The Albanian Alps are a truly spectacular destination in the Balkans. The rugged peaks, vibrant wildflowers, and crystal clear waterfalls are enough to ignite any traveller’s sense of adventure. In this post I’ll tell you everything you need to know before visiting the Albanian Alps including hiking trails in the Albanian Alps, how to get there, where to stay, what to pack, and so much more.
The Alps were the thing that *caught my eye* about Albania. I didn’t know much about Albania when I spontaneously booked my flight to go there, however the beautiful mountains in the north of the country were enough to make me swoon. After spending significant time in Albania (1.5 months) I can confidently say that there is SO much more the country offers than just mountains (although the mountains are a huge selling point). Warm & welcoming people, yummy food, beautiful beaches, cheap… everything. Albania is a real backpacker’s paradise.
The Albanian Alps though… Wow. There’s really something special about being in the Albanian Alps. I’d love to explain what that something is, but it’s more of a feeling and something that can’t be put into words. You’ll have to experience it for yourself!
- All About the Albanian Alps
- Albanian Alps: FAQ
- How to get to the Albanian Alps
- 10 Things to do in Albanian Alps
- Where to stay in the Albanian Alps
- Tips for visiting the Albanian Alps
- Packing list for the Albanian Alps
- Recommended itinerary for the Albanian Alps
- Albanian Alps tours
This post contains affiliate links; see my full disclosure. If you click these links and make a purchase you’re supporting The Holistic Backpacker. Thanks for your support & happy adventuring! – Taylor ♡
Quick Albania Travel Guide:
Currency: Albanian LEK (aka ALL). This is a closed currency so you’ll need to wait until you’re in Albania to exchange $.
Phone: purchase a SIM card from Vodafone in Albania – the plans are cheap and they include lots of data.
Language: Albanian, however you can totally get by with English.
Helpful Info: don’t drink the tap water, bring an international travel adapter, notify your bank before travelling.
All About the Albanian Alps
The Albanian Alps are 100% the highlight natural feature of Albania and the #1 bucket list destination in the country. They’re located in the northern region of Albania (Theth National Park & Valbona Valley National Park) and are accessible via the ancient city of Shkoder (or Shkodër in Albanian).
The Northern Albanian Alps (aka the Accursed Mountains) are the highest section of the Dinaric Alps which stretch all the way from Albania to Kosovo and even eastern Montenegro. The Peak elevation is 2,694m (8,839ft) which belongs to Maja Jezercë.
I know what you’re thinking… “I didn’t know Albania had big mountains.” And honestly, I thought the same as you before visiting the Albanian Alps myself! Something else you might not know is that 70-75% of Albania’s surface is covered in mountains.
But mountains aren’t the only beautiful natural feature you’ll find in Albania. Albania is also home to steep canyons, intricate coastline, forest, and Europe’s last virgin river. Cool, right?
Interested in discovering more of Albania’s nature? You can find the “Grand Canyon” of Albania in Berat, you can find natural hot springs in Permet, hidden beaches in Himara, and one of Albania’s Blue Eye’s in Saranda.
Albanian Alps: FAQ
I’m sure if this is your first time visiting the Albanian Alps you have TONS of questions. So, I thought it’d be best to start this post out with a quick FAQ section.
Q: How do I plan a trip to the Albanian Alps?
A: I’ll get into all the nitty gritty details for how to plan a trip to the Albanian Alps in this post. If you’re looking for an easy, no hassle way to book a trip to the Albanian Alps though, I recommend booking a stay with Wanderer’s Hostel in Shkoder the day before and the day after your trip to the alps. Wanderer’s is the #1 hostel in Shkoder and they’re known for planning tours to the alps.
An added bonus of booking a stay with Wanderer’s is that they’ll store your extra luggage while you’re out hiking!
Q: When is the best time of year to visit the Albanian Alps?
A: The best time of year to visit the Albanian Alps is in September. Hiking season in the Albanian Alps runs from May to October, however in September temperatures are cooler, tourism is minimal, and you’ll get to see all the autumn colours changing.
During the winter months you’ll find heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures – hiking is not possible during this time unless you have mountaineering experience. Summer is also a nice time of year to visit if you’re okay with high temperatures and more people around.
Q: How hard are the hikes in the Albanian Alps?
A: It’s what you make it! I find the hiking trails in the Albanian Alps to be quite long, however the terrain is easily navigable. Plenty of experienced hikers tackle the Albanian Alps, however plenty of newbie hikers take on the mountains here as well.
