Albanian Alps Tour – Hiking tour from Theth to Valbona
In the summer, I am a tour leader for Albanian Alps tours. The Albanian Alps are a mountain range in the North of Albania. The area is a popular travel destination for hikers. Especially the hiking route accross the Valbona Pass and to the Blue Eye of Theth. Are you curious about an Albanian Alps Tour, then you will enjoy this blogpost.
Highlights of the Albanian Alps Tour
- Visit the Blue Eye of Theth and the waterfall of Theth
- Take the Lake Koman Ferry, which is “one of the world’s great boat trips”
- Hike across the Valbona Pass (1800 m)
- Stay in the remote, mountain villages of Theth and Valbona
- Explore the historical towns of Berat, Shkodra & Kruje
The mountain villages of Theth and Valbona are remote and have not changed for centuries. However, they can be difficult to reach by public transport. Especially, if you do not speak the Albanian language. Therefore, a tour of the Albanian Alps will make it a lot easier and more enjoyable to visit.
Albanian Alps Tour Itinerary
Duration: 7 days; 6 nights
Departure point: Tirana, Albania
Tour type: Active, Adventure, Hiking, Cultural
Schedule: May, June, July, August, September, October 2020
Seasonal: This tour cannot be offered in the winter months, when there is snow blocking the pathways.
- Transportation by private car or minibus depending on the group size
- Lake Koman ferry, a boat trip from Fierze to Koman
- Breakfast daily
- Selected entrance fees
- English speaking tour guide
- 6 nights in handpicked hotels or guest houses
- 6 meals in handpicked restaurants
- Airport pickup and drop-off at Tirana International Airport
- Luggage transfer during the tour
- Travel insurance
Day 1: Arrival Day & Tirana city
- Airport pick-up service from Tirana International Airport
A car will pick you up from Tirana International Airport. From the airport, it takes around 30 minutes to drive to the city centre of Tirana. The driver will drop you off at your hotel in the city centre of Tirana.
- Check-in and time to refresh at your hotel in Tirana
You will have some time to check-in at the hotel and freshen up, before we explore the city centre in the evening.
- Guided walking tour of the city centre of Tirana
The best way to explore the city centre of Tirana is by walking. On our walking tour, you will see the highlights of Tirana, like the National History Museum, the Ethem Bey Mosque and the Clock Tower. We also pass by the government buildings, including the famous Pyramid of Tirana and the Presidential Palace.
- A welcome dinner in a traditional restaurant in the evening
The Albanian cuisine is a mixture between Turkish, Greek and Italian food. There are grilled meats, Greek-style salads and lovely pasta dishes. There are also plenty of Turkish influences like Baklava sweets and Turkish coffee. If you love Mediterranean cooking, then you will enjoy the Albanian food for sure.
- Overnight stay in Tirana
Day 2: Rozafa castle– Shkodra city – Theth
- In the morning, you will have breakfast at the hotel in Tirana.
- Drive to Shkoder city in North Albania
After breakfast, we drive to Shkoder city in the North of Albania. The city Shkoder is one of the most famous cities in the North of Albania. It takes around 2 hours to drive from Tirana to Shkoder.
- Visit to Rozafa castle in Shkoder
Before we drive to the city centre of Shkoder, we will first visit Rozafa castle. Rozafa castle is located on a mountain top, close to Shkoder city.
Since Rozafa castle is on the top of a mountain, it has an amazing panoramic view of the surrounding areas. The castle is a famous touristic attraction in Albania, due to the legend about the construction of the castle.
According to the legend, three brothers constructed the castle during the day time. However, overnight the castle walls would fall down. To prevent the walls from falling down, a human sacrifice was required. Therefore, the brothers decided that the wife, who would bring lunch the next day, was to be sacrificed.
The two older brothers cheated and told their wives to stay away. Therefore, the wife of the youngest brother, Rozafa brought lunch the next day. Rozafa agreed to be sacrificed and built into the castle’s walls. But only under the condition that her right breast, right hand, right foot and right eye remained exposed. So that she could take car of her infant son.
