Surrounded by the rugged peaks of the Albanian Alps, the village of Theth is considered one of the jewels of the Balkans. Here you can find, in the words of anthropologist Edith Durham, "majestic isolation from all the world". Besides the outstanding views, the village can also offer to its visitors insight into what it was like to live by the "kanun" - a controversial traditional Albanian law that regulated the lives of the locals for centuries and still has its impact on the local communities.
The road that will lead you to Theth is no less impressive. Starting your tour in Shkodra, you will take a ferry across the beautiful fjord-like Komani Lake. You will then embark on a 7-hour trek from the village of Valbona to Theth - considered one of the most spectacular treks in Europe. Crossing the Valbona National Park, you will enjoy the fresh mountainous air, drink water from the cold mountain springs and experience the hospitality of the locals. You will have a chance to try some of their local produce or get a sip of raki to keep you going. On your last way a short hike will take you to yet another hidden jewel - the karst spring "Blue Eye", before you head out to the capital city of Tirana, where you can explore the modern face of Albania.
♦ Valbona National Park
♦ Komani Lake
♦ The "Blue Eye" spring
♦ Village of Theth
Day 1. Arrival
You are met by a driver at Tirana (TIA) or Podgorica (TGD) airport/city for the two hour transfer to Shkodra. Meet our staff in the afternoon to receive materials (road book, maps, GPS & SIM card), get a walk throgh of the trip and all your questions answered. Arriving early, go swim in the Balkans largest lake and visit the Rozafa Castle to learn about its legend and enjoy the fabulous views of the Alps. Immerse in the buzz of the bazaar, at the Marubi photo library in the town's past or enjoy an espresso with the locals. In the evening bars bust with locals flocking for the evening stroll into the pedestrian zone. Lined with bourgeoisie town houses, reminder of the cities rich past, it has a certain Italian atmosphere to it. When daylight fades you can choose between restaurants that offer carefully crafted traditional meals. -/-/-
Day 2. Komani Lake - Fierze - Valbona National Park
An early starts affords a scenic drive through the Drin Gorges and to the Komani Lake (55km/1:30h). 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 (46 km/3h). After lunch, you're taken 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, you can enjoy a swimming break at the river or a secluded pond. The walk ends at a cozy accommodation in upper Valbona and there’s opportunity to explore the vicinity further.The jagged peaks towering high above leave you with itchy feet, tomorrow will be the day! Tonight we enjoy a hearty home-cooked meal and w ll earned rest after this impression packed introduction to the Accursed Mountains.(7 km, ascent 250 m, descent 0 m, 3:30 h) B/L/D
Day 3. Valbona National Park
Refreshed you start the hike to Kukaj - an isolated hamlet where only two families reside. Below bunkers that once protected the border are now scattered in the riverbed. The windy path takes you over lush meadows ablaze with the colors of a wide variety of spring flowers to a shepherd hut on 1.650m. In the communist period, when this was a no-go area, the building used to be a military barrack. Admire the wild and romantic jagged mountain scenery, sample fresh milk products with shepherd s present or opt to climb higher to an ancient crossing at the Montenegrin border. At 2.045m a weathered border pyramid is the only reminder of the isolation Albania once endured, from here views reach to the most dramatic parts of Montenegrin Prokletije. Catching a last glimpse at the Alps highest peak Jezerca (2.694m) you descent on a different path to the accommodation. When daylight fades you admire the alpine glow over dinner in the idyllic garden. No surprise many local women are named after the beautiful valley. (12 km, ascent 750 m, descent 700 m, 5:30 h) B/LP/D
Day 4. Valbona - Theth
