Albania

Hike the Peaks of the Balkans (8-Days)

12

Experience the best of Albania and Montenegro. Marvel at the awe-inspiring Grbaja Valley, climb the three-border peak, Trekufiri, and experience the shepherd lifestyle firsthand.

Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to the Balkans!

The pick-up point is either in Tirana (city centre, 2:00 PM) or the TIA airport (3:00 PM at the latest). It's an 84km/2.5h drive to Shkodra, where you will stay at a centrally located hotel. Time permitting, we will stop at the Rozafa castle at the entrance of Shkodra. Here, we can enjoy the fabulous views, getting a taste of what's ahead in the upcoming days.

Afterwards, you can take a stroll through the bourgeoisie townhouses. Immerse yourself in the city’s Italian flair, and join the buzz of the bazaar to buy dried fruits and other snacks. After a delicious dinner, we will discuss the details of the hike.

Why not round it up with a celebratory toast in one of the nearby bars? But don't stay up too long; tomorrow’s transfer starts before sunrise!

Arriving from Podgorica? A private transfer from Podgorica (TGD) to Shkodra is available upon request.

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It's an early start with a scenic drive through the Drin Gorges to the Komani Lake. The picturesque reservoir looks similar to a Norwegian fjord, looping through sheer rock. Next, we take an interesting ferry which stops several times to pick up talkative locals from remote villages before arriving at Fierze (46km/3h).

We'll continue by car into the highlands of the Valbona National Park, stopping for a light lunch in the small city of Bajram Curri. In the early afternoon, you reach the Valbona Valley and it’s tower-houses made of stone. Now, the hike begins!

We walk along a crystal clear stream through an ancient beech forest. Along the way, the brave can take a dip in the ice-cold river. The jagged peaks towering high above you give itchy feet for tomorrow's trek into the highlands. Tonight, you enjoy a hearty dinner and a well-earned rest.

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After a 50-minute drive to Cerem, the path leads across flower carpets towards the first border triangle. Along the way, you can enjoy forest fruits and the views of Mt. Kolata. Reaching the rim of the deep-cut river canyon and following the high route through a conifer forest, you notice just how much the landscape changes between the Western and Eastern Alps.

In the glacial-shaped valley of Doberdol (1,750m), animals roam the grazing grounds freely, and time appears frozen. We spend the night in a simple shepherd's hut. The family prepares your meals, and you learn more about the seasonal lifestyle around the campfire.

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Wishing farewell to our hosts, we climb out of the valley towards Mt. Trekufiri (2,366m). On the very top, the borders of three countries merge in sweeping vistas of the borderlands. The blueberry-covered border trail leads us into Montenegro, around Bogicevica (2,374m), and to secluded Lake Hrid.

After a refreshing dip in a mountain pond above 1,900m, we continue on a trail through the dense pine forest towards a hamlet of seasonal huts called "katund".

Further down, we reach the scattered settlement of Babino Polje. Here, we overnight at the rim of the wilderness in simple but welcoming mountain huts.

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A 30-minute transfer takes us into a narrow valley wedged between the karst towers of Karanfili (2,461m). Arguably one of the most rugged and dramatic peaks in the Prokletije, it’s a dream of many climbers.

Ascending through a shaded beech forest, a last steep climb takes you to the double peak of Popadija and Taljanka (2,056m). Gaze across the border into the Kelmend region of Albania. Traverse the narrow spine to a series of panoramic viewpoints back onto the shaded forest path.

Celebrate with a cold drink at the beer garden on the valley floor before we travel back to the guesthouse in Vusanje. The nearby waterfall invites you for a stroll, but the views from the house are equally beautiful.

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Travelling up the Ropojana Valley, formed by a 26km long glacier, the mountain-framed corridor takes you past a dry lake, shepherd huts, and an abandoned military post into the heart of the Albanian Alps. Here, the canine tooth of Mt. Arapi (2,217m) stands high above the Thethi National Park, forming the highest wall in the Balkans. Arriving at Peja Pass (1,711 m), your guide determines whether the summit can be tackled.

