Peaks of the Balkans Trail: All You Need to Know

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Peaks of the Balkans Trail: All You Need to Know
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The countries Kosovo, Albania and Montenegro are connected by the Peaks of the Balkans Trail, one of our best-kept secrets. This trek has only been available for several years now; previously the borders remained closed. In about 10 days you cross several Balkan peaks and get to know different cultures. All in all, a unique experience! Read all about the Peaks of The Balkans in this article. Hajde!

The Balkans, you might think of beaches on the Croatian coast, boat parties in Belgrade or beautiful views of the Plitvice lakes. At Bookatrekking.com, we know that the Balkans has much more to offer. This fascinating region has undergone enormous development in recent years. The Balkans is a massive peninsula and is home to the Dinaric Alps. A 650 km long mountain chain starting in Slovenia, continuing southwards through Croatia, Bosnia Herzegovina and Serbia, all the way to Albania. The Balkan region also includes countries such as Montenegro, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Bulgaria.

Why the Peaks of the Balkans?

The Peaks of the Balkans Trek crosses several countries that were once allies under the Yugoslavian flag. The country borders were shifted and rivalry arose between them. This is now a thing of the past, as countries such as Albania, Montenegro and Kosovo have realised that good cooperation is essential to all. The Peaks of the Balkans is an excellent example; this relatively new route connects the three countries with untouched hiking trails. This has only been possible for a few years, as borders remained closed previously. This region is home to the brown bear, but also animals like the wolf and the lynx. Through the so-called Balkan Green Belt initiative, set up in 1999, these animals are protected without being restricted by borders. Cross three countries, enjoy the breathtaking views, experience life far away from the outside world, let your equipment be carried by a donkey and cross several UNESCO heritage sites; the Balkans are waiting for you!

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Where is the Peaks of the Balkans Trail?

The Peaks of the Balkans are a collection of beautiful and spectacular mountains shared by Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro. The Peaks of the Balkans Trail connects the three countries with a circular hiking route. The entire route is signposted, a map of the route can be found below.

Where is the Peaks of the Balkans Trail?

Did you know that we can book all huts and refuges for the Peaks of the Balkans Trail for you? Check out all our options here.

How Long Is the Peaks of the Balkans Trail?

The Peaks of the Balkans Trail takes you through a remote and unspoiled mountain region in the Western Balkans. The circuit has 192km of marked hiking trails through picturesque villages and remote valleys. The route winds through the high Alpine mountains, crossing several mountain landscapes with a diversity of breathtaking views. Green valleys, crystal-clear mountain lakes, waterfalls and rivers, there is plenty to discover. This hidden gem has many picturesque mountain villages where time seems to have stood still. Until 20 years ago, the region was virtually inaccessible to visitors, which makes it an authentic cultural experience today. With elevations of 1000m per day, the trek is certainly not to be underestimated; you will be on the road for 5 to 8 hours a day. For the real mountain goats!

What peaks do you encounter?

Albania
  • Maja Kolata (2,528 m/8,291 ft)
  • Maja Rosit (2,533 m/8,310 ft)
  • Maja Jezerec (2,694 m/8,839 ft)
  • Maja Harapit (2,218 m/7,277 ft)
  • Valbona Pass (1,795 m/5,889 ft)
  • Maja e Berizhdolit (1,977 m/6,486 ft)
Kosovo
  • Gjeravica (2,656 m/8,714 ft)
Montenegro
  • Vrh bora (2,106 m/6,910 ft)
  • Talijanka Peak (2,057 m/6,749 ft)

What is a Good Starting Point for the Peaks of the Balkans Trek?

The Peaks of the Balkans trail has several starting points. In Albania, you can start either in Theth or in Valbona. You fly to the capital Tirana and travel to the starting point by public transport. Starting in Theth means that you will immediately get to know the National Park of the same name. In Valbona it is no different; you step directly into the Valbona Valley National Park. Because of the connections by air, with an international airport in Tirana, these are the most popular starting points. However, there are more possibilities.