- Explore the historical city centre of Shkoder
After visiting Rozafa castle, we explore the city centre of Shkoder. Shkoder city is one of the oldest and most historical cities in Albania.
We will walk through the city centre. One of the highlights is the traditional Venetian style boulevard with lovely restaurants and terraces.
You also have the opportunity to buy some foods and drinks. We recommend to buy some snacks and drinks, which you can bring to the mountains. Since the mountains are remote, you will not be able to buy all the products in the mountain villages.
- Drive to the Theth village in the Albanian Alps
After our visit to Shkoder, we drive onwards to the Theth village in the Albanian Alps. It takes around 3 hours to drive from Shkodra to Theth.
The road through the mountains offers you beautiful views of the peaks and valleys. The first two hours of the trip, we will drive on an asphalt road. However, the last hour of the drive is on a stony, dirt road. Therefore, we will be driving slowly for the last hour of the trip.
You will be rewarded though, because the Theth village is a hidden treasure!
- Explore the Theth village
The Theth village is remote and very beautiful. The village is completely surrounded by mountains and peaks.
In the evening, we will do a walking tour through the Theth village. We visit the Roman Catholic Church, which was build in 1892. Another touristic highlight is the traditional lock-in tower. In the past, the lock-in tower was used to protect families during a blood feud.
- Overnight stay in a traditional guest house in Theth
Day 3: Natural wonders of Theth, including the Blue Eye of Theth
- In the morning, we will eat breakfast at the guest house.
- Hike to the Grunas Waterfall
From the guest house, we will hike to the Grunas Waterfall. The Grunas Waterfall is a natural monument in Albania. The waterfall is over 30 metres high and it has a thin body. It is a beautiful natural sight and therefore popular amongst hikers and tourists. The water is ice cold, since it comes from melted snow in the mountains.
- Hike to the Nderlyse village
After our visit to the Grunas Waterfall, we hike onwards to the Nderlyse village. The Nderlyse village is a lovely little mountain village. You can hike through the village and see the locals in their day-to-day lives. Because Theth and Nderlyse are so remote, people still follow the age-old farming practices and traditions.
- Hiking trail to the Blue Eye of Theth
After hiking through Nderlyse, we will get on the mountain trail which leads to the Blue Eye of Theth. The Blue Eye of Theth is the most impressive attraction in Theth.
The Blue Eye of Theth is a natural mountain pool. The natural pool is absolutely stunning and very picturesque. The pool is surrounded by cliffs and tropical plants. There is a little waterfall, that splashes fresh water into the Blue Eye. The pool itself is a magical blue-green colour and incredibly clear.
At the Blue Eye, you do have the opportunity to swim, if you dare to enter the ice-cold mountain water. We will also have a seat on the wooden plateau, to take a break and enjoy some refreshments.
- Transportation from the Blue Eye of Theth back to the guest house
- Overnight stay in a traditional guest house in Theth
Day 4: Hiking across the Valbone Pass
- In the morning, we will eat breakfast at the guest house.
- Hiking the Valbone Pass
We will start the day early and travel to the beginning of the trail in Theth. On this day, we will hike across the Valbone Pass, which is 1800 metres high.
The route across the Valbone Pass is absolutely stunning. You will have impressive views of the Albanian Alps and its peaks and valleys. And there are beautiful waterfalls and rivers along the way.
It will take us around 8 hours to hike from Theth to Valbone. You will be guided throughout the hiking trip.
You do not have to be an experienced hiker to undertake the hike across the Valbona Pass. However, you do need to be in an average physical shape. Because the trails are rough in some places.
Moreover, the trail can be tiring in some places, because the trail leads upwards to the Valbone Pass (up to 1800 meters). Similarly, once you have climbed the Valbone Pass, you will need to descend, which can be heavy on your knees. Moreover, you have already hiked on the previous day in Theth, so you legs might feel a little tired already.
Of course, we will make plenty of stops along the way to eat, refresh and take pictures. And we will remain together as a group throughout the day.
- Overnight stay in a traditional guest house in Valbone
Day 5: Koman Lake Ferry and Kruja Castle
- In the morning, we will eat breakfast at the guest house.