I will point out that when I say this ^ I’m referring to more of the popular, touristy hikes; like Valbona to Theth and the Blue Eye. Many of the “locals” trails can be quite challenging and dangerous and should only be attempted with a guide or local who knows the terrain.
Q: How long should I spend in the Albanian Alps?
A: Many people breeze in and out of the Alps in a couple nights, however if you’re a hiker you’ll want to stay longer. Seeing the pointy peaks, magic wildflowers, and stunning valleys of the Albanian Alps will only leave you wanting more!
At the bottom of this post I answer this question more in depth and create multiple itineraries based on what type of trip to the alps you’re after. Keep reading!
Q: Where can I buy food in the Albanian Alps?
A: Food is quite limited in the Albanian Alps, however you needn’t worry at all about going hungry. The guesthouses in the alps are the main source of food and they all serve plentiful and traditional meals at a reasonable price. Yum!
Aside from the guesthouses you may be lucky enough to find a few popup fruit stands here and there, but compared to the rest of Albania the produce at these places will be limited and expensive. If you want snacks or a little extra “security food,” buy and bring groceries from Shkoder.
Q: Is it expensive to travel to the Albanian Alps?
A: Although travelling to the Alps is more expensive than travelling elsewhere in Albania, it’s dirt cheap compared to visiting mountainous regions in other countries. I’ll explain costs for accommodations, transportation, etc later in this post, however on average people spend around 80-100 euros for 3 nights (incl. transportation & food). You can obviously do this on a much cheaper or more expensive budget depending on your travel style, however generally this is what people spend.
Q: How easy is it to access the Albanian Alps via public transportation?
A: Super easy! The Albanians Alps are reached via minibus and ferry. If you stay at the Wanderer’s Hostel the staff will book transportation for you. If you like to DIY things I explain the transportation/booking situation more in depth next.
Rest assured the Albanian Alps are set up for tourism – you’ll have no issues getting there.
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Q: Do you need a guide to hike in the Albanian Alps?
A: Nope! You can definitely hike on your own in the alps. In fact, I spent 3 days hiking solo in the alps and felt perfectly safe. If you feel more comfortable travelling and hiking with a guide though, I have some tour/guiding options linked here.
^I’m going to reiterate what I said earlier though about locals trails vs tourist trails. The locals trails are more intense and technical whereas the tourist hikes are easy and well marked. There are some hikes in the alps I wouldn’t do without a guide (or at least a local), but you won’t have to worry about those trails because you won’t find any information about them online. What I’m trying to say here is they’re hard to find – unless you go looking for these challenging hikes, you won’t even know they exist!
If you want any information about hiking in Albania past the touristy hikes, you’ll have to ask the locals.
Q: Is there cell service in the Albanian Alps?
A: Depends where you go. I had cell service the entire trek from Valbona to Theth, however when I hiked to Maja Rosit in Valbona I didn’t have any service.
If you’re worried about lack of cell service for safety reasons, it’s always a good idea to bring a satellite device or download a map – you can use Alltrails or Maps.me. If you stick to the main trails in the alps though you’ll be surrounded by people. Not too much to worry about here!
Have more questions about the Albanian Alps? Ask in the comment section below!
How to get to the Albanian Alps via Public Transportation
Your Albanian Alps adventures will always start in Albania’s ancient city, Shkoder. Shkoder acts as the base city for hiking in the northern region of the country for it’s proximity to the Alps and for the availability of transportation to and from the national parks in the alps.
You have 2 options for accessing the Albanian Alps: Shkoder to Theth, or Shkoder to Valbona. If you want to get to one park from the other, you’ll have to hike! But I’ll get into more details about that later.
If you’re looking for a headache-free way to plan your trip to the Albanian Alps, book a stay with the Wanderer’s Hostel in Shkoder OR book an all-inclusive Albanian Alps tour.
The Wanderer’s Hostel employees and the hostel itself are LOVELY. Plus the staff are super knowledgeable, they’ll store your extra luggage, and (literally) plan your entire trip to the alps: accommodations, transportation, itineraries, and all.
^Book in advance though. Wanderer’s fills up quickly!
How to get to Theth via Public Transit
**previously you had to take a 4×4 vehicle into Theth – recently the road has been paved and you can now drive a regular vehicle to the park.**
Getting to Theth via public transportation is super easy, especially if you stay with Wanderers Hostel – they book the bus for you!
