in Kosovo.

They’re bordered by the Julian Alps in Slovenia, Šar Range in South and Adriatic along which they run parallel in the West. The highest peak is called Jezerca (Maja Jezercë, Језерски врх / Jezerski vrh) and stands 2694m tall. The highest peaks are all clustered in an area that stretches in the border region between Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro. In this area the Balkans Peace Park was proposed and a long distance hiking path, the Peaks of the Balkans trail (192km), established.

“The most inexplicable, the most unapproachable and the wildest mountain range on Balkan peninsula and, after Alps, in Europe. Southern Alps of Europe!”
Ami Boue, French travel writer

The area forms the most extensive Karst area in Europe and consists primarily of limestone and dolomite. Very porous but nonetheless hard and resistant type of rocks that are dissolved by water through its natural acidity,  leaving huge cave systems and bizarre formations behind. Jagged rocks and sharp spike relief dominate the landscape known to the Slavs as Prokletije.
This is why this area features some of the most dramatic mountains to be found in Europe and elsewhere, making it a perfect hiking and trekking destination.

While this is true for the Western parts, the Eastern mountains are less rugged and form milder forms of relief. The prevailing rock is of volcanic and metamorphic origin and more prone to erosion. The whole area shows strong characteristics of glaciation though.  After the Alps nowhere else South of the Scandinavian ice have glaciers formed the landscape so strongly.
Today only on the shady northern slopes of the central massif, close to Maja e Jezerces, there were five active glaciers found, which we would rather label as year-around snow fields. Previously the glacier of Plav was the largest in the Balkans, 35km long with ice up to 200m thick, it left what is today known as Ropojana and Grbaja Valley. Although the Valbona Valley shows the typical u-shape.

“As night falls down ‘pon this wretched ground
I descend the fog valleys below
With no man, nor beast, but naked trees around
And the moon that all light has bled”
May Result, hard-rock band from Serbia

Geographical latitude of the Accursed Mountains cause severe rainfalls (90% during the winter), setting the snow line as low as 1500m, compared to 2800m in the Alps. Hence many villages are cut off for up to three month cut-off from the outside world.
Due to the rough and inaccessible terrain it is one of the last areas in Europe that has not been discovered entirely yet, one of the most enclosed, most reserved and most romantic places in Europe. There’s still peaks that no one can claim to have climbed, valleys that see barely any visitor.