THETH National Park Albania – Highlights with Valbona

Are you planning a trip to Theth National Park in the Albanian Alps / Cursed Mountains and looking for the best activities and things to do including a hike to Valbona? Then you’ve come to the right place: JOURNICATION! There is a lot to discover, whether you have only 3 days in Theth, a week for a round trip or much more. The region in the north of the country in the border region to Montenegro and Kosovo should not be missing on any Albania round trip route! It is considered an insider tip for hikers and (off-road) adventures and has more to offer than the hike to Valbona Pass or Blue Eye. Find out here how to spend 3 great days in the “Cursed Mountains” of the Theth National Park – my tip for a great adventure vacation in 2021!

What will you learn in this article?

3 days in Theth National Park Albania – The best activities

3 days Albanian Alps: The highlights at a glance

Day 1 – Arrival to Theth & Grunas waterfall.
2 – Hike to the Blue Eye of Theth
Day 3 – Hike to Valbona Pass

Optional: Hike from Theth to Peja Pass

 

 

Of course, you can follow the route in any order.

Before you go: Check hereif you need a visa for Albania with your passport.

What are the BIG5 highlights in Theth National Park?

  • Kisha e Thethit, the famous church of Theth
  • Grunas waterfall
  • Blue Eye of Theth
  • Hike to Valbona Pass
  • Viewpoint at Thore Pass

 

 

What is the best time to visit Theth National Park / Albanian Alps?

The hiking season in the Albanian Alps usually goes from May to October, with July and August being the most popular months. Even in June we still had a lot of snow on the Valbona Pass and the pass to Theth was only open for a few days….

To avoid the high season, I recommend mid-late June and September as the best months to travel to Theth National Park and hike Valbona Pass.

In winter, Theth village is often cut off from the outside world for months at a time.

In June the pass road to Theth may still be snowed in

Transfer to Theth National Park

How to get to Theth National Park / Albanian Alps? Important questions! You have several options:

Transfer from Tirana Airport or Shkodra to Theth

Most tours to Theth National Park start from the airport of Tirana (the only international airport of Albania) or from the northern Albanian metropolis of Shkodra and arrive to Theth via Qafa e Thorës (Thore Pass).

Many tour operators include the transfer in their package, but separate transfers with minibuses or trips by cab are also possible.
Currently (June 2021) the pass road to Theth is being renewed and expanded, which will make the journey much more relaxed and faster in the future.
Due to the construction work and the narrow gravel road in many places, the journey from Shkodra takes about 2.5 hours, from Tirana airport a little over 4 hours.

A seat in a minibus from Shkodra to Theth will cost you the equivalent of about 10 euros per person.
Tip: Make sure you get a window seat – the mountain panorama is simply breathtaking!

Transfer costs from Tirana / airport: Negotiable. The usual price for a comfortable minibus is 120-150 euros per five people, i.e. around 25-30 euros per person.

The transfer / transport to Theth is organized by minibuses

Is it possible to travel to Theth National Park by car?

In principle, yes, but:

Without the newly upgraded pass road, getting to Theth by yourself is still an adventure. In the future it will be significantly simplified. Today, an off-road vehicle and appropriate driving skills are more than recommended. The partly very steep precipices and little secured slopes are a real challenge even for experienced drivers, the sometimes rapid oncoming traffic with locals does not exactly make the operation easier.

Transfer to Valbona & hike over the pass

You want even more adventure than a fast ride over the pass? No problem in the north of Albania!

From Shkodra there are also boat trips across the beautiful Koman reservoir and the Valbona River to the mountain village of Valbona, on the other side of the pass from Theth. The ferry usually operates from mid-April to early November. From Valbona you can cross the Valbona Pass and reach Theth in a hike of about 8-10 hours.

However, you should consider what you are going to do with your luggage. There are several options for this:

  • Take the hike over the Valbona Pass with luggage (suitable backpacks are an absolute must!!).
  • Leave the luggage in Shkodra
  • Depending on the season and availability, luggage horses are also offered to assist.The return trip from Theth National Park back to the bigger cities of Albania is quite easy to organize, most accommodations and guesthouses will be happy to help you with the organization and booking.

 

Theth National Park Activities Day 1 – Arrival & Grunas Waterfall

Arrival to Theth National Park

Even the journey to Theth is a dream! Out of the metropolis of Shkodra, we drive through the gently sloping hills above Lake Shkodra – the largest lake in the Balkans. On the other shore is already Montenegro, there I stayed in 2019 in the small village of Gordinje during the Montenegro round trip. How small the world is sometimes.

