Peaks of the Balkans | Hike the Balkans, Montenegro & Albania

Peaks of the Balkans - Albania & Montenegro Hiking Tour

A Hiking & Cultural Adventure through Montenegro and Albania including trekking on an international peace trail in the Dinaric Alps.

As featured in the New York Times

Come to a Europe that few people know. Montenegro and Albania are wild, mountainous and home to still-untouched forests, rugged rivers and a rich tapestry of culture. The high peaks of the mountains fall to verdant valleys and eventually to the azure waters, steep cliffs and pebbled beaches of the Adriatic coastline. With an intense history of centuries of Ottoman occupation, we find a colorful and intriguing mix of European and Eastern cultures and religion.

Our Peaks of the Balkans trekking and cultural adventure takes us to the border triangle area of Albania, Kosovo, and Montenegro, where a new International Peace Park has been established. Along our way we meet with various local leaders who join us as special guests to enrich our understanding and appreciation for this part of the world. At the heart of this grand adventure is a difficult and extremely rewarding trek in the Dinaric Alps.  Be sure to read the trip description carefully as this demanding hike is only suitable for people in good physical condition and hiking experience.  The good news is that luggage is transported by local pack animals or vehicles during the trek through this area of spectacular mountain scenery that is home to rare flora and fauna. Rugged peaks rise from alpine lakes and lush green meadows, piercing a cobalt sky.

People have lived for centuries in the mountains where we trek, surviving as shepherds and farmers. Famous for their hospitality, and challenged by a changing world, this trip promotes sustainable, nature-based tourism that gives hope and real economic benefit to the local population. During our trek, we spend each night in rustic inns or guest houses that have been established along the route and provide simple accommodations in shared rooms with two to six beds. The local innkeepers provide our meals, prepared from locally-sourced and traditional foods.

Due to the international cooperation of the Peace Park and associated trail, border crossing procedures for hikers have been simplified and a mountain security system has been established. Our local guides are trained according to international standards. This is truly a cutting-edge adventure and we invite you to join us to support the people of this magnificent and intriguing corner of the world.

This trip combines perfectly with our Albania Discovery kayaking trip making for a fantastic journey of immersion in the southern Balkans.

Images & Videos

Hiker admiring the fall colors atop a mountain in Albania
People hiking through granite and limestone mountains of Albania
Cobblestone building with a cross in front of the Peaks of the Balkans in Albania
Grassy yellow meadow at sunset with Albanian peaks as the backdrop
Guests at the top of a peak overlooking Albania and Montenegro in Europe
Group of hikers posing at the top of a mountain in Albania
Albanian man wearing a colorful hat playing the guitar in the streets
hiking tour in albania
Albanian cuisine spread out for international travelers to enjoy
Cabins in a country side town in Albania on a sunny day
Tour group trekking through the peaks of the balkans in Albania on a sunny day
Group eating dinner at a picnic table in Albania
Rustic accommodations with bunk beds in Albania built with wood and decorated with a string of flags
Small city in Albania with the peaks of the balkans as the backdrop
Cabins high up in the Albanian mountains for hikers
People walking down the streets of Montenegro on a sunny day
A group of hikers trekking through Albania stop for a ride down the mountain
Sunsetting over Albania along the coast
Hiker admiring the fall colors atop a mountain in Albania
People hiking through granite and limestone mountains of Albania
Cobblestone building with a cross in front of the Peaks of the Balkans in Albania
Grassy yellow meadow at sunset with Albanian peaks as the backdrop
Guests at the top of a peak overlooking Albania and Montenegro in Europe
Group of hikers posing at the top of a mountain in Albania
Albanian man wearing a colorful hat playing the guitar in the streets
hiking tour in albania
Albanian cuisine spread out for international travelers to enjoy
Cabins in a country side town in Albania on a sunny day
Tour group trekking through the peaks of the balkans in Albania on a sunny day
Group eating dinner at a picnic table in Albania
Rustic accommodations with bunk beds in Albania built with wood and decorated with a string of flags
Small city in Albania with the peaks of the balkans as the backdrop
Cabins high up in the Albanian mountains for hikers
People walking down the streets of Montenegro on a sunny day
A group of hikers trekking through Albania stop for a ride down the mountain
Sunsetting over Albania along the coast

Itinerary

Collapse all days

Day 1

Arrive in Tirana, the capital of Albania. We meet you on arrival and transfer you about one and a half hours to the city of Shkoder in the northwestern part of Albania. In the early evening we have a brief orientation meeting then head out to enjoy dinner at a traditional local restaurant.  Food in Albania has been influenced by the historical 400+ years of occupation by the Ottomans and is simple, fresh and healthy.

*Note: If we have guests arriving on different flights we’ll wait until everyone is gathered before leaving for Shkoder.

