A Guide To Thru Hiking from Valbona to Theth

When my friend Wass texted me and said ‘Come to Albania‘, a 15 kilometer hike was definitely not in the cards for me. I had only packed a pair of casual sneakers for city walking, a pair of Teva sandals (for very basic offroading) and rubber flip flops falling apart at the seams, I didn’t think I would have been prepared. Call me optimistic but I couldn’t let my limited wardrobe prevent me from potential epic sights and bragging rights of saying that I’ve done this hike in Albania. We learned that you can accomplish the hike either way. Theth to Valbona means you’ll be going up in elevation towards the latter half of the trip. Deciding we wanted to live to tell the tale, we went with going from Valbona to Theth instead.

It actually took us two attempts to get this hike down. The first time we were in Shkoder, we woke up to torrential downpours, loud thunder and bright flashes of lightning. The weather conditions lessened our confidence in the ability to do this hike, so we said ‘screw it‘ and headed back to Tirana so we could tour the south and hope for better weather after a week.

Lady Luck was on our side. By the time we got to Shkoder about a week later, the weather was consistently in the 40℃ (for my fellow Americans that’s about 95℉), clear skies and lots of sun, exactly in line with what I expected weather in July to be like.

The Wanderer’s Hostel

We stayed at The Wanderer’s Hostel in Shkoder after hearing rave reviews. Silver helped us with the intimidating task of planning this hike and organizing the first portion of transportation. After getting a good night’s rest in Shkoder, we woke up around 6AM to have breakfast before our first leg of transportation came to pick us up.

Early AM minibus ride

The minibus that takes you from Shkoder to Koman cost 700LEK ($7USD/$5EUR) and took about 1.5 hours to the ferry.

Fantastic view from the ferry

At Koman, you board a ferry that cost 800LEK ($8USD/$7EUR) and gets you sailing through the scenic waters of Komani Lake for about 2 hours. I was surprised by the amount of plastic water bottles and empty gas bottles that floated on the surface of the lake. I imagined a huge net being dragged through this portion to clean it up.

The ferry drops you off in the small town of Fierza where another minivan will pick you up for about 700LEK ($7USD/$5EUR)lpxz

Take a 6:30AM mini bus ride (700 lek) to Koman for a ferry ride through Komani Lake at 9AM (800 lek) which drops you off at Fierza around 12PM. Take another mini van for 700lek to Valbona. Stay at Hotel Margjeka or Guesthouse Arben Selimaj. Or walk around town to find the campground/bungalow that suits your tastes. The water in the area is fresh and clean, coming straight from the mountains. I didn’t have any trouble drinking it or enjoying its cool waters.

From Valbona, you’ll hike the 15 kilometers through mountainous landscape to Theth. We started in Valbona around 7AM and got to Theth close to 3PM. It was a looooong day and making sure you start early is important so you’re not hiking in the dark.

There are two main cafes on the hike. The first one has a tiny waterfall and running river. Great for cooling off, wetting your feet, taking a nap and dunking a scarf in there to keep you cool for a few hours on the hike. The second cafe is not located by a river but offers a shaded area for you to have a simple lunch of salad and their sweet pie, made of dough and filled with cheese and fruits.

I came across wild strawberries, still frozen patches of ice, beautiful scenery and some spectacular parts of the trail that felt like a fairytale. Since this was a thru hike, we had to bring all our belongings with us because we weren’t going to end up back in the same place as we started. One of your options is to leave your stuff in a hotel/hostel Shkoder (they may charge you for this) or have your stuff transported by horses (additional fee).

When you get to Theth, stay at Guesthouse Flodisa and get their dinner, which is served family style (10EUR for meateaters and 8EUR for vegetarians) which comes with tzatziki, pickled tomatoes, olives, cheese, salad, grilled vegetables, potatoes, bread, lamb and a dessert to top it off. Hang out at the campfire at night to marvel at the stars and head to bed early. You’ve deserved it.

Summary:

  • Hike Valbona to Theth for a less crowded experience that decreases in elevation
  • Wear layers and proper shoes. It gets hot, especially in the summer, but also cools down on some parts of the trail
  • Refill your water bottle from the fresh streams or at the cafe
  • Work with your lodgings to create the best transportation and accommodation package for you, especially if you’re not familiar with the area
  • Pack snacks and food (especially if you have dietary restrictions). There’s only two cafes and food isn’t substantial since everything gets brought in by horseback
  • Pack light! And explore camping if you want to go slower

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