8-Day Hidden Valley Trek


Discover the beauty of the hidden Zagoria Valley as you trek between secluded villages. Then hike to the mighty north face of Nemercka, swim in thermal waters, and visit the stone city of Gjirokaster.


Day 1: Welcome to Albania!

Join the group transfer in Tirana (leaving from the city centre at 2:00 PM and the airport at 3:00 PM). The transfer into Southern Albania takes up to 4 hours.

In the late afternoon, you reach the village Peshtan and the family-run, cosy guesthouse located near the trailhead. It's time to relax and enjoy the delicious cooking and homemade wine. Tomorrow you start walking the beautiful Zagoria Valley!

Arriving later or from elsewhere (e.g. Saranda/Corfu)? We'll help you book a private transfer so you can join the group at the guesthouse on time for introductions and dinner.


The first hike starts at the doorstep of the valley. Zagoria is not yet visible as the mountain ranges of Dhembeli, Nemercka, Lunxheria, and Bureto encompass and shield it from the outside world. An almost forgotten caravan route leads inside this hidden place.

The path takes us over terraced fields to the almost deserted village of Kala and down to the river, where we cross via one of Ali Pasha’s impressive Ottoman stone bridges.

Climbing up to Limar, remains of the cobbled caravan path are visible. A stroll through the village reveals its whole extent, and you can learn more about life here from your host, a local teacher.


Only footpaths connect the villages en route to the next overnight location. Your luggage is transported by horse.

Passing several hamlets allows you to experience the rural lifestyle. You'll meet the locals along the way and get to admire the mountain peaks above and the Zagoria River below, where the cooling Doshnica Waterfall awaits.

Don't miss a chance to visit the Church of the Holy Apostles, a fine example of Orthodox heritage.


Today, a shorter and easier route with views of Mt. Cajupi allows for a relaxed but rewarding walking day. Nivan once served as the centre of the commune. Remains of military installations and storage depots are still visible, while its central square is dedicated to William Tilman, a famed British mountaineer and sailor who fought with the resistance against German occupation during WW2.

Once more, the trail takes us down to the river, monastery, and (on an optional detour) to the last of Ali Pasha’s stone bridges. After a shortcut across meadows, you reach Sheper. Many nomadic Aroman shepherds were forced to settle here during communism.

You can spend your time with the family or explore the village. This is the last village overnight.


Crossing the Dhembel-Nemercke Range is the last stage of our trek. Bunkers still protect the entrance to a crack that climbs to the top of the mountain with fabulous views of Mt. Cajupi.

The alpine valley is bare of trees and flanked by steep slopes. The Dhembel Pass sits at its end and offers views of the Eastern Mountains, across into Greece, and to the city of Permet far below.

The long rocky descent leads into Leuse, another stone village with a fresco-covered church - perhaps the most beautiful in Southern Albania.

From here, it's only a short walk to the centrally located hotel. Put your feet up and enjoy the city’s cuisine, wines, and raki.


The scenery alone is worth the 45-minute drive to today's trailhead. From afar, the sheer 650m high wall of Southern Albania's 2nd highest summit looks impressive. A walk along water channels towards the Sopot Waterfall at the wall's base reveals its full extent.

Returning from the hike, the warm thermal pools of Benje await. The sulfuric waters are said to have a healing effect and are a welcome treat after the last days of hiking. Soak and relax, or explore the river canyon on foot.

From here, it's a good 90-minute transfer to Gjirokaster, where you stay at one of the vernacular Ottoman buildings in the old town.


Gjirokastra, a world heritage site and "museum town", is famed for its intricate, fortress-like Ottoman mansions. Get lost in a maze of narrow, cobbled streets, visit one of the Ottoman mansions, and climb to the towering castle above.

To Tirana, it's a 3.5 hour drive - plan your flight accordingly or add an overnight in the modern capital, where you can visit the Skanderbeg Square and trendy "Blloku" district to watch the city come to life at night.


Time permitting, Tirana invites you to explore its streets and sights on a stroll. Sip an espresso in one of the charming bars, and observe the busy morning flow.

A private transfer is arranged to drop you off at the airport 2.5 hours prior to your flight.


What's Included

  • English-speaking guide.
  • Accommodation during trip.
  • Meals: All breakfasts, 5 lunches, and 6 dinners.
  • Transfers during the trip, including airport transfer.
  • Luggage transfer (max 15 kg per person - duffels or rucksacks, no hard cases).
  • Entrance fees.
Not Included
  • Meals not listed above and drinks other than table water.
  • Personal expenses such as gratuities and souvenirs.
  • Flights.
  • Insurance (compulsory).
Have a question?

If you have any questions about this trip or want to speak with an expert, get in touch.