In Montenegro, (black mountain) you can fly to the capital Podgorica, from where you can travel to Plav by public transport. Plav is one of the larger towns you will encounter on the way and a great opportunity to stock up. The last possibility to reach the trail is via Rekë e Allagës, a town in Kosovo. You fly to Kosovo's capital Pristina and arrive in Rekë e Allagës via several bus connections. Signposting quality on this part of the trek is lower than in Albania and Montenegro.

What is a Good Starting Point for the Peaks of the Balkans Trek?

Do I Need a Guide for the Peaks of the Balkans?

Whether you want to go out on your own or with a guide, it is up to you! The route is generally clearly marked, although orientation can be difficult in bad weather. The mountains are full of surprises and the weather in the Balkans can be unpredictable. Therefore you can choose the convenience of a guided trek.

Do I Need a Guide for the Peaks of the Balkans?

Not sure yet or want to discuss your plans for the Peaks of the Balkans Trail with one of our trekking experts? Get in touch today and turn your dreams into memories!

Accommodation in the Balkans, What Can I Expect?

During the day, you make a physical effort, so you don't want to compromise your sleep. You will stay in guesthouses and shepherd's huts. They are often small but cosy accommodations where you get the chance to meet the locals. Most guesthouses have sheets, blankets and pillows available. You will be welcomed with open arms and enjoy fresh meals made from local products — salads with cucumber, tomato and onion, or stuffed peppers with green beans stewed in milk. And top it all off with a cup of Turkish coffee! Do not drink your mug empty, there will always be some coffee left at the bottom.

The same applies to the shepherd's huts, although you may expect less comfort. The facilities are basic but certainly sufficient for a good night's sleep! Enjoy the simple but nutritious stews or take a slice of crumbly white cheese. With a bit of luck, you can also taste some of the homemade jam.

Accommodation in the Balkans, What Can I Expect?

What Is the Best Season for the Peaks of the Balkans Trail?

The best months for this trek are from mid-June to mid-September. The summer months in this region are relatively warm due to its geographical location. The average temperature during the summer months (July, August and September) is around 25 °C. Please note that the higher altitude areas can be cooler. In July and August, you will encounter most people on the trail. September, October and mid-November are considered the ideal months, as there is no snow yet and the trail is much quieter.

In winter (November, December, January, February and March), temperatures can drop significantly. In the mountains you will find snow, making the area very suitable for winter sports. Accommodation is scarce in these months. The transition periods between winter and summer are unstable. A day with temperatures of 25 °C is certainly not unusual, but it can be 15 °C cooler the next day. This is especially true in April, May, June and October. From the middle of May until the end of June, the weather conditions are suitable for a nice trek and you will not find many other hikers on the route.

What Costs Should I Take Into Account?

Are you planning to discover the Balkans via the Peaks of the Balkans Trail? An excellent idea! What costs should you take into account when organising this trek on your own initiative? First of all, the journey to the starting point of the trail. For a return flight to Tirana (Albania) you pay about € 300,-; depending on the country of origin. During the trek you stay mainly in guesthouses, for half board you pay about € 25,- per night. For dinner you'll pay about € 8,- . This information has been processed into an example below; it gives a good indication of the costs:

  • Number of persons: 2
  • Number of days: 10
  • Flight Tirana (Albania): € 600,-
  • Guesthouses: € 450,-
  • Accommodation before/after: € 200,-
  • Meals: € 160,-
  • Cross border permits: € 50,-
  • Taxes: € 40,-
  • Transport: € 100,-
  • Personal expenses: € 100,-

Total expenses: € 1700,-

Cross Border Permits on the Peaks of the Balkans

During the Peaks of the Balkans Trail you cross several country borders. Fortunately, you can apply for a Cross Border Permit to cross the various borders without problems. You can apply for this permit via the local authorities. But what happens if you cross the border without a permit? Then you are actually committing two offences, one in the country you are coming from and one in the country you are going to. Don't be afraid of a prison sentence, but a fine of around €300,- is not unusual. Be clever and arrange this in advance.

