Hiking in Northern Albania: the Valbone to Theth Hike

Valbone Albania - hike is over the mountains in the background
Hiking in Northern Albania: the Valbone to Theth Hike

Welcome to Albania! If you’re considering doing this hike, you’re probably already in the Eastern European region. Prior to arriving in the Balkans, I didn’t know anything about Albania, anyone who had been here, and I certainly didn’t know anyone who had gone hiking in Albania, much less the Valbone to Theth hike in the north.  But, Albania ended up being one of our favourite countries to travel to — you can read more about our reasons why we loved travelling through Albania.

Valbone and Theth are two villages in the North of Albania. The hike between the two villages is about a 6 to 8 hour, moderately challenging hike through the Albanian alps. There’s a lot of discrepancy about the length of the hike. The official start of the trail say 12km, but on our GPS, we tracked it as 18km. Although the hike itself takes only a single day, the actual experience takes three days.

  • Day 1: Shkoder to Valbone (via the Koman Lake Ferry)
  • Day 2: The Hike from Valbone to Theth
  • Day 3: Morning in Theth before commuting back to Shodkra

The closest main city or transit hub where your journey would begin is likely the city of Shodkra in Northern Albania. From there you head further north to Valbone and stay for the night, do the hike from Valbone to Theth on the second day, then commute back to Shodkra on the third.

We loved travelling through Albania and this hike was one of our unforgettable highlights.  Read on for our Valbone to Theth hike experience in Northern Albania.

Day 1: Shodkra to Valbone

Getting to Valbone is a half-day journey, involving a shuttle ride, a ferry ride, and another shuttle ride. Our guesthouse arranged for the transport — either Our Way Hostel (where we stayed) or The Wanderers Hotel can help you arrange your transport to Valbone. We paid €15 (€5 for each leg of the journey) to get from Shodkra to Valbone which seemed like a very fair and unbeatable price.

The Lake Koman Ferry Ride

We were picked up in a shuttle bus from our guesthouse at 6:45am, arriving to the Koman Ferry Terminal in time for the 9am ferry departure. The ferry ride was super smooth sailing with gorgeous views the whole way on a green-blue lake. There’s even a small shop on the ferry selling beer and pop. The ferry ride is about three hours long (you end up in Fierze) and we were picked up on the other side by another shuttle bus taking us the rest of the way to Valbone.

Lake Koman Ferry Ride
Lake Koman Ferry Ride

Arriving in Valbone

There’s not really a town centre in Valbone, the entire area is made up of one main paved road with guesthouses and accommodations scattered throughout the region. Accommodations online seemed to be pricy (the lowest we saw was €45 for a private double room) so we took and chances and arrived without any accommodations arranged in advance. We ended up chatting with the last person on the shuttle who got a recommendation for a place from an Australian guy she had met at her last guesthouse — this was the typical backpacker’s word of mouth recommendations style taking full swing. We paid 5500 Leke for the two of us (€22 per person) for a private room with private bathroom, with ALL our meals included: lunch, dinner, breakfast, and a packed lunch for our hike the next day.

As we arrived in the afternoon, we still had a few hours to explore before dinner time.  We walked around the river area, and found a short hiking trail to go on.  We weren’t even on THE hike yet, and it was already so scenic and beautiful exploring Valbone!

Valbone, Albania
Exploring Valbone, Albania
Our Accommodations in Valbone Albania
Our Accommodations in Valbone

Day 2: The Hike from Valbone to Theth

The Valbone to Theth hike is unbelievably beautiful.

Our day started at around 8am. After eating breakfast at our guesthouse, we made our own packed lunch with ingredients provided by our guesthouse: cucumbers, tomato, sausage, cheese, and bread, wrapped in tinfoil.

The first part of the hike (and my least favourite) is along a dry river bed, with very little shade.  After about three hours of hiking, we passed by a small family-run “cafe”.  I thought it was weird that there were cafes in such a remote part of Albania, but after arriving at the “cafe”, it actually fit in so well with the scenery.  There were chairs and tables carved out of tree stumps, and the canned drinks were kept cold in the river, in a carved out log.  We joked that Steve was hunting for beer in the wild.

After the cafe stop, we climbed up a zig-zagging trail up a lush green hill dotted with wildflowers. The view gets better and better the higher you climb. When you get to Valbone pass, we had to cross a snow bridge. This was the only sketchy part of the hike. We went in early June and the snow was just starting to melt, so we carefully made our way across.
There’s an extra viewpoint at the top of the trail which Steve went up but I did not.

At the Peak of the Valbone to Theth Hike
At the Peak of the Valbone to Theth Hike

The descent was really straightforward, going through shaded, forested trail. We passed by the second cafe for a drink.  You know you are close to Thethi when you start seeing the river again.
In Thethi, we “splurged” on accommodations and stayed at Villa Gjecaj Folk & Design for €30/night, a new-looking hotel made out of stone.

Day 3: Theth to Shodkra

The final day of our experience was uneventful. We had the intention of exploring Theth, but we heard that there really wasn’t much to see there.  So we slept in, had breakfast, and then booked through our guesthouse a €10 shuttle bus to take us back to Schkoder. The bus came a bit before noon, and the ride was 3 hours long.  It was an extremely bumpy, unpaved dirt road for about 2 hours. When the road smoothed out into highway it’s still curvy.  I took a motion sickness pill — and recommend anyone who suffers from carsickness to do the same!

We arrived back to Schkoder around 3:30pm and still had half the day ahead of us to grab dinner and hang out in town.

Our Total Cost of the Valbone to Theth Hike

Albania is a very affordable country to travel through (read our blog post on How We Travelled Albania on a Budget).  We spent €133 between the two of us, which was only €66,50 for a three-day experience!  Here’s a breakdown of exactly what we spent on our Valbone to Theth Hike.

  • Grocery Store Snacks: €8
  • Transportation to Valbone: €15
  • Valbone Accomodations (with all meals included): €44
  • Drinks on Hike: €6
  • Theth Accomodations: €30
  • Dinner and Breakfast in Theth: €20
  • Transportation to Schkoder: €10

 

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