Another highlight and with with the highest point of the journey await today. After a short ride over a rough road, you meet the mule porter who carries the main luggage and set out for the hike across Valbona Pass (1.811m). Above the village Rragam few steep segments need to be tackled. Pause regularly near springs and on colorful meadows to take a breath of herb filled aromatic mountain air and enjoy the splendid views. Reaching the pass, the surrounding peaks appear on par and sweeping views of both national parks fascinate even the seasoned traveler. Enjoy the picturesque landscape during a lunch break ahead of the descent to Theth, where the fairy-tale beech forest provides cover from the sun in the afternoon. Close to the village the woods thin out, Mt. Arapi (2.217m) becomes more dominant and soon the upmost houses of the village are reached. Spread below are the the valleys many hamlets and a broad path takes you through the village to another inviting guesthouse in the center. (15 km, ascent 750 m, descent 1125 m, 6:45 h) B/LP/D
Day 5. Peja Pass/ Meadows of Denelli/ Theth
Choose for today's hike between the route to Peja Pass at the northern end of the valley below the Matterhorn of Albania or the panoramic trail to the Meadows of Denelli. Both are return routes and you stay for a second night at the same guesthouse. For the first sun exposed option an early start and optional transfer to the trailhead, 4 km drive or one hour walking time each way, are recommend. From where the trail starts near the source of the Thethi River, the wall still looks impenetrable. The ancient caravan path is hidden in the sheer 900 m drop below Mt. Arapi and named after the Kosovarian city Peja, where the route connected to. On top is a little lake where you cool down your feet. The Denelli walk starts from the guesthouse, leads through green Ulaj neighborhood and ascends after a river crossing in light forest to a path in the cliffs & football field sized plain in the middle of the mountains. You find shepherds here in July & August. You can also choose to stay and relax in the village for the day. B/LP/D
Day 6. Theth
A walk through the village and green fields reveals the full extent of Theth. Visit the iconic church and dive into the history of the “kanun” at the lock-in tower that offered protection to those affected. It is the perfect place to learn about the highland law code of Leke Dukagjini, its origins, impact and present day relevance. Onward along water channels the paths ascends to the Thethi waterfall and drops again to a cliff above the river where archaeologists discovered stone aged terraces .Gaze into the adjacent 50m deep Grunas Canyon before starting the second part of the hike on a well-worn bridle path that leads along the river downstream to Nderlysa Tonight's accommodation is a simpler, but very welcoming homestay in a much less visited hamlet. Use your free time to sample mulberries, grapes and plums in the garden, ask the your host about bee keeping, explore the surroundings or swim in the nearby pools.
If you find today's hike short, you can also hike yesterday's alternative option and transfer to Nderlysa.(8 km, ascent 150 m, descent 400 m, 3:30 h)
Day 7. The Blue Eye
The hike through a canyon leads to a karst spring called the “Blue Eye”. The bravest can take a dip in the icy, butterfly surrounded waters - truly a hidden oasis to relax at. Without mobile phone coverage, electricity and road access, busy everyday life feels completely forgotten. The walk can be a extended to a closeby abandoned hamlet. The public minibus collects passengers at around 1-2 pm, it's a scenic drive across the Terthoria Pass into the Valley of Boge and along Lake Shkodra (3 h), riding with the locals certainly add some flavor. After refereshments and changing cars it takes another two hours to arrive at the central hotel in the early evening. Tirana represents the modern, very different side of Albania. Conclude your day with dinner and a drink out in chic "blloku" district, recall the past week of travel and celebrate the memorable journey through the Albanian Alps. Want to combine yesterday and today's shorter hikes into one or just leave earlier for Tirana - opt for a private 4x4 transfer. (10 km, ascent 275 m, descent 275 m, 3:30 h) B/LP/-
Day 8. Departure
Stroll through town, visit the colorful bazaar and park that forms the green heart of Tirana. Two former nuclear shelters open their doors to visitors, the museum turned headquarters of the secret police, National History Museum and socialist period art gallery make up just a few of city's sights. The last day presents you yet another side of diverse Albania, one that stands in stark contrast to the rural areas visited in the past days. Your multi-faceted journey through Albania ends with an organized transfer to the airport. B/-/-