You are in for a step-by-step guide on how to organize an exciting Albanian Alps Hiking Route: Valbona to Theth. If you’re reading this article, then you already know what you’re looking for. There are no random people here :). And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, then I envy you. Now, there will be a lot of text. Brew some tea, and let’s begin.
Albanian Alps Hiking Route: General Information
Let’s start from the very beginning. This part of the country is the most remote for humans. Today, there are certainly roads here. But simply driving here and back by car won’t work. This part of Albania in the Alps is also known as the Prokletije mountains or Cursed Mountains.
Cursed mountains:Legend has it that they received such a name because the mountain peaks resemble the fangs of wild animals, and they are so inaccessible (they were even more so in the past) that people often perished here.
Some general points about the route through the Albanian Alps:
- This is a circular route that includes not only a minibus transfer but also a ferry crossing and hiking.
- You will need trekking poles and trekking shoes here. At least it is highly recommended.
- It is also advisable to have a raincoat in case of rain.
- A car is absolutely unnecessary here. Usually, tourists either leave it in Tirana or in Shkoder for several days while they are on the route.
- In Valbona Valley and Theth, you will spend the nights in mountain guesthouses with Albanian families. It’s a place where you can bring small gifts to the hosts. Their reaction will be priceless. And what to take with you to Albania, read by following the link. There you will find the answer to your question.
Knowledge moment:Theth village is often called Thethi. In the original, the name is written as Theth, and pronounced as Thethi.
To understand, between Valbona and Theth, there is a 10 km long trail through the Alps, which locals and shepherds have used for centuries to drive cattle. But there is no paved road. By car, it takes 260 km or 8 hours to get from Valbona to Theth.
How much time is needed for the route through the Albanian Alps?
An interesting question, but not difficult. Below, I’ll give you all the timing options for this route. The important condition is that all options will be indicated with the assumption that you start and finish the route in Shkoder.
How to get to Shkoder:Getting from Tirana to Shkoder is easier than easy. There are over 12 daily bus routes every hour. The journey takes 2 hours. Read more about this in the overview article about Shkoder. As for the car, there’s no point in talking about it – an hour and a half on the road from Tirana, and you’re there.
So, below, choose the route option that suits you in terms of time. The second option is better, of course.
- Option 1: 3 days. On the first day, you will reach Valbona and take a short walk in the valley. On the second day, there’s a hike through the pass to Theth village. On the third day: return to Shkoder. Around 2 p.m., you will be in Shkoder.
- Option 2: 4 days. Everything is the same, but you need to spend one more day in Theth. There are two cool sights there that you simply must see.
Part 1: From Shkoder, a minibus transfer to the ferry on Lake Koman.
What you need to know about this part of the journey.
- The ferry departs from the pier once a day at 9:00. If you’re late, there’s no other way, and the whole route falls apart.
- The point of departure is called: Komani Lake Ferry
- Coordinates: 42.108850, 19.826242
- Distance from Shkoder to the ferry: only 50 km.
- The road is terrible, gravel, and a mountain serpentine. The travel time is 2 hours.
Tip:In the minibus you’ll be riding in, sit on the left side, the views will be awesome, just turn your head.
Only one company operates on this route, which organizes the transfer. The company is called Berisha.
Important to know:These guys organize your transfer directly to Valbona Valley, and you can buy both the transfer from Shkoder to the ferry and the ferry ticket from them. Read on, it will all be clear.
- Official website: https://komanilakeferry.com/en/
- The ticket price for this segment of the journey (Shkoder – to ferry): 7 euros
- Departure from Shkoder at 6:30 am.
Important to know:The carrier picks up all passengers from their hotels. When booking the ferry and transfer, you will need to provide the name of the hotel or better yet, the coordinates.
And one more thing: if you are traveling in your own or rental car and do not plan to take it with you on the ferry, please do not drive through the tunnel just before the ferry crossing. Because after the tunnel, you will immediately drive onto the ferry quay. There is no space there at all. Leave the car in the parking lot BEFORE the tunnel.
Part 2 of the Journey: Ferry across Lake Koman
This is a breathtaking part of the journey. Prepare your cameras; you’ll have a million pictures to take.
- To learn more about Lake Koman, read the article through the link. Here, we will focus on ferries and the journey across the lake.
Now, here’s some crucial information:
- The entire route on the ferry is about 50 km.
- The ferry journey takes between 2 and a half to 3 hours, depending on the ferry.
- The name of the stop where you will disembark is Fierza.
- Coordinates of the jetty you’re heading to: 42.264320, 20.004280.
