Hike across borders in the wildest parts of two neighbouring countries: Montenegro and Albania. Join this adventure to follow the “Peaks of the Balkans” trails, swim in lakes, share dinner with locals and discover the legends of the Accursed Mountains.
Hiking the Balkans is organizing a trip to northern Albania and eastern Montenegro for very fit hikers who want to discover one of the most hidden and pristine mountain ranges in Europe. We will be visiting a remote region that was isolated by communism until the early 1990s (especially in Albania) and then became a route for smugglers during the Balkan conflicts later during that decade. Now it is open for hikers, and we can cross the border via the mountains.
The Slavic name is “Prokletije” and in Albanian it is “Bjesket e Namuna” but it means the same: the Accursed Mountains.
Late August to early September is an ideal time for walking this part of the Dinaric Alps, as the summer sun is not too hot and the mountain lakes and waterfalls, although cold, are not as icy as they are in spring. We will have opportunities to swim in several lakes, rivers and waterfalls during each of the 8 days that we will be hiking the Peaks of the Balkans trails. Our mountain guide Vlatko was a member of the team that established the trails that opened up this area to the first hikers a few years ago, and cross-border permits have only been available since 2013. So, we will be crossing the border via the mountains, not at official border crossings.
We spend the first two days in Montenegro in the town of Plav. This is the more leisurely part of this trip, with only one half-day hike, but from day 3 we will start our longer hikes across the Albanian border. We will have to carry our backpacks for four days, but at night we will stay in comfortable guesthouses, so there is no need to carry tents or sleeping bags. We don’t need to carry too much food or water, as breakfast and dinner will be provided by our hosts in the guesthouses. During our stay in Albania we hike through the Valbona and Theth valleys, which are considered to be some of the most remote areas of northern Albania. The village of Theth has an authentic “blood feud” tower, where those who found themselves targets of clan rivalries could take refuge. The area was so remote that it stayed predominantly Catholic, because the Ottoman rulers gave up reaching it to convert the population to Islam during the five centuries when they ruled the Balkans.
The area we are visiting is full of legends and myths. The local population is convinced that fairies live in the area. Legend has it that a fairy is responsible for the name of the Accursed Mountains, too. Apparently, two brothers went hunting and found a beautiful fairy. Asked which one of them she preferred, she answered: one for his bravery, the other for his good looks. The brave brother killed the handsome one and took the fairy home to their mother, who was so angry that she cursed the fairy and the mountains forever.
This trip is suitable for fit hikers who are keen to spend their holidays in one of the most remote mountain regions of Europe.
Day 1: On day one, after we arrive in the Montenegrin capital, Podgorica, we head straight to Plav at the foot of the Accursed Mountain to visit the 13th century Moracha monastery. We are staying at Plav and will go for a swim in Plavsko jezero (Lake Plav), before having dinner at the Lake Views hotel, where we’ll be staying on the first and second nights.
Day 2: On day two we will take a 4-wheel drive to the village of Mramorje at 1,850 m (6,069 ft) and hike to the Visitor summit at 2,211 m (7,254 ft), before going back down to Visitorsko jezero (Lake Visitor) at 1,735 m (5,692 ft). There will be an optional swim in this mountain lake before we go back to Plav to visit a family museum and a five-storey 15th century tower, which was built as an inn for visitors in the middle ages.
Day 3: We will start from the village of Feratovicha and make our way via the Bor summit and Qafa e Perslopit to the Valbona valley in Albania. Although the distance is only 19 km (11.8 miles), the ascent is 850 m (2,788 ft) and the total descent is 1,650 m (5,413 ft), which means over 8 hours of effective walking. We will walk just under the highest summit in Montenegro, at 2,534 m (8,313 ft). We will cross the border via the mountains and arrive at the village of Rragam in Albania, where we will stay in a local guesthouse on a farm.
Day 4: The next day we will hike from the Valbona valley to the village of Theth, taking about 6 hours. The total ascent is 650 m (2,132 ft), with a total descent of 1,050 m (3,444 ft). We will again stay in a family guesthouse. We will have enough time to look around the village before we enjoy a well-deserved dinner in our guest house.
Day 5: Near the village there is a waterfall forming part of the Grunas canyon, and this will be a feature of the trail on day 5. This is a half-day hike through an area of exceptional beauty, where we will see the Blue Eye spring and the Zi river, so there will be plenty opportunities for swimming. We will have a picnic lunch and return to our guesthouse for a home-made dinner.
Day 6: On day 6 we will have another long day of hiking, crossing the border to go back to Montenegro via the Ropojana valley, where we will see the Grlja waterfalls and the Oko Skakavice spring. Our destination is the village of Vusanje, and we will be hiking for 16 km (10 miles) today, with 850 m (2,788 ft) of ascent and 800 m (2,624 ft) of descent. As we head to Plav we will be able to swim in the lake before we go back to our hotel for dinner.
Day 7: On our last full day in Montenegro we go to Lake Skadar, and this time we will cross the border into northern Albania by road via an official border crossing, bidding farewell to the small remote villages of the magical canyon of the Cemi river. After driving through the canyon we will enter Lake Skadar National Park and take a boat along the Moracha river to the village of Poseljani, an abandoned mill village. We will take a boat trip to Virpazar, a small town on the shore of Lake Skadar, where we will spend our last evening on this trip. We will have our farewell dinner in the Badanj inn.
Day 8: After an early breakfast we need to be packed and ready to leave at 9am sharp to catch the flight back from Podgorica.
The cost of this long weekend is £685, based on two people sharing a hotel room.
A single room supplement is available only on the last and first two nights, in the hotels. This can be booked on request, and the supplement is £100.
What is included?
• 7 nights B&B – Accommodation: 4 nights in hotels based on two sharing in twin rooms and 3 nights in guesthouses in villages.
• All transfers – minivan and driver from and back to the airport for the recommended flights, as well as local transfers, in accordance with the programme.
• English-speaking certified mountain guide
• Packed lunches during hikes
• Permits for unofficial border crossings between Montenegro and Albania
• Insurance (you can only join this trip if you produce insurance details prior to the trip). Make sure your insurance covers the type of activities you’d like to do during this holiday.
• Travel to and from Montenegro / Podgorica (airfare)
• Lunches and evening meals in restaurants (or guesthouses in Albania)
• Personal expenses for drinks or souvenirs
• Other optional activities and visits.
Recommended Ryanair flights:
London Stansted (STN) → Podgorica (TGD)
Flight FR 7961 on 27 August 2017 at 06:55 arriving at 10:45
Book early to get the best price! Prices from £38.99
Podgorica (TGD) →London Stansted (STN)
Flight FR 7962 on 3 September 2017 at 11:10 arriving at 13:05
Book early to get the best price! Prices from £149.99
You can book this trip by clicking the BOOK NOW button on our website or by sending us an email. Please book the recommended flights after you receive our confirmation of availability. We provide transport from and to the airport for the recommended flights only.