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Albanian Alps – Theth To Valbona Hike Full Travel Guide

theth to valbona hike albanian alps

Just 3 months ago I went to Albania to visit this small but amazingly beautiful country where I stayed for 6 weeks. I spent most of the time in Saranda, south Albania but in the end, I’ve decided to visit the north too.

I managed to visit a lot of cities during my time there but probably the most interesting thing I’ve done on this trip is the Theth to Valbona hike, an astonishing trail into the Albanian Alps, and the first stage of the Peak of the Balkans.

I highly recommend you to do this hike and I also think is probably one of the best things to do while traveling in Albania.

What is the Peak of the Balkans?

catalin geangos peak of the balkans

The Peak of the Balkans is a long-distance hiking trail in the Accursed Mountains in Albania, Kosovo, and Montenegro. It is also known as the Albanian Alps. The trail runs through some of Europe’s most mountainous areas.

This hike is challenging because there are very few roads in this part of the Balkans. You will pass through some breathtaking views that are perfect for relaxing after all those mountain climbs.

The Peak of the Balkans is 192 km long and if you plan to do all the routes then you should start with the Theth (Thethi) to Valbona (Valbonë) hike, the first out of 10 stages. Here is the list with all the stages for the Peak of the Balkans Trail.

  • Theth to Valbona (Albania)
  • Valbona to Cerem (Albania)
  • Cerem to Doberdol (Albania)
  • Doberdol to Milishevc (Albania and Kosovo)
  • Milishevc to Reka e Allages (Kosovo)
  • Reka e Allages to Kucishtё (Kosovo)
  • Kucishtё to Babino Polje (Kosovo to Montenegro)
  • Babino Polje to Plav (Montenegro)
  • Plav to Vusanje (Montenegro)
  • Vusanje to Theth (Montenegro and Albania).

How to Get to Theth from Shkoder?

theth to valbona road
Theth to Valbona amazing road view

The best way to reach Theth from the city of Shkoder is by mini-bus or jeep. It leaves every day at approximately 7:00 am, and the ride takes about two hours. The bus cost is 10 euros.

It used to take 3 hours but now the tunnel has been fixed and it takes much less.

I personally missed the bus at 7:00 am and I hitchhiked. It took me almost 5 hours because I had to change 3 different cars but I got safe and sound.

Where to Stay in Theth?

Rrashkadoli Guest House, Theth Albania

Once you arrive in Theth, it’s time to find a place to stay. Some people choose to camp, but if you’re looking for something more comfortable, there are several guesthouses.

Depending on the time of the year you go, it might get very cold during the evening and night.

I made the terrible mistake to forget my jacket when I was in Shkoder and I was freezing on the first day, but I got very lucky with the accommodation host who borrowed me a jacket during my stay.

Rrashkadoli Guest House is one of the best choices because of its convenient location within walking distance of both trailheads.

It has rooms with bathrooms and breakfast included, a terrace that offers fantastic views, and a bar with an outdoor patio where you can meet other hikers.

You can check the price on Booking.com or Agoda.com.

 What to Do in Theth?

Theth is a small village in the Accursed Mountains and sits directly in the Theth National Park. Walking through this area will take you back into history because it’s very different from what most people experience every day.

Because of its location within the national park, there are many opportunities for you to explore this area on a day hiking trip.

Day Hikes

hiking in theth, albanian alps

There are several popular hiking trails that you can take from the village of Theth. One hike will lead you up to Mount Small Prespa and see the panoramic views of Albania, Greece, and Macedonia.

Another popular hike leads to Vjosa Valley and Ropojana Waterfall or the peak of Mount Prespa.

Theth National Park also has a variety of trails for day hikes, so there are many opportunities to explore this area on a hiking trip.

The Blue Eye of Theth

blue eye theth, albania

Another popular hike is to the Blue Eye of Theth, a beautiful, natural pool of turquoise water. It is located about 11km from Theth, so you have to hike for approximately three hours each way.

The Blue Eye of Theth is the most famous natural pool in this area because it gets its color from a mineral deposit that colors the water blue and green depending on how much sunlight hits it during different times of the day.

This is the highlight of most people’s time in Theth because it offers stunning views that are hard to find elsewhere in the Albanian Alps.

Grunas Waterfall

theth waterfall, albania

You may consider exploring the breathtaking Grunas Waterfall. The path is easy and quick, about 45 minutes from Theth Village.

The waterfall is 25 meters long yet still a majestic sight. Its waters cascade down a limestone cliff and into a turquoise pool that offers a wonderful swim to anyone feeling adventurous.

 Theth to Valbona Hike Overview

Once you’ve explored the area around Theth, it’s time to set out on your hike. The trail begins in Theth and leads up to the Accursed Mountains of Albania through dense and beautiful forests.

Theth To Valbona Quick information

  • Distance: 17km
  • Duration: 6-7 hours
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Elevation: 745 – 1759 meters
  • Water&Food: 2 cafes

The hike is approximately 17 kilometers long, so it has about seven to eight hours of hiking time, including the cafes’ stops, regular breaks to enjoy the beautiful trails, and plenty of time for photos.

It took us 7 hours with food, snacks, and photos breaks.

theth to valbona trail mark
Theth to Valbona Trail Mark

The first leg of the hike is a strenuous climb that will lead you up to the peak of the Valbona Pass. You can expect rough terrain and steep climbs along some narrow trails that switch back on the mountainside. 

