Trek Peaks of the Balkans 2021

Peaks of the Balkans 2021

Join us for a beautiful trek in the spectacular Peaks of the Balkans trail. Walk through untouched Accursed Mountains lying in three Balkan countries. This hidden corner of Europe is prized for  beautiful nature, friendly people and their hospitality. Discover this unexplored corner of the European Continent!

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Village of Theth – Visit one of the most picturesque villages in Albania
  • Hiking in the wild – Hike in this hidden corner of Europe 
  • Three countries – Visit three countries in one hike 
  • Gjeravica – the highest peak in Kosovo surrounded by glacial lakes and home to the Triton salamanders.  
  • Cold War Bunkers – During the Communist period, Albania spent a fortune building concrete bunkers to prevent an invasion. Now that era is past and the protected borders promote peace and cooperation.
  • Taljanka and Gerbaja Valley – Considered the most beautiful valley in the ex-Yugoslavia; stop for the bronze- age carvings of wolf and men.  
  • Food: Experience the unique cuisine and hospitality of the Accursed Mountains provided by the local villagers.

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Price: Euro 830

Dates:   June 19 – 28;    July 10 – 19;    August 14 – 23;    September 11 – 20;    October 2 – 11;


INTRODUCTION

Peaks of the Balkans is the first lengthy hiking trail to traverse the Western Balkans, an area where ancient tracks connect remote regions. The epic walk passes through villages, separated by strict borders and fortified by bunkers that were built over two generations when communist regimes-controlled Yugoslavia and Albania. Winding through meadows, mountain peaks, lakes and woodlands, this is one of the most diverse walking trails in the world. The views and the trails transform, switching from rocky paths and bare peaks to meadows rich with flowers and plants, where nature has been left to run wild. In a stark comparison to Western Europe, here the grass in not cut, and the land is left alone for nature to follow its course.

WHY BALKAN NATURAL ADVENTURE

For Peaks of the Balkans 2021, our company provides an extra guide if the group is bigger than eight to accommodate the different speeds of the group. We are a service- oriented company that has been featured in the Financial Times, The Guardian, The Strait Times of Singapore and other media See our references. Try our flexibility options – shorten or extend your trip for cultural tours. For some longer hikes we provide transport for the last kilometres, if there is a need.

PACKAGE INCLUDES

  • Accommodation in shared rooms
  • Meals: 2nd to 9th day three meals; 10th day breakfast and lunch packet
  • Guide
  • All internal transfers
  • Border crossing permits

PACKAGE EXCLUDES

  • Luggage transfer can be offered on demand. 
  • Airport pickup can be provided on demand.
  • Insurance should be secured by the travelers

ITINERARY

Day 1: Arrival in the region (Saturday)

Arrival in Shkoder and accommodate at the hotel. Meeting the guide and the group for a short briefing from 20:00 – 21:00 hrs. Podgorica Airport (1 hr 30 min from the start location), Tirana Airport (1 hr 30 min from the start location), Tivat International Airport (2 hrs 40 min from the start location) Prishtina Airport (3 hrs 40 min from the start location), Skopje International Airport (4 hrs 40 min). 

The transfer from the airport and back can be provided on demand.

Day 2: Transfer to the starting point of the trail. Short hike to the Blue Eye (Sunday)

Length of the hike: 11.5 km (7.1 miles)
Uphill walking: 266 m (872 ft)
Downhill walking: 435 m (1427 ft)

Your first day of Peaks of the Balkans will start with a transfer from Shkodra to the village of Nderlyse, a small hamlet at the foot of the Peaks of the Balkans trail. The village is home to the Shala River, which has created waterfalls and rock formations similar to baths and pools. After a short exploration you will start your journey walking toward Theth with an easy hike. 

Cultural note: Ndërlyse and Theth are two Roman Catholic villages that are home to some small churches. In Ndërlyse there are the small remains of the Saint Veneranda Church, however locals still go there to celebrate the saint every 25th of July. The most spectacular building is in Theth, the Lock Tower (Kulla e Ngujimit), which served as a self- imposed prison for wanted murderers sought out for revenge killings under the Kanun law.  

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Day 3: The iconic hike over the Valbona pass (Monday)

Length of the hike: 19.5 km (12 miles) 
Uphill walking: 1068 m (3503 ft) 
Downhill walking: 850 m (2788 ft)

On this hike you will have a real taste of the Accursed Mountains and the Peaks of the Balkans Trail. It’s a diverse hike bookended with mountain villages and filled with picturesque views. You will walk through meadows, woodland, rocky terrain, crests and see the most southern glacier in the Northern Hemisphere.  This trail has very few tourists, despite its highlights filled experience.