We're ready to help.

Team Images
Team Images
Team Images

Rated 5.0

10 verified reviews


(Mar 2024)

Really nice tour (Hidden Valley Trek). Well organised. Great time! Thank you :)


(Oct 2023)

Getting back to nature and back to basics turned out to be exactly what I needed. Beautiful views, the friendliest hosts and an incredible guide (Menduh). He is impressively knowledgeable, helpful and fun to hang out with. He will make sure you get from A to B safe and sound and is great at motivating you.Some hiking experience is recommended. Be prepared to go back to basics for three nights and enjoy the hotels afterwards. Highly recommended if you want to see a part of Albania that mass tourism hasn't touched yet.


(Oct 2023)

Perfectly organized, impressive hiking tour. We did the Hidden Valley Tour through the Zagoria Valley at the beginning of October: wonderful, untouched nature, warm hosts and fresh, local food in the accommodations. Our professional and very sensitive guide Anton explained the background to the country and its people in many conversations. All processes during the 7 days were perfectly organized. The Zbulo employees were always easy to reach in advance and answered all of our questions quickly and in detail. We can definitely recommend a tour with Zbulo!


(Oct 2023)

Fabulous experience, beautiful scenery, wholesome food and warm and welcoming people. Yes was our guide and she had humour and patience with our group of 10. Well organised trip. Thank you!


(Sep 2023)

Albania was amazing, the mountains and valleys magnificent. The organisation by Zbulo and our guide, Blendi, ensured a great experience.



Before you go

We rate this a 2/4 difficulty level. A moderate tour includes either easier, medium-duration walks or harder, shorter walks. While experience is not necessary, it is desirable. Good health and reasonable fitness are more important. Some walking on loose underfoot, steep sections, and occasional longer/harder days may be involved, still general conditions will be fair. A walking day is normally 3 to 5 hours and daily and 1,250m altitude difference.

We recommend that you wear the most crucial and difficult-to-replace equipment on the flight or store it in your carry-on (✈) luggage. In case your luggage doesn't arrive in time, you can still participate in the tour. CLOTHING - Ankle-high hiking/trekking boots (category B/BC)✈ - Sandals or slippers (for transfers, bathroom) - Hiking socks and underwear - Short and long hiking/trekking pants - Breathable short and long-sleeved shirts - Mid-layer jacket/pullover (wool, fleece, softshell) - Thermo layer down or primaloft jacket or vest - Warm base layer - Wind/rain-proof over pants (rain trousers) - Wind/rain-proof hardshell/hooded jacket ✈ - Cap, hat, or other sun protection - Scarf, neck gaiter, a bandana, or buff - Warm hat (beanie) - Thin-fingered glove (>1,500 meters) - Light, comfortable shoes (visits, leisure time) - Warm pyjamas - Casual clothes for the city, trousers, and shirts DAY PACK - 20-35 litre daypack with rain cover - Water bottles/camel pack (carrying capacity >1.5 litres) - 1-2 litre lunch box for picnics - Trekking umbrella as rain/sun protection - Retractable trekking poles (not allowed in airline cabins) - Personal medication ✈ - Passport or EU ID (valid >6 months) ✈ - Cash and cards ✈ ADDITIONAL EQUIPMENT - Duffel or backpack for main luggage (max 15kg, no hard cases) - Rain cover for daypack - Waterproof bag for electronics - Plastic/nylon bag for dirty laundry - Sleeping bag (optional for extra comfort or if you get easily cold) - Earplugs / 0HROPAX - Snacks like cereal bars, dry fruits, etc. - Sunglasses - Swimwear and towel - Headlight with spare batteries - Mobile phone, camera, and chargers - Spare glasses in a shock-resistant case (if you wear glasses) TOILETRIES - Sunscreen and lip balm - Toothbrush and paste - Biodegradable soap or shampoo - Wet wipes, handkerchiefs, toilet paper - First aid kit and travel pharmacy - Hand sanitiser - Blister plaster - Insect repellant

The official currency in Albania is Lek (ALL), but hotels and other tourism services are likely to quote and accept payments in EUR. Some may return change in ALL. It is most convenient to pay for everything in EUR. How much to bring depends on how much you would like to spend during the trip. On the mountain, we offer full board and apart from drinks, tips (see 'tipping' FAQ), and souvenirs, you will have little expenses. That being said for an 8-day trip we would recommend between 300€-400€. ATMs: - ATMs are present in towns of any size. To locate the closest please use Google Maps’s ATM search function. - Rural communities don’t have ATMs. - During the high season, ATMs in Tirana may run out of cash, especially euros and on weekends.