- Drive to Fierza to get on the boat
After the breakfast, we will drive to Fierza for about 1 hour and 30 minutes. Fierza is the place, where the Lake Koman Ferry departs.
- Lake Koman Ferry
In Fierze, we will board the Lake Koman Ferry. The boat trip on Lake Koman is one of the most impressive attractions in Albania. Bradt Guide even ranked it as “one of the world’s greatest boat trips”.
The boat trip on Lake Koman is a beautiful journey. And the scenery surrounding the lake is spectacular. The lake is surrounded by beautiful mountains, cliffs and peaks. It is very relaxing to simply sit quietly on board and stare at the stunning views. The lake itself is a bright turquoise colour and the water is very clear.
The boat trip on Lake Koman lasts for about 3 hours. After 3 hours the boat arrives in Koman.
- Drive from Koman to Kruje
From Koman, we drive for around 2,5 hours to reach the city Kruje. Kruje is a popular touristic place in Albania.
- Visit Kruje Castle and the Bazaar Market
The town of Kruje is famous within Albania, because it played an important role in the history of Albania. Albania was ruled by the Ottoman Turks from 1414 to 1912. At the time, Albania was not an independent country, but instead it was a small part of the gigantic Ottoman Empire.
One of Albania’s National Hero’s, called Skanderbeg fought against the Ottomans to defend Albania. Since he brought the different tribes together and united the Albanian people. He became an important symbol for the Albanian population.
In Kruje, we will visit the castle of the National Hero Skanderbeg. The castle has an amazing view of the surrounding hills, the town and the Adriatic Sea.
You will have some free time for sightseeing in Kruje. During this time, you can choose to visit the Skanderbeg Museum or the Ethnographic Museum, which are located within the castle’s walls.
You can also spend your free time at the Bazaar Market, which is located on the hillside road below the castle. At the market, you can buy a variety of souvenirs and local crafts. Popular items at the market include antiques, handmade wooden items, traditional Albanian clothing, classic rugs, knitted items and souvenirs.
- In the evening, we have dinner in a local restaurant
- Overnight stay in a hotel in Kruje
Day 6: Berat city, which is a UNESCO Heritage Site
- In the morning, we will eat breakfast at the hotel
- Drive to Berat city
After breakfast, we will drive to Berat city. The city of Berat is located in the centre of Albania. It takes around 2 hours to drive from Kruje to Berat.
-Tour of Berat city
Berat is the most beautiful historical town in Albania. The old town of Berat is very well preserved, therefore, the city is a UNESCO heritage site.
Berat is famous for the traditional Ottoman houses, that were built on the side of the hill. The houses are white coloured and they all have windows which overlook the river and the valley below. Therefore, Berat is also called “the city of a thousand windows”.
Walking through Berat is like walking through a museum. The streets are all layed with traditional cobble stones. And many of the traditional houses, have been turned into hotels, cafes and restaurants.
There is a lovely promenade with coffee houses, at the bottom of the hill. If you sit on one of the terraces, you can see the river, the white houses on the hillside and the Berat castle on the top of the hill. Berat is a great place to simply sit on the terrace and enjoy the moment.
-Visit the Castle of Berat
From the centre of Berat, you can walk uphill for about 15 minutes, to reach the Castle of Berat on the top of the hill. The castle is a large fortress with many churches and mosques inside the castle’s walls.
From the castle, you have an amazing panoramic view of the surrounding areas. You can see the Old town below. And you also see the bright blue Osum river in the valley. Although, the castle existed in 200 B.C. The majority of the castle dates back to the 13th century.
-In the evening, we have dinner in a local restaurant
-Overnight stay in a hotel in Berat
Day 7: Departure day and transfer to the Airport
- In the morning, we will eat breakfast at the hotel
- Transfer to Tirana International Airport
After breakfast, we will drive for around 2 hours to reach Tirana International Airport. So that you can get there in time for your return flight home.
Why should I book an Albanian Alps Tour?
A trip to the Albanian Alps requires a lot of transportation. Although, you could book the items independently, it will not be any cheaper.
Lonely Planet: “The best way to experience the journey is to make a three-day, two-night loop beginning and ending in Shkodra, and taking in Koman, Fierzë, Valbona and Theth.”