Important to know:Two different ferries operate on this route. One transports both passengers and vehicles and is called the Berisha Ferry. This ferry goes non-stop directly to the Fierza jetty. The second ferry is for passengers only, carrying people and their cargo but no vehicles. It is called the Dragobia, and for simplicity, I’ll refer to it as Icarus. Why Icarus, you’ll find out below 🙂
Both ferries depart from the Komani jetty at 9 am simultaneously. However, Icarus makes five stops in villages along the shore, where it is the only link to civilization, and it takes people and their goods there. That’s why Icarus takes 3 hours on the way, while Berisha Ferry completes this route half an hour faster, as it has no stops.
Useful to know:Usually, tourists are accommodated on the fast ferry, while locals take Icarus, but not always.
- The cost of a one-way crossing without a car is 7 euros.
- You can also buy tickets on the carrier’s website, Berisha. The link was provided above.
- During the 3 hours on the lake, you will take many photos like these.
Part 3 of the Journey: Valbona Valley
At the Fierza pier, for those heading to Valbona Valley and have pre-ordered the transfer on the same carrier’s website mentioned before, a vehicle will be waiting for you. Take your seats, show either the paid ticket or pay 8 euros on the spot.
Important to know:If you pay for each segment of the transfer and the ferry separately, the entire journey to Valbona will cost you 22 euros. If you book and pay for the entire route to Valbona at once, you’ll get a 1 euro discount. So, it’s a total of 21 euros per person or 2600 lek.
- Distance to Valbona Valley: 40 km.
- The road quality here is excellent – asphalt.
- Travel time: 1 hour.
And now, a bit about Valbona. Valbona is not a settlement; it’s an entire valley in the Cursed Mountains. The valley stretches for about 6 km. At the very end, the road simply ends; there is no further access. To give you an idea of the infrastructure in Valbona, over the 6 km, you will find:
- 2 or 3 hotels
- 10 guesthouses
- 1 restaurant
- Important to understand: there are no stores or any other infrastructure here.
Approximately from 1 pm to 2 pm, you will arrive in Valbona Valley; it will take another half an hour to find your guesthouse and settle in. After that, just wander around the valley and wait for your dinner, as tomorrow is the most challenging part of the journey.
Where to stay in Valbona Valley?
There are not many options for tourists, but you need a place to stay. Most tourists choose guesthouses. These are homes of local residents who rent out a room or a separate house on their property. You will have a chance to live with a genuine Albanian family, and it’s an incredible experience.
- In Valbona Valley, as well as in Theth, breakfast is included in the guesthouses’ price.
Since there are no stores in this area, and there’s only one restaurant, when you check-in, immediately ask about dinner. In every guesthouse, you will be offered dinner for an additional fee.
Usually, it’s what the hosts themselves eat – a lot of meat, salads or vegetables, cheese, wine. The all-inclusive dinner costs 10-15 euros per person. Here’s how we were served dinner in Valbona Valley.
Advice:Try to choose accommodation in Valbona Valley closer to the start of the hiking trail. Remember that there are options that are 5 km away from the route’s starting point. In that case, the next day, you’ll have to walk not 10 km but 15 km, and then still reach the guesthouse in Theth.
Below, I’ll recommend an excellent option with a super hospitable family.
- Hyrmet Demushi Guest House – they have a separate house with four rooms that they rent out to tourists. The best part is that all tourists follow the same route as you, so you’ll have a chance to meet fellow travelers. The room has its own shower and toilet.
- Here are the coordinates since there are no addresses here: 42.420224, 19.871856.
- The driver who takes you to Valbona Valley knows everyone there, so you can ask him if you need to. The road to the guesthouse is not entirely obvious 🙂
- And the views of the mountains here are insanely beautiful.
Part 4 of the Journey: Mountain Hiking across the Pass in the Cursed Mountains
This is the part of the route that everyone has been looking forward to. A couple of photos below will give you an idea of this beautiful place, but I’ll focus on the technical aspects of the trail and give you a few tips.
- This is a hiking trail across a mountain pass between Valbona Valley and the village of Theth.
- The length of the hike is 10 km.
- Time required: 5 – 8 hours depending on your fitness level.
- Having offline maps app on your phone is a must.
Important to know:This applies not only to the Cursed Mountains but to the entire Albania. Forget about Google Maps – it’s the worst option. I recommend using Maps.me or Organic Maps. Both are free and available for Android and iOS. There you’ll find all the detailed routes. Though there are signs on the trail, it’s easy to take the wrong turn.
- Starting coordinates: 42.42608, 19.870496.
- Finishing coordinates: 42.401312, 19.770246.
- Usually, guesthouses serve breakfast either at 8 or 9 am. Tourists head out on the trail right after breakfast.
Now, the most important thing! You can complete this circular route in reverse: Shkodër – Theth – Valbona – ferry across Lake Koman – Shkodër. However:
- Valbona Valley is situated at an altitude of 1100 meters above sea level.
- The highest point of the pass is at 1950 meters.
- Theth is located at an altitude of 800 meters.
