Peaks of the Balkans Trek
The Albanian Alps and Beyond
This cross-border trek linking Albania, Montenegro and Kosovo will take you on an adventure through the spectacular highland areas between these three nations. For decades this area was closed to visitors due to a combination of conflict and isolationist policies. No more. You can now happily hike across the borders of these remote alpine regions with their sublime vistas – former no-man’s lands finally open. Join us on shepherd paths and foot trails through breath-taking landscapes including verdant valleys, crystal-clear alpine lakes, the highest peaks in the Balkan Alps while enjoying the hospitality of local families in picturesque village. An area where time seems to have stopped.
This journey into the Albanian Alps is for adventurous travelers who enjoy grand vistas of nature along with cultural experiences such as staying in unique traditional houses of native Albanian highlanders, the “malesore”. This trek covers some of the most scenic parts of Albania and includes a ferry trip on spectacular Lake Koman, a trek through the beautiful Valbona Valley and a visit to the Theth Valley. You’ll visit the ancient Fortress of Kruja, set high in the Albanian hills, and admire the spectacular view of one of the largest lakes in Europe from the ruins of Rozafa Castle.
Peaks of the Balkans Trek
$2,700 – 11 Days / Includes travel time
Minimum 4 participants
- U.S. Mountain Madness Guide
- Ground transportation starting and ending at Tirana International Airport.
- 9 scheduled nights in 3 star hotels and local guest houses (double occupancy)
- All meals starting with dinner on Day 2 and ending with breakfast on Day 11
- Ferry ride Fierze – Koman
- All luggage transfer by mule/horse and vehicle (please bring bags, no suitcases)
- All museum fees described in the itinerary
- Snacks while hiking
Price Does Not Include
- International airfare
- Airport taxes
- Personal equipment and clothing
- Personal expenses (phone calls, laundry, room service, extra hotel nights, extra meals, etc.)
- Travel insurance with trip cancellation, medical and evacuation policy
- Alcoholic and bottled beverages
- Breakfast and Lunch Day 2
- All expenses associated with non-scheduled departure
- Guide gratuities
- $700 deposit at time of registration, which includes a $300 non-refundable registration fee
- Balance due 120 days prior to departure
- The balance may be paid by check, wire transfer, ACH or credit card with a 3% convenience fee
Peaks of the Balkans Trek 2021
- Sep 11, 2021 — Sep 21, 2021
Peaks of the Balkans Trek 2022
- Sep 10, 2022 — Sep 20, 2022
Cancellation / Refund Policy
- MMI strongly recommends trip cancellation/interruption and evacuation insurance for all trips. Our insurance partner, Ripcord, offers comprehensive travel insurance including trip cancellation, as well as rescue/evacuation policies and can assist in answering any questions. In addition, Participant is expected to have sufficient medical insurance as prescribed by their country of origin. Participant understands that MMI does not include any type of insurance with the cost of the trip.
- If you decide to cancel your trip or change your itinerary, MMI must be notified in writing. Your trip will be cancelled from the date written notice is received. If proper written cancellation notice is not received, amounts paid and reservations made will be forfeited.
- Non-refundable fees may apply for certain trips in order to secure permits and other services. MMI must strictly adhere to cancellation policies outside MMI’s control.
- Due to the personalized service we offer on our trips, MMI reserves the right to waive any fees. We will attempt to accommodate changes and cancellations, waiving certain fees when feasible.
- Circumstances outside the control of MMI and its partners, may require amended cancellation/refund policies. Such circumstances may include, but are not limited to COVID-19, natural disasters, terrorism and so forth.
- Full refund, less the non-refundable registration fee, will be provided 121 days or more before the departure date
- No refunds will be provided 120 days or less before the departure date
We strongly recommend the purchase of travel cancellation insurance to protect you from the unexpected. You aren’t likely to think of it now, but people do get ill, break a bone, have a family emergency or get assigned to a last-minute business trip. If you are in remote areas, please note that emergency rescue & evacuation can be very expensive.