Luggage Transport on the Peaks of the Balkans Trail. How Does That Work?

Luggage transport during the Peaks of the Balkans Trek is certainly possible. Perhaps this is convenient for you because, otherwise, you will be carrying equipment for several days. The challenge is not to compromise on quality. If you do opt for the convenience of luggage transport, then you have come to the right place! What's more, you can give your experience that little bit of authenticity because your gear is carried by a donkey. This is possible in the 10-day Peaks of the Balkans trek offered by Choose Balkans. Or read on to see the program of this trek.

Luggage Transport on the Peaks of the Balkans Trail. How Does That Work?

10-Day Peaks of the Balkans Trek From Day to Day

During this trek, you will be accompanied by experienced guides. They know the trek best and can show you the most beautiful places. Below you will find a global description of the programme, for more details you have to be here. You travel on your own initiative to Tirana, the capital of Albania. Then our partner will pick you up from your hotel and bring you to the starting point Tamarë. All accommodations for the trek will be arranged for you and are included, as well as breakfast and permits. Below is a description of the program:

Day
1

Tirana (Albania) / Podgorica (Montenegro) – Shkoder – Tamarë – Lëpushë

Duration: 03:00 h
Distance: 3.5 km
Ascent: 868 m
Our tour guide will come and pick you up at your hotel in Tirana or Podgorica at 6:00 am. We will drive towards Tamarë in North Albania and pass by the city of Shkoder. From Tamarë, we will begin our hiking adventure of the Peaks of the Balkans. The Peaks of the Balkans are part of the Dinaric Alps that start all the way in Slovenia and end in the southeast of Albania. The Albanian Alps are even the highest section of the Dinaric Alps. We will get to explore them in the days to come. We will drive a bit further from Tamarë until we reach the beginning of the Ujvara e Sllapit trail, which will be a 3-hour hike. On the way, you might be the lucky one to see a beautiful 70 meters high waterfall, because it should have rained that season in order for this waterfall to appear! The crystal-clear water comes from the top of the mountain and is drinkable. Later that day, we will arrive in the small village of Lëpushë, known for its stunning nature and for us a great resting point after an exciting first day. The name Lëpushë refers to the yellow flower that you can find there in the spring season. Before ending this day, we will have some time left to walk and explore the area, in the far-reaching meadow landscapes. In the North of Albania, they are known for many delicious bio-dishes with products from the region. Their cuisine is unique, tasty and can only be found in these areas. You will have the chance to try these during the tour.

Lëpushë

Info
Lëpushë
Day
2

Lëpushë – Maja e Berizhdolit – Lëpushë

Duration: 04:54 h
Distance: 11.4 km
Ascent: 680 m
Descent: 680 m
Today we will hike to Maja e Berizhdolit (1977m) in the Albanian Alps, also called the Accursed Mountains. This is a beautiful trek that passes water springs and has a rewarding view from the top. The spectacular rocky formation of mountains is covered in snow on one side while the other side has almost no vegetation. The hike is about 6 hours including breaks, which are fascinating when you are surrounded by these mountains. After soaking in the spectacular sight, we will head back to Lëpushë.

Lëpushë

Info
Lëpushë
Day
3

Lëpushë – Talijanka peak – Vuthaj (Montenegro)

Duration: 08:51 h
Distance: 17.2 km
Ascent: 1340 m
Descent: 1610 m
Highest Point: 2057 m
Our destination for today is Vuthaj, but first we will hike to the Talijanka peak. Here we will cross the border from Albania to Montenegro. Mount Talijanka (2057m) is located in Grbaje Valley in Montenegro. This valley is U-shaped and surrounded by the grey sharp mountain peaks. The Talijanka peak (2057m) is considered to be one of the most beautiful of the Balkan Peaks. The view of dramatic grey extraordinary-shaped mountains is a sight that even the professional hiker will be amazed by. From this peak, you can also see Lake Plav in Montenegro. We will take a minivan for the last 40 minutes to Vuthaj in Montenegro. In Vuthaj you will have the opportunity to visit the Ali Pasha springs, which is about a 40 – minute walk from the guest house, or you can reminisce on the spectacular views you have seen today.