Cultural Note: Valbona is a Muslim majority valley with some Catholics who migrated from Theth. There is a legend that the village was founded by an orphan who moved there from Vuthaj/Vusanje, in present-day Montenegro.

Day 4: Hike over Prosllopi Pass to the summer village of Cerem (Tuesday)

Length of the hike: 14.9 km (9.2 miles) 
Uphill Walking: 1200 m (3937 ft)
Downhill walking: 950 m (3116 ft) 

This trail will take you to the Montenegrin Border and the country’s highest peak, Kollata e Keqe. For a strong group the peak can be included in the itinerary. Adding the peak would make this the highest and longest hike of the trip. (to add the peak in the hike we need advance notice)

Balkan Natural Adventure has included this diversion from the classic Peaks of the Balkans trail in order to avoid walking on gravelly, dusty tractor roads. From the highest point of the hike you will see mountain ranges extending to all three countries.

Cultural note: Cerem is a small village, largely abandoned, and at the moment is populated only during the summer time by shepherds. During the winter the village is empty due to the poor conditions and the road which connects the village with Valbone is blocked by snow.

Day 5: The remote village of Doberdol, situated below the border triangle (Wednesday)

Length of the hike: 15.5 km (9.6 miles) 
Uphill walk: 1030 m (3379 ft)
Downhill walk: 440 m (1443 ft)

After two days of mixed hiking in diverse environments this track will be dominated by greenery. The entire hike will expose you to abundant flora of the region that fills the pastures. Villagers on the way will offer their natural produce but also other drinks and refreshments. Two makeshift cafes under a canopy of trees give a unique charm to this trail. The scenery will be also filled with sheep, goats, cow and horses that support the local economy. On this trail you will pass by some of the oldest woodlands in the world. 

Cultural note: Gashi Valley starts in this region. The woodlands have been under UNESCO protection since 2017 as part of the Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians. The woodlands are also part of the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany that now stretch over 12 countries.

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Day 6: From Doberdol to the highest point of Kosovo (Thursday)

Length of the hike: 18 km (11.1 miles)
Uphill walk: 915 m (3001 ft)
Downhill walk: 915 m (3001 ft)

You can climb the highest peak of Kosovo or just spend the day in a plateau above the tree line with shepherds, goats, sheep and cows. Balkan Natural Adventure, Peaks of the Balkans 2021 version includes this optional day for hikers. While this is a loop path, it goes through lakes, small streams and crests with open views to the mountains. The specificity of this trail is the glacial lakes that are home to the Triton salamander, whose existence verified the purity of the water.

Cultural note: This is a loop path that will take you to Kosovo, a border which is almost not protected at all. However, during the communist regimes in this part of the world this was the border between Albania and Yugoslavia and one of the most protected borders in the world.

Day 7: Along the border ridge to Kosovo for a sleepover (Friday) 

Length of the hike: 15.8 km (9.8 miles) 
Uphill walk: 915 m (3001 ft)
Downhill walk 980 m (3215 ft)

While one day before, you have walked to Kosovo and gone back to Albania, today you go to Kosovo for the sleepover. On this trail you will go by the three- border peak, taking in a view from the place where the three borders meet. Characteristic of this trail is that both Doberdol and Milishevc are not villages but summer camps for shepherds. Additionally, they are the most remote locations on the trail making this hike very special. 

Cultural note: Milisevc is a small remote summer settlement, which has a good connection with the city of Peja and more and more mountain huts in the village are being used for touristic purposes.

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Day 8: Hike to Montenegro, Babino Polje (Saturday)

Length of the hike: 14.6 km (9 miles)
Uphill walk: 957 m (3139 ft)
Downhill walk: 790 m (2591 ft)

This Peaks of the Balkans 2021 hike section is a detour from the classic trail. Balkan Natural Adventure decided to make this detour to save you from some parts of the hike that are less attractive. Additionally, you will avoid some car transfers. The hike will go through some of the least trodden Accursed Mountain trails in the Kosovo section. You will join the classic trail in the Liqenat to Babino Polje section that will go through Zavoj Ravno Selo.

Cultural note: Babino Polje (meaning ‘Grandma’s fields’) is a very beautiful place located on the way of the trails of the Peaks of Balkans in Montenegro. The Montenegrin Muslims living in Babino Polje abound with hospitality. Do not forget to have a glass of rakija with them.

Day 9: The beautiful Grbaja Valley (Sunday)

Length of the hike: 9.8 km (6 miles)
Uphill walk: 834 m (2742 ft)
Downhill walk: 908 m (2979 ft)

Gerbaja is another detour from the classic version to our Peaks of the Balkans 2020 trail. All of our guides agree that is it a pity to come to the region and miss the view from Gerbaja. It is situated in Montenegro and considered the most beautiful valley in Tito’s Yugoslavia now home to seven independent states. You will start the hike with a 20- minute transport to climb the Taljanka peak.