We also strongly urge you to consider rescue and evacuation insurance if your own policy does not provide the coverage needed. Services available may include, but are not limited to, helicopter evacuation, medical care, etc.
If you choose not to purchase insurance, you assume full responsibility for any expenses incurred in the event of a medical emergency and/or evacuation, as well as for trip cancellation, interruption, lost luggage, etc. We are not the experts and therefore ask that you please consult our travel insurance partner directly with any specific questions.
To protect against losses due to illness, accident, or other unforeseen circumstances, Mountain Madness strongly recommends the purchase of travel insurance as soon as possible after making a deposit. Mountain Madness has partnered with Redpoint Resolutions as our preferred travel insurance provider. Redpoint’s Ripcord Rescue Travel Insurance™ is designed for adventurers.
For a quote, or to purchase travel insurance, please click this link Ripcord Rescue Travel Insurance™ or call +1 – 415-481‑0600. Pricing varies based on age, trip cost, trip length, and level of coverage.
Critical benefits of Ripcord Rescue Travel Insurance include:
- A completely integrated program with a single point of contact for emergency services, travel assistance, and insurance claims
- Evacuation and rescue services from your point of injury or illness to your hospital of choice
- Comprehensive travel insurance for trip cancellation/interruption, primary medical expense coverage, baggage loss or delay, emergency accident and emergency sickness medical expense, emergency dental, accidental death and dismemberment, and more
- Optional security evacuation coverage in case of an unplanned natural disaster or other security events
- Waiver for pre-existing conditions (must be purchased within 14 days of tour deposit)
- Optional “Cancel for Any Reason” coverage (must be purchased within 14 days of tour deposit)
The total number of days for your trip includes all travel to and from your destination, with some exceptions. Dates listed on the website start with a departure date from the US and include the day you arrive home. For this trip you will need to arrive in Tirana, Albania on Day 2. Your return flight home will be the last date listed on the dates and prices page. The trip itinerary assumes that this will be a one-day return flight home.
If you are traveling from Europe it’s possible you can eliminate one day from the itinerary as long as you arrive on Day 2 of the itinerary. Return flight is scheduled for Day 11 of the trip.
Please contact our office for any help needed with flight schedule.
Peaks of the Balkans Trek Day by Day
Depart from home and travel to Tirana, Albania.
A Mountain Madness representative will pick you up and transfer you to Shkoder, the largest and oldest city of North Albania. The late afternoon will be spent exploring the town on foot, followed by dinner in a traditional restaurant.
Kelmend / Sllapi Waterfall
Hike Details: 8 km, start at 360 m / up to 840 m / down to 400 m, 5 hours
Overnight: Guesthouse in Lepushe
After breakfast, we will visit the fortress of Rozafa, which offers great views of the lake, the river’s Buna and Drin, and the mountains off in the horizon. On both sides of the road, a number of small farms grow sage, rosemary, and lavender. The road climbs to Leqet e Hotit Pass, where we get a great view of the Cem River Valley, as it enters Montenegro. After passing the village of Tamare we will reach the village of Selca through glacier valley littered with limestone debris of all sizes and shapes. Here we will start our first hike. Walking first on scree, the trail gets firmer as we gain altitude and enjoy the panoramic views of the narrow valley below. Our objective is the spectacular waterfall of Sllapi nestled in an amazing fairy-tale setting. We will have a picnic lunch near the waterfall and then via another trail, make our way down, through the pastures of Mreg, to the bottom valley. Our minibus will transfer is to the alpine village of Lepushe. A cozy village guesthouse, will host us for the night, and prepare wonderful traditional home-made meal for dinner.