As the local huts are limited in ingredients, it can be tricky to provide a balanced meal to those with dietary restrictions. If you have a specific dietary requirement, please read the following: VEGETARIAN Many dishes are vegetarian by default, with meat usually served as a separate side dish. Kindly note that vegetarian dishes are considered shared dishes and served to the entire party. There are no exclusive dishes for vegetarians only. In other words, vegetarians are served the same meals as everyone else but can avoid the meat. VEGAN Without dairy and eggs, breakfast and picnic lunches are limited to bread and raw veggies. A calorie-dense and protein-rich supplement is recommended. Dinners are satisfactory in the majority of places, but the hosts may require your input/guidance. LACTOSE INTOLERANT Milk is rarely drunk, but cheese, yogurt, butter, and other milk-based dishes are widespread. Your guide can consult if a dish is in question. As cheese is a staple at breakfast and picnic, it's suggested to bring a supplement. GLUTEN INTOLERANT/CELIAC At breakfast and picnic, fried doughs (petulla/ pancakes) and bread are the staple foods. Unfortunately, gluten-free alternatives beyond the occasional dense and dry corn/mais bread are unavailable, and you will need to bring some sort of supplement from home. PESCATARIAN While fish and seafood are popular on the coast, they’re not common in the mountain

On your trip

Four simple, clean, and welcoming homestays with shared rooms and limited facilities in the Zagoria Valley are followed by three centrally located hotel ensuite private rooms in Permet, Gjirokaster, and Tirana. The accommodation for each day is as follows: Day 1: Guesthouse Day 2: Guesthouse Day 3: Guesthouse Day 4: Guesthouse Day 5: Hotel Day 6: Hotel Day 7: Hotel In the hotels, you will stay in rooms with ensuite bathrooms. On request, you can upgrade to a private ensuite room just for yourself. Otherwise, you will share a twin room with a member of your group (same sex). The guesthouses have shared rooms with 3-6 beds per room with shared and limited facilities. WIFI WiFi has spread to more and more rural hosts, with many now offering free internet access. Often being satellite or directional antenna-based, bad weather and technical difficulties may cause connections to drop out. If you depend on a working internet connection, we recommend buying a local SIM card at the airport or an urban overnight. PLUG POINTS Hotels and guesthouses do offer plug points. Keep in mind, that you may be sharing a room with others and there's only a limited number of outlets. TOWELS AND BEDDING Both towels and bed liners are provided by the hosts in each accommodation. We do recommend bringing your own towel to make use of the swimming opportunities on the trail and the rare occasions when, after multiple days of continued rain, the accommodations are unable to provide dry towels.

Please note distances may change slightly e.g. if there are any path closures or we need to adjust the route. Day 1: Tirane - Peshtan No hiking Transfer: 3.5 hours Day 2: Peshtan - Kala - Limar Distance: 11km. Ascent: 750m. Descent: 425m. 5 hours Transfer: 30 minutes Day 3: Limar - Doshnice - Hoshteve Distance: 14.5km. Ascent: 725m. Descent: 575m. 6 hours Transfer: None Day 4: Hoshteve - Nivan - Sheper: guesthouse Distance: 12.5km. Ascent: 600m. Descent: 550m. 5 hours Transfer: None Day 5: Sheper - Dhembel Pass - Permet Distance: 10km. Ascent: 625m. Descent: 1,250m. 6.5 hours Transfer: None Day 6: Permet - Sopot Waterfall - Benja - Gjirokaster Distance: 6km. Ascent: 350m. Descent: 350m. 3 hours Transfer: 3 hours Day 7: Gjirokaster - Tirane Distance: 10 km. Ascent: 650m. Descent: 650m Transfer: 3.5 hours Day 8: Tirane - Departure No hiking. Transfer: 30 minutes

The mountain environment is harsh, and ingredients are often limited to what can be grown or farmed locally. Here are some examples of what to expect from local meals: BREAKFAST Petulla are traditional fried dough from the Balkans and comes in many variations. Just like bread, it can be eaten sweet with honey or jams (fig, plums, and other fruits) as well as savoury with cheese or vegetables (both part of all three meals). For breakfast, eggs are usually also served (scrambled, fried, or boiled). Vegetables, cheese, or pastry (filo dough) may be served on the side. PICNIC LUNCH In most places, you will have the opportunity to prepare a picnic lunch individually. This usually includes what's available at breakfast, plus additional ingredients placed on a side table. Picnic lunches usually include bread, vegetables like tomato, cucumber or pepper, white cheese, boiled eggs, sometimes a piece of salami, fruit (season), or sweet. There may potentially also be leftovers like pie or similar from dinner. We do understand that this can become a little monotonous, and encourage you to bring extra snacks like dry fruits and cereal bars. Kindly remember to bring your own lunch box. DINNER Dinner usually consists of multiple courses of shared dishes. Meals are designed with the intention of providing you with the opportunity to sample multiple dishes. Starters in most meals are a salad with seasonal ingredients, cheese, olives, and other Mediterranean mezes, stuffed, fried, or pickled vegetables, as well as pastries like filo made byrek of flia. Often there's a soup or stew, commonly from beans, with potato or rice used as staples (pasta is in most regions uncommon) and meat (chicken, beef, goat, sheep, less commonly pork) or, in a few specific places, trout on the side. The meal often closes with fruits for dessert. SNACKS Consider packing snacks to bridge the gap until dinner. Dry fruits, cereal/energy bars, chocolate, or cured/dried meats. The infamous jar of Nutella or peanut butter can also come in handy!

