The hike connecting the two remote summer villages of Cerem and Doberdol is a highlight of the Peaks of the Balkans Trail for two reasons. First, once you gain elevation, you keep it. The hike is mostly flat with great views and meanders through enchanting old growth forests. Second, Doberdol is an absolute dream. It is the highest overnight stop on the trail and by far one of the most isolated. In this Cerem to Doberdol hiking guide you will learn everything you need to know about the trek. Lace up those smelly boots and get ready for adventure. Be sure to read my experience at the bottom :).
DURATION: 6 hours
ELEVATION GAIN: 1,025m
ELEVATION LOSS: 440m
NAVIGATING THE TRAIL FROM CEREM TO DOBERDOL
This trail begins on a dirt road in the village of Cerem. You will start the hike following this road up the mountain side for about 3-4km. On the way you will pass a hut on the side of the road that serves as a small café. Feel free to stop for a nice morning coffee along the way. After walking along the road, you will come to the trail on your right hand side. Now, the real climb begins. It will be steep for some time, but once you get to the top that is pretty much most of the elevation gain for the day.
You will come to an opening which signals that you have reached the border of Montenegro. Continue past the opening and bear right following the trail back into the forest. Here is were the fun starts. The forest that you will be hiking through for most the day is wonderful. It is filled with unique trees struck by lightning and the trail is soft from the build up of pine needles.
When you come to the next opening in about 2km this will mark your return back into Albania. In the distance you will see you destination for the day, Doberdol. Shortly after crossing the border you will see a small hut on your right hand side. This hut is owned by my friend who goes by the name Sniper. I’m not sure where he got the nickname from, but I wasn’t too keen on asking. This hut is your halfway point and a perfect place to stop for lunch. Enjoy the break and continue following the trail, yet again, into the forest.
Here you will see the quality of the old growth forest. The trees are well spread apart as if it were by design. Be sure to take in the views of the valley on your right hand side. On the remainder of the trail you will pass a few more huts. Feel free to say hello to the locals, as they are some of the friendliest people I have ever met. Soon, you will begin losing some elevation. This is your sign that you are getting close to the village.
Once you follow the trail to it’s lowest point you will come to a small river crossing. Depending on the time of year, you might have to take your boots off and cross. Now, begins the final accent into the village of Doberdol. Be sure to stay left and stick to the mountain because there is another trail along the way that leads to the road into Doberdol and will take you deeper into the valley. Avoid this because it will only make the hike longer and harder. If you find yourself back in the forest on a switchback trail that goes down, turn back immediately and right your course.
Soon you will find yourself at the top of a hill with the the village of Doberdol in sight. Trust me, it is a sight to see. The village sits at the base of the famous mountain Tromeda. This mountain marks the meeting of Albania, Montenegro and Kosovo. If you are camping, get ready for a cold night because this village sits at almost 2,000m above sea level. This place is special. In the summer you will see, grazing sheep, horses and cows. Pro tip: don’t drink the water in the river that flows through the village. It may look clean and beautiful, but it serves as the villages sewage system. I learned this the hard way :).
If you are continuing the Peaks of the Balkan Trail clockwise, visit Doberdol to Milishevcs Hiking Guide. If you want to spice up the trail and hike the tallest mountain in Kosovo, visit Doberdol to Gjeravica hiking guide. If you are hiking the POB counter-clockwise, visit Valbona to Cerem hiking guide.
HIKE WITH ME!
If you like what you see and want to be guided by a local, this hike is a part of the specialized Peaks of The Balkans Tour I provide with Balkan Mountain Adventure Company. Adventure is what we do. These experiences have changed my life forever. I want everyone to share the joy of the mountains with me and experience the wonders of my home. BLKNMTN gives you the opportunity to explore like a local and have the adventure of a lifetime. We also provide a self-guided tour for those who want to take on the trail on their own. Click the link for more information and feel free to reach out with any questions!
ADVENTURE IS WHAT WE DO
MY EXPERIENCE HIKING FROM CEREM TO DOBERDOL
My most memorable hike from Cerem to Doberdol was with one of my best friends Jesse. He was visiting from the United States to hike my specialized version of the Peaks of the Balkans Trail with me, the trekking tour that I offer through BLKNMTN. Our hike began slowly, very slowly. We were both suffering form massive knee pain, but we carried on anyways, letting the good mountain vibes push us forward.
The hike started out with the main climb of the day. We suppressed the pain by doing this role playing game that we always do on the trail. Picking random characters with terrible accents and have a satirical conversation that takes us anywhere. I guess it’s trail induced madness, but it’s quite fun and makes the kilometers pass by a bit easier.
I remember winding through the forest and thinking to myself, “this place is unreal.” There is something about the trees and undergrowth that is so calming. The only sounds that fill your ears are birds chirping, the crunch of pine needles under your boots and wind rustling the branches. The Peaks of the Balkans Trail isn’t very popular and I love that. You can really get lost on it. The feeling of isolation is refreshing.
We stopped at a hut marking the halfway point drank coffee and played a couple rounds of chess. Back into the forest we went. It was some time before we realized that our stay in Doberdol was going to be our final night on the tour. At this point, we made an agreement. We were going to get drunk and have a grand time. Jesse suggested that we stop at the next hut and grab some Rakija (local schnapps made from plums). The people in the Balkans drink this like water. It is our drink of choice and every villager keeps an old soda bottle full of it at all times. It wasn’t long before I came across a hut and went up to the front door to ask for some rakija.
I came to the hut with a giant shepherd dog chained to a tree going wild and the Albanian villager who lived there covered in blood having just finished skinning a sheep. He wasn’t open to tourists, but he welcomed us with open arms and more importantly, an open bottle. It was a beautiful experience. This man was a character. With his bloody hands he rolled giant no filter cigarettes the size of a thumb and was not shy when it came to pictures. His mustache made him look like an Albanian Pablo Escobar. We communicated the best we could and had a few shots and laughs together.
When parting ways we gave him some cash and out of appreciation he opened up his black leather tobacco pouch and stuffed a handful of his home grown into my tin. To this day it was the best tobacco I’ve ever smoked. Smooth, light and blessed by those bloody hands.
This might sound funny, but as we were passing another hut just 100m away a local woman welcomed us into her home. Again, the soda bottle full of rakija came out and shots were poured. She was a lovely woman with thick blonde hair. Her granddaughter watched over us with curious eyes as she played with her heavily used toys. At this point, we were starting to feel the effects of the alcohol. I got warm an fuzzy and the world around us glossed over with a light shade of “fuck it.” We still had a few kilometers to go until we reached Doberdol, so we hit the trail.
Those few kilometers were an experience in themselves. Luckily, being drunk made us not feel the pain in our knees anymore so we actually were able to move a bit faster than before. We talked, joked and stumbled our way to Doberdol. Screaming like mad men in our own mountain world.
Finally, we made it to the village and to my favorite guest house. As I walked in, I saw my friend and fellow guide, Donika. Filled with excitement, we drank and told stories into the small hours of the night. Morning came and the tour continued.