It is quite hard to get decent information about hiking options or maps from Albanian Alps. I was planning to hike there for many years, and finally it worked out! Luckily, we got maps and some suggestions from friends who have been there earlier, so we just had to decide where to go. You can also find few online GPS tracks for routes, but most of them are for even lazier people than us 🙂
Approach to the mountains – starting point of trails
You can start hiking from Montenegro (Vusinje) or from Albania (Theth or Valbona). We chose Theth. Make sure you have enough fuel. We stopped at the last normal fuel station before turning to the mountains. Surprisingly the fuel was much more expensive everywhere north from the capital. After we left the main road, we continued on the towards Theth. First, we passed amazing lavender fields, then entered to the mountains. The majority of the road is new asphalt and it is not too steep. The road from Shkodër to the pass before Theth is (in Albanian scale) very good. After the pass it is suggested for 4 by 4 cars. Although, we have seen few normal cars went down to the village, we decided we will start our hike from the pass (~1 700 m). Theth is on 700 m, so our legs were happy with this decision as well. There is a big parking lot where we left the car.
This first afternoon we just took a shorter walk to one of the rocks nearby. The view was not as good as we hoped, but it was suitable for a warm up. We returned to our car and begin to pitch our tent close by the parking lot. By that time two huge campers were parking there as well: German pensioners, who were traveling around the Balkans. They planned to go to Theth, but after seeing the unpaved road from the saddle to the village, they’ve changed their mind and gave up on driving down. Probably we made a good decision not to make our car suffering that distance and altitude change.
A coffee and restaurant is just a few hundred meters away from it. Our trail started there.
Tent versus paid accommodation
Tent gave us the freedom, we could decide where to go, where to sleep and when to stop, but it is possible in the above mentioned villages to go to guest houses as well. In that case you have to do day trips.
Surprisingly, some of the trails were marked, or marked by piled up rocks, so it was quite convenient. The most popular trail is between Theth and Valbona. It goes on a wide path/road, and we were not keen on walking there. Another option is to climb Jezerce (2 694 m). We wanted something more remote. And we carried out tent, so we could sleep anywhere. It gave us the perfect freedom.
Hiking from the saddle near Theth to the little glacier
We started to follow the trail to Theth, but before climbing up to straight to Theth, we followed on the same elevation and climb up to another saddle to avoid loosing thousand meter of elevation. It wasn’t too steep, but there were no clear path, so it took about an hour to reach the other side. From the saddle we could see a lot of snow and rocks. We spotted a grassy part which could make a nice night spot. As we observed the valley, we have seen the semi official trail on the other side used by wall climbers mostly. It is the easiest way to approach the camping place and the glacier. We used it on our way back next day.
After we set up our tent, we went for a hike with less equipment to take a look on the valley where Theth lays and checked out the little glacier from close as well. The views were stunning, and we were alone whole day. Only birds, snails and some snakes were our company. In the evening we make a little campfire and made food. It was not so easy, as you could see there were no trees in the valley, but Karol did an amazing job to collect them (and other plants) while I had a short nap. The night was very cold, under 0°C. Well, we were around 1500 meters, surrounded by snow and glacier, so not really surprising. The little lake near to us got fresh ice on top as well.
Next morning we woke up to a bit less pleasant weather. Rain clouds were in close distance, we could see the rain in the next valley. Tried to pack up quickly, climb to the pass and get back to our car. We got a bit of rain, but it wasn’t too bad. On the way home we stopped at Lake Shkodër, but we didn’t really have any view. The city has a castle, and a recently built walking path to the restaurants and bars near the lake. Also, a little gypsy-like village is there, near the 4 star hotels and fancy restaurants. Interesting contrast. After a short walk we headed home. We were tired after the hiking.