Anyways, you’ll book a minibus (cost: 1200LEK / 12 euros) to Theth from Shkoder and that bus will most likely pick you up around 6:30am at or near your accommodations. After the bus picks you up you’ll have around a 3 hour drive up and down a beautiful, windy mountain road until you reach the tiny village of Theth. Try to get a window seat so you can admire the views along the way!
Your accommodation supplier in Shkoder should be able to book the bus for you, however if for some reason they can’t, you can book via this number +35568247301.
How to get to Valbona via Public Transportation
Similar for how you’d get to Theth, you’ll first need to book a minibus to get to Valbona. The minibus will take you to the Komani ferry port early in the morning where you’ll then catch a 1.5hr scenic ferry ride to Fierza. From Fierza you’ll need to take another mini bus to get to Valbona Valley National Park. Once you arrive in Valbona the driver will ask what guesthouse you’re staying at and you’ll be dropped off at the door.
The combined cost for the ferry and buses will be approximately 2000LEK / 20 euros.
You can book your tickets for the Komani Lake ferry here.
How to Access the Albanian Alps via Personal Vehicle
To be honest, I’m recommending you leave your car back in Shkoder for a number of reasons:
Why You Should Leave Your Car Back in Shkoder
- If you want to visit both national parks you HAVE to hike. This means you’ll either have to do the hike between parks twice to retrieve your car OR return to either Theth or Valbona again via public transit. This is time consuming and costly.
- Transporting your car to and from Valbona via ferry is an unnecessary expense and is likely something you’ll want to avoid. Plus, driving onto the ferry is a MADHOUSE. Seriously, I’d never want to drive on the road leading to the ferry (poor road) or at the loading station.
- If you’re wanting to complete more hikes in Valbona and are worried about the distance to the trailheads, don’t be. Hitchhiking is super common here and you’ll have zero issues catching a ride around the park!
- Although “untouched,” the national parks in the Albanian Alps are super touristy which means transportation is set up for visitors. Its easy to plan a trip to the Albanian Alps without a car – trust me, I did it myself!
The only time I’d recommend bringing a car to the Albanian Alps is if your trip falls under 1 of the 2 categories:
When You SHOULD Bring Your Car to the Albanian Alps
- You’re ONLY visiting Theth. Why? The drive to Theth is only 2-3 hours from Shkoder (no ferry involved) and the Blue Eye – which is the most popular hiking trail in Theth – is located quite far from the village centre. If you have a car you can drive much closer to the actual Blue Eye trailhead which cuts out a TON of distance you’d otherwise have to hike.
- You’re visiting Valbona for an extended period of time. Why? There are TONS of great hiking trails in Valbona. If you have a car you can plan for longer visits that involve more day-hikes and/or multi-night hikes. Having a car will allow you to drive to the trailheads, pack more gear, and bring extra food. Plus, if you’re staying for a longer period of time the extra ferry costs for transporting your car back and forth are more “worth-while.”
How to Access the Albanian Alps via Car
Anyways, the way you’d access the parks in the Albanian Alps would follow the same route as the car-less access route I mentioned above, however you’d replace the minibus sections with your own car.
NOTE – if you’re taking your car to Valbona, book your ferry ticket in advance. There are very limited spots on the boat for vehicles.
10 Things to do in the Albanian Alps
Of course there are waaaay more than 10 things to do in the Albanian Alps, however the following 10 things are bucket-list worthy and easy to access! If you only have a few days in the Albanian Alps, I highly recommend checking as many of these things off your bucket list as you can.
1. Go Hiking!
Mountains and hiking and outdoor adventure is why you go to a place like the Albanian Alps. So, of course hiking is #1 on the list of things to do in the alps. There are plenty of great hiking trails in the alps that range from quick day hikes to multi-day treks (cue Peaks of the Balkans).
When it comes to finding hiking trails for the alps online, you’re not gonna find anything. Why? 1) Albanian people don’t like putting stuff on the internet and 2) Albania is an up & coming travel destination. This means travel bloggers (like me) haven’t completely infiltrated and exploited all the secret beauty that exists within the alps… Yet.
You’ll have to wait until you are physically in the alps in order to talk to the locals who know about the trails in the area. Only then will you be able to find all the good trails!
2. Visit Theth National Park
Theth National Park is the most well known – and one of the most beautiful – National Parks in Albania. If you only have a day or two to explore the Albanian Alps, Theth is easily accessible and it’s therefore the easiest park to visit.