Lonely Planet: “It’s also possible to do the whole thing independently, though you won’t save any money or time by doing so.”
An Albanian Alps Tour includes a lot of different means of transportation. Here are all the transportation legs:
1. Transportation from the airport to Shkoder
2. Transportation from Shkoder to Theth
3. Transportation to/from the Blue Eye of Theth
4. Mule or Horse to transport your luggage accross the Valbona Pass
5. Transportation from the trail head in Rrogam village to Valbona
6. Transportation from Valbona to Fierze
7. Boat trip ticket from Fierze to Koman
8. Transportation from Koman to Shkoder
9. Transportation back to the airport
10. Transportation to other touristic highlights in Albania, like Rozafa Castle, Kruja, Berat, Tirana city centre etcetera
The reality is that it takes a lot of organization to book all the legs of transportation independently. And you may not actually save money by booking independently. Because you will depend on the same busses, which are already driving in the area.
Moreover, you cannot do the whole route by car, because there is no road across the Valbona Pass. Instead, there is only a hiking trail across the Valbona Pass. Therefore, you will depend on bus transportation, taxi and boat transportation, regardless of how you book.
And finally, there are only 2-3 ferries on Lake Koman each day. There are no more ferries allowed as per Government regulations and to save the environment. So the transportation you book has to match up with the Lake Koman ferry timetable as well.
Where are the Albanian Alps?
The Albanian Alps are a mountain range in the North of Albania. The mountain range covers the North of Albania, as well as a part of Kosovo and Montenegro.
The Albanian Alps are also known as “the Accursed Mountains”. Or if you literally translate the Albanian word it is “the cursed mountains”. Which is probably because the area is so wild, remote, and difficult to reach.
The Albanian Alps are one of the last wild mountain ranges in Europe. This is because Albania was isolated from the rest of the world, during the communist rule from 1944 until 1992. The former dictator closed Albania off from western society. Therefore, Albania and the Albanian Alps have only recently opened up for tourism.
The mountain villages Theth and Valbona are isolated from the rest of the world, since they are so remote. Although you can drive into to the mountains. The mountain roads are partially a stony-dirt track. Therefore, driving to the Albanian Alps is time consuming.
But the remote location is also the beauty of the Albanian Alps. Due to the remoteness and isolation, it feels like you are going back in time. When you are in a mountain village, your daily life feels very far away. And it is easy to enjoy the moment and the beautiful nature around.
The mountains, tick woods and peaks are completely natural. Whereas there are ski slopes and hotels in popular mountain destinations in Europe. The Albanian Alps are untouched by humans.
Recently, the Albanian Alps became a popular destination for hikers and explorers.
Albanian Alps hiking
The Albanian Alps are a popular destination for hikers. The most popular hiking route is the hike across the Valbona Pass. You can either hike from Theth to Valbone or reversed. Another popular route in the Albanian Alps is the hiking route to the Blue Eye of Theth.
If you travel to the Albanian Alps, you will meet many travellers, who are there to hike. But don’t be afraid. You do not have to be an experienced hiker to visit the Albanian Alps. Although the paths are rough and stony, a person of average physical shape, can handle hiking in the Albanian Alps.
Due to the remote location of the Albanian Alps, it is possible you will not have a mobile phone network in some places. Therefore, Google maps or online hiking applications might not work. So, for your hiking trip, it is good to buy a paper Albanian Alps Hiking Map.
What to pack for the Albanian Alps?
The Albanian Alps are a remote region, which is both the beauty and the challenge of visiting. It is great to disconnect from the world and be surrounded by nature. But at the same time, it is important to bring all the necessary items with you.
1. Hiking boots or walking shoes
The Albanian Alps are a popular destination for hiking. Many of the spots for sightseeing are located in the mountains and can only be reached by foot.
The Blue Eye of Theth, for instance, is located at a hiking trail. Even though, you could take a taxi to the trailhead. You would still have to hike one hour to reach the Blue Eye spring.
The same goes for the Valbona Pass. The only way to get from Theth to Valbone (or reversed) is by hiking. It cannot be done by car, because there is no road which connects the two villages. There is only a hiking trail.
