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Walking the Albanian Alps

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9 Day
Tour Details

Highlights

  • Homestays and lovely walks in the charming valleys of Valbona and Thethi
  • Look out for Golden Eagles in wild Albania and hike across the Valbona Pass
  • Explore the cultural gems of Kruja and Shkodra plus the flora jewel of Cerem
  • Sail across Lake Koman in the heart of Albania’s Accursed Mountains

A land of jaw dropping scenery, wonderful hospitality and fascinating culture, Albania is a Balkan gem and perfect for a unique walking holiday. Known as the land of smiles, Albanians are proud of their strong traditions and stunning scenery including the magnificent Accursed Mountains. This European wilderness is home to spectacular alpine landscapes and superb wildlife including lynx, chamois, wolf, deer, golden eagles, buzzards, owls and falcons.
We start in Shkodra, the most historical town in the Balkans, the home of Gheg culture and a true cultural gem. We’ll sail through the fjord of Lake Koman and walk in the beautiful valley of Valbona, fondly called the Miracle of the Alps. Valbona is charming with its rich biodiversity, ancient traditions and excellent walking. After Valbona we head over the spectacular Valbona Pass and down into Thethi in the heart of the Albanian Alps.
We finish the holiday in magnificent Kruja nestled in the lap of the mountains. With its Ottoman bazaar and impressive castle, Kruja is a wonderful end to our Albanian adventure.
Unforgettable Albania offers that unique opportunity to step back in time and experience stunning scenery, unique cultures and the biggest smiles in Europe.

Itinerary

Day 1Meet at Tirana Airport and transfer to the historical gem of Shkodra.

Meet at Tirana Airport for the group transfer to Shkodra early afternoon. The journey north to the oldest city in northern Albania takes about an hour and a half. After our arrival there should be time to explore the city which is full of character with narrow streets, stone walls, tall gates and castle which sits on a commanding position on a rocky hill above Lake Shkodra. Surrounded by three rivers, the Drini, Buna, and Kiri, the impressive castle dating from the 4th century BC is located on rocky hill 133m high. It is one of the biggest and most famous castles in Albania and provides panoramic views over the lake, city and the surrounding mountains. The city is traditionally the center of Gheg culture which is one of two major ethnic groups in Albania, with its own dialect and fondness for poetry. It is also the center of Albanian Catholicism as well as a fine example of tolerance between religions, with the city comprising all the major faiths found in Albania. In the evening we’ll enjoy our first taste of Albania.
o Accommodation Hotel
o Meals, Dinner

Day 2Spectacular sailing across Lake Koman and transfer to the Valbona Valley.

After breakfast we leave Shkodra and follow a scenic road which takes us east along the shores of Lake Vau Dejes. On reaching the port of Koman we hop on a ferry for a wonderful boat journey of around two and a half hours. Lake Koman is surrounded by richly forested hills, vertical slopes, deep gorges, and a narrow valley completely taken up by the river. This fjord-style landscape is home to a rich variety of bird species including kingfishers, quails, grey heron, Eurasian wryneck, great spotted woodpecker and the black-headed gull. The ferry takes us through an incredible landscape surrounded by steep cliffs as if we’re sailing through a Norwegian Fjord. After leaving the ferry we drive to the beautiful valley of Valbona which is described as one of the most beautiful valleys in Albania and where we stay for the next three nights. After settling in there will be time to enjoy a stroll before dinner and a briefing by the leader on the walks we’ll enjoy over the next two days.
o Accommodation Guesthouse
o Meals, (Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner)

Day 3Hiking and exploring Albania's hidden gem of Çerem.

Today we start the day with a short scenic transfer (30 – 40mins) to the beautiful hamlet of Çerem. This off the beaten track destination is an area of outstanding natural beauty because of the lush green meadows alongside rustic farm buildings that are topped with traditional wooden roof tiles. From Çerem we start a spectacular circular walk through an area that is rich in alpine flora and fauna and has the feeling of stepping back in time. The hamlet has a small number of hardy families that live in this incredible area all year round. We start by walking along a lovely trail that passes alpine springs before the valley opens out. We’ll be rewarded with spectacular views, especially the Peak of Sqapit which is on the Albania and Montenegro border. We’ll find lovely a place to enjoy our picnic before spending the afternoon descending back down to Çerem along a different footpath. On reaching Çerem a short transfer takes us back to our guesthouse in Valbona.
o Accommodation Guesthouse
o Ascent 835m
o Distance 14km
o Meals (Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner)
o Descent 840m
o Time 7 hours of walking

Day 4Panoramic hike to see Mount Jezerca the highest peak in the Dinaric Alps.

Starting directly from our accommodation we start hiking towards the side valley of Kukaj, home to some excellent examples of traditional houses. Next a shepherd’s path takes us high up into one of the most remote parts of the Albanian Alps. We’ll pass through meadows and rich forest whilst surrounded by amazing views on Mount Jezerca the highest peak in the Albanian Alps. We’ll be surrounded by dramatic cliffs and rocky peaks before arriving at a simple shepherd hut at 1670m. Here at the foot of the rocky dome of Mount Rosi we’ll stop for lunch and take in the views. Depending on the weather and group we may ascend for anther 400m to a pass at 2000m which offers spectacular views over into neighboring Montenegro. We’ll then descend towards the valley and on our way we’ll stop for a cup of mountain tea in a garden in one of the houses of Kukaj. After our refreshment stop we’ll return to our accommodation for our final night in the Valbona Valley.
o Accommodation Guesthouse
o Ascent 860m
o Distance 12km
o Meals (Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner)
o Descent 860m
o Time 6 hours of walking

Day 5A challenging but spectacular day of walking as we cross the Valbona Pass (1800m).