MEALS INCLUDED : Dinner

Day 2

We drive north along the border with Montenegro about two hours to the town of Vermosh, and the start of our day’s hike.  We hike through wooded valleys with peaks of the Dinaric Alps in the distance.  We cross Gerben peak after a steep climb, and then descend more gradually.  It’s a great day to learn more about the natural and cultural history of this intriguing region from your local guide.

By late afternoon we arrive at our guesthouse accommodation near Lepushe.

Distance and Altitude: 10 km (6.3 miles) and +750 meters (2460’) and – 440 meters (1443’).  Highest point: 1840 meters (6036’)

ACCOMMODATION : Simple Guesthouse
MEALS INCLUDED : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3

We rise and enjoy a hearty mountain breakfast before hitting the trail. Today our hike has less uphill and more downhill than yesterday’s hike as we cross from Albania into Montenegro.  We hike above the tree line during parts of our hike, surrounded by peaks of limestone karst.  Our path is towards Vajusha (Talijanka) Peak, and from there we descend to Grebaje Village.  From here it’s a short transfer to a guesthouse in Vuthaj where we rest and feast on more local fare.

Distance and Altitude:  10 km (6.3 miles) and +580 (1902’) and – 790 meters (2592’).  Highest point: 1931 meters (6335’).

ACCOMMODATION : Simple Guesthouse
MEALS INCLUDED : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4

A short transfer takes us near the border once again, and we start on one of the most beautiful trails of our trip. It’s a longer day, but with a wonderful gradual incline through the Ropojana valley.  We pass through a dry lake bed and at the border of Montenegro and Albania our luggage is transferred from one set of horses to another.  The gradient increases as we near the summit, passing by the odd bunkers built during the years President Hoxha was in power in Albania.  He generally isolated the country from the rest of the world and built these bunkers all over to defend against any possible invasion. 

Our summit at Peja Pass is rewarded with spectacular views of the mountains and into the valley of Theth.  A steep descent takes us to the village of Thethi, the most historical alpine village in Albania. It has traditional stone houses covered with wood tiles built on natural balconies. Dinner and overnight in Thethi in a simple guesthouse with shared bedrooms.  Our hosts tell us about their family's history in the valley and how the new Peaks of the Balkans Trail is having a positive impact on the valley's inhabitants. B,L,D.

Distance and Altitude:  15 km (9.3 miles) and +845 meters (2772’) and – 660 meters (2165’).  Highest point: 1721 meters (5646’)

Time: 8 hours. Rating: Difficult. The descent is very steep and hard on knees, on a trail of loose rock and gravel.  By request (in advance) a horse can be arranged for this day for hikers that would prefer to ride. Once we reach the valley floor after our descent, an optional jeep transfer will be available for those wishing to shorten the final miles to our accommodations which otherwise require an additional climb of 200 meters (600').

ACCOMMODATION : Simple Guesthouse
MEALS INCLUDED : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5

Exploring the Thethi Valley.  So remote that the Ottomans left it alone, the people in the valley are predominantly Catholic. In 1908 the English traveler Edith Durham visited Thethi and wrote in her book High Albania: “Life at Thethi was of absorbing interest... I forgot all about the rest of the world, and... there seemed no reason why I should ever return.“

Little has changed since her time other than the addition of electricity, running water and other comforts.  We spend a relaxed day exploring the valley, gazing upon houses of wood and stone and learning about the area's history and legends while on a four-mile hike to Grunas Waterfall and to Nderlysa. Others may choose to explore on their own.  We return to our lodging in a vehicle to help make this a relaxing day.

Distance and Altitude:  7 km (4.3 miles) and +600 meters (1970’) and – 240 meters (787’).  Time: 4 hours.  Rating: Easy to moderate (Jeep ride back to start).

ACCOMMODATION : Simple Guesthouse
MEALS INCLUDED : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6

After breakfast we start another serious hiking day with stunning scenery, leaving our accommodations and heading towards Valbona. There will be horses and mules to carry our baggage.  The morning hike is a continuous ascent (our biggest yet) through an ancient beech forest, shaded and lovely.  Up, up we go until we reach the pass with views down to Valbone, our next destination.  The descent is on a rocky path of switchbacks down the mountain.   At the end of our hike, we drive about an hour to the small town of Bajram Curri where we find accommodation in a hotel.