If you are planning your trip to the Albanian Alps, you probably think about all your hiking and travel supplies. But it is easy to forget to brings some entertainment, like a book, a game or a movie.
Surely, you will be busy during the day with hiking and exploring the area. However, in the evening it will be very quiet in the mountains.
Your guest house in Valbona or Theth will serve you dinner in the early evening, but after that it will likely be very quiet. Therefore, it is best to bring a book or a movie, so that you won’t get bored in the evening.
3. Food and snacks
The mountain villages of Theth and Valbona do not offer a large supermarket, where you can buy snacks. Therefore, it is best to buy some snacks and supplies before your trip.
You can shop for snacks and supplies in Shkoder city, before your hiking trip starts. Shkoder is a large city in the North of Albania. The city is the starting point of all Albanian Alps tours. From Shkoder, you can either travel to the Theth village. Or you can travel to the Lake Koman ferry, and travel onwards to the Valbone village afterwards.
In Valbona and Theth, you can stay in a guest house. The guest houses all have a restaurant on site. When you stay at the guest house, your package will include breakfast, lunch and dinner.
However, during the day on the trail, you will need some fruits, nuts, crackers and candy. Moreover, it is smart to bring some extra food, just in case you do not like the Albanian style food at the guest house.
4. Fleece or wool pullover
It is smart to bring a fleece or woolen sweater with you to the Albanian Alps.
During the day, you will not be cold, because you will be hiking. Moreover, it is often sunny in the spring and summer months.
However, in the evening the temperature cools down quickly in the mountains. And you may want to sit outside on the terrace, in the evening. So it is good to have an extra layer of clothes to keep you warm.
Furthermore, many of the guest houses in Theth and Valbona are quite basic. Your room will have a bed and a bathroom. But it may not have central heating or a fire place. So, you may be cold at night. Bring a warm sweater, just in case you will be cold in the evening and during the night.
5. Sunscreen and sunglasses
Sunscreen and sunglasses are essentials for your hiking trip in the Albanian Alps. Because many of the trails in the mountains are exposed.
For instance, if you hike from the Theth village to the Blue Eye of Theth, you will hike the first three hours by the road track. The road is very exposed and offers little shade. Therefore, your skin will burn in the afternoon sun. Make sure you have some sunscreen with you, to offer your skin some relief.
Similarly, the trail across the Valbona Pass is very exposed at some places. Particularly, the trail between Valbona and the Pass. Because you are following the trail, you cannot divert from the track. So the only way to prevent yourself from sunburn, is to bring a head, sunglasses and sunscreen.
This is also the reason, why many travellers start hiking in the early morning. By starting early, you can hike a large portion of your trip, while it is still cool.
6. Re-useable water bottle
A water bottle is essential for your hiking trip. Along the trail, there are many water springs, where you can fill your water bottle.
In many parts of Albania is recommended to buy bottled water. Because the tap water is not up to the European standards.
However, in some of the mountain areas in Albania, you can drink the spring water. There are many fresh water springs along the trail to the Valona Pass. So you do not have to bring a lot of water with you, because you will be able to refill regularly.
7. A small backpack and a large bag
For your hike in the Albanian Alps, you need to travel with a bag instead of a suitcase. Because your bag will be transported by a mule or horse. This is due to the fact that there is no road between Theth and Valbona, only a hiking trail.
It is best to bring a small backpack and a large bag for your trip. During the hike, you will carry your own small backpack with your day supplies. Your clothes, toiletries and entertainment should be placed in the large bag. The larger bag will be placed on the horse and mule for transportation across the Valbona Pass.
It is important not to bring a suitcase, because a suitcase cannot be placed on a horse or mule.
8. A light waterproof jacket
It is a good idea to bring a light jacket for your hiking trip. Even though it can be warm in Tirana or Shkoder, the mountains are much cooler. Even in the summer, it can get cold and windy in the Albanian Alps.
Moreover, it is best to start your hike early in the day, because the weather is cooler and the trail is quieter. In the early morning, it can be cool, therefore a light jacket is necessary.