Theth is a charming mountain village which is home to great hiking trails, gorgeous mountains, and the stunning Theth River. The most notable thing to do/see in Theth is hike to the Blue Eye. Note that during the hike you’ll pass by Grunas waterfall and Grunas canyon which are totally worth a detour to go see.
Most people hike to Theth from Valbona Valley National Park (which I’ll talk about next) and spend 2 nights before returning to Shkoder.
3. Visit Valbona Valley National Park
Valbona Valley National Park was by far my favourite spot in all of Albania. The mountain peaks here are absolutely WILD and the valley the little village sits in… Absolutely stunning.
If you’re looking to do more hiking in the Albanian Alps – more than just the popular hike that goes between Theth and Valbona, that is – I’d recommend spending more time in Valbona. There are plenty of off the beaten path hikes located all over the park and the locals in the valley will be happy to point them out to you.
Besides the big day hikes in Valbona there are also quick walks from the village to smaller natural attractions like Xhema Lake and the Old Mill.
I can 100% guarantee that driving into Valbona Valley en route from Komani Lake will legitimately blow your mind. I went to Albania after spending 15 months living in the Canadian Rockies followed up by 2 months of hiking and road tripping in Norway and damn. Even after spending time in these incredible places Valbona Valley literally put my jaw on the floor.
4. Swim in the Blue Eye of Theth
The Blue Eye of Theth is one of the 2 biggest bucket list attractions in the Albanian Alps. It’s reached by the village of Theth and is either a quick day hike (if you have access to a car) or a lengthy 20km+ day hike from the village.
The Blue Eye of Theth is fed by melting snow which gives it an icy cold temperature and a vibrant blue/green colour. This is the most refreshing place in all of Theth to take a cold dip on a scorching summer day.
Tips for Visiting the Blue Eye
- Hike to the Blue Eye early to avoid crowds.
- There’s a curtain at the Blue Eye where you can change into a bathing suit.
- There’s a hiking trail and a road from the village of Theth to the Blue Eye. The hiking trail is much longer and has more elevation, however it’s much more scenic than the flat road.
- The following accommodations are close to the Blue Eye. These guesthouses are a great option if you’re looking for easy access to the Blue Eye.
- If you hike, bring lots of food. You won’t be able to buy much along the way.
- You can refill your water from the Blue Eye (all the natural water sources in Theth are drinkable).
- I always recommend hiking with 2L – I use a Hydrapak to transport my water.
- Blue Eye on Google Maps
5. Walk to Xhema Lake
Xhema Lake (Liqeni I Xhemës in Albanian) is a cute little “lake “(more like a pond) located near the centre of Valbona Valley. It’s just a few kilometres walk – depending where your guesthouse is – followed up by a quick jaunt through the woods.
As you’re walking in the forested section you’ll want to take a left to reach Xhema Lake.
TIP – all the water sources in Valbona Valley are drinkable with the exception of Xhema Lake… For obvious reasons.
Here’s Xhema Lake’s location.
6. Complete the Biggest Bucket List Hike in Albania
The biggest bucket list hike and the #1 thing to do in the Albanian Alps is hike between Valbona and Theth. Yup, the only way to get from one park to the next is via hiking!
If you’re not a “hiker,” the trail between the two parks may seem a bit daunting, however with a moderate fitness level and a bit of preparation almost anyone will be able to tackle this famous trail.
The trail is approximately 17kms with around 800m of elevation gain and the views along the way are exceptional. I’ll be coming out with a complete trail guide for this hike soon (stay tuned), however for now the following tip is the most important: hike from Valbona to Theth.
For reference here’s the Alltrails map for this trail. This is recorded as a roundtrip hike – which you won’t be doing – so you can half the elevation gain and distance.
7. Hike to Montenegro
My favourite hike in the Albanian Alps is none other than Maja Rosit. This is one of those local trails you won’t find much information about online, but WOW is it bucket list worthy!
This trail starts off in the village of Valbona and follows a path that winds through forest, alpine meadows, and mountain passes. The views on this hike will actually blow your mind as they closely resemble mountains you’d find in the Swiss, Italian, and/or French Alps.
You can summit Maja Rosit, however I opted not to because the daytime temperatures were absolutely brutal. Instead I hiked to a pass that actually ended up in Montenegro! You won’t come up short by finishing your hike at the pass. The views here are (obviously) immaculate and if you hike in July you’ll find loads of wildflowers.
