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Itineraries on some departure dates may differ, please select the itinerary that you wish to explore.
Our trip begins at Tirana International Airport (TIA) at 3pm, the latest your flight can arrive is 2.30pm. You will need to arrive by this time to join the airport transfer today. We will travel together as a group to our hotel in Shkodra which will take approximately one-and-a-half hours. The welcome meeting with your leader will take place this evening before dinner.
Known as the 'Capital of North Albania', Shkodra is one of the oldest cities in the country. Founded in the 4th century B.C. the city is rich in cultural heritage and boasts a large number of artists, musicians, poets and writers. Time permitting we will visit the imposing Rozafa Castle that rises up on a rocky hill to the west of the city's entrance and, after dinner, take a walk around the city's pedestrian area, 'pjaca', with low elegant buildings from the Venetian period.
Hotel Tradita (or similar)
This morning we drive from Shkodra to the docks at Lake Koman, before boarding our ferry. Described in the Bradt guides as 'one of the great boat trips of the world' our two hour journey takes us on glassy blue waters through twists and turns of narrow waterways beneath stunning mountain peaks. A truly beautiful introduction to the amazing scenery that Northern Albania has to offer. Once at the other side we drive to Valbona and dive into an alpine landscape, stopping on route for a beautiful riverside walk that will stretch out our legs and prepare us for the weeks' walking ahead. After our walk we will have a short transfer to our base in the mountains for the next three nights.
Today's 6 kilometre/3.7 mile linear walk is expected to take around three hours with 360 metres/1181 feet of ascent and 180 metres/591 feet of descent.
Hotel NeoKulla (or similar)
We spend the next two days hiking in Valbona National Park. Valbona is based in the Tropoja district of Northern Albania which, along with two adjoining districts, encompasses a region called The Malesi, roughly translated this means The Highlands. A wild and high mountainous region inhabited by fiercely independent and strong people who have never really been conquered or subdued by the various invasions in the last 2000 years! The full name of the mountains around Valbona are the Malësi e Gjakovës and this name is most often translated in English as 'The Accursed Mountains.'
A short drive after breakfast brings us to the beginning of our trail near to Drogobia village. We start a moderate climb, crossing meadows and patches of beechwood, climbing higher until we reach the elevated pastures known as 'Gjarpri I Dragobis' - the Drogobia Snake. It is the perfect spot to have a picnic lunch and to taste dairy products from the local shepherds as graze their herds here throughout the summer. We will loop the pastures, enjoying the spectacular views of the Dragobia Gorge on the opposite side of the valley, sided by numerous peaks, before descending to the bottom of the valley and taking a short drive back to our hotel.
Today's 11 kilometre/6.8 mile out and back walk is expected to take around 5 hours with 630 metres/2067 feet of ascent and descent.
Today we will walk straight from our hotel to the mountain slopes in front of us that create the massif of Paplluga. The trail winds (steeply at times) through woods of beech and fir, crossing occasionally an old road used during the regime years for timber, until we reach the plateau known as 'Rrethi i Jubanit' and continue towards a panoramic spot where we'll have a picnic lunch at a local farmers house. In front of us tower the magnificent vertical peaks of Grykat e Hapta, that create an impressive ampitheatre of limestone stretching untill the end of the valley in the south west, where the Valbona Pass awaits for us to cross it in the coming day.
After lunch we will continue to stay high on the plateau before starting the descent in the east facing slopes of 'Rrethri' to reach the hamlet of Kukaj where we will taste a cup of herbal mountain tea on the terrace of a local family's home. Refreshed, we will then descend to the bottom of the valley under the soft late afternoon light.
Today's 7 kilometre/4.3 mile walk is expected to take around 5 hours with 650 metres/2133 feet of ascent and descent.
A morning transfer will bring us from the hotel to the top of the valley in Rrogam where the road ends. Here our luggage is loaded onto horses and we start walking uphill to reach the Valbona Springs via a steep and winding forest trail. Later the walk continues into wide alpine pastures with large glacier erratic rocks scattered around the valley floor. The path then continues to steepen into a narrow trail that leads to the Valbona Pass. On clear days the views from this location at the heart of the Accursed Massif are truly breath taking. From here we follow a rather steep trail that winds through fir and beech forest and descends into the Thethi valley, also surrounded by a number of 2500metre/8200 feet high sheer rocky domes, such as the Radohima and the Harapit.
For the next two nights we stay in Pisha Villa, a guesthouse ran by a local family with mountain views. The rooms accommodate two to four people in each so you may be sharing with other members of the group for these nights. The rooms are basic but comfortable with shared bathroom facilities. You will receive a warm welcome from your hosts who will provide lovely home cooked meals.
Today's 11 kilometre/6.8 feet walk is expected to take around seven hours with 850 metres/2789 feet of ascent and 1,240 metres/4068 feet of descent.
Pisha Villa (or similar)
Thethi is an iconic Northern Albanian 'malesore' (highlands) village. Enclosed in the full remoteness of the Accursed Mountains, it stayed protected from the multiple invasions that afflicted the more accessible parts of the Alps and life was organised following the detailed rules of the 'Kanun' - the Unwritten Code of the Mountains. These aspects were well pictured by the Victorian traveller Ms Edith Durham in the book, High Albania, written on her journey into the area at the beginning of the 20th Century.