Make sure your jacket is waterproof, because the weather in the Albanian Alps can be unpredictable. One moment is sunny and hot. And the next day, it can be raining.
9. A trail map
Due to the remote location, your mobile phone may not have a network everywhere. Therefore, you will not be able to use Google Maps or online map applications.
So, for your hiking trip, it is a good idea to buy a paper Albanian Alps hiking map. You can buy a “Theth to Valbona trail map”, which specifically marks the trail across the Valbone Pass.
Of course, the trail across the Valbone Pass is marked as well.
10. Cash money
Cash money is absolutely essential for your trip to the Albanian Alps. Because there are no ATM machines in Valbone and Theth.
Therefore, you must take some cash from the ATM in Shkoder before your trip. You can either bring Albanian Lek or Euros on your trip, both are accepted.
Even through, your accommodation is prepaid. You may still want to buy some drinks in the evening or some refreshments along the trail.
It is smart to pack some band-aids, in case you get blisters from your hiking boots.
Like I mentioned before, you do not have to be a seasoned hiker to hike in the Albanian Alps. If you have an average fitness level, you will be able to complete the hikes. However, you may get some blisters. Because your legs and feet are not used to hiking for a few hours.
Valbona to Theth hike difficulty
The Valbona to Theth hike difficulty is medium. The distance between Valbona and Theth is 9.5 kilometres. Therefore, it will take you around 8 hours to complete the hike between Valbona and Theth.
The most popular hiking trail in the Albanian Alps is hiking across the Valbona Pass. You can either hike from Theth to Valbona or from Valbona to Theth.
You do not have to be an experienced hiker to complete the hike across the Valbona Pass. However, to complete the hike successfully, you do need a medium fitness level.
You do need to take into consideration that you need to hike uphill, during some portions of the hike. The uphill part can be quite tiring, therefore, a medium level of fitness is required. Moreover, the downhill parts can by heavy on your knees, when you try to prevent yourself from slipping.
The trail between Valbona and Theth is rough. Most of the trail paths are even and flat, however, there are plenty of stones on the trail. Some downhill parts of the trail are steep and slippery.
It is best to start your hike early in the morning. So that you have plenty of time to make stops throughout the day. Moreover, once you reach the Valbona Pass, you need some time to take pictures and enjoy the view.
The Valbona Pass is the highest point on the trail between Valbona and Theth. The Valbona Pass is 1815 metres high.
The Valbona Pass is the highest point on the hiking trail from Theth to Valbona. The hike across the Valbona Pass is the most popular hiking route in the Albanian Alps.
Throughout the last few years, hiking across the Valbona Pass has become popular amongst tourists. Mostly because the Albanian Alps are unspoiled and wild. Therefore, travelling and hiking in the remote mountains of Albania is a great adventure.
The hiking trail across the Valbona Pass is clearly marked with white-red-white lines. And there is information about the hike at the trailhead in both Valbona and Theth. The entire hike is about 9.5 kilometres long. It will take you anywhere between 6-8 hours, depending on your pace and breaktimes.
The Valbona Pass is 1815 metres high. The minimum elevation on the hike is 800 metres. Therefore, you can expect some climbs during your hike.
If you start from Theth, the trail climbs steeply uphill through a shaded forest. Once you arrive at the pass, you have a panoramic view of the Theth Valley and the Valbona Valley.
After the Valbona Pass, you descent to the Valbona valley. The trail is gentler in the Valbona valley, and less steep. The trail leads through open grassland, stony hills and by the river. You will also see shepherds and their livestock in the mountains. Which remind you that very little has changed in these remote mountains through the centuries.
There are small refreshments offered along the trail. However, it is smart to bring a picnic lunch, so that you can have a meal once you reach the Valbona Pass.
The trailhead in the Valbona valley is at the Rrogam village. From where you can either hike to the Valbona village for one hour. Or you can take a taxi for 5 euros.
Theth to Valbona or Valbona to Theth
Should you hike from Theth to Valbona or Valbona to Theth? That is one of the most debated topics for travellers in the Albanian Alps.
Funnily enough, the hike across the Valbona Pass is beautiful in either direction. But here are the main reasons why people choose a direction.