It goes further and further into the mountains, an indescribably beautiful panorama opens up. The partly small and narrow road winds along the hill up the pass. On the side towards Shkodra everything is very newly developed and the ride is accordingly pleasant. There are several great photo spots along the way with views through the wide valleys of the Albanian Alps and of an adventurous canyon, the “river without water”, which true to its name only carries water in absolutely exceptional situations. But then you certainly don’t want to be in the area…

The road for over the Qafa e Thorës (Thore Pass) at 1,685 meters! Be sure to check the weather conditions! Even in June, the pass can still be snow-covered and impassable!

Before the road descends into the valley to Theth, there is a great viewpoint with an incomparable view of the mountain panorama of Theth and Valbona. From here you can see the high two-thousand-meter peaks that surround the national park, including Radohima (2568 m a.s.l.) to the west, Arapi (2217 m) to the north, and Maja e Popllukës (2578 m) and Jezerca (2694 m) to the east. The road down is currently under construction, it is still a narrow, bumpy gravel road.

Things to do in Theth Albania Albanian Alps activities highlights itinerary travel tips: As soon as you arrive in Theth, you have a magnificent mountain panorama all the way to Valbona

Now you can move into your accommodation and immediately lace up your hiking boots for the first short hike:

Theth Highlights: Hike to Grunas waterfall

The waterfall is not too far from the village of Theth, a good route to start.

The trail leads past the Blutrache Tower in a southerly direction out of the village. There are several potential routes, one a little higher up, the other, better trodden down along the river. But here, all trails lead to the waterfall. The route crosses a red bridge, some of whose rafters are worryingly far apart or loose – but all goes well, the bridge is stable.

On the other side you follow the path upwards – not further along the river. It goes past some old farms, where refreshments are offered depending on the season. The old stone houses look like evidence of a bygone era – but they are still inhabited and the farms are farmed. In the valley and mountain region, the people are largely self-sufficient, and in winter they are often cut off from the outside world for months at a time.

The trail continues through the forest and across streams towards the steep mountain slope until you reach Ujvara e Grunasit, the Grunas Waterfall. The waterfall has a drop of 30 meters and consists exclusively of meltwater.

 

 

Unfortunately, there is not really a circular route, the route takes you back to Theth on the same path.

Discover the Theth highlights in the village

Before or after your hikes in Theth National Park, there will certainly be some time to relax and stroll through the surroundings of the accommodation and enjoy the breathtaking nature. Take a look around the village, there are also some sights to discover in Theth!

The most famous photo motif of the Albanian Alps is without a doubt the Kisha e Thethit, the famous church of Theth. Especially against the imposing mountain backdrop, the small building looks so peaceful.

Things to do in Theth Albania Albanian Alps activities highlights itinerary travel tips: The church of Theth is the most famous photo motif with a mountain panorama

Another Theth sight is the Blood Revenge Tower, which you can visit for a small entrance fee of 150 Leke / 1 Euro. In Albania, the principle of blood revenge applied for many centuries. If a murder was committed, the family of the murdered took revenge on the murderer. A spiral of violence.

The tower was built to protect a murderer, who could hide there until his family could smooth the waters with a lot of negotiating skills. Therefore, instead of large panoramic windows overlooking the magnificent mountain scenery, the tower has only narrow embrasures and offers little other comfort. During this time it was supplied with food from the outside. On 3 extended floors there are some exhibits and pictures on the walls that let you travel back in time.

 

 

So you can well imagine how it looked not so long ago in the lonely mountain villages of Albania.

Albanian Alps Day 2 – Blue Eye of Theth

The Blue Eye is located near the village of Ndërlysaj. This hike can also be combined with the Grunas waterfall (see day 1). There and back it is about 19 kilometers, from Theth rather downhill along the river Shala, back accordingly rather uphill. You should plan about 7-8 hours, plus breaks on the way and in the restaurants.

The Blue Eye of Theth should not be confused with the Blue Eye of Saranda (Syri i Kaltër), also in Albania.

The hike leads in a southerly direction out of the village. Attention: It is best to stay on the left side of the river! Out of the center of Theth there is also the possibility to cross the highway bridge to the right side. But here the gravel road is mainly for vehicles, so it is the less desirable path.