Today is a real highlight in our mountain journey as we pack our back and loads them onto our pack horses as we prepare to cross over into the neighboring valley of Thethi via the Valbona Pass. Initially we leave Valbona and warm up by walking along a level path as far as the last house of Rrogam. Here we start our ascent on a trail which brings us up to Valbona Springs with its adjacent alpine meadows. In the past shepherds from the valley used to spend the summer months grazing their flocks in this lovely location. As we start to approach the Valbona Pass (1800m) we’re on a true mountain track leading us up and into the a rockier Alpine zone. From here we’ll have views over the Sheep and Diagonal Passes and down into Thethi and the canyon of the Shala River. Across crossing the pass we descend via fir trees, rich beech forest and meadows until we reach the bottom of the valley and the remote village of Thethi. We’ll finish this fantastic day at a homestay which will be our base for the next two nights. After checking in and freshening up there will be time to relax before dinner.
o Accommodation Guesthouse
o Ascent 900m
o Distance 15km
o Meals (Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner)
o Descent 1150m
o Time 6 – 7 hours of walking

Day 6A day of wild walking up to the magnificent Pass of Peja.

After yesterday’s challenging day crossing the pass, today you are free to either have a day at leisure and relax independently around the guesthouse or join the days walk. The leader will organise a walk directly from the guesthouse today so we’ll leave Thethi and hike towards the end of the valley. Our footpath passes the hamlet of Okol before a beautiful trail ascends to the Pass of Peja (1710m). The trial zig zags up and crosses the slopes which lie below the rocky dome of Mount Harapit (2218m). We’ll have time to admire the superb views towards the Thethi and Radohima mountain ridges as we continue walking until the meadows of Gropat e Bukura on the foothills of Mt. Jezerca 2694m. This incredible peak lays only 5kms from the Montenegro border and sits in the national parks of Thethi and Valbona. Here we are surrounded by some of the wildest scenery in the country so we’ll enjoy eating our lunch surrounded by an incredible panorama. In the afternoon we’ll pass a small glaciar lake as we slowly descend to our guesthouse in Thethi. Tonight we’ll enjoy our final dinner in Thethi.
o Accommodation Guesthouse
o Ascent 1150m
o Distance 15km
o Meals (Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner)
o Descent 1150m
o Time 6 – 7 hours of walking

Day 7Explore the highlights of Thethi before hiking to the hamlet of Nderlysa.

Today is a slightly more relaxed day as we explore the surroundings and highlights of Thethi before making our way to Nderlysa. Theti and its surroundings are charming and the village is known as one of the most enchanting places in northern Albania because of its stunning nature and traditional wooden-tiled houses. We’ll leave the guesthouse and visit the church, Lock-in Tower, Thethi Waterfall, Grunasi Canyon, and stone walled terraces dating from the late bronze era. Located in Thethi National Park, the pretty church dates back to 1892 and is famed for opening the first Albanian language school for children in the area in 1917. A fascinating highlight is the Lock in Tower or Kulla, a fortified building which was a place of isolation and safe haven during blood feuds. After the highlights of Thethi we’ll follow the Shala River towards the hamlet of Nderlysa where we spend the night. There will be time to relax by the pools of Kaprea creek until we meet up for dinner.
o Accommodation Guesthouse
o Ascent 355m
o Distance 7km
o Meals (Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner)
o Descent 105m
o Time 4 hours of walking

Day 8Walk out of the mountains via the Thore Pass and transfer to atmospheric Kruja.

After breakfast we leave Ndërlysa and ascend towards the Thore Pass where our trekkking adventure ends. Our trail heads along the right bank of the rocky creek of Kaprea which we follow until the spectacular Blue Eye spring. After the spring we continue through woods and meadows which have fantastic views of the Biga e Gimajve Mountain. We keep continue ascending and say goodbye to the mountains until we reach the top of the pass where we’ll relax and enjoy our lunch. After our picnic we’ll transfer to Kruja one of the most historical towns in Albania and home to the magnificent Kruja Fort. The town was home to Skanderbeg, the Albanian national hero who led a legendary resistance to the Ottomans in the 14th century. Late afternoon we’ll explore Kruja including its traditional Ottoman bazaar before enjoying a final dinner in this excellent town.
o Accommodation Hotel
o Ascent 1300m
o Distance 9km
o Meals (Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner)
o Descent 110m
o Time 5 – 6 hours of walking

Day 9Departure Day. A single timed transfer to Tirana Airport is provided.

There will be time this morning to explore Kruja and pick up any last minute souvenirs in the bazaar before taking a single group transfer (1 hour) to Tirana Airport. Our service ends on arrival at the airport.
o Meals (Breakfast)

Photos