• Holiday type

    Guided trekking

  • Duration

    11 nights/12 days (or on request 5 or 7 days)

  • Locations

    Podgorica, Theth, Valbona, Cerem, Dobërdol, Milisevc, Reka e Allagёs, Drelaj, Babino Polje, Grebaja, Vusanje

  • Group size

    min 4 – max 18 persons

  • Difficulty grade

    Moderate to strenuous

  • Availability

    June – October

Introduction

The “Peaks of the Balkans” trail runs through a mountain range called The Accursed Mountains (Albanian: Bjeshkët e Nemuna; Montenegrin: Prokletije) also known as the Albanian Alps. The name Accursed Mountains lends itself to all sorts of obvious metaphors – but these days, walking here is much more of a blessing than anything.

With some of Europe’s most pristine scenery, ancient pastoral traditions little altered by modern life, and a title to capture the imagination, Accursed Mountains make for a wild holiday with an element of time travel. These peaks, which span the borders of Montenegro, Albania and Kosovo, have been easier to explore since 2012, when a hiking route, “Peaks of the Balkans”, opened to tempt trekkers. Considering the region’s turbulent history and once tightly controlled borders, especially during the communist period, it was impossible to move across these places. No longer. Nowadays, the trek has become very popular and people around the world are coming to visit this very remote area.

The “Peaks of the Balkans” trail is an epic walk along shepherd paths and footpaths winding through alpine scenery up to 2300 m above sea level, with a diversity of breathtaking landscapes, varying from green valleys to crystal-clear mountain lakes and rugged peaks. The views and the trails transform, switching from rocky paths and bare peaks to meadows rich with flowers and plants, where nature has been left to run wild. To date, over 1700 wild plants have been recorded in this region. A total of 50 flora species are endemic, sub-endemic or endangered plant species. This European wilderness is home to superb wildlife including lynx, chamois, wolf, deer, golden eagles, buzzards, owls and falcons.

Albania

THETH NATIONAL PARK (ALBANIA)

Day 1

Arrival in Podgorica (Montenegro) and transfer to Theth Valley (Albania)

Welcome to the Balkans! On arrival, you will be met by your team leader and transferred by private vehicle (minivan) directly from Podgorica (TGD) airport to the village of Theth (Albania) a small hamlet at the foot of the Peaks of the Balkans trail and starting point of our trek (approx. 3-4 hrs).

Theth (750 m.a.s.l) is a wonderful village in northern Albania’s Shkodra region. This unique mountain village has the most dramatic setting in Albania. Theth National Park combines the beauty of mountains with majestic rivers, stunning waterfalls and lagoons as blue as one could ever imagine. Theth is now well on its way to being Albania’s next big thing.

Edith Durham, a famous English traveller and writer on the Balkans visited the area in 1908. She wrote of its seclusion: ‘I think no place has where human beings live given me such an impression of majestic isolation from the entire world. It is a spot where the centuries shrivel; the river might be the world’s well-spring, its banks the fit home of elemental instincts–passions that are red and rapid.’

Picturesque beauty fit for any postcard or painting, but nothing comes close to seeing Theth with your own eyes.

For group dinner, we enjoy typical Albanian specialities.

Accommodation: Guesthouse in Theth (double or triple occupancy)

Meals Included: Lunch (depending on arrival), welcome dinner

Day 2

Theth (Albania) – Waterfall of Grunas (Theth) – The Blue Eye of Theth

Today’s walk doesn’t have many gradients but is rich in culture, as we discover Theth, one of the most traditional villages of Northern Albania. The first point of interest you’ll see along the trail is Kishna e Thethit or the Church of Theth, which dates back to 1892. Then we’ll visit the Blood Feud Tower, a four-sided stone tower that dates back over 400 years and discuss the “Kanun of Lekë Dukagjin”, the century-old oral regulatory code of the mountains. We continue to the Waterfall of Grunas an impressive sight with a 30 m high cascade of plunging water. The water cascades across high rocks and splashes down into a pool below. The water may look tempting, but be warned—it comes straight from the heart of the Albanian Alps and is downright icy! The rugged and narrow canyon of Grunas in close proximity adds to the magical atmosphere, with crystalline waters running through it for more than a kilometre. Upon crossing the canyon, a 40-minute hike will take you into the heart of the village Nderlysa. In this village you will discover Vaskat e Gurit (literally ‘Stone Bathtubs’), awe-inspiring rock formations carved out by the Black River set amongst crystal-clear turquoise waters. Post-hike, there is no better place to take a refreshing dip! We hike then further to the narrow valley of Kaprre. The Black River descending from the village of Kaprre creates yet another majestic pool: The Blue Eye of Theth. It is a karst pool fed by a gushing mountain stream that enters from the valley of Upper Kaprre. With a rich-blue colour and surrounded by lush greenery, it’s a magical sight. The bravest can take a dip in the icy waters. We trek back to Nderlysa where a transfer will take us to Theth for dinner and overnight at the same guesthouse as the night before.

