Spreading over the borders of three countries, The Cursed Mountains is a place of enchanting beauty and mystical legends. The most popular tale of how the mountain got its name is the one of a mother trying to escape from the Ottoman soldiers. The mother and her two children found shelter in the mountain, but here they met another obstacle – the lack of any water on their path. Exhausted and desperate, the mother cursed the mountain to never see a drop of water again. But even without such legend, the mountain can easily live up to its name with its rugged landscape, misty peaks and thick forests.
The Peaks of the Balkans trail was first mapped by a German development organization in 2012 with the vision of building a bridge between historically estranged communities and to support the local families.
The fact that there is now free movement between the borders of Kosovo, Montenegro and Albania, which have been strictly controlled until just a few decades ago, adds additional value to the experience. It becomes especially tangible at Mt. Trekufiri, which is the meeting point of those three countries.
The dramatic landscapes are in perfect harmony with the culture of the local highlanders. We will immerse ourselves in the pastoral lifestyle of the local communities, learn more about their traditions and overnight in shepherds’ huts.
♦ Peak Trekufiri - the meeting point of the borders of Albania, Montenegro, Kososvo
♦ Ropojana Valley - a vast valley with awe-inspiring views of the mountains.
♦ The "Blue Eye" spring - a natural phenomenon in Albania
♦ Boat ride on the picturesque Komani Lake
♦ Overnight in traditional shepherd huts
Day 1. Arrival to Albania
Arrival to Tirana or Podgorica Airport. Pick –up at the airport and transfer to the hotel in Shkodra. At 5pm the group gathers for an introduction round and tour briefing at the accommodation. Afterwards you can look forward to a sumptuous traditional dinner! But don't stay up too long, we’re starting tomorrow at 6 am. This is the latest by which you may join the trip. Arriving early? Ask us about extension nights in Tirana & Shkodra. -/-/D
Day 2. Komani Lake – Valbona National Park
We rise early for the scenic drive through the Drin Gorges and to the Komani Lake.The picturesque reservoir loops similar to a Norwegian fjord through sheer rock walls and makes for the most attractive route into the Albanian Alps. You're in for a surprise by the custom-made “boat”, which stops several times to pick up talkative locals from remote villages before arriving at Fierze. After lunch, we travel by car further into the highlands of the Valbona National Park into a traditional village composed of imposing tower houses. The afternoon warm-up walk follows a crystal clear stream through ancient beach forests speckled with the sweetest strawberries. Along the way, we can enjoy a swimming break at the river or a secluded pond. The walk ends at our cozy guesthouse in upper Valbona and there’s opportunity to explore the vicinity further. The jagged peaks towering high above us gives us itchy feet, tomorrow will be the day! Tonight we enjoy a hearty home-cooked meal and well earned rest after this impression packed introduction to the Accursed Mountains. (7 km, ascent 250 m, descent 0 km, 3:30h) B/L/D
Day 3. Valley of Doberdol
After a 45 min drive to Cerem, we start out across flower carpets towards remote border triangle. Along the way we enjoy forest fruits, admire plant life and the views of Mt. Kolata (2.534m). Reaching the rim of the deep cut river canyon and following the high route through conifer forest, we notice just how much the relief changes between the Western and Eastern Alps. Slopes are speckled with alpine pastures and at one we stop to meet the herdsmen over coffee and raki. In the glacial-shaped valley of Doberdol (1.750m) animals roam freely the grazing grounds and time appears 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 relinquish 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. (16 km, ascent 1,250 m, descent 650 m, 7:00 h) B/LP/D
Day 4. Mt. Trekufiri – Lake Hrid
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. The tranquil pond reflects the mountains, is shrouded in legends and provide habitat for newts, salamander and firefly. After a refreshing dip, after all on above 1.900m, we continue on a trail encompassed by dense pine forest towards a hamlet of seasonal huts called "katun". Further down an unmade road, we reach the scattered settlement of Babino Polje and two cabins at the rim of the national park. The very different life story of a family that set out to become entrepreneurs in Germany, but is drawn back to their roots, makes for an interesting contrast to the shepherds. Your guide may choose an alternative, longer trail along the border ridge.(13 km, ascent 600 m, descent 850 m, 7:00 h) B/LP/D