Vuthaj

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Vuthaj
Day
4

Vuthaj (Montenegro) – Arapi Peak - Theth

Duration: 10:26 h
Distance: 20.9 km
Ascent: 880 m
Descent: 1160 m
From Vuthaj, we will head towards Theth and cross the border back to Albania. During this trek, we will visit a hidden water place which is difficult to find by yourself if you don’t know the exact location. We will also pass by one of the highest peaks of the Balkans, the Arapi peak (2217m) next to Maja Jezercë (2694m). We will come across multiple shepherd’s huts, in the Albanian Alps which show the way of life away from civilization. In Theth, we will visit the Old Church and the “Lock in” Tower (symbol of Theth). The stories behind these buildings take up centuries full of history.

Theth

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Theth
Day
5

Theth – Blue Eye – Theth

Duration: 05:28 h
Distance: 19.2 km
Ascent: 470 m
Descent: 470 m
A famous saying in Albania is “one who has seen Theth, has a reason to live’’ (Gjergj Fishta) and today we will see another beautiful phenomenon that supports his saying. Our hiking tour of Theth continues to the natural wonder so-called the “Blue Eye of Theth”. The hike takes 4 hours to get there and 3.5 hours back to Theth. The Blue Eye is formed by the erosion of the rocks by the water that descends from melting snow of the Albanian Alps. The pool of blue water gets its water from a small waterfall, which makes the picture complete. You will not be able to take your eyes off this iridescent glow of green and blue colours of this marvel of nature, inviting you to dive in.

Theth

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Theth
Day
6

Theth – Valbona Pass - Valbona

Duration: 08:51 h
Distance: 16.9 km
Ascent: 1060 m
Descent: 880 m
Trekking to Valbona from Theth will be an intense day as the walk takes about 8-9 hours in remote terrain, nevertheless unquestionably worthy! The route used to be an old mule trail and goes through a landscape full of impressive mountains. At one point, you will see the Theth valley on one side and Valbona valley on the other side. The Valbona pass (1795m) also offers a spectacular view of the Balkan Peaks and “Bjeshket e Nemuna” or the Accursed Mountains. “Bjeshket e Nemuna” is a national park in Gjakova and Peja in Kosovo, near the borders of Albania and Montenegro. On our way, we will walk through some beautiful landscapes and wild forests. We might even see some shepherds passing by with their flock. When reaching the top of the Valbona Pass (1795m), you will experience a serious shot of adrenaline.

Valbona

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Valbona
Day
7

Valbona – Cerem

Duration: 11:19 h
Distance: 17.3 km
Ascent: 1620 m
Descent: 1380 m
Highest Point: 2534 m
Our next destination on our Peaks of the Balkans tour is Cerem. On our hike, we will pass through forests and meadows. We will arrive in an area that looks like a canyon and the only place that still has snow, even during the summer. You will have the option to hike to the highest peak of Montenegro, Zla Kolata (2534m), which will add another 3 hours of hiking (10 hours in total). Another magnificent element that we cross during our hike is a stone surface on the side of a mountain that looks like the face of a miserable old man. We will also pass a cave with an extremely cold wind along the trail of which no one knows the exit. So, all in all, there is definitely enough extraordinary things to see during the hike, besides the mountains. We will arrive at the shepherd’s hut in Cerem, which is located high in the mountains (1300m). There is no connection to civilization from here, because they have no Wi-Fi and no electricity. However, the delicious food and hospitality of the people make up for the basic facilities.