Greben / Vermosh / Gucija / Gerbaja / Plava
Hike Details: 12 km, start at 1100 m / up to 1837 m / down to 1050 m, 6 hours
Overnight: Traditional Hotel in Plava
Today we leave Lepushe on foot and at the Pass of Perdolec make our way on a winding forest road to an elevated alp. From here, a gradual walk through meadows and woods will lead us to the Peak of Greben, where we get great views of Mount Trojan, the Lepushe Alpine Circuit and the jagged silhouette of the Accursed Mountain Range in the horizon. We continue on the fairly level ridge to the Pass of Zabeli. From here we start the descent towards Vermoshi – the northernmost village in Albania. The trip then continues by bus, crossing the border of Montenegro at Bashkim station, to the town of Gucija and further to the narrow alpine valley of Gerbaja, surrounded by sheer slopes and jagged peaks. Our lunch stop will take us to the springs of Ali Pash Gucija where we’ll stop for lunch at a traditional Albanian restaurant. After lunch, another short transfer will bring us to the shores of Lake Plava for a short visit of the town center, before reaching our hotel located right at the waterfront. The hotel’s architecture is inspired by the traditional houses of the area, and is a great location to relax and prepare for the challenges that follow. Good food and fine wine await!
Hike Details: 21 km, start at 1020 m / up to 1700 m / down to 750 m, 8 hours
Overnight: Guesthouse in Theth
A short transfer will bring us to the village of Vuthaj, where we load our bags on horses and start the long trek to Theth valley. We climb slowly through Ropojana valley and then steeper after the alpine lake of Gjeshtar until we reach the rocky plateau of Runica. The trail is flanked by the spectacular Karanfil massif on the right and Jezerca – the highest summit of the Dinaric Alps on the left. At times it feels as if you’ve landed on the moon. At Peja Pass we stop for our picnic lunch with fantastic view of the beautiful valley of Theth before starting back down. The trail winds along the rocky dome of Harapit Peak, which dominates the valley end. The last section, through the village of Okol, will lead to our guesthouse, located at the center of the village.
Hike Details: 8 km, start at 750 m / down to 500 m, 6 hours
Overnight: Guesthouse in Theth
Today’s walk doesn’t have much gradient but is rich in culture, as we discover one of the most traditional villages of Northern Albania –Theth. Its impressive landscape and ancient mountain culture inspired several writers. The best known of them is Edith Durham’s “High Albania”. Passing by the Catholic church, we’ll visit the Blood Feud Tower and discuss the “Kanun of Dukagjin”, the century-old oral regulatory code of the mountains. We continue to Theth waterfall along walls and terraces dating from the late bronze era. We hike to the natural pools of Nderlysa and, then further to the narrow valley of Kapreja. A picnic lunch on the trail at the Blue Eye of Kapreja under the shade of the trees. We trek back to Nderlysa where a short transfer will take us to Theth for dinner and overnight at the same house as the night before.
Hike Details: 14 km, start at 750 m / up to 1759 m / down to 1000 m, 7 hours
Overnight: Guesthouse in Rrogam
Today we load our bags on horses again and leave the Valley of Theth (750 m) climbing toward Valbona Pass (1759 m). The path is perhaps the most travelled trail of the Albanian Alps and it remains the only direct connection with Valbona Valley. At the pass on a clear day, you’ll have great views of the highest peaks like Jezerca, Radohima and many others. From there the path winds downhill toward the springs of Valbona and a forest trail that will lead us to the village of Rrogam (900 m) located at the bottom of the valley. We will continue a few kilometers further on a dry riverbed before reaching our guesthouse.
Ceremi / Doberdol
Hike Details: 16 km, start at 1350 m / up to 1920 m / down to 1740 m, 6 hours
Overnight: Mountain hut in Doberdol
A short scenic transfer (about 30 – 40 minutes) will bring us to the beginning of the trail in the hamlet of Çerem – a rare off the beaten track beauty. We continue on foot over undulating terrain in beautiful alpine scenery, leaving Çerem and the Kollata mountains behind. Our bags are loaded on horses once again and we make our way first on a forest path with grassy clearings, then on a gravel road until we reach the Montenegrin border. We then continue on Montenegro territory for a while to the ruins of the old military border post. Further on we take a break in the hamlet of Balqin which is used by shepherds during the summer season. Several springs and creeks along the way are safe to fill our bottles with fresh water. The last leg of the walk takes us to the valley of Gash and Doberdol, located in the middle of vast alpine pastures. The perfect pristine location to relax for the afternoon.