After breakfast we will have the chance to visit some of the local attractions of the village such as the stone built catholic church, Kulla e Ngujimit - and the blood feud lock in tower, used under the old 'kanun' to solve crimes amongst local families. Leaving the town we walk along the river and reach a small waterfall. Our walk also takes us along the Grunas Canyon's ancient terraces towards the hamlet of Nderlysa; here we will have a tasty lunch prepared by one of the local families.
In the afternoon, you will have the option to stay back at the guesthouse where we had lunch and relax in the gardens or take a further optional walk (total 6 kilometre/3.7 miles) to a natural crystal clear swimming pool. The natural pools in Nderlysa are created by the clear and icy water of the Kaprea Creek and offer the opportunity for a swim. Later on in the afternoon we will take a short 20 minute drive back to Thethi for dinner and overnight.
Today's 7 kilometre/4.3 mile walk is expected to take around 4 hours with 420 metres/1378 feet of ascent and 660 metres/2165 feet of descent.
This morning we drive into the scenic valley of Boga, there is the option and depending on the group's wishes to stop for a leisurely circular walk at the Thore Pass surroundings to admire the views (approx. one-and-a-half hours). Leaving behind the silhouette of the Albanian Alps and heading towards the Shkodra plain we reach the colourful Albanian capital of Tirana, where we stay in a hotel near the city centre (approx. 4 hour drive). A city orientation walk led by the tour leader this afternoon gives us the opportunity to learn more about the developments of Tirana throughout the various periods of influence, and have a taste of its cosmopolitan atmosphere. The rest of the day will be free for a relaxed afternoon and final evening in Tirana.
Hotel Oxford (or similar)
The trip ends after breakfast at our hotel in Tirana.
There are no activities planned today, so you are free to depart from Tirana at any time. If your flight is departing later in the day luggage storage facilities are available at our hotel. If you would like to receive an airport transfer today, you need to depart from Tirana International Airport (TIA) a 40 minutes' drive from the hotel. If you are spending some more time in the city we recommend taking the cable car up Mount Dajti for great views of the city, or visiting some of the history based museums in the capital such as the 'house of leaves' or 'Bunk'art'.
Total distance : 50 kilometres
Albania has a mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers (ranging from 9 - 11 hours of sunshine a day in Tirana). Temperatures can reach up to 40°C in July. October to April is much cooler and can be wet. Albania is a mountainous country and the high peaks are snow-capped all year with seasonal weather patterns in the mountains that can be unpredictable.
2 Pin Round
Islam, Albanian Orthodox, Roman Catholic
Albanian, Greek, Vlach, Romani, Slavic dialects
Bring light and comfortable clothing that can be layered according to the temperature. The weather conditions in the mountains can be changeable, and it can become cool, especially at night, so bring warmer layers. Tops made from wicking materials which keep you drier and warmer are recommended as a base layer, and walking trousers are preferable to trousers of heavier material such as jeans. A waterproof jacket is essential at all times in case of rain and wind. -Breathable wind and waterproof jacket (you may also wish to bring waterproof trousers) -T-shirts -Long sleeved tops -Sunhat -Long trousers (you should dress with respect in the rural villages) -Shorts (if you prefer to walk in them) -Swimwear and towel -Midlayer Fleece/pullover -Socks (liner and thicker pair) -Insulated jacket
We recommend you bring walking boots with ankle support- leather or fabric are both fine. Make sure that your boots are worn-in and comfortable before the start of the trip. Also trainers or sandals for relaxing and general wear. We suggest that on international flights you either carry your walking boots in your hand luggage or wear them - should your luggage be lost or delayed, your own boots are the one thing that will be irreplaceable.
Bring one main piece of luggage and a 20-30 litre day sack is recommended. You will need to carry what you need for the day which may include a raincoat, jumper, camera, sun-cream, water and picnic lunch. On hot days you will carry fewer clothes but more drinking water. Remember you are expected to carry your own luggage so don't overload yourself. Please bear in mind there are lots of stairs in Albania and no porterage in the hotels.
- Preferrably a travel bag/backpack instead of a wheeled suitcase - Sunglasses - Sun cream - Small Torch (with spare batteries and bulb) - Camera - Walking poles (if you usually use them) - Personal toiletries -Lunch bag/Tupperware (for packed lunches) - Personal first aid kit - On each walk a first aid kit is carried but you should have your own blister kit, supply of plasters, aspirin and other essentials. - Small waterproof dry bag (for items such as your mobile phone) - Reusable water bottle (minimum 1 litre) - Get 15% discount on a Water-to-Go bottle www.explore.co.uk/about-us/responsible-travel/water-to-go-discount-with-explore
Due to the size of the accommodation in the National Park areas a single room is only available on certain nights on this trip. On days five and six we stay at Pisha Villa in Thethi, this is a traditional Albanian family house and the rooms are simple but comfortable. There are modern bathroom facilities with showers, but not en-suite, towels will be provided. The number of rooms are limited and they accommodate two to four people in each so you may be sharing with other members of the group for these two nights. A private room at the Pisha Villa is available on request only and depending on availability, costing £45 please discuss with the sales team.