We take a maximum of 10 people in each group.

We recommend using bottled water in the major cities of Albania as tap water may include chloride or have an unappealing taste. Water at the accommodations and sources in the mountains is, in most cases, drinkable. It can be refilled at your accommodation or water sources along the trails and roads. Don't use water from standing or surface water without purification. If in question, ask your host or guide. Please bring a refillable water bottle (minimum 1.5 litres) to cut down on plastic waste, which is a huge problem in Albania. If it's your first time hiking in a warmer climate or you have a high water intake, please plan to carry up to 3 litres where there are no refill opportunities on the route. If you have a sensitive stomach or prefer peace of mind, you may want to bring purification tablets or a bottle with an inbuilt filter.

You only carry a light daypack, recommended in the 20-35 litre range, with the items you need during the day. Your main luggage is transported by vehicle and horses from one accommodation to the next one. MAIN LUGGAGE: - This is limited to 15 kg per piece and per person. - Please take only soft pieces like duffel bags or rucksacks. A sturdy waterproof duffel made from ballistic nylon best. - Avoid plastic or metal carry-ons, trolleys, and suitcases.

Three moderate walks of 4-6 hours in the lower mountain ranges culminate in a fourth longer day crossing the Dhembel Pass. Routes along the trail have moderately steep sections and are used by luggage horses. There are no narrow paths or scrambling, and also no technical sections. You will be walking on rocky terrain and sometimes without a worn path. Walking poles are highly recommended.

The Spring and Autumn weather are mild. At altitudes from 400 to 1,450 meters, the weather is rarely harsh, and the walks are mostly inside the protected valley. The long season is interrupted by a summer too hot for most walkers. To beat the heat, you may start early and take a long lunchtime siesta near the river.

It is common practice to tip for good service and quality at restaurants, bars, and cafes for 10% of the bill. This is not a requirement but expresses your appreciation. Your guide and driver will do their best to make this a safe and memorable experience for you. Depending on your satisfaction with the trip, we suggest tipping the guide >2,500 ALL on an 8-day group tour (3-4€/day) and the accompanying driver (not present on all trips) about 1-2€/day. Always feel free to follow your own judgment! Give less or nothing should you be not satisfied, and equally reward a person who went out of his/her way or exceeded your expectations. When it comes to tipping locals, leaving up to 100 lek for a coffee, tea, or raki offered by private persons is good practice. Customs may prohibit locals from accepting those payments, you can hand them over to children or "hide" them on the table.

This trip starts and ends in Tirana. There are two meeting points: 1. Tirana city center at 2:00 PM 2. TIA airport at 3:00 PM - Private transfers from Tirana (TIA) / Saranda (Corfu) are available upon request. Pre/post-departure overnights and airport transfers, too. - On the departure day, you will get transferred to the airport 2.5 hours prior to your submitted flight connection.

Other FAQs

Passport holders from most European countries, North America, Australia, and New Zealand all travel visa-free. We recommend you check travel requirements based on your nationality.

You can upgrade to a single-room supplement which is applicable for 3 overnights at the city-based hotels on D5, D6, and D7. - At the guesthouses, you will share rooms with other members from your group (same sex). - The cost for the single room supplement is 80€, locally paid in cash.

The minimum age to join our guided group tour is 18 years.

You can easily extend your stay and spend more time exploring the area or visiting nearby sites. The archeological highlight Butrint, Blue Eye (a karst spring), and the beaches of the Albanian Riviera are a mere two-hour drive from Gjirokastra. Message your local host from your Skyhook dashboard after booking to help you arrange this.

Your head guide is Ricardo

All trips on Skyhook are run by small, hand-picked local guiding companies. For this trip your guides run Zbulo! Discover Albania, based in Tirana.

By booking through Skyhook you'll be joining a small-group trip. This can make it nice and sociable (you'll be added to a group chat after booking), and guarantees great value for money!