“Tre Kujfite” — Three Borders
Hike Details: 16 km, start at 1740 m / up to 1920 m / down to 1000 m, 6 hours
Overnight: Hotel in Gjakova
We leave Doberdol and start climbing slowly to the ridge in front of us which marks the border between Albania, Montenegro and Kosovo. At the ridge the views are stunning! Gjeravica (the highest peak of Kosovo), Kollata (the highest peak of Montenegro) and Jezerca (the second highest peak of Albania) . An additional climb to the peak of the “Three Borders”, before starting down slowly through beautiful alpine meadows and small glacier lakes. We end in a dense fir forest that leads to Zalli I Rupes field. Here we transfer to the town of Gjakova, where we will also spend the night.
Lake Koman / Tirana
Ferry Boat on Lake Koman
Overnight: Hotel in Tirana
Today we leave very early in the morning to catch the ferry boat from Fierze. We’ll take breakfast to go and hop on a local mini-bus to Fierze . The journey along Lake Koman itself is absolutely stunning. The boat trip takes around two-and-a-half hours, and because Lake Koman is narrow and surrounded by steep mountains, the journey is akin to traveling through a magnificent fjord-like canyon. Further transfer to the capital, Tirana, followed by some free time to relax and with a city tour in the afternoon.
Transfer to Tirana International Airport for flight home.
Note on Itinerary: Although we do our best to follow the schedule listed, this itinerary is subject to change for numerous reasons beyond our control
Equipment for Peaks of the Balkans Trek
Day pack (30-45L)
With padded shoulder straps and waist belt; used for carrying personal gear such as water bottle, extra clothing, snacks, camera, etc. Individual loads will be between 10 and 20 pounds. A climbing pack with a volume between 1800-2500 cu. in. (30-45 liters) serves most people’s needs well
Large duffel bag (150L)
One at least 7,000 cubic inch capacity (150 liters). Must be durable and waterproof
Patagonia Black Hole
Small padlock for duffel bags
Makes identifying your bags easy at airports or hotels
Adjustable trekking poles
Three piece poles recommended
Black Diamond Trail Back Pole
Head and Face
Fleece or wool hat
It must cover the ears
Shade hat or baseball cap
A visor hat with a good brim is essential for protection from the sun
Mountain Madness trucker hat
Bandanas or neck gaiter
Various uses, i.e. cleaning glasses, sun protection when tied around the neck, etc. We have our own Mountain Madness neck gaiter available for purchase!
Mountain Madness neck gaiter
Sunglasses or Glacier glasses (w/hard case)
Essential eye protection whether in the tropics, at high altitudes or by the water. Sun glare off the snow can be intense so polarized 100% UVA/UVB glasses work best. Consider bringing a spare pair
Lightweight gloves to use while trekking and hanging around camp
A shell system of a fleece liner and waterproof shell that handles cold
Outdoor Research Arete
Thin socks (2 pair)
Two pairs of synthetic or wool socks to wear under heavy wool socks to help prevent blisters and keep feet dry
Smartwool or Cool Max
Thick socks (3 pair)
Three pairs of synthetic or wool socks, medium to heavyweight. Check boot fit with thin and thick socks on
Smartwool or Thorlo
One pair of gaiters made of breathable material; keeps dirt and snow out of boots. Make sure they fit over your boots
Outdoor Research Verglas or Crocodiles
One pair light to medium-weight hiking/backpacking boots, waterproof, large enough to be comfortable with one thin and one thick sock
Salomon Quest 4D
Tennis shoes or sandals
Lightweight to wear in camp after a long day of hiking
Two synthetic or merino wool t-shirts. No cotton!
Long-sleeved Base Layer
Two lightweight to mediumweight, pull-over is best
Two, synthetic, no cotton!