Difficulty level: Easy

Hike Details: 9 km, ▲ 225 m ascent, ▼ 500 m descent, 6-7 hours

Accommodation: Guesthouse in Theth

Meals Included: Breakfast, packed lunch and dinner

Albania

THETH – GRUNAS WATERFALL (ALBANIA)

Albania

VALBONA VALLEY NATIONAL PARK (ALBANIA)

Day 3

Iconic hike from Theth to Valbona (Albania)

Today you will do one of Albania’s most iconic hikes from Theth (745 m) over the Valbona Pass (1,795 m) to the valley of Valbona (995 m) in the heart of the eponymous national park.

We’ll use horses and mules to carry our baggage to our next guesthouse. This 14-kilometre route follows the path of an ancient mule track linking the tribal regions of Shala and Nikaj. The hike is a continuous ascent through an ancient beech forest, shaded and lovely. Up and up we go until we reach the pass with views down to Valbone valley, our next destination. The trail goes through a narrow crest that reveals a view of both valleys. The path is the most travelled trail of the Albanian Alps and it remains the only direct connection with Valbona Valley. When reaching the top of Valbona Pass you will experience a serious shot of adrenaline. At the pass on a clear day, you’ll have breathtaking views of the highest peaks of the Albanian Alps like Maja Jezerces (2,694 m), Maja e Boshit (2,416 m) Maja Madhe (2,561 m), and onto two valleys Valbona on the east, Theth on the west. From there the rocky path winds downhill toward the springs of Valbona and a forest trail that will lead us to the village of Rrogam (1100m). We will continue a few kilometres further on a dry riverbed before reaching our guesthouse. This evening we’ll enjoy a hearty, homemade meal and a well-deserved rest after this impressive entry into the Albanian Alps. Overnight.

Difficulty level: Moderate

Hike Details: 14 km, ▲ 1,050 m ascent, ▼ 800 m descent, 7-8 hours

Accommodation: Guesthouse or hotel in Valbona

Meals Included: Breakfast, packed lunch and dinner

Day 4

Hike from Valbona over the Persllopit Pass to the village of Cerem (Albania)

There are two possible routes from Valbone to Cerem: the low (valley) route and the spectacular high route via Persllopit Pass (the one we recommend). The high route is quite demanding but also rewarding, revealing views on the steep rocky mountains of Kollata, which are popular among climbers. The low trail is mostly a dusty road offering less in terms of scenery but is suitable for those who would like to have an easier walking day.

After a short transfer, we have reached the starting point of our trekking tour. We lace up our hiking boots, shoulder our daypack – then off we go! First, we have a long ascent to the Persllopit pass (2,039 m) in front of us. Step by step we climb over lonely alpine pastures and through shady forests, the highest peaks of the Albanian Alps always in view. Past the pastures we reach a treeless alpine valley, where surrounded by rock, the solitary mountains are all ours. Over a unique, so-called Ice cave and through a karst labyrinth, that requires surefootedness, we are passing the border and getting into the territory of Montenegro. After an hour of walk-in Montenegro, the grassy plateau leads to another lower pass: the Borit pass (1,850 m) and we return to Albania, meeting shepherds on our way to the rather isolated village Cerem (1,150 m). 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. Without mobile phone coverage, busy everyday life there feels completely forgotten. In Cerem we spend the night in a simple guesthouse. The warm hospitality of our hosts and the hearty traditional dinner with ingredients fresh from the garden make up for the lack of comfort.

