The Albanian Alps: Perfect 3-5 Day Hiking Itinerary for Valbona & Theth National Park
Updated: Nov 8, 2022
The Albanian Alps, also known as the Accursed Mountains, are located in the north of Albania and occupy about 8% of the country’s territory. This is the finest hiking area in Albania, home to dramatic mountain peaks, deep green valleys, and thick forests. It’s the most attractive and fascinating part of the country in our opinion, but also relatively isolated since there are only a couple of roads in and out. In fact, there is no road connecting the two most famous parks: Valbona and Theth, and you have to hike over a mountain pass to get from one to another. In this article, we’ll break down the best 3 to 5 days hiking itinerary for Valbona and Theth National Park and some other information that could be useful while doing it.
Check out our video on the Albanian Alps to see this full itinerary through our camera!
Things to know before you go to the Albanian Alps
Best time to visit
The best time to travel to the Albanian Alps is between the end of May and the end of October. In the summer it can get hot during the day but in the evening it gets very cold. Most accommodations in the mountains don't have heating so make sure you bring warm sweaters and even a winter jacket! We visited at the end of September and on some nights it was literally freezing.
Bring enough cash
There are no ATM's in Valbona and Theth. This means you need to bring enough cash to pay for your accommodation and food. Also, the guesthouses don't take card payments which is very common in Albania in general. If you happen to run out of cash, you can go to the supermarket in Theth and ask to exchange cash for a credit card payment in the store. However, you'll have to pay a rather hefty fee for that!
Food and groceries
Tourists are generally expected to eat at the guest house. While breakfast is included, lunch and dinner are usually not included in the room price. There are no stores in Valbona, but there is a small one in Theth where you can buy bread, snacks, and some fruits.
The Best Hiking Itinerary For The Albanian Alps
We’ll break down how to spend 3 to 5 days in the Albanian Alps while visiting both national parks. Even for non-hikers, this is such a great trip! Click the interactive map below to get directions to any of the hikes and areas we mention in this article.
DAY 1: Shkodra - Komani Lake - Valbona
The itinerary starts and ends in the city of Shkodra and can be completed in either direction since it’s a circle. If you have a rental car, it’s best to leave it in the city so you can make the most out of your visit to the Albanian Alps. We left our car and big backpacks at the hotel and only took the essential items in our day-packs.
In Shkodra, you can ask your accommodation to organize a package to Valbona. This package includes the shuttle bus to Koman Lake, the ferry from Koman to Fierze, and the bus from Fierze to your accommodation in Valbona. During the summer months, it’s best to arrange this package a few weeks in advance with your hotel as the spots fill up quickly! You can also reserve your spot on the ferry if you would like. Note that the ferry only runs from April until the end of October.
The minivan picks you up as early as 6:30 AM from Shkodra. After two hours of driving, you board the ferry over the gorgeous Komani Lake, which is a man-made reservoir on the Drin River. The ferry takes you for almost 3 hours over the emerald waters that meander for over 70 kilometers or 43 miles through the mountains. In some places, it gets very narrow with vertical canyon walls towering on both sides. And even though you’re technically not in the Albanian Alps yet, this is already a highlight of the trip!
After you arrive in Fierze, you hop into another minivan, which takes you to Valbona in about 1.5 hours. As you arrive in the afternoon, there is only a bit of time left for a short hike in Valbona. We hiked to the beautiful Kukaj Valley and the ridge to the right side. You can find the trail on Maps.me, but it unfortunately doesn’t have a name (Search on maps.me for the ridge near Thatë peak).
We stayed at Guesthouse Skender Selimaj and highly recommend it!
DAY 2: Hike in Valbona Valley National Park
On the second day, it’s time to fully explore Valbona Valley National Park, which boasts the most beautiful natural scenery in all of Albania. Most people only spend a night here before trekking to Theth, which is such a shame as there are a wealth of excellent hikes in the area.
We hiked to the mountain saddle on the Montenegrin–Albanian border at the base of Rosi peak. This actually ended up being our favorite hike in all of Albania. It’s an out-and-back trail that is about 17.5 kilometers or 11 miles long with 1,280 meters or 4,200 ft of elevation gain. From the pass, you can also continue to Rosi peak, which adds another 400 meters or 1,300ft of elevation. This is considered the easiest peak hike in Valbona Valley as the other ones are more technical and harder to reach. Nonetheless, this trail offers panoramic views that will take your breath away! Enjoy the view of the surrounding peaks in serenity as you won’t encounter many other people while hiking!
Alternative trails include Jezerca Lakes and peak, Thatë peak, and Kolata peak.
DAY 3: Hike the famous Valbona to Theth Trail
On day three, you’ll hike to Theth National Park via the famous Valbona to Theth Trail. Keep in mind that this trail gets very busy, especially during the peak summer season. This point-to-point hike is about 17 kilometers or 10.5 miles long, depending on where you start and finish it. We would say the difficulty level is medium, and you don't need to be fit or have a lot of mountain experience to complete the trek. Just make sure you can walk for 6 to 9 hours!
The beginning of the hike is flat and rocky on a dry riverbed. You can actually skip that part by taking a 4x4 taxi if you want. The path then turns into a dirt trail and starts to climb gradually steeper until you reach the Valbona Pass. From here, you’ll observe the most beautiful view of Valbona Valley with endless mountain peaks surrounding you from all angles. It’s a stunning rest area. Heading down the other side of the pass is almost entirely in the shade through an old-growth forest. It’s a long, but relatively gentle descent to the village of Theth.
Theth is the most popular destination in the Albanian Alps and you’ll notice that it’s a lot more developed than Valbona. There are many newly-built guesthouses and hotels to pick from as well as a little supermarket and a few coffee shops. The town has been developing quickly in the last decade, bringing larger crowds of tourists to the park.
For this part of the hike, we stayed at Bujtina Miqesia in Theth which was an amazing place to stay with a beautiful view.
DAY 4: Hike in Theth National Park
On the last day, you can explore the sights in Theth National Park. If you're tired from the previous day hikes, we recommend doing a half-day hike to the iconic Theth Church, Grunas Waterfall, and the Blue Eye. If you plan to hike all the way to the Blue Eye, keep in mind that it’s 17 kilometers or 10.5 miles total. The hike is not intensive as it’s fairly flat, but the distance makes it a 6-hour trip. Alternatively, you can hike to the Church and Grunas Waterfall only, which is a lot shorter and you’ll only need about 3-hours.
If you want to spend a full day hiking in Theth instead, we don’t recommend hiking this extremely crowded trail! Instead, opt for a more rewarding trek to one of the peaks, caves, or glacial lakes. You can find other trail options in the tourist center in town. Options include: the cave of Thethi, the lake of Peja, the Castle of Shtegu i Dhenve, the waterfall's cave, the canyon of Grunasi, and Okoli's Springs.
DAY 5: Take The Bus Back To Shkodra
We took the bus back to Shkodra at 2PM, which was the last bus for the day. It was a crazy ride and felt very unofficial. We heard it's better to take the bus back in the morning. It’s best to check the bus timetable in advance at the local supermarket. That’s also where you purchase your bus ticket.
Use These Websites To Save Money On Your Trip To The Albanian Alps
Booking.com for places to stay
Skyscanner for cheap flights
GetYourGuide for local tours
Rentalcars.com for affordable car rentals