I’ll be posting a complete trail guide for Maja Rosit (soon) however for now you can refer to this Alltrails map.
8. Find the Old Mill in Valbona
The Old Mill in Valbona is located right up the road from Xhema Lake. It’s an Old Mill situated next to the bright blue Valbona River.
This is a great photo-op for all the photographers out there and it makes for an easy walk if you’re looking for something to do in the village of Valbona.
Here’s the location for the Old Mill.
9. Visit the Shala River
The Shala River is known as the “Thailand of Albania.” To be honest I don’t even know how to start talking about this place because it actually left me speechless.
The Shala River is connected to Komani Lake, BUT it’s even more beautiful. The stretch of Komani Lake that leads to the Shala River somehow has even bigger and more scenic mountains and greener water. You’ll find a few cute guesthouses along this stretch of Komani Lake as well as incredible hiking trails.
Once you reach the end of the lake you’ll find the Shala River which has crystal clear blue water originating from Theth. There are beach huts, restaurants and bars, as well as river hiking opportunities here.
If you want to discover more of the Shala River (which I totally think you should!), you can check out my post “10 Reasons You Need to Visit the Shala River.”
Along with Valbona Valley National Park, the Shala River is one of my top 2 favourite places in all of Albania. It’s 110% worth a visit!
10. Go Chasing Waterfalls
A trip to the Albanian Alps wouldn’t be complete without seeing a waterfall!
The Grunas waterfall (along with the Blue Eye of Theth) is one of those “must see” things in the alps. The waterfall is only a quick walk from the village of Theth and it’s definitely worth a visit.
The waterfall is popular so I’d recommend hiking to it early in the morning before crowds show up. The final ascent to the waterfall is pretty steep, however it’s short-lived and this final steep section leads to the best place to view the waterfall from. If you want to take a dip, you can find less crowded, smaller pools and falls beneath the highest viewing point.
You can find the location for Grunas waterfall here
(don’t forget to also check out Grunas Canyon which is located just “around the corner”).
Where to stay in the Albanian Alps
Choosing where to stay in the Albanian Alps can be a bit overwhelming because there are so many options. Luckily for you, I’m gonna break down all those options now.
Essentially, when you’re in the alps you’ll need to stay at a guesthouse or at a campsite. The guesthouses are run by locals and they cook yummy, traditional food. Campsites are (obviously) the budget option for accommodations in the alps, however you’ll need to bring your own camping gear for this AND you’ll have to carry it with you when you hike from one park to the next… Which is kind of a huge pain in the butt. To each their own, though!
PS – there are campsites along the hike from Valbona to Theth AND free camping is permitted anywhere in the park. Like obviously don’t just camp on the side of the road or on someone’s property – be discreet. But, you get the point.
Where to Stay in Shkoder
Since Shkoder is the start and end point for your Albanian Alps adventures you’ll need at least one day in the city before and after leaving the Alps. I always recommend Wanderer’s Hostel as the #1 place to stay in Shkoder (especially for backpackers) because they help plan your trip and store extra luggage for you. OH they also serve the yummiest (included) breakfast.
If you want to keep with the Hostel vibe, but Wanderer’s is full, check out Shkodra Backpackers. Alternatively if you’re looking for something more private you can try Hotel Tradita or, if you’re on a budget, Hotel Floga.
You most likely won’t begin your Albanian Alps adventures from Tirana, however if you do you can check out this post for all my Tirana-based activity and accommodation recommendations.
Where to Stay at Komani Lake/Shala River
If you’re looking to spend a night (or two) on the Shala River, I recommend staying at Riverside Komani Lake or Bee Eco Guesthouse. I stayed at Riverside Komani Lake and had an absolutely lovely experience. If you want to learn more about the Shala River, I’ve written about my experience at the Shala River here.
Where to Stay in Valbona
- Ultimate budget stay: Bujtina Albjoni.
- Best campsite: Valbona Eco Camp.
- Luxury experience: Drino’s Guesthouse. I stayed here for a night and WOW. Drino is so kind, he has great local suggestions, his guesthouse is immaculate, and his family owns a delicious restaurant next door.
- Quiet Escape: Rosi Guesthouse.
- Closest to the Valbona to Theth trailhead: Guesthouse Bujtina Visi.
Where to Stay in Theth
- Ultimate Budget Stay: Bujtina Terthorja.