As time goes on, it goes further and further away from the river. Streams and smaller rivers branching off from the Grunas waterfall cross the path. At one point we cross a really adventurous bridge… but even it holds. The Shala River works its way through a deep canyon parallel to the trail, the extent of which is only really apparent as we descend. It goes over well paved trail, but also through boulder fields of meltwater streams that are empty in summer.

 

 

The trail markings are good and sufficient, but hardly necessary, since the direction is clear.

Just before Ndërlysaj, we cross a wide bridge to the other side of the river. The village is just as one imagines a lonely Albanian mountain village: Old stone houses, everywhere still working farms with the corresponding animals. Flocks of sheep are driven along the gravel road by an old farmer’s wife, pigs, cows, dogs, chickens everywhere.

The local shepherdess is looking forward to a visit in the valley of Theth

Final sprint from Ndërlysaj to the Blue Eye of Theth

At a restaurant in the direction of the Blue Eye, you enter the next valley.

Don’t make the mistake of underestimating the coming stretch: It’s still quite a stretch…. At the beginning there is an impressive spectacle of the mighty force of the water in the rocks. It continues away from the river, steadily uphill through the valley. In the summer months there is a small café with refreshments halfway up, in the middle of the forest.

After another 30-45 minutes, the trail forks: down to the left is the Blue Eye sign, but it also continues to the right. Down to the left you will come to a solid bridge over the river and you will come directly to the Blue Eye. When the water level is low, you can jump over to the restaurant and admire the Blue Eye from above.
If you continue up the path to the right, you will come to another viewpoint of the Blue Eye and a ford across to the restaurant. However, this is also only passable when the water level is low.

 

 

The Blue Eye is a beautiful waterfall in the middle of fantastic nature. The deep blue and green play of colors in the water basin is indescribable.
Is it possible to swim in the Blue Eye? In principle, yes, but it is mostly meltwater, so the pool is freezing cold even in high summer! But if you’re up for some delightful refreshment – go for it!

Things to do in Theth Albania Albanian Alps activities highlights itinerary travel tips: Waterfall and Blue Eye by Theth with its deep blue color^

It’s the same way back to the restaurant at the valley entrance. Here you have more than earned a cool refreshing drink and a hearty Albanian meal. If you don’t want to walk back, transfers can also be organized from here via the gravel road back to Theth.

Day 3 – Hike to Valbona Pass

A hike from Theth to Valbona Pass is one of the highlight activities in the Albanian Alps, for this most hikers come to Theth National Park.

For this hike you have 3 different options:

  • Hike up to Valbona Pass and back to Theth
  • Day tour to the village of Valbona, overnight stay there and back to Theth in the next days
  • Hike up to Valbona village (with all luggage) and from there transfer back to Shkodra.And now we are going into the middle of the “Cursed Mountains” (Bjeshkët e Nemuna). The route to Valbona Pass starts in the center of Theth. Up to the Valbona Pass it is about 6,5 kilometers, up to the village of Valbona it is about 15 kilometers in 7 hours – depending on weather and weather conditions.

 

 

The trail is very well signposted and leads through open mountain slopes, dense beech forest, over a plateau with meadow landscape and over steep karst slopes in a varied way. In the upper third there is a restaurant that offers delicious food and refreshments .

You may ask yourself: should I really carry so much water up the mountain? From there, it is not absolutely necessary to take too much water with you. It’s best to check the trail maps beforehand to see how many streams cross your path. The stream and river water in the Albanian Alps is drinkable everywhere without hesitation!

Things to do in Theth Albania Albanian Alps activities highlights itinerary travel tips: Great panoramic views on the route from Theth to Valbona

Enjoy the view from Valbona Pass  

From the pass you have an outstanding view of the surrounding mountain landscape of the Theth National Park and the surrounding valleys. The route to Valbona is a section of the long-distance hiking trail “Peaks of the Balkans”. The ascent is partly moderate, partly quite steep. Even in June there were still large patches of snow left, which can make the climb extremely slow and also dangerous.

Everywhere along the way you have great panoramic views of the surrounding mountain landscape and farms of the village of Theth down in the valley.
Especially because of the unstable weather in the mountains, you should be prepared for anything and have enough food and supplies for a small bivouac.

An indescribable feeling: the silence, the untouched nature, the boundless expanse of the majestic mountain world. Close your eyes and take a deep breath!