Valbona to Theth
The reason why hikers choose to hike from Valbona to Theth has to do with the sunshine. The trail between Valbona and the Pass is exposed. Whereas the trail between the Pass and Theth is shaded by trees.
So if you start in Valbona, you can pass through the exposed area in the early morning. And when it gets sunny in the afternoon, you walk through the shaded forest close to Theth.
Theth to Valbona
The reason why hikers choose to hike from Theth to Valbona is related to the days before and after.
In Theth, there are shorter hiking trails, which you can use as a warm-up. If you go to Theth first, you can hike to the Blue Eye of Theth first. Or you can hike to the Grunas Waterfall. This is a shorter route, so it is your preparation for the longer hike across the Valbona Pass, the day after.
Moreover, the day after your hike across the Valbona Pass, you will most likely be tired. On that day, you can take the Lake Koman ferry. It is very relaxing to simply sit on the boat and do nothing. It is a reward for completing the hiking route!
Valbona is a small mountain village in the Albanian Alps. The little village is surrounded by nature and mountain peaks.
Recently, the mountain village has become a destination for summer tourism. Many of the houses in the village have been converted into guesthouses, camping grounds and restaurants.
Most tourists spend one night in Valbone. The next day, they leave early to hike across the Valbona Pass to Theth (or reversed). Although the hike across the Valbona Pass is the most popular hike, there are many more hiking routes in the area.
Valbona and the valley are mostly known for their beautiful nature. There are impressive waterfalls, ice-cold rivers, thick forests and high peaks. Visiting Valbona is like disconnecting from the world. Because it is quiet, relaxing and beautiful.
In Valbone, you can spend a night in a guest house. The guest houses are built and managed by the local families. A stay in a guest house includes meals in the restaurant on site. You will be served organic vegetables and farm products from the region. Like goat meat, fresh trout, homemade pickles, fresh cheese, homemade liquor and wine.
Due to its location in the Albanian Alps, Valbone is a remote. It takes around 7 hours to travel to Valbone from the capital city Tirana.
There are only two ways to get to Valbona. Firstly, you can take the Lake Koman ferry. Or secondly, you can drive to Valbona via Kosovo.
If you take the Lake Koman ferry, you must follow this route. From Tirana, drive to Shkoder in approximately 2 hours. Then drive from Shkoder to Koman for another 2 hours, to get on the ferry boat. The ferry boat trip takes around 3 hours and brings you to Fierze. Then from Fierze, you must drive another 1,5 hour to get to Valbone.
If you are driving to Valbone via Kosovo, you must take the following route. From Tirana, drive to Kukes, Prizren, Gjakove, Bajram Curri and finally to Valbone.
Lake Koman Ferry
The Lake Koman Ferry is the absolute highlight for tourists visiting Albania. The Bradt Travel Guide described the Lake Koman ferry as “one of the world’s greatest boat trips”. So, why is the Lake Koman ferry in Albania, such a highlight?
The Lake Koman ferry makes daily 3-hour trips from Koman to Fierze (and reversed). Many tourists buy a ticket, not to get to a destination. Instead, tourists board the boat, simply to enjoy the boat journey itself.
Actually, the Lake Koman ferry was not designed for tourists. But merely as a way for locals to get from one side of the lake to the other. But the boat trip across Lake Koman is so incredibly beautiful, that it became a touristic highlight.
The Lake Koman ferry feels like a great adventure. On board the Komani Lake ferry, you will see the stunning mountains on both sides of the lake. The boat turns and twists through the mountains. Every new corner reveals another beautiful view.
The ferry trip on Lake Koman is very relaxing, since the lake is surrounded by beautiful nature. There are only a few little houses surrounding the lake. These days, only a handful of people still live in the tiny mountain houses. You will see little taxi boats, which pick up locals and transport goods for their inhabitants.
From the boat, you will see massive mountains, thick woods and a little island surrounded by water. The water of Lake Koman is a turquoise green. And it is very clean and clear.
Lake Koman is an artificial lake. The lake was created in 1978 when the Drin River was dammed. The dam created a very long lake, which turns and twist through the mountain ranges.
How to get on the Lake Koman ferry?