We strongly recommend that you check your government's travel advisory for up-to-date information and advice about your destination: safety and security, entry requirements, health, local laws and customs. For UK citizens, check the latest Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice.
Please refer to our COVID-19 entry requirements page for any country-specific conditions of entry. Whilst we strive to update this on a regular basis we recommend you also check the FCDO website for the latest advice on entry requirements in this fast-evolving situation. Information can change at any time.
Please note that some countries require proof of parental consent when travelling overseas with under 18s. Please check requirements with the relevant embassy or consular office well in advance of travel if this applies to your party.
Once your booking has been confirmed we guarantee the price will not increase, whatever the circumstances. However, please note that if you voluntarily make any changes to your booking including changing your trip or departure date, any additional costs or charges incurred will not be covered. Before booking please ensure you have read our important tour pricing information.Booking Conditions
Albania: Visas are not required by UK, Australian, New Zealand, US and Canadian citizens. Other nationalities should consult their local embassy or consular office. You should confirm all visa related questions with the relevant Embassy prior to departure.
If you do require assistance in obtaining a visa then you may be able to apply through Explore's recommended visa service in the UK, Travcour. See www.travcour.com to download the relevant visa application for your trip, if applicable (UK citizens only), along with details of how to apply for your visa through Travcour. The Team at Travcour will be happy to answer specific questions relating to visa applications, please call them directly on 0208 5431846.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are in possession of a full passport, with the correct validity for your chosen destination.
Before booking your Explore trip, please ensure that you read both our Essential Information and Booking Conditions.
Customers who have chosen to book on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements of our tour, please ensure that you have checked your tour specific ‘Joining Instructions’ prior to booking your own travel arrangements. Your joining instructions can be found below in the dates and prices information.
You may also be eligible for the Free Explore Transfer.
Customers booked on the ‘Land Only’ arrangements will receive a Free Transfer, provided you arrive and depart on the tour only itinerary start and end dates. The complimentary transfers will be arranged from the Explore designated airport or train station to your trips joining point, and then back from the ending point to the designated airport or train station. Generally the airport or station that Explore have selected will be the one that is closest to the town or city where the trip starts, or the one nearest to the joining point. It will be either an airport or train station but not both.
The exception to this rule is customers who are booked on a tour where the joining and ending point is at the designated airport or train station.
Free transfers are not available for Polar customers.
If you are not eligible for the Free Transfer then you will need to make your own way through to the joining and ending point. On a majority of our tours Explore will be able to provide a private transfer at an additional cost. Please ask for a quote at the time of booking.
For more information regarding the Explore Free Transfer click here
It is a condition of booking with Explore that you have adequate valid travel insurance. It is your responsibility to arrange appropriate travel insurance and ensure you have read and understood the full terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy to ensure that you are covered for all activities you intend to undertake whilst on the tour, including all optional activities. Your Insurance Policy must fully cover you for medical expenses and emergency repatriation to your home country. Please ensure your policy includes medical emergency helicopter evacuation in the event of illness or injury and covers the entire duration of your holiday. If you are trekking at altitude please ensure that there is no upper altitude limit which may limit or exclude cover for your trip. The cost of many of our Polar Voyages will exceed the capped amount covered by standard insurance premiums and you will be required to pay an additional premium to cover the full value of your trip. Please ensure that you are covered for the full amount of your holiday cost, as insufficient cover could invalidate a claim under the policy. Medical and repatriation insurance cover is not mandatory for UK residents who are travelling on trips within the United Kingdom.
Read more information about what travel insurance is required.
Explore offers a wide range of flexible flying options to make joining and leaving our trips easy. Read more about them here.
You are able to book this tour on a 'land only' basis or as a ‘flight inclusive’ package. Your flight inclusive package will be fully protected by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ATOL protection scheme.
We have a good selection of flights not only from London but from many regional airports around the UK allowing us to compare fares between scheduled carriers as well as low cost and charter airlines. Our dedicated flights team will match the best flight options to your arrival and departure airport.
On our website we display a UK flight inclusive package guide price which is generally based on a London departure. To avoid paying supplements or to secure your preferred flight option, we recommend booking as early as possible, especially for peak travel dates.
We recommend protection against hepatitis A, typhoid, polio and tetanus. Rabies vaccination is recommended by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office due to the large number of stray dogs in Albania. You should seek further advice from your travel clinic. Tick-borne encephalitis is recommended by some medical sources if travelling in certain areas of Eastern Europe, at specific times of the year. Please check the latest requirements with your travel clinic or doctor prior to departure. The above is not an exhaustive list. Further information regarding vaccinations and travel health advice can be found by following the NHS and NaTHNaC links at Explore Travel Health and from your local healthcare provider. Visa and vaccination requirements are subject to change and should be confirmed by you before travelling.