If you pass on the challenging peak (suitable for experienced and sure-footed hikers only), rest at the pass or start descending with the horsemen. A steep, well-trodden caravan path leads to the local watering hole, followed by a short ride to a guesthouse in the centre of the lively, iconic village of the Albanian Alps.

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A walk through the village and its lush green fields reveals the full extent of Theth. Visit its iconic church and the lock-in tower, learning about the Blood Feud and the former Highland law code.

The 'Kanun' marks the trailhead to Nderlysaj. Following water channels, the path ascends to the Grunas Waterfall and drops again to a cliff above the river and the 50m-deep Grunas Canyon. A well-worn bridle path leads you along the river downstream to Nderlysaj.

Under the midday sun, the Kaprea River and its stone pools are inviting for a swim. We'll then take a scenic transfer across the Thorja Pass (1,630 m) into the Valley of Boge and along the Lake of Shkodra back to the first night's hotel in Shkodra.

At night it's time to celebrate the eventful trek. With all the final festivities in mind, don't forget to double-check tomorrow's departure details.

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After breakfast, there’s time for a walk in the pedestrian area and any last-minute souvenir shopping. You may expect to arrive at the airport at least by noon.

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What's Included

Included
  • English-speaking guide(s).
  • Accommodation during the trip.
  • Meals: All breakfasts, 6 lunches, and 7 dinners.
  • Transfers during the trip, including airport transfer.
  • Luggage transfer (max 15 kg per person - duffels or rucksacks, no hard cases).
  • Entrance fees and permits.
Not Included
  • Meals not listed above and drinks other than water.
  • Personal expenses such as gratuities and souvenirs.
  • Flights.
  • Travel 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

12 verified reviews

Manuela
Manuela

(Oct 2023)

It was wonderful to walk through mountains and villages, and to have the possibility to meet locals and spend time with them. It was a great experience and a good way to start exploring Albania!

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Max
Max

(Oct 2023)

Great walking experience and exceptionally good service for a fair price.

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Trish
Trish

(Oct 2023)

Fabulous and well organised trip with a brilliant guide, Tesi, who was every knowledgeable and personable. Delicious food at guest stays, recommend purchasing bottled water. If you enjoy the great outdoors, Albania is the place to visit

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John
John

(Oct 2023)

A highlight in my hiking career. A fantastic and well-paced hike through these amazing peaks. Group size was perfect and a good mix of people. Guides were professional, passionate and accommodating to the different levels of fitness and pace of walking. Accommodation and food were generally excellent for the price.

Benjamin
Benjamin

(Sep 2023)

Nedih and Artedi are the best guides. This was so much fun but not often that easy! The accommodations could be primitive some days but often there were hot showers, hot meals, campfires, and plenty of beer and coffee to drink. Absolutely worth it.

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FAQs

Before you go

We rate this as a 3/4 difficulty level. For treks in mountainous and alpine terrain, fitness is important and having previous trekking experience is recommended. However, this is not vital as long you are confident of your physical condition and sure-footedness. You need to be prepared to endure poor weather and navigate rocky undefined routes. Walking days are usually between 5 and 8 hours, although they can be longer to cross passes or peaks (extra ascents are optional). Daily ascents will likely be around 900m to 1,000m but can be up to 1,300m.

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

You can upgrade to a single-room supplement which is applicable for 2 overnights at the city-based hotels on Day 1 and Day 7. - At the accommodations on the mountain, you will share rooms with other members from your group (same sex). - The cost for the single room supplement is 60€, locally paid in cash. To do this, please message your Guide from your dashboard after booking.

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. 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’ 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.

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.