- Best all around: Shpella Guesthouse (book in advance – this one fills up quickly).
- Where I stayed: Guesthouse Rrashkadoli. I cannot speak highly enough of the owners! They’re so kind and generous.
- Located in the centre of the village: Guesthouse Villa Gurra.
Tips for Visiting the Albanian Alps
- Book a stay in Shkoder before and after your trip to the alps with Wanderer’s Hostel – they’ll plan your entire trip to the Albanian Alps and store your luggage while you’re out hiking.
- Ask the locals for trail information. They and their families have most likely lived in these alpine valleys for hundreds of years – they’ll know all the good spots for hiking.
- The best time of year for hiking in the Albanian Alps is September – cooler temps, less crowds, and colourful vegetation.
- If you hike in summer, start early! I always started my Albanian Alps hiking adventures at 5am to avoid the midday sun.
- By the way, if you think temperature will be “cooler” because of the altitude, you’re unfortunately wrong. I went hiking in the Albanian Alps in July and temperatures still reached 35 degrees (at elevation) during the day.
- Bring sunscreen or wear long sleeves to protect your skin from the intense Balkan sun.
- Book your accommodations and ferry tickets in advance. You can book last minute, however booking ahead ensures you’ll be able to select the guesthouse you want and it guarantees you a spot on the ferry.
- Budget an extra night on your Albanian Alps itinerary to visit the Shala River! This is an incredible destination in Albania and it’s surely a spot you don’t want to miss.
- Withdraw enough cash before you leave for the alps. There are no ATMs once you reach the mountains and no one accepts card payment.
Food & Hydration Tips
- Bring snacks! Besides meals from the guesthouses you won’t be able to purchase much food once you arrive in the alps. if you’re lucky you might find a popup fruit stand here or there, but that’s about it.
- Take advantage of packed meal options from the guesthouses. This way you can start hiking early in the morning, but still have access to food.
- Bring a hydrapak. This is the most effective way to stay hydrated on-trail. There are limited water sources on many of the trails in the Albanian Alps, so you’ll want to bring minimum 2L with you.
- The fresh water sources in the Albanian Alps are drinkable.
Packing List for the Albanian Alps
Packing List: Summer in the Albanian Alps
If you’re visiting the alps in summer you don’t need much! Temperatures will be quite high and Albania experiences minimal rain. You’ll need:
- Hiking clothes and an extra pair of socks.
- A comfy/sleeping outfit for when you’re not hiking.
- 1 sweater for nighttime.
- A rain jacket – you honestly probably won’t need this, but it’s always good to have an extra layer in the mountains!
- Sunscreen or long sleeves for sun protection.
- Hiking shoes – Boots are best, but you can easily do the hikes here in trail runners or at least running shoes.
- A hat and sunglasses.
- Extra food/snacks.
- Something to carry water in – I always bring my 2L Hydrapak with me. It’s great for both hiking & travelling.
- A bathing suit & travel towel if you plan to visit the Blue Eye of Theth.
Packing List: What size bag for the alps?
If you’re only visiting the Alps for a couple nights in summer you should be able to pack up all your belongings in a small bag (24L ish). If you’ll be staying longer, you’ll want to bring a slightly larger bag; maybe around 30-34L or so.
I always travel with this pack – it’s the perfect size for day hikes and as well as walking around cities when I travel. It was a little small when I travelled to the alps though (I spent a week in the Alps), so I packed up my extra clothes in dry bag and carried that with me.
Packing List: Off Season in the Albanian Alps
If you’re visiting during off season (spring & fall) it’d be wise to bring everything listed above in addition to extra layers. Definitely pack a pair of pants and, if you have them, bring waterproof pants too. Pack a pair of gloves as well as a warm hat. Extra socks are also always great to have.
Not many people visit the alps during winter because activity options are limited, there’s a mass amount of snow, and the temperatures are freezing. If you do visit though, you’ll need a full winter set up. Waterproof/insulated boots, snow pants, a winter coat, etc. The full nine yards.
Recommended Itinerary for the Albanian Alps
Most people stay for 2-3 nights in the Albanian Alps. The most common itinerary is:
- 1 night in Valbona and 2 nights in Theth. This gives travellers time to see Xhema Lake and the Old Mill in Valbona on night one followed up by the hike between national parks the next day. On day 3 travellers can then hike to the Blue Eye of Theth, Grunas waterfall, and Grunas Canyon.