Important:The total ascent will be around 850 meters, and the descent is almost 1200 meters. But if you hike in the opposite direction from Theth, the ascent will be 1200 meters, and the descent only 800 meters. Trust me, the slope is very steep from Theth, and it will be challenging. It’s much easier to plan the route from Valbona to Theth. Afterward, don’t forget to comment with a thank you after you complete the route 🙂
Part 5 of the Journey: Theth Village and Transfer to Shkodër
A bit about Theth:
- This town is a bit larger than Valbona.
- There are about 100-150 houses, and almost every house rents rooms for tourists.
- There are around 20 mountain chalet-style hotels.
- There’s one store! Its working hours are quite strange, but it exists.
- Also, there are several restaurants. However, I remind you that dinner is served at any guesthouse you’ll be staying in. Breakfast is always included in the price, and dinner is available for an additional fee.
Advice:Choose accommodation closer to the trail. Why walk extra kilometers when you’ll already be tired after the hike.
I highly recommend a fantastic option just 400 meters from the trail’s finish: Guest House Gjelaj.
- There’s no point in describing the beautiful views as they’re everywhere, in every corner.
- But in this guesthouse, there’s a lounge with a fireplace, and during most of the day (especially in spring and autumn), the fire is lit.
- Coordinates: 42.402543, 19.778283.
What to see in Theth?
Theth is the village where, after your hike across the pass, you can stay for an additional day. There’s another 20 km route in the Cursed Mountains, but unlike yesterday’s pass, this one involves minimal ascent and descent. You can simply walk and enjoy the views.
Theth has two must-visit natural attractions. Both of them get a perfect score of 10 out of 10 in my personal rating.
- Grunas Waterfall:
- Height: 28 meters
- Coordinates: 42.376442, 19.796705
- The last 500 meters involve an ascent of 170 meters.
- The waterfall is free to visit and accessible 24/7.
- You can even swim here if you don’t mind icy water.
- In late spring and early summer, there’s much more water in the waterfall.
Advice:It’s best to visit Grunas Waterfall at the very end after the Blue Eye. As the waterfall is located between high cliffs, the sun reaches here only in the afternoon. It’s in the shade until lunchtime.
Read more about other waterfalls in Albania and how to get to them in the linked article.
- Spring Blue Eye 2:
- Albania has another Blue Eye, which is more famous and popular.
- But I prefer the Blue Eye in Theth.
- Coordinates: 42.364337, 19.745962
- Open 24/7 and completely free.
- There’s one guesthouse right on the cliff above the source.
- And the road to the Blue Eye is very picturesque.
- You can swim here, and you should.
These two attractions, in case of hiking, will take your entire day. Have dinner at your guesthouse and rest. Tomorrow, you can head to Shkodër.
Transfer from Theth to Shkodër
Important to know that there is no public transportation on this route. There simply are no regular bus services.
Tip:This applies not only to transfers but to everything in the mountains. Whenever you have any questions, turn to the locals. Specifically, ask the owner of your guesthouse where you are staying. No one knows the current and relevant information better than them. They will also organize the transfer from Theth to Shkodër for you in any guesthouse. The owner knows everyone going to Shkodër and will get in touch with them to arrange your pick-up.
- The price of the transfer per person to Shkodër is 10-12 euros.
- The minibus departs once a day, usually between 11 and 13 o’clock.
- It will pick you up right at the guesthouse.
- In the photo below, there’s even a phone number; if you wish, you can arrange it yourself via WhatsApp.
- Travel time is almost 3 hours.
Well, now you know all about this incredible route through the Albanian Alps. If you have the opportunity to spare 4 days for this mini-adventure, I envy you. Let’s summarize some general points and tips for tourists.
- It’s preferable to have hiking shoes and trekking poles.
- You don’t need to carry food for 4 days. At most, pack some snacks for the hike across the pass. Everywhere you go, you’ll be fed.
- The most beautiful time here in the mountains is during the golden autumn. Most of the photos in this article were taken at the end of October – early November. The main thing is to be lucky with the weather and have sunny days; then your photos will be spectacular.
- As soon as it starts snowing, usually towards the end of November, the route becomes impassable.
In conclusion: the route through the Albanian Alps in the Cursed Mountains will be the icing on the cake of your Albanian adventure. It’s pure bliss and excitement. Yes, it can be challenging in places, and there might be rain, but this place is a must for all mountain and trekking enthusiasts.
Wishing you fantastic weather and unforgettable experiences!
Resources to help you plan your dream trip to Albania
- Flights at the best prices with juicy discounts
- Car rental in Albania (cheaper – only by bus):
- Hotels and apartments throughout the country: Booking
- Tours, excursions and activities (including extreme ones):
- Comprehensive travel insurance: EKTA
- eSIM virtual sim card in Albania
- Taxi and transfers: Intui.Travel