Difficulty level: Moderate to strenuous

Hike Details: 14 km, ▲ 1,100 m ascent, ▼ 850 m descent, 7-8 hours

Accommodation: Guesthouse in Cerem (basic accommodation)

Meals Included: Breakfast, packed lunch and dinner

Albania & Montenegro

KOLATA PEAKS (2.534 M)

Albania

DOBERDOL (ALBANIA)

Day 5

From Cerem to shepherd’s village Dobërdol (Albania)

This day involves a hike from Cerem to Dobërdol, a remote shepherd’s village accessible only by mule tracks and populated only during summertime by shepherds.

We start on foot over undulating terrain in beautiful alpine scenery, leaving Cerem and the Kollata mountains behind. Our bags are loaded on horses once again and we make our way first on a forest path with grassy clearings, then on a gravel road until we reach the Montenegrin border. Then we continue on Montenegro territory for a while to the ruins of the old military border post. Here we can enjoy countless forest fruits and the great view back to the Kollata (2,534 m). The change into the coniferous forest and dark volcanic rock illustrates the difference between the western and eastern Alps.  Further on we take a break in the hamlet of Balqin which is used by shepherds during the summer season. The last leg of the walk takes us to the valley of Gashi that is included in UNESCO’s Natural World Heritage list in 2017. We arrive at the glacial-shaped valley of Doberdol (1,750m), where domestic animals roam freely the grazing grounds and time appear frozen.

Locals still live in harmony with nature, as humankind did many years ago. This archaic place helps to set our inner compass and grounds our souls. In the simple shepherd huts, we give away comfort for one night in return for hospitality. The family prepares our meals and we learn more about the seasonal lifestyle of the shepherds at the campfire. During the night without any light pollution, you can see Milky Way in a clear sky.

Difficulty level: Moderate

Hike Details: 15,5 km, ▲ 1,025 m ascent, ▼ 450 m descent, 7-8 hours

Accommodation: Mountain huts with basic facilities

Meals Included: Breakfast, packed lunch and dinner

Day 6

Hike from Doberdol to Milishevc (Kosovo), summit tour on Trekufiri

This long stage involves a hike from the remote shepherd’s village of Dobёrdol to another less remote shepherd’s village in Kosovo – Milishevc, which has a good road connection with the city of Peja and, more and more mountain huts in this village are being used for touristic purposes.

We strengthen ourselves at breakfast, because the longest, approx. 18 km long stage of our tour lies ahead of us. The hike starts at an altitude of  1,750  m  –  mountain hut of Dobёrdol and we climb approx. 600 m steeply over barren, rocky meadow paths up to the summit of Trekufiri (2,366 m). The name means “three borders” – and that’s right, we are in the triangle where the borders of Albania, Montenegro and Kosovo meet! We then follow the mountain ridges to the Roshkodol pass at 2,258 m, where there can still be snow in early summer. It continues by the ridge and will join the same trail from the Liqenat to the Babino Polje section that will go through Ravno Brdo Pass (Zavoj). We descend and reach the tree line again, hike through coniferous forests, cross a river valley and make the last ascent to the village of Milishevc. Today we will spend the night again in small mountain huts.

Difficulty level: Moderate

Hike Details: 18 km, ▲ 915 m ascent, ▼ 980 m descent, 8-9 hours

Accommodation: Mountain huts with basic facilities

Meals Included: Breakfast, packed lunch and dinner

Kosovo

MILISEVC (KOSOVO)

Kosovo

REKE E ALLAGES (KOSOVO)

Day 7

Milishevc – Rugova Gorge (Kosovo) – Orthodox Christian monasteries near the town of Peja (Kosovo) – Reka e Allages (Kosovo)