On your trip

The accommodation for each day is as follows: Day 1: Hotel Day 2: Guesthouse Day 3: Shepherd huts Day 4: Guesthouse Day 5: Guesthouse Day 6: Guesthouse 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 facilities. Huts are often rustic and may vary from simple makeshift shepherd huts and portable wooden boxes, to sturdy mountain chalet type of buildings. Most feature 4-8 beds per room and the most basic shared bathroom facilities. WIFI WiFi has spread to more and more rural hosts, with many now offering free internet access. Because they are often satellite or directional antenna-based, bad weather and technical difficulties may cause connections to drop out. Please consider internet access as unreliable and assume that you will be offline for a couple of days and let family and friends know accordingly. If you depend on a working internet connection, we recommend buying a local SIM card at the airport or an urban overnight. Note that there will be places with neither WiFi nor phone signal, including: - Cerem - Doberdol - Milishevc - Babino Polje - Hajla Hut PLUG POINTS Hotels and guesthouses do offer plug points, except in the shepherd huts, due to their simple facilities and lack of connection to the power grid. Note that it’s best not to count on being able to recharge your devices there. 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.

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 (apart from the optional Mt. Arap). You will be walking on rocky terrain and sometimes without a worn path. Walking poles are highly recommended.

You only carry a light daypack, recommended in the 20-35 litre range, with the items needed during the day. Your main luggage is transported by vehicle and car from one accommodation to the next one. MAIN LUGGAGE: - This is limited to 15 kg per piece and 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.

Please note distances may change slightly e.g. if there are any path closures or we need to adjust the route. Day 1: No hiking Transfer: 2.5hrs Day 2: Shkoder - Koman - Valbone Distance: 7km. Ascent: 250m. Descent: 50m. 3hrs Transfer: 3hrs + 3hrs boat Day 3: Valbone - Cerem - Doberdol Distance: 16km. Ascent: 1,100m. Descent: 450m. 7hrs Transfer: 50mins Day 4: Doberdol - Mt. Trekufiri - Babino Polje Distance: 13km. Ascent: 600m. Descent: 850m. 6hrs Transfer: None Day 5: Babino Polje - Grebaja - Vusanje Distance: 12km. Ascent: 950m. Descent: 950m. 6.5hrs Transfer: 1.25hrs + 30mins Day 6: Vusanje - Arapi - Theth Distance: 11km. Ascent: 650m. Descent: 900m. 7hrs Transfer: 30mins + 30mins Day 7: Theth - Nderlysa - Shkoder Distance: 16km. Ascent: 225m. Descent: 500m. 6hrs Transfer: 3hrs Day 8: Shkoder - Departure No hiking. Transfer: 2.5hrs

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. You can refill them 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.

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 You will be dropped back at these same points on the last day according to your travel plans. For those who want to book flights out on the last day, you should get back to the airport at a 12:00 (noon) at the latest.

We take a maximum of 12 people in each group. For more than 8 participants we add an assistant guide.

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, yoghurt, 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. Gluten-free alternatives beyond the occasional dense and dry corn/mais bread are unfortunately 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 mountains.

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 judgement! 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, but you can hand them over to children or "hide" them on the table.

This trip is a full board of meals. All meals are included, from dinner on Day 1 to breakfast on Day 8. 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!

Other FAQs

In the high mountain areas, trails are snow-covered until the end of May or early June. Snow melts earlier in the valleys (short local walks) and mid-ranges below 1,500 meters. But the high mountain passes on most trekking routes are a different story. Hikers sometimes underestimate the conditions, so be sure to prepare with the right clothing. Mountain spring lasts from June to the first half of July. After that, a hot, dry climate sets in. In high altitudes, temperatures remain comfortably moderate, averaging 24°C (75°F), even in July and August. Very limited rain arrives, usually in the form of thunderstorms with intense downpours that last 15-45 min. In September, the nights on alpine altitudes above 1,700 meters are often single-digit and see the first frost. From October, there might be minor snowfall, though snow doesn't last and melts quickly.

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

Absolutely! After the hike, you can stay on to explore the town or head to the nearby beaches in Velipoja and Ulcinj (Montenegro). You could experience Albania's modern side in the capital, Tirana, or spend your beach holidays at the Albanian Riviera (5-7 hour travel time). Drop us a message after booking to enquire about discounts (up to 10%) on combined trips, transfers, and extension nights in Tirana, Shkodra, or elsewhere. There is plenty to explore that merits a full day in each town.

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!

Ricardo