The Lake Koman ferry sails from Koman to Fierze (and reversed). Tourists usually book a three or four day tour.
A tour is the best choice, because Lake Koman is located between Shkoder and the Albanian Alps. Therefore, you can easily combine the Lake Koman Tour with a visit to the Albanian Alps.
The Lake Koman ferry connects Koman and Fierze. Both Koman and Fierze are small villages in the middle-of-nowhere.
During the Albanian Alps tour, we will take the Lake Koman ferry after the hike across the Valbone Pass. So, we will travel from Valbone to Fierze by minibus. Then board the Lake Koman ferry. And then take another minibus after the boat arrives in Koman.
Valbone to Fierze = 1.5 hours by minibus
Fierze to Koman = 3 hours by ferry boat
Koman to Shkoder = 2 hours by minibus
Koman is closest to Shkoder city in the North of Albania. It takes two hours to travel from Shkoder to Koman.
The Lake Koman boat trip takes 3 hours to travel from Fierze to Koman (or reversed).
Fierze is closest to Valbone, which is a mountain village in the Albanian Alps. It takes 1 hour and 30 minutes to drive from Fierze to Valbone.
When you add up all the driving and sailing time. You see that it will easily take 1 full day to travel with the Lake Koman ferry.
Komani Lake tour
If you plan on taking the Lake Koman ferry, it is best to book a tour. A tour of Lake Koman and the Albanian Alps will take you at least 3 days.
Day 1: Mini-bus from Shkoder to Theth
Day 2: Hike from Theth to Valbona
Day 3: Mini-bus from Valbona to Fierze – > Lake Koman Ferry to Koman -> Mini-bus from Koman to Shkoder
However, if you visit the Theth mountain village, you must also take the time to explore its natural beauties. Theth has a waterfall and the beautiful Blue Eye of Theth. And it is likely, that you will not have an opportunity to visit Theth again on a different holiday.
So, it is worth planning 1 x extra day, to hike to the natural beauties of Theth. Therefore, you would end up with an itinerary of 4 days.
Day 1: Mini-bus from Shkoder to Theth
Day 2: Hiking in Theth to explore the natural beauties
Day 3: Hike from Theth to Valbona
Day 4: Mini-bus from Valbona to Fierze – > Lake Koman Ferry to Koman -> Mini-bus from Koman to Shkoder
You start your tour in Shkoder city. Shkoder is a city located two hours to the north of the capital city Tirana.
On the first day of your tour. You travel from Shkoder city to Theth with a minibus or a 4-wheel drive car. Driving from Shkoder to Theth takes 3 hours. You cannot drive fast, due to the poor condition of the road to Theth. Moreover, it is an exhausting trip, as the vehicle with swing you left and right, as it drives over the stony road.
Moreover, on the first day of your tour. You must also plan some time to explore Shkoder city. Because Shkoder has a historical town centre and a lovely Venetian style boulevard.
On the second day of your tour, you spend a day hiking in Theth. It is worth spending a full-day in Theth, because it has many natural beauties. The highlights include the Grunas Waterfall and the Blue Eye of Theth.
On the third day of your tour, you hike across the Valbona Pass. This hiking trip will take you around 8 hours. And after your day of hiking, you spend the night in a guest house in Valbona.
On the fourth day of your tour, you take the Lake Koman ferry. From Valbona, it takes 1 hour and 30 minutes to travel to Fierze. The Lake Koman ferry takes 3 hours to sail to Koman. From Koman, you can travel back to Shkoder in 2 hours.
Cascade de Theth | Julien Maury | Flickr
Ujvara Theth | Fation Plaku | WikiCommons
White, concrete, cathedral, trees, daytime, theth, church, albania, catholic, mountain | Pxfuel
Syri kalter theth | Irma Tollmi | WikiCommons
Valbonë 2016 | Qendresa 99 | WikiCommons
Koman Ferry western end (44815686765) | gailhampshire | WikiCommons
Berat albania balkan mangalem stary city historia | Gjataervin | Pixabay
Hiking trails | Petrit Bejdoni | WikiCommons
Thethi Mountains Panorama | AHHB6184 | WikiCommons