Cerem

Info
Cerem
Day
8

Cerem - Doberdol

Duration: 07:36 h
Distance: 15 km
Ascent: 1010 m
Descent: 380 m
Highest Point: 2100 m
From Cerem, we will hike towards Doberdol following a mule track. On our way, we will cross the border to Montenegro in about two hours. The hike brings us through pine forests and you can find all kinds of berries, such as blueberries, blackberries and raspberries (depending on the season). We will also pass the only National Reserve in Albania, which has brown bears and the last population of approximately 40 lynxes in the Balkans. It is a beautiful trail with the highest point being 2100 meters above sea level. We will have a chance to enjoy a nice coffee or other drink at some of the shepherd’s hut villages. These villages are only populated during the summer by shepherds. Doberdol, our destination for today, is about 1800m above sea level and this is where we will have another overnight in a shepherd’s hut. The village is beautiful and we can choose from different food options made from ingredients out of the region. The beds, however, are definitely not hotel beds, just matrasses and the conditions are basic. Yet again, the locals are very welcoming, the food is delicious and it will be a great once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Doberdol

Info
Doberdol
Day
9

Doberdol – Gjeravica (Kosovo) – Junik – Gjakova

Duration: 06:00 h
Distance: 14 km
Ascent: 700 m
Highest Point: 2656 m
Today we will head towards civilization, but not before we hike to the highest peak of Kosovo, Gjeravica (2656m). It is also the second highest peak of the Accursed Mountains (Albanian Alps). From the top, you will see the Accursed Mountains on one side and the Sharr Mountains on the other. You will have the opportunity to swim in three different lakes, formed by the alpine and glacier waters. One of the lakes really stands out as it is heart-shaped. We will arrive in Junik, a town in western Kosovo. From Junik onward, we will have to go by 4x4 wheel drive to Gjakova.

Gjakova

Info
Gjakova
Day
10

Gjakova – Tirana (Albania) / Prishtina (Kosovo) / Podgorica (Montenegro)

After we have had the chance to recharge from the Peaks of the Balkans hikes, we will have a short city tour of Gjakova. The city has the oldest and largest bazaar of Kosovo. Even though, it got destroyed during the first Balkan wars, the Second World War and the Kosovo War, the bazaar got rebuilt again to its old state and is a nice place to enjoy a meal or to take a look at the stores that sell traditional clothing and items. We will also visit the clock tower and the Hadum mosque. The latter was built in the 16th century and somehow managed to survive the wars. Nowadays it shows the beginning of Islamic architecture in the Balkans, covered in stunning arabesque decorations. The transfer back to Tirana (Albania), Prishtina (Kosovo) or Podgorica (Montenegro) remarks the end of this fairy trail.
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What Highlights Will I Encounter?

During the trek, you will pass several villages and enjoy beautiful views. Below, for the curious among us, is the what-is-there-to-see list. Worthwhile to push some of these terms through a search engine!

Places

Albania

  • Tamarë
  • Lëpushë
  • Theth
  • Dobërdoll
  • Çerem

Kosovo

  • Junik

Montenegro

  • Vuthaj

Parks and lakes

  • Blue Eye Theth
  • Nationaal Park Valbonëdal

Sights

  • The Old Church of Theth
  • ‘’Lock in’’ Tower in Theth
  • The Archaeological Museum in Prizren
  • The Church of Our Lady Ljevis in Prizren
  • Sinan Pasha Mosque in Prizren
  • Prizren fortress
  • The bazaar in Prizren

At Bookatrekking.com, we not only book your huts, we also send you on your way with a comprehensive hiking guide with the most important information for your Peaks of the Balkans Trail, including interactive Komoot maps. Browse all our options here and turn your dreams into reality.

Packing List for the Peaks of the Balkans Trail

It doesn't matter where you are going trekking or for how long: Carrying the right equipment with you is paramount. For a hiking trip in the mountains, you will need, first and foremost, a good backpack. Its size will depend on how many days you will be spending in the mountains, the season, and the clothes you will be taking with you. We have prepared a packing list with some essential clothing that you should include and some extras that you may find useful:
  • Essentials

  • Extras

What Else Should I Know About the Peaks of the Balkans?

