Do not let the name mislead you. This brooding, unspoilt range of Albanian peaks might be known as the Accursed Mountains, but – when you get in among their mighty slopes – “blessed” may seem the better adjective.
For hikers who like their trails remote, their scenery craggy and their hospitality Balkan-strength, this eight-day trek stands as one of the region’s greatest summer adventures. Albania in any form is a superb travel destination – it is proud, beautiful and rich in tradition – but as somewhere to walk, it is downright unforgettable.
Rolling hills: The Accursed Mountain ranges in Europe
The Dinaric Alps, of which the Accursed Mountains form a part, are just a few hours north from the whirl of Tirana, the capital. Towering grey rock faces soar above flower-specked meadows. Icy rivers thunder through green valleys. Shepherds’ quiet paths snake over mountain passes, through beech copses and past sun-struck farmsteads.
This is European hiking as it used to be, heading deep into an isolated but utterly magnificent corner of the continent. And though summer rain is rare, the weather can on occasion be variable, so pack a waterproof jacket alongside a sunhat and some convertible trousers.
This is European hiking as it used to be, deeply isolated but utterly magnificent
You will be walking for almost a week through outstanding landscapes. At one point the trail passes under the imposing, stony shadow of the 7,270ft (2,217m) Mount Arapit, known as “Albania’s Matterhorn”.
The highland hospitality here is no less rewarding. The mountains are dotted with sporadic, far-flung hamlets, so most of the accommodation you will use is in small village homes. Expect a room with a view – and a filling meal.
There is good reason why hardened travellers speak of northern Albania in hallowed tones. For anyone who appreciates the thrill of true off-grid adventure, there are few places more appealing to find yourself than walled in by Balkan limestone peaks, using poles and UPF+40 sun-protective clothing to tread through the heart of the Accursed Mountains.
Much of the trail is only accessible during these summer months, which makes its remoteness even more appealing. Mountain tastes to enjoy include baked wild trout and plum raki.