Day 5. Grbaja Valley
The Grbaja Valley is one of the most awe-inspiring in the Balkans. An hour transfer past Lake Plav leads into a narrow valley, wedged between the karst towers of Karanfili (2.461 m). Arguably one of the most rugged and dramatic peaks in the Prokletije, it’s a dream of many climbers. Ascending through shaded fairy tale beach forest, a last steep climb takes us to the double peak of Popadija and Taljanka (2.056m). Here the hostile walls across seem almost within our reach and views gaze across the border into the Kelmend region of Albania. Your guide will choose the most suitable route, traversing the narrow spine to a series of panoramic viewpoints back onto the shaded forest path, where the balloon hike closes. At a beer garden at the valley floor, we celebrate the adventure before traveling to our guesthouse in Vusanje at next days’ trailhead. The nearby waterfall invites for a stroll, but views from the house are equally beautiful. (12 km, ascent 950 m, descent 950 m, 6:30 h) B/LP/D
Day 6. Ropojana Valley
Traveling up the Ropojana Valley, formed by a 26 km long glacier, we stop at a pupil shaped karst spring where an ice-cold river is born from melting snow high up in the mountains. A weathered border stone is the only reminder of the once tightly sealed borders of former Communist Albania. The mountain framed corridor takes us passed a dry lake, shepherd huts, and an abandoned military post to the heart of the Albanian Alps. Here the canine tooth of Mt. Arapi (2.217m) stands high above the Thethi National Park forming the largest big wall in the Balkans. Arriving at Peja Pass (1.711m), your guide determines whether the summit can be tackled. The ones who take a pass on the challenging peak, suitable for experienced and sure-footed hikers only, rest at the pass or start the descend 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 center of the lively village. (11 km, ascent 650 m, descent 900 m, 6:45 h) B/LP/D
Day 7. Theth
In Theth we visit the iconic church and lock-in tower (kulla) that offered protection to men threatened by blood feud. It’s the perfect place to dive into the history of the “kanun” and elaborate on the highland law code. Following water channels, we climb to the famed waterfall and descent along a well-worn bridle path to the quieter hamlet Nderlysa for a hearty lunch. Continue the hike to the colorful karst spring called the “Blue Eye” or spend an easy going afternoon with swimming at the glacier-shaped rock formations. In the late afternoon we ride across the scenic Terthorja Pass (1.630m) back to Shkodra (75km/3h) and our hotel from the first night. At night we celebrate the eventful trek with our new friends over a somewhat different dinner from the last days. How about drinks at the bustling bar zone of Shkodra? With all the party in mind, please also double check with your guide for tomorrow's departure transfers. ( 16 km, ascent 225 m, descent 500 m, 5:30 h) B/LP/D
Day 8. Departure
After breakfast airport transfer is arranged or onward travel plans accommodated. Time allowing you can explore town, head to the nearby beaches in Velipoja and Ulcinj (Montenegro), experience Albania's modern side in the capital Tirana or spend your beach holidays at the Albanian Riviera. B/-/-
Looking for the complete circuit? Contact us for the extended 12-day trek.
Good to know:
♦ Please let us know your flight details / pick-up location at least one week in advance to arrange the transfers and pool guests arriving around the same time. Those getting in earlier during the day, we provide with recommendations what to do in town. Should you have questions and the guide is not present, you may contact us through the hotel.
♦ For treks in mountainous and alpine terrain fitness is important and previous trekking experience recommended. It is not vital as long you are confident of your physical condition and surefootedness. Prepare to endure poor weather and to navigate rocky undefined routes, remoteness can also play a part. Walking days are usually between 5 and 8 hours, although they can be longer to cross passes or peaks (mostly optional). Daily ascents will likely be around 900m to 1.000m, perhaps with the odd day ascending around 1.100m to 1.300m.
♦ Overseas health insurance is compulsory