The most beautiful hike in Albania: Valbona to Theth

Hidden in the Albanian Alps, you will find one of the most beautiful hikes in Albania: the hike from Valbona to Theth. This 3-day hike takes you from one picturesque mountain village to another, across the rugged peaks and pristine nature of northern Albania. Away from the beaten track and mass tourism, the Albanian Alps are waiting to be discovered by the adventurer. Prepare for a beautiful but challenging hike, where you will want to stop every 5 minutes to enjoy the beauty of the surroundings. In this travel guide you will find everything you need to know to be well prepared to start the most beautiful hike in Albania: from Valbona to Theth.

Travel guide: when to go, how to get there and what do I take?

The hike from Valbona to Theth is part of the “Peaks of the Balkans” trail, a 7-day multi-day trek through the pristine mountain landscapes of Albania, Montenegro and Kosovo. The hike from Valbona to Theth is about 17 kilometers and takes you over the Valbona Pass from one mountain village to another. For this hike, you should count three days.

  • Day 1: You will travel from the town of Shköder (Shkodra) to the starting point of the hike in Valbona. This day you will take the ferry across beautiful Lake Komani.
  • Day 2: You hike from mountain village of Valbona (Valbonë) to the mountain village of Theth (Teth) over the Valbona Pass.
  • Day 3: You return from Theth to Shköder or stay in Theth for a few more days.
Valbona
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Peaks of the Balkans trail
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Some people also make the hike in reverse, from Theth to Valbona. However, we recommend taking the hike from Valbona to Theth. This is because the travel day to Valbona is longer and it is nice to have this already behind you. Besides, there is more to do in Theth than in Valbona, so you can extend your stay in Theth to enjoy the Albanian Alps a little longer. Finally, the hike is easier to do from Valbona to Theth, since the end of the hike is very steep, and you prefer to do this as a downhill.

Best time to go

The walk is open from late May to late October, with the best (but also busiest) period being from late June to early September. During the other months, it is not possible to do the hike because of snow. The Albanian Alps also remain mountainous, so keep in mind that the weather is always unpredictable and can turn quickly. We did the hike in early June and unfortunately had rain all day. Nevertheless, it was still one of our highlights of our trip through Albania!

How do I get to Shköder?

The town of Shköder (Shkodra in Albanian) is your base for this hike. Get here easily from the capital Tirana by public transportation. You can take a bus from the central bus station “Nënë Tereza” in the direction of Shköder. The bus ride takes about 2 to 3 hours and will cost you 400 LEK (€3.9). However, if you have the opportunity, we recommend renting a car. Perhaps you will travel further through Albania after that, and traveling around by car is ideal. You can leave your car at a secure parking lot in Shköder during the three-day hike. We paid €3 per day for this.

Shkoder in Albania
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In Shköder itself, we slept at Kultura Hostel in the city center. Here we could leave our large luggage during the three days and pick it up again afterwards. Many hostels and hotels offer this service and also help you arrange transfers.

What do I take with me on the hike?

You can leave your large luggage at your hotel or hostel, leaving you with only a daypack to carry during the three days. The following things you should definitely not forget to start the hike well prepared:

  • Clothing for three days: make sure you have good hiking clothes for during the hike itself. Also bring spare clothes that you can wear when you are not hiking. Since you’ll be gone for two nights, it’s best not to forget your toiletries, a pair of slippers and nightclothes, too.
  • Rainproof clothing: make sure you have a good raincoat that is also windproof. You climb to 1,800 altitude meters during the hike, and it can be surprisingly cold at the summit. Also consider a rain cover for your backpack so everything doesn’t get wet.
  • Walking shoes: there are some tough climbs and descents awaiting you over unpaved terrain so good walking shoes really are a must! If you want, you can also bring walking sticks, but for many people you can manage without them.
  • Sun protection: the weather in the mountains is unpredictable. One moment it can be raining, the next the sun is burning very brightly. Therefore, be sure to bring sunscreen and a hat.
  • Adequate food and drink: you can often ask your guesthouse in Valbona to prepare a lunch for your hike. Along the way, you will also come across two “cafes” where you can get something small to eat, but be sure to bring plenty of food for the road anyway. Also bring plenty of drinks and a water bottle. You can drink the water in the mountains from the tap.
  • Cash: this is very important! Nowhere in Valbona and Theth is there an ATM and nowhere do they accept a bank card. You can book your accommodation in advance, but often you pay on the spot at your guesthouse in cash. So be sure to bring enough for your overnight stays, your food and your transfers.

TRAVEL TIP: When you withdraw money from a bank in Albania, there are often transaction fees of €5 or more. At Credins Bank in Albania, you’ll be the most advantageous.