The interesting transfer hike to the Rugova Gorge begins with an ascent to the Lumbardhi ridge, a vantage point that offers breathtaking views towards the surrounding mountains and Milishevc.  The Lumbardhi Ridge (2,130 m) is the last obstacle that separates Milishevc (us) from the Rugova Gorge. The first is an ascent hike to the Lumbardhi ridge and then the steep descent to Rugova Gorge. The barely visible route up to the crest is rewarded with breathtaking views towards Gjeravica Mountain (the highest peak in Kosovo, 2,656 m), Marjashi peak (southwest from our position, 2,533 m). Hidden behind the ridge, extensive grazing grounds surround the pond at the foot of Mt. Red Rock (Guri i Kuq, 2,522m). Most pastoral grounds were abandoned and now used only for recreational purposes, the Lumbardhi Alps is one of the few exceptions where livestock is still tended to on a greater scale. Beyond this sea of grass, the mountain plunges deep down into the Rugova Gorge. Across, the ridge of Hajla promises us a panoramic hike tomorrow. Our descent follows north along the mule tracks, dirt roads, and some junctions until we reach Rrugova Gorge. The main road is located next to the river in the gorge and we take a short minivan transfer to visit the UNESCO protected Monastery of the Patriarchate of Pec which is located at the very entrance of the Rugova Gorge. The entire complex dates from between the 1230s and the 1330s. It is therefore not only the centre of the Serbian Orthodox Church but also an important repository of its cultural heritage. Then we continue a 40-minute minivan drive north to our guesthouse for overnight at the charming village of Reka e Allages.

Difficulty level: Easy to moderate

Hike Details: 9 km, ▲ 500 m ascent, ▼ 1,200 m descent, 5-6 hours

Accommodation: Guesthouse

Meals Included: Breakfast, packed lunch and dinner

Day 8

Hike from Reka e Allages to Drelaj (Kosovo), summit tour on the Mt. Hajla

After breakfast, this day we start with a hike over mountain meadows and through shady pine forest up to the pass at the foot of Mount Hajla (2,403 m). This point offers open views on the mountains, and the city of Peja, up to the Kosovo plain. From here, you have the option to rest at the nearby mountain hut or continue up the steep trail to reach the peak. Multiple very steep and partly trail-less routes lead to the peak that forms the border with Montenegro. Ascend is optional and you may opt-out to keep the day short (< 5h). Daydream, read your book or admire the surrounding flora instead. Though challenging, the climb to the summit will reward you with 360-degree views of the mountainous Kosovo and Montenegrin sides of the border, making clear why Montenegro earned the denomination “Black Mountains”. The formal trail Peaks of the Balkans doesn’t actually include summiting Hajla but we believe it worth it. Colourful mountain flowers and rare plants such as the edelweiss or the endemic Albanian lily grow along the way, and in late summer we can find blueberries in the bushes. We descend on another route and follow a high path down to our guesthouse in the picturesque hamlet of Drelaj. You will be delighted by another yummy dinner.

Difficulty level: Moderate

Hike Details: 15 km, ▲ 1,150 m ascent, ▼ 1,300 m descent, 7-8 hours

Accommodation: Guesthouse

Meals Included: Breakfast, packed lunch and dinner

Kosovo

HAJLA SUMMIT (2403 M) (KOSOVO)

Kosovo

LAKES OF LIQENAT (1850 M) (KOSOVO)

Day 9

Drelaj – Kuqishte – Babino Polje – Plav (Montenegro)

Today we start the day with a short scenic transfer (30 mins) to the trailhead. The route climbs through an idyllic pine forest to the two emerald lakes of Liqenat (1,850 m). At their banks prospers a wide range of alpine flora and above awaits the highest point of the official Peaks of the Balkans route, the Jelenak Pass (2,272 m). Leaving the lakes, you’ll continue to climb until you leave the forest behind and step up into the mountains. The route follows southwest uphill to the  Lugu i Shkodrёs Pass (Shkodra Pass, 2,188 m). The pass is called Shkodra Pass because it used to be the pass of an ancient path connecting this area and the city of Peja with the city of Shkodra in Albania. Caravans have used this route since old times to move silver and other goods to and from the coast – nowadays it’s almost invisible. We continue uphill to the Jelenak Pass, the place which invites a rest stop with scenic views of the mountains above Plav, Theth and Valbona. Sitting among a field of wildflowers, it is the perfect spot for lunch. Next, the walk to Ravno Brdo Pass (2,178m) is almost levelled, and offers dreamy therapeutic walking and good views. The last pass proofs to be a magnificent view towards the rugged peaks ahead of us and into the lush valley of Babino Polje (meaning ‘Grandma’s fields’) below. By mid-afternoon, you will reach Montenegro and reach the village of Babino Polje.