Cultural note: Gerbaja is home to a bronze- age rock engraving of a mother and father protecting their child from wolves. It is called The Great Mother. Locals believe that the rock has healing powers and helps women’s fertility. 

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Day 10: Closing the loop, hike back to Theth (Monday)

Length of the hike: 21.3 km (13.2 miles) 
Uphill walk: 1110 m (3641 ft)
Downhill walk: 1440 m (4724 ft) 

From Vusanje or Vuthaj you will begin the 21- kilometre hike back to the historic Albanian village of Theth. The path passes along the craggiest part of the Accursed Mountains or Prokletije/Albanian Alps that was a forbidden zone during the Communist era. In addition to the dramatic cliffs that form the backdrop for the day’s hike, you will also see a military bunker and the old border crossing signs as you hike into Albania. The hike goes through Ropojane Lake that also marks the border between two countries. This hike is the rockiest one of the whole trips. It provides numerous mountains, meadow and valley views. You will end in Theth to close the loop. After a short rest you will be transferred to your Hotel in Shkodra for farewell dinner. (Sleepover included)


HOLIDAY INFORMATION

Transfers

Transfers during the tour will be private for the group. The private transfer is done by either regular car or 4×4, depending on the road conditions. On the trail, shortcut transfers can be arranged for the trails that are distant or to skip asphalt road segments.

Food & Water

The food in this part of the world will be something you will eagerly anticipate at the end of each day. Food is fresh cooked in a traditional manner and has a mix of Balkan, Turkish and European influence. At the guesthouses the breakfasts are simple, homemade bread with locally grown vegetables, dairy products and eggs. Dinners include traditional soups, meat dishes, vegetables, pies. Guesthouses also will provide you with a packed lunch – often including a sandwich with cheese and vegetables.

Vegetarianism and diets will not be a problem as the home-stay families can provide alternatives.However, the choices are basic and limited.

Consider bringing your water bottle to refill along the way. Water is provided from mountain streams or in guesthouses tap water is drinkable. However, if you are concerned about drinking untreated water, we recommend you take water treatment tablets with you.

Accommodation

The accommodation is in simple home-stay/guesthouse/lodge- style with simple bathroom facilities. Rooms are likely to accommodate between two to five people per room and it may be necessary for male and female groups to share the room, unless noted otherwise on your request, but not guaranteed in each guesthouse. It always depends on availability of rooms.

Sheets and blankets, towels, shampoo, warm water and other basic services are provided, but it’s recommended to pack a travel towel and sleep sack just in case.

Private rooms at additional cost; limited availability.

Recommended readings for the region

– The novel called “Broken April” of Ismail Kadare is situated in these mountains. A read before the trip will increase the experience that this trip offers

– Edith Durham – High Albania

Other Info

– Time zone: GMT +1

– Language: Albanian, in Kosovo and Albania, Serbian/Montenegrin in Montenegro. In big cities many people speak English, but in remote areas this might not be the case. A lot of people may speak also German due to large diaspora in Germano-phone countries.

– Electric supply and plugs: 220V, 50 Hz, two pin round plugs.

– Currency: Euro (EUR) in Kosovo and Montenegro, Lek in Albania, however you can use Euro freely. Credit cards and Cash machines available in Peja, Plav, and Gjakova.

– Cost of living: in the region is much cheaper than in the Western Europe. Some sample prices follow:

  • 3-course meal in a standard restaurant: EUR 7-10 pp
  • A flask of mineral water from a street shop: EUR 0.5
  • A cup of coffee: EUR 0.5 – 2


What's the participation price?

Participation price is 830€ / per person.

What is Peaks of The Balkans 2021?

Peaks of the Balkans 2020 is the offer of Balkan Natural Adventure company for hiking in the Accursed Mountains. This year the company offer starts from June to October.

Dates of the tour?

Dates for Peaks of the Balkans 2021: June 19 - 28; July 10 - 19; August 14 - 23; September 11 - 20; October 2 - 11;

How to book?

You can contact us at info@bnadventure.com or +38349661105

Is this a guided tour?

Yes, it is. Balkan Natural Adventure will provide an assistant guide if the group is larger than eight people.

How many people are in a group?

The average group of Balkan Natural Adventure for Peaks of the Balkans is 8. The maximum number of people we take in a group is 12.

How is the climate?

The weather in June can have more rain, however the risk of rain decreases in July and August when it is also warmer. September and October offer optimum time for hiking. In recent years the rainfall in these months has decreased.