The section of the Peaks of Balkans, Theth to Valbona, connects the two famous Albanian villages and is the most popular hike on the trail for good reason. This hike features lovely meandering trails through old growth forests and leads to an unmatched panoramic view at the top of the Valbona pass. Trust me, this is a view that you don’t want to miss. So pack your bag, lace up those smelly boots and get ready for an adventure with this Theth to Valbona hiking guide.
DURATION: 7 hours
ELEVATION GAIN: 1,068m
ELEVATION LOSS: 792m
NAVIGATING THE TRAIL
From the center of Theth head north along the gravel road. After about a kilometer you will come to the trail head on your right side. Now the climb begins. The beginning of the hike is marked by a wooden bridge with a small river running under it. Feel free to stop and fill up some water. The next place to fill will be in about 5km. After the bridge you will continue the steep climb.
Luckily, most of the climb is under the cover of the forest so you’ll have some protection from the summer sun. Be sure to take some breaks and rest up while soaking the view of the valley of Theth behind you. Keep gaining elevation until you reach the half way point of the climb marked by another fresh water spring and quickly followed by a quaint mountainside café. Here you can rest on the comfortable patio, drink some fresh coffee and soak up some sun.
Set back off on the trail knowing that you are almost to the top. The rest of the climb will weave in and out the forest until you reach the famous Valbona pass. Be prepared for a life changing panoramic view of the surrounding mountains. At the top of the pass you will see a quick detour on your right side. Drop your extra weight and take the short climb for the best view in town. From the top you can spot the zig-zagging trail you will follow down into the village of Valbona.
Whenever you are ready, begin your descent into the valley. Here is where you have to be on top of your game. You will be tired and the trail is filled with loose gravel and switchback turns. That being said, the spectacular view on the way might distract you as well. Take breaks and soak it all in. The first section of the descent is steep, but the second half does mellow out.
Once you reach the bottom of the valley, you will come to a dry riverbed. Follow this for a few kilometers until you reach the village of Valbona. You will know you reached the village when you hit asphalt. The road continues for around 7km and it is lined with plenty of places to stay. I recommend staying away from the large hotels. The experience is less genuine and more expensive.
Find a place to park up for the night and enjoy everything that this iconic village has to offer. If you are going to spend some time in Valbona visit my Top Things to Do in Valbona post. If you are continuing on the Peaks of the Balkans Trail, visit my Valbona to Cerem Hiking Guide or if you are going counter-clockwise visit Vusanje to Theth 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 THETH TO VALBONA
I hiked from Theth to Valbona during my trip on the tour of the Peaks of the Balkans Trail. I was hiking with my good friend Patrick, but unfortunately he was suffering from some severe knee pain from the previous two days of hiking. He had to call it quits, so I began the great journey alone. The first half of the climb I flew through. There is something about hiking alone that puts me in the zone. I catch hikers high and fly up the mountain side.
Luckily, I came to the small café marking the half way point and took some time to actually appreciate the moment and not just rush through the whole thing. Traditional Albanian music blasted through the air and a group of us hikers broke out into dance. Many of us had no clue what we’re were doing, but it felt right. We let ourselves go and flailed miscellaneous body parts around as we embraced the moment. A moment that I will never forget. It was special. Energy was high and cares were low. The perfect combination for a good time.
Once I had enough dancing, I threw my pack over my shoulders and was back on the trail. A short amount of time passed and I found myself coming up to the Valbona Pass. I remember being completely drawn back when I got to the top. The view was incredible. From the top you have an unobstructed panoramic view of the surrounding mountains. I sat there, rolled up a celebratory cigarette and inhaled the warm smoke as I enjoyed the view. After the short lived buzz, I began to descend.
All of a sudden my right knee erupted in sharp pain. I felt as if every bend of the knee was sparking up a fire inside of it. As you can imagine, my pace slowed substantially. It wasn’t all bad though because the view on the way down was just as good from the top. When I finally reached the bottom of the mountain I hit a lucky strike. A local just happened to be passing by with about seven unmounted horses. I used the little Albanian I could speak and offered him five euros for a ride. He gladly would’ve picked me up for no money, that’s just how the Albanian people are. He saved me what would’ve been hours of pain and maybe even saved my whole trip all together.
When we arrived to the village of Valbona I dismounted my horse, thanked my savior and found the first place I could set up camp. All together the hike from Theth to Valbona was just like most of my other hikes in the Accursed Mountain Range, nothing short of amazing.