During your hike, you will find 2 cafes, one while you go up, in the first part of the hike, and the other one after you descend for about one hour.

If you want to enjoy a drink or something, I recommend the first cafe. It is much cheaper. At the second cafe, the price of a beer is 5 euros, while at the first cafe is just 2.5 euros.

You can reach the peak of the trail in about three hours.

It’s also the highest point of this section of the trail, so you can enjoy some spectacular views from up there. You’ll be a little tired after the climb, but it will definitely be worth it.

Highest point of the hike

The fantastic views of Albanian mountains and the surrounding valleys make this a hike everyone should do at least once in their lifetime.

When you’ve had enough time to rest and recharge, it’s time to continue down the mountain toward Valbona Village, where your journey will end.

This is when the trail becomes a little easier because you are going downhill from this point on. You can reach Valbona Village in less than three hours from this point on.

Where to Stay in Valbona

Guesthouse Drinos Valbona

There are plenty of hotels and guesthouses in Valbona that will help rejuvenate your body after the challenging hike. Guesthouse Drinos Valbona has some fantastic accommodations for every type of traveler.

This guesthouse also has an onsite restaurant where they serve up tasty traditional Albanian cuisine that will give your body some much-needed energy after this entire trip.

The location is very peaceful, so you can enjoy some downtime and take in the natural beauty of this part of Albania as well.

You can book online either on Booking.com or Agoda.com

 What to Do in Valbona

valbona mountain view

There are many opportunities to explore this remote mountain community in Albania. It’s a good idea to take a day hike along the mountain trails and into small villages where people still live much like they did hundreds of years ago.

You can also visit ancient stone bridges or old Orthodox Churches standing for thousands of years.

Other things you can do in Valbona include spending a day exploring the nearby villages or enjoying some time relaxing at one of its many cafes that serve up tasty coffee and local pastries.

There is also an annual traditional festival during the summer months where visitors get to experience Albanian culture like never before, so you should plan your visit to coincide with this event.

 What’s better? Theth to Valbona or Valbona to Theth Hike?

People have different opinions about that but I don’t see much of a difference.

In general, I would say is better to do Theth to Valbona, it starts with a very steep climb in the morning, which is better when you are rested. From my point of view, it doesn’t really matter which way you go.

 Best Time to Do Theth to Valbona Hike

hiking theth to valbona

Because of the snowfall, you cannot do the hike during the winter. The hiking should be made somewhere between May and October, but the best time to hike Theth-Valbona Trail is June and September.

Usually, July and August are the busiest months for this hike, but also the hottest. I suggest you not do the hike during these two months because almost half of the trail will be exposed to the sunlight and it can get very hot!

 How to Get from Valbona to Shkoder

valbona to shkoder bus and ferry tickets

The only way to get from Valbona to Shkoder is by traveling to Fierze to take the Komani Lake Ferry and then another bus. The total trip time was 7 hours, bus-ferry-bus.

The bus leaves from Valbona at 10:30 am, and you will arrive in Fierze after one hour. Most of the people are booking in advance, in Shkoder, before getting to Theth.

I didn’t book anything in advance but I asked the host in Valbona how can I book and they told me just to wait in front of the guesthouse at 10:00 am for the bus.

On the bus you can buy all the tickets – 700 LEK for the bus to Fierze, 800 LEK for the ferry boat, and 700 LEK for the Koman – Shkoder bus, so the total price for Valbona to Shkoder is 2200 LEK – about 18 euros.

komani lake ferry pier
Komani Lake Ferry Boat Pier

After you arrive in Fierze, you will have to wait until 13:00 to catch the ferry. This part of your journey takes around two hours before you arrive in Koman, where you will have to get another bus back to Shkoder.

The total trip takes about seven hours in total, but it’s a very scenic route that will allow you to see more of the Albanian mountains.

Theth to Valbona Hiking Tips

albanian alps peak view

You should always travel prepared when you go hiking, especially if it’s your first time.

Bring plenty of water and snacks to keep you energized throughout the day. Be sure to bring a packed lunch, so you have something substantial to eat at the halfway point of this long hike between Theth and Valbona in Albania.

Bring lots of cash with you because there are no ATMs in Theth or Valbona. The only way to get money is by exchanging it for local currency, so make sure that you bring enough Euros or Lek to last the duration of your stay.

It’s very important to have a hiking backpack and not a usual one or you will put a lot of pressure on your spine and back during this hike. I recommend Osprey Farpoint 40 for men or Osprey Kestrel 38, and Osprey Fairview 40 for women. Please check my review for these two backpacks.

If you have a heavy backpack, leave it at your accommodation in Shkoder and take only what’s necessary for the hike. You will pick it up when you get back to Shkoder.

A decent pair of hiking boots and insoles for hiking are also required. Make sure that the shoes have a good grip and are waterproof because they will protect your feet from the elements.

I didn’t bring any trekking poles but I saw many people having them. A decent pair of hiking knee braces would help as well. It’s not necessary to buy them but in case you have them at home is better to bring them.

One of my friends who is an experienced hiker does recommend the trekking poles from Hiker Hunger, so you might want to take a look.

Also, make sure to wear sunscreen and a long-sleeve shirt or jacket to protect yourself from harmful UV rays. Sunglasses are also recommended for this hike. You don’t need a map but you should bring a first aid kit, just in case. 

Last but not least, don’t forget your hiking camera because this region is truly gorgeous! It will be a great souvenir of your trip to the Albanian Alps and an easy way for you to remember it.