Here’s the ultimate Albanian Alps itinerary I recommend:
- Day 1: Shkoder to Shala River; The “Thailand of Albania.”
- On day 1 in the Alps you’ll want to catch the early mini bus from Shkoder to the Komani Lake ferry port. From here you’ll jump on a boat and travel down Komani Lake to the Shala River. You can check out this post to read all about the hiking, activity, and accommodation options at the Shala River.
- Day 2: Shala River to Valbona Valley.
- On day 2 your hosts from the Shala River will take you back to the Lake Komani ferry port where you’ll board the big ferry that goes to Fierza. After the 1.5hr scenic ferry ride you’ll hop on a mini bus and drive to Valbona. When you arrive at your guesthouse you can grab some food, then take off and walk to Xhema Lake & the Old Mill.
- Day 3: Hiking in Valbona Valley.
- On day 3 you’re hiking to Montenegro! There’s a beautiful trail called Maja Rosit and I highly recommend completing this trek. Although more challenging, it’s much more scenic than the hike between the 2 national parks.
- Day 4: Hike from Valbona to Theth.
- On day 4 you’ll hike from Valbona to Theth which takes anywhere from 4-9 hours (depending on experience, hiking abilities, and fitness level). After the hike you can spend the afternoon chilling in Theth or you can walk to the old church in the village.
- Day 5: Hiking in Theth.
- Day 5 you’re hiking to the Blue Eye of Theth. This is a long trek, especially if you plan to stop at the waterfall and canyon. Start early!
- Day 6: Theth back to Shkoder.
- Day 6 will conclude your time in the Albanian Alps. The mini bus back to Shkoder usually leaves around 11 from the village centre. It takes around 3.5 hours to reach Shkoder from Theth.
I’m recommending (especially if you’re a hiker) that you stretch your time in the Albanian Alps to include an extra day in Valbona and 1 night on the Shala River. This will give you more time to experience both parks as well as see the incredible Shala River. Most people bypass the Shala River which, in my opinion, is a huge mistake! This place is totally. hidden gem.
Albanian Alps Tours
Now, tours for the Albanian Alps! Trekking in unknown territory, planning multiple days in the alps, and spending extended time in nature can be intimating. Booking a tour takes away the stress and the “unknown” aspects of visiting the Alps. Instead of focusing on logistics and planning, booking a tour allows you to just experience the fun stuff without the worry!
Tour Companies in the Albanian Alps
- Hike with a local via Tours by Locals.
- If you like supporting local, Tours by Locals might be for you! Tours by Locals is a website where local guides list their tours and excursion opportunities. This multi-day hiking trip through the alps encompasses both national parks as well as multiple hikes in each location spanning a total of 8 days.
- Get Your Guide.
- Get Your Guide offers TONS of diverse excursions to the Albanian Alps. From multi day hiking trips to single day adventures, you can find a littleeee bit of everything listed on this site. Get Your Guide has the most extensive list of options for trips to the Albanian alps, so if you’re interested in finding a tour, I’d recommend starting here.
- Viator is another excursion booking site that lists tours from various companies and organizations.
Popular Tours in the Albanian Alps
Now, time for some popular tours in the Albanian Alps!
- This jeep tour is the perfect way to experience Theth in 1 day. This tour will bring you to the beautiful Theth from Shkoder and back in the same day. It showcases all the highlights of the park; Grunas waterfall, the rolling countryside, and the Blue Eye.
- If you’re coming from Tirana and want a full taste of the Alps (including Komani Lake, Valbona, Theth, and Shkoder highlights), check out the 6 day tour listed on this page.
- If you’re looking for something a little more wild and extreme, check out this multi-day trek through the Peaks of the Balkans. This is one of the most famous hikes in Eastern Europe and the trail crosses through 3 countries; Albania, Montenegro and Kosovo.
aaaand that concludes my guide for visiting & planning a trip to the Albanian Alps!
Think I missed something? Let me know in the comments.
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About The Author
Hey! I’m Taylor – the voice behind The Holistic Backpacker.
After moving to Banff National Park in 2020 I became an outdoor adventure enthusiast and vowed to never stop exploring.
I’m now focused on travelling the world and seeing everything our beautiful home has to offer.
I created The Holistic Backpacker so I could share my adventures and help connect people like you with the same amazing experiences.
I am also an advocate for the environment and do as much as I can to take care of our planet.
Get to know me and my story more here 🙂
I can’t wait to share my adventures with you!