Softshell Jacket w/ hood
This is what you will be wearing while hiking at higher altitudes or while kicking around camps at lower altitude. This jacket should be full-zip
Outdoor Research Ferrosi
Hardshell jacket w/ hood
A good jacket made of Gore-Tex (recommended) or waterproof nylon, roomy enough to fit over multiple layers
Outdoor Research Foray, Patagonia Triolet
Down or synthetic jacket w/hood
This is your most important piece of warm gear and will mean the difference between an enjoyable climb or a miserable one. A warm, full zip jacket with hood is recommended and ideal
Helly Hansen Vanir, Feathered Friends Volant, Marmot Guide’s Down Hoody, Outdoor Research Virtuoso Hoody
Sun hoody (optional)
This piece with a high SPF rating and lightweight fabric offers protection from high altitude sun
Adequate supply for the entire climb
One pair of quick-drying shorts. Good for hiking at lower elevations on the mountain
Long base layer
Two pairs light or mediumweight
Softshell pants are water resistant, yet highly breathable and durable. Great for colder conditions over a pair of long underwear or tights higher on the mountain or summit day
Outdoor Research Voodoo, Mountain Hardwear Touren, Patagonia Guide
waterproof and breathable with side zips (minimum of ¾ zips recommended) Gore-Tex or equivalent
Outdoor Research Furio, Arcteryx Beta AR
Stuff sacks/ditty bags/plastic bags
To organize gear in your duffle and pack. All clothing should be kept dry using waterproof stuff sacks or large heavyweight plastic bags (trash compactor bags work great)
Toothbrush and paste, comb, tampons, biodegradable soap (small amount), etc. Bring enough for the entire trip
1 – 2 rolls stored in a plastic bag
Must have SPF rating of 20 or more. Bring two just in case!
Bring plenty of sun block with SPF of 40 or more. It's easy to underestimate the amount necessary for your trip!
Bring extra batteries!
Pocket knife or multitool
Simple Swiss Army type with scissors. Make sure you transport in checked bag, not carry-on!
To block out snoring and other noise to ensure a good night's sleep
Small stainless-steel thermos (optional)
For hot beverages on summit day
Water bottle (safari)
A one-quart, wide-mouthed plastic bottle
Steri Pen, Potable Aqua, Polar Pure crystal iodine. Purifies drinking water while on the climb. this will only be necessary as a back-up.
Powdered additives like Gatorade or NUUN tablets make treated water taste better
Personal first aid and drug kit
See Health and Medical Information
Pepto Bismol tablets; Maalox, Gelusil M or Mylanta antacid tablets. Donnatal for stomach cramps. Probiotic capsules taken daily may help keep your gastro-intestinal system working smoothly
For wash up in camp
A small pack or two anti-bacterial are great for general hygiene
Spare contacts and glasses
Contacts can be a problem in dusty conditions, so make sure you have your back-up glasses with you. Glasses wearers should have a spare set
Protection from rain and sun; compact and light weight
Trail snacks are important, and an assortment of candy bars are available at teahouses along the way. Bring some power/energy bars or if there is something else you particularly like to eat while hiking. You will be fed well throughout the trek, so this is just something extra
A poncho is great for lower down on the mountain when it is raining. Rather than having to wear your hard-shell jacket and overheat, just throw the poncho over yourself and your pack and you will stay dry as a bone
Phone with camera, and/or separate camera. Bring extra batteries and memory!
If you want to charge your electronics along the way, a small, lightweight solar panel to charge batteries or portable charging device may be a good addition
Travel power adapter
Most come in kits with all the plugs you need. Double-check to make sure you’re taking the correct adapter/plugs
Comfortable clothing for travel before and after the expedition
Peaks of the Balkans Trek
11 Days / Includes travel time
Minimum 4 participants
6,300 ft / 1920 m
Trekking involves 5-8 hours per day with large elevation gains of 2,000+ feet / 610+ meters per day. It is likely the trek will have consecutive days of this difficulty in a row . You should be in great physical shape and participating in 5, 1-hour workouts per week before the trek. Leading up to this trip trekkers should be able hike both days on a weekend for up to eights hours each day with a small pack with altitude gain if possible.