Perhaps some of your questions remained unanswered, but we are not quite there yet. For example, what about mobile phone coverage? And is it safe to drink the water? Here is some more information on practicalities.

Mobile phone and coverage

During the trek, you have limited range. In most villages, there is a good telephone connection, but not in every town. 112, the European emergency phone number, can still be used in this trek, but hereafter, you can find some useful phone numbers that you might want to save on your phone. In Albania, the emergency number for the police is 192 and for the ambulance 127. In Montenegro, dial 122 for the police and 124 for an ambulance; in Kosovo, dial 192 for the police and 194 for an ambulance.

Drinking water

Plenty of clean drinking water is available during your Peaks of the Balkans trek. You may assume you will encounter a reliable water source at least once a day. Keep in mind that the water is not always drinkable, taking a water filter with you is not an excessive luxury.

Payment

In Montenegro and Kosovo you pay with the Euro, in Albania, the currency is the Albanian Lek. Assuming you can't get money at the ATM, make sure you have enough cash with you before starting the trek. In some accommodations, it is only possible to pay in cash. You can often pay with a credit card in the larger towns, but not in the smaller villages. So be prepared!

Safety tips for the Peaks of the Balkans Trail

Although this is far from being a trek in the Himalayas, unexpected things can always happen and you might also find obstacles on the hiking trails along the way. The Peaks of the Balkans Trail is safe, the trails are quite straight forward and there is not an extreme difference in altitude. However, for your safety, every hike deserves a level of respect; respect for the terrain, the trails, wildlife and vegetation, local rules and regulations, and above all, your physical capabilities and safety. Therefore, for an unforgettable and safe hiking memory, please keep the following safety recommendations in mind:

  • Know your limits

    Always prepare each stage carefully to use your energy wisely, respect your physical and mental limitations, and avoid taking unnecessary risks. When ascending or descending, if applicable, always use the aids provided, such as handrails and ropes. Is this trek suitable for you? Well, familiarize yourself with the grading system and figure out if this trek matches your capabilities. If you still need professional advice you can always contact Bookatrekking.com experts.

  • Stay on marked trails

    The most important thing is to never leave the marked paths. For easy navigation we work with our trusted partner Komoot, whose interactive maps, also available offline, provide you with the necessary digital means to get from A to B in the Peaks of the Balkans Trail. As a backup, make sure to bring a hiking guide or a paper map with you.

  • Fully equipped

    Make sure you have the necessary gear for the conditions you'll be facing, including appropriate clothing, footwear, and any necessary equipment for the terrain you'll be hiking on. Always wear clothing adapted to the weather of Peaks of the Balkans Trail and protect yourself from cold and wetness or heat and sun. Besides, make sure you carry enough food and water for the duration of your trek. On the way, you might (or might not) be able to buy snacks.

  • Stay reachable

    If you are hiking solo or in small groups it is advisable to inform people back home about your plans, what route you are taking and when you plan to return. Even small incidents can lead to unpleasant emergencies so make sure you are available at all times. Bring a charged phone containing at least the phone numbers of immediate family members, your accommodations en route and the emergency phone numbers operating in the Peaks of the Balkans Trail.

  • Respect for nature

    Do not litter, prevent noise, stay on the marked trails, do not disturb wildlife or grazing animals, and respect protected areas.

Where Can I Book the Peaks of the Balkans Trail?

At Bookatrekking.com you can book the self-guided Peaks of the Balkans Trail and many other treks. We take care of all the details for you, including arranging accommodations, organizing luggage transportation and providing you with relevant information well in advance of your trek. Find our offers here. Our easy-to-use platform allows you to browse and compare different trekking options and find the perfect fit for your interests, abilities, and budget.

If you have any questions about a specific trek or need help choosing the right one for you, our team of trekking experts is here to assist you. Simply reach out to us and we will be happy to provide you with personalized recommendations and advice to help you plan the trekking adventure of a lifetime.

Is the Peaks of the Balkans Trail not your cup of tea and are you looking for other epic adventures? Check out one of our following blog posts:

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