Albanian Alps
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Day 1: travel to Valbona

On day one of the hike, we will travel from the town of Shköder to the mountain village of Valbona in the Albanian Alps. This travel day looks like this:

  • Transfer from Shköder to Komani Lake (1.5h)
  • The ferry ride across Lake Komani to Fierza (2.5h)
  • Transfer from Fierza to Valbona (1h)
  • Overnight stay in Valbona

You can easily book this day of travel online with ferry company Berisha. They offer complete packages that include everything so you don’t have to worry. The day before, you will be notified where you are expected in Shköder. The ferry ticket will cost you €7.5 per person. For the transfer from Shköder to Lake Komani and from Fierza to Valbona, you need to add about €15 per person.

Komani lake
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ferry Komani lake Albania
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Your day starts early because at 6:30 a.m. the transfer from Shköder to the ferry will leave. Two hours later, you embark on what may be the most beautiful ferry ride in Europe. In doing so, you sail from Koman to Fierza across the impressive Komani Lake. Find a nice spot on the ferry Berisha and enjoy the beautiful scenery as you sail peacefully along. Around 11:30 a.m. you will arrive in Fierza where the next transfer will be ready to take you to the mountain village of Valbona. The driver will ask for the name of your guesthouse and drop you off there. We slept at Guesthouse Bujtina Arturi and we can only recommend it! You’ll get a fantastic dinner and breakfast so you can start the hike from Valbona to Theth with full energy!

TRAVEL TIP: Valbona is a small mountain village located on one long highway. Depending on your accommodation, you will sleep close or far from the start of the hike. Keep this in mind before booking your accommodation. Some guest houses do offer a cab service to take you to the start of the hike.

Day 2: the walk from Valbona to Teth

Level: Medium Duration: 7 hours Distance: 17 km Altimeters: 804m

Today is hiking day! You will hike about 17 kilometers, depending on where you start the hike. Start the hike on time so you don’t have to rush to get to Theth before dark. We left at 8:30 a.m. and, with several breaks, were in Theth by 4 p.m. If possible, we recommend downloading a GPX or using Maps.Me so you always have the map at hand offline (there is not always coverage on the trek).

Walk Valbona to Theth
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Walk Valbona to Theth
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In Valbona, continue walking down the paved road until you reach the last hotel Fusha e Gjes. From there, follow the red and white marked signs and start part of the hike through the dry riverbed. Then continue walking on a path past the fences of old farms. Then you hike slowly uphill towards the Valbona Pass at 1759 meters altitude. During the climb you will come across a small cafe where you can have a drink or buy a snack.

Afterwards you have the choice to continue your hike via a winter or summer route. If there would still be snow on the hike, you should choose the winter route (you can ask your guesthouse in Valbona). Once at the summit, you will be amazed by the beautiful Albanian Alps stretching all around you. Then start the long descent to Theth via a winding road through forests where you will find another small cafe with great views! After this café, it is about 1.5 hours until you arrive in the center of Theth.

Albanian Alps on a rainy day
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Once you arrive in the picturesque village of Theth, you can knock on the door of one of the many traditional guesthouses. We ourselves slept two nights at Guesthouse Flodisa where we ate the best breakfast in Albania! Real crafts are still practiced in Theth, and many locals still make their own cheese, honey and other delicacies. If you still have some energy left, be sure to take a look at the picturesque church of Theth in the evening or the next morning.

church in Theth
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horses in Theth
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Day 3: returning from Theth

On day three of the hike, we travel from Theth again to Shköder. The night before you leave, ask your guesthouse if they can arrange a transfer for you. The next day, a minibus will come to pick you up and take you back to Shköder. This ride takes about 1.5 hours and costs 1100 LEK (€10). Most vans leave Theth around 11 a.m., so by noon you’ll be back in Shköder.

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What after the hike?

If you haven’t had enough of the beautiful Albanian Alps after this hike, you can definitely stay an extra night in Theth. A recommended thing to do is hike to the Blue Eye of Theth. This clear blue waterfall is a 3-hour hike from Theth and is something you definitely must have seen! The waterfall enters a pool in a limestone rock where the water is bluer in the middle than at the edge giving the illusion of an eye. A beautiful natural phenomenon hidden in the mountains of Albania.

Blue Eye of Theth
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Waterfall in Theth
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If you really like a challenge, you can also hike the full “Peaks of the Balkans” trail. This 192 km transnational hike takes you through the beautiful mountain landscapes of Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro.

Have you also taken this beautiful hike in Albania? Let us know in the comments what you thought of it! Still have questions about Albania or looking for more information for your next trip? Please do not hesitate to contact us contact or send an email to snoezelsontheroad@gmail.com

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