 

 

Tip: Due to the sometimes very unstable weather, not everything can be planned in detail in advance. Depending on the weather conditions, you can of course also change the days.

Albanian Alps / Cursed Mountains: activities for more days

You have more than 3 days in Theth National Park and the Albanian Alps? Great, there are more activities and hiking routes to discover!

Hike from Theth to Peja Pass

Qafa e Pejës (Peja Pass) is located at 1,710 meters and connects Theth with the Montenegrin village of Gusinje. From Theth you can also walk a circular route that leads you back to the starting point.

 

 

Start in Theth with the Peaks of the Balkans route

The Theth National Park is part of this 192 kilometer long distance hiking trail in the Prokletije Mountains, i.e. the Albanian Alps. The trail crosses Montenegro, Albania and Kosovo and includes 10 daily stages.

Detailed information can be found on the official website of Peaks of the Balkans

Conclusion for 3 days in Theth National Park

What, only 3 days for the Theth National Park in the Albanian Alps? Admittedly, 3 days is a tight program and more time in an adventure vacation would always be nice.

But: As you can see from the suggested activities, you still don’t have to miss out on any of the Theth sights and with 72 hours in the Albanian Alps, besides the hiking tours and pass ascents, there is also plenty of time for a discovery tour in the village or a relaxed drink on the meadows in the valley with the hospitable Albanians.

Accommodation / Hotels in Theth National Park

Looking for the best accommodation in Theth National Park? For the 3 days in the Albanian Alps I recommend you to take an accommodation in the village Theth, which you don’t have to change during the time in the national park.

In Theth village you will find picturesquely situated accommodation

Likewise, there are accommodations in Valbona, the destination of many hikers from Theth when crossing the Valbona Pass.

Personally, I can recommend the Bujtina Polia inn in Theth, where I stayed myself during the stay in the Albanian Alps!

 

 

Budget for 3 days in Theth National Park / Albania?

What costs do you have to expect in Theth National Park? Here you can see the cost estimate / budget for your hike in the Albanian Alps summarized:

Cost of transfer to Theth

  • From Shkodra: A seat in a minibus from Shkodra to Theth will cost you the equivalent of about 10 euros per person.
  • From Tirana / Airport: Negotiable. The usual price for a comfortable minibus is 120-150 euros / five people, which is about 25-30 euros per person.

Cost of public transport

Costs for public transport are not incurred – or do not carry any weight.

Budget for accommodation in Theth National Park

The prices for the guesthouses in the Albanian Alps are on average 30 – 40 euros per night in a double room.

Cost of guided tours in Theth National Park

In Theth National Park, guided tours and whole packages are also offered by various organizations. These vary greatly depending on the provider and activity.

Due to the good signposting, most tours can be done without a guide if you are well prepared. For special activities such as jeep tours or multi-day trips, however, advance bookings are useful and recommended.

Food & Drinks

For food and beverages you should plan around 10-15 euros per day.

A beer (0.5 liters) or other soft drinks usually cost 150 Lek (about 1.30 Euro). Water for the hiking tours is usually available free of charge in the accommodations, the stream water in the mountains is drinkable and perfect for refilling.

The smiling woman on the Korca beer can is a constant companion in Albania

Prices in local restaurants: meat or fish with vegetables 1,000 Lek (8.50 Euro), 10 cevapcici 400 Lek (3.50 Euro), small salad 300 Lek (2.50 Euro).

There are no big supermarkets in Theth, rather small stores or kiosks. As expected, the selection is not huge. If you have special preferences for snacks during the hikes, better bring something with you.

Entrance fees for sightseeing in Theth National Park

Entrance fees for sights I paid only for the Blood Revenge Tower: 150 Lek (around 1,30 Euro)

Shopping & Souvenirs

… are of course completely up to you. There are many exotic and special souvenirs and local food to buy from the locals

Conclusion: Cost 3 days in Theth National Park

With the average costs you have to calculate with about 200 euros for the 3 days in the Albanian Alps, excluding arrival and departure. If you book a tour with a mountain guide, this will be added.

Prices for transportation, internet etc. change quickly, so I can only give a rough indication here, but the effort is too great to keep every price up to date every day. Bear with me 🙂

The fantastic mountain panorama in Theth National Park

Now you are well prepared for a trip to Theth National Park and hiking tours in the Albanian Alps. You know the best best activities for 3 days, the most beautiful places and sights for a great time in Albania! Udhetim i mire – have a good trip 🇦🇱

 

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