Distance and Altitude:  13 km (8 miles) and +980 meters (3215’) and – 770 meters (2526’).  Highpoint: 1860 meters (6102’)   Time:   7 hours   Rating: Difficult

ACCOMMODATION : Hotel
MEALS INCLUDED : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7

We rise early, have breakfast, and transfer about one hour to Lake Drin for a relaxing two and a half hour boat ride through a beautifully scenic gorge. We then transfer two hours to the second biggest city of Albania, Shkodra where we spent the first night of our trip. Before or after lunch we visit the mountaintop castle of Rozafa.  We continue by vehicle about three hours to the mountainside town of Kruje, the center of Albanian resistance to the Ottoman invasion of the 15th century. This resistence was led by Gjergj Kastrioti, known as Skanderberg, who remains a national hero. Within the castle walls is a bazaar where you may enjoy some shopping, as well as a most excellent historical museum and an ethnographic museum. We stay in a local hotel with expansive views.

If available, a member of the staff of the local history museum meets with us before dinner to help us better understand the complex, colorful history of Albania. 

ACCOMMODATION : Hotel
MEALS INCLUDED : Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8

We drive to the nearby airport at Tirane for your flights home.  Or continue on our Albania Discovery - Kayaking & Walking Tour!

Note: The hiking on several days of this trip is strenuous and previous conditioning is necessary.  While the elevation is not particularly high, the amount of elevation gain and loss is significant.  The descents are hard on knees and joints and walking poles are a must. Much of the trail is loose limestone that gets slippery when wet.  If you have any questions about your suitability for this trip, please call our office.  For groups this itinerary may be modified with easier hikes which also changes the order of places visited.

*Note: This trip combines perfectly with our Albania Discovery kayaking trip making for a fantastic journey of immersion in the southern Balkans.

Dates & Rates

Supplementary Information

Prices above reflect the lowest tiered price.

4-5 guests = $2590 
6-12 guests = $2290

Tiered Pricing Explained

Our trips are budgeted for full or near full sign-ups which enables us to offer trips at the lowest possible price. Because of numerousfixed costs, it is more expensive to operate a trip for a small group. Therefore, on some of our trips, in order to avoid having to cancel a trip, we have a “tier-pricing” system to avoid canceling a trip with a low number of sign ups. We have found that most people also prefer this alternative to having a trip cancelled. Thus, you will note on our trip prices there may be different price for 6-8 people versus 9-10, versus 11-12, etc...

We may initially invoice you at the higher tier price, and refund the difference depending on the final group size. Trip costs quoted are based on foreign exchange rates current at the time of this printing. We reserve the right to raise the trip fee if there are exceptional cost increases beyond our control.

 

Includes:  

  • Accommodations as noted in the itinerary
  • All meals as indicated in the itinerary
  • Professional, local guides including a Montenegrin lead guide from day 1 until day 7 and an additional Albanian guide from the border on.  
  • All transfers and transportation as indicated.
  • Service of our Adventure Consultants
  • Hand-crafted itineraries

Does not Include: 

  • Airfare 
  • Personal expenses such as alcohol, laundry, etc. 
  • Gratuities for guides or trip leaders
  • Additional hotel nights pre or post tour
  • Travel Protection Plan (Travel Insurance)

FAQ & More

How do I reach the area?

Several airlines offer daily flights to Podgorica, Montenegro from Paris, Frankfurt and other European cities. The same is true for your departure flight from Tirana. If you prefer, transportation can be arranged at the end of the tour to continue on to Greece, or to Dubrovnik, Croatia, or back to Podgorica.

What sort of weather should I expect?

We’ve chosen our departure dates to avoid the heat of July and August. Generally days will be in the 70-80 degree Fahrenheit range, with little to no rain. Nights cool to the 50-60 degrees, with cooler nights when we are in the mountains.

What do I need to bring?

A full packing list will be provided. Walking poles are highly recommended for the hiking portion of the trip.

How difficult is this trip?

The trekking portion of the trip is challenging and previous conditioning is necessary.While horses do carry the bulk of your gear, you will need to carry a small day pack with water, food, rain gear and a cool weather layer, your camera, etc. While the distances are not huge, the elevation gain and loss on two of the days (as outlined in the itinerary) are substantial. Please call our office if you have any questions.

Do you arrange international air?

We do not arrange international air travel but we do have a great air travel specialist we refer you to if you’d like.

Are you able to arrange extensions to our tour?

Absolutely! We know the area well, so if you’d like to spend more time you might consider our Albania tour. Or we can help you arrange your way to Greece, or north to Croatia. We’re happy to discuss any ideas you have.

How far in advance should I book?

There are a lot of arrangements to be made for a custom trip like this adventure and so it is helpful with our planning if you book three to eight months in advance. However, if you can’t plan that far ahead, then it’s usually not a problem to book up to about a month or two in advance. If you find yourself looking for last-minute space just call us and check!

Custom or Private

You love this itinerary but want to change it a bit to make it perfect for you?  Or, are you wanting to simply make it private?  Either way, we can do it!

Fill out this quick form to begin a custom or private adventure of a lifetime:

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