From Babino Polje, a 40 minutes transfer by minivan takes us past the tranquil Plav Lake to our guesthouse/hotel in Plav.

Difficulty level: Moderate

Hike Details: 15 km, ▲ 1,150 m ascent, ▼ 1,050 m descent, 7-8 hours

Accommodation: Guesthouse/hotel

Meals Included: Breakfast, packed lunch and dinner

Day 10

Plav – Grebaja Valley (Montenegro) – Dramatic highlight of the Prokletije Mountains

The Grebaja Valley is one of the most awe-inspiring in the Balkans, a narrow valley, wedged between the karst towers of Karanfili (2,461 m). The valley is U shaped, surrounded by high sharp peaks resembling a titanic jaw of a Balkan wolf. Here is a true paradise for outdoor lovers! This is a place you should not miss if you are doing the Peaks of the Balkans trail. It is only a slight detour from the official route but it is really a must-see and something you will never forget.

We start the hike by ascending through shaded beech forest, a last steep climb takes us to the double peak of Popadija and Talijanka (2,056 m). From the top, there is a magnificent view first to the nearby Karanfili, and then to the Prokletije massif with all the highest peaks and down to the beautiful valley of Grebaje. We will choose the most suitable route, a ridge walk which will bring you back to the track down offering staggering views of the craggy Karanfili Mountains, nicknamed – with good reason – the ‘Dolomites of Montenegro’. During the return journey, we will pass by the rock carvings (petroglyphs) dating from the Neolith Age of 600 years B.C. There is a primitive drawing showing a wolf attacking a child, as well as other Paleolithic carvings. In a garden on the valley floor, we celebrate the adventure before dinner and overnight in our guesthouse.

Difficulty level: Easy to moderate

Hike Details: 10 km, ▲ 950 m ascent, ▼ 950 m descent, 6-7 hours

Accommodation: Guesthouse

Meals Included: Breakfast, packed lunch and dinner

Montenegro

GREBAJA VALLEY AND KARANFILI PEAKS

Montenegro

ROPOJANA VALLEY (MONTENEGRO)

Day 11

Village of Vusanje – Ropojana Valley -Through the Heart of the Accursed Mountains – Theth (Albania)

After breakfast, a short transfer will bring us to the village of Vusanje (alb. Vuthaj), where we load our bags on horses and start the long trek to Theth valley. Travelling up the Ropojana Valley, formed in the past by a 26 km long glacier, we stop at a pupil shaped karst spring Sava’s (Skakavica) Eye (similar to Blue Eye of Theth) where an ice-cold river is born from melting snow high up in the mountains. The mountain framed corridor takes us to pass a dry lake, shepherd huts, and an abandoned military post to the heart of the Albanian Alps. A weathered border stone is the only reminder of the once tightly sealed borders of former Communist Albania. The trail is flanked by the spectacular Karanfili massif on the right and Maja Jezerces – the highest summit of the Dinaric Alps on the left. Walking forward we come to the foot of the Mt. Arapi (2,217 m), a canine tooth shaped peak which stands high above the Theth National Park forming the largest big wall in the Balkans. Arriving at Peja Pass (1,711 m), we stop for our picnic lunch with a fantastic view of the beautiful valley of Theth surrounded by an incredible panorama. Then we go down a steep well-trodden caravan path that leads by the small café where we take a rest, and by a short minivan transfer to a guesthouse in the centre of the lively village of Theth.

During farewell dinner, we celebrate the eventful trek with our new friends, over recalling the past days of travel and celebrating the memorable journey through the Albanian Alps.

Difficulty level: Moderate

Hike Details: 14 km, ▲ 1,000 m ascent, ▼ 950 m descent, 7-8 hours

Accommodation: Guesthouse

Meals Included: Breakfast, packed lunch and dinner

Day 12

Departure

After breakfast airport transfer is arranged. Depending on the flight schedule, we will explore the town of Shkodra.

Thank you for joining us for this adventure, we hope you had a great time and hope it’s not your last visit to the countries of warm hospitality, countless mountains and exceptional nature.

 

Please note that the itinerary may change slightly based on the weather and the needs and desires of the group.

Please note that this itinerary can be shortened and the tour organised to last 5 or 7 days.

Albania

ALBANIAN ALPS