The hike form Vusanje, Montenegro to Theth, Albania is an unforgettable one. Featuring unmatched natural beauty in the form of waterfalls, alpine lakes and breathtaking valleys, you will not regret trekking on this less traveled, border crossing trail.
This trek is a part of the official Peaks of the Balkans Trail and out of the ten stages it is by far one of the best. Pack your bag, tie your boots and get ready for an adventure with this Vusanje to Theth hiking guide.
DURATION: 7 hours
ELEVATION GAIN: 1,111m
ELEVATION LOSS: 1,437m
HIKE DIFFICULTY: Moderate
NAVIGATING THE TRAIL FROM VUSANJE TO THETH
The trail begins at the famous Grla waterfall in Vusanje, Montenegro. Be sure to go check out this massive force of nature before starting. Begin following the dirt road. Go left at the first fork. Continue for about a kilometer until you reach the Eye of the Grasshopper marked by a trail sign on the right side. Take the short trail down to the natural spring and take in it’s enchanting beauty. Go for a swim if you are feeling brave. The water sits year round at a temperature just above freezing.
After visiting the Eye of the Grasshopper continue following the gravel road through the valley for about 4km. Depending on the time of year you are hiking, you will come to a massive open valley either containing the large lake Ropojan or a flatland where the water used to be. This lake is typically full from the Spring until early Autumn. Continue on the left side of the lake along the trail. Once you reach the other side, you will come to the border of Montenegro and Albania marked by a border stone. Embrace the step across and mark yet another country off your list.
Continue following the trail until you come to the main climb of the hike. This climb, while steep, is a pleasure. The trail meanders through an old growth forest gifting you with ample cover under the thick black birch trees. While you are climbing keep in mind that my favorite part of the hike waits for you at the top, Runica.
Runica is a large open meadow resting within a bowl of fantastic mountain peaks. This place is pure magic. In the early summer the meadow is filled with dozens of mountain flowers bursting with endless colors and aromas. Not only that, but when you continue on the trail you will meet my good friend the Albanian shepherd. He spends his summers in Runica isolated, herding sheep and donkeys, making yogurt and sleeping in a small shack. His oasis lies at the corner of the valley. I call it an oasis because of his makeshift water system that literally saved me from dehydration countless times. If you’re reading this, BRING HIM CHOCOLATE! He’s a big fan.
After crossing through Runica continue through the valley where you will climb into yet another valley. This hike is amazing because it’s almost like you are on a fantastic staircase made up of valleys. Each one higher than the other. In this next valley you will find a few more Alpine lakes. The most famous being Lake Pejes. This lake marks the final scramble of the day. After it you will begin the knee crunching 1,000m decent into the Albanian Village of Theth.
Be sure to be on alert as you descend. By now you are tired and this is where mistakes and injuries happen. The descent is steep and slippery with loose gravel. As you come to the bottom of the mountain you will come to a gravel road. Follow this for the last few kilometers until you reach the village. Give yourself a pat on the back and enjoy the beauty that Theth has to offer.
If you want to spend more time in Theth and want to know some things to do visit my post TOP THINGS TO DO IN THETH. If you are continuing the Peaks of the Balkans Trial visit Theth to Valbona Hiking Guide or if you are doing the trail counter-clockwise visit Plav to Vusanje 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 tour I provide with Balkan Mountain Adventure Company. Adventure is what I do. These experiences have changed my life forever. I want everyone to share the joy of the mountains with me. BLKNMTN gives you the opportunity to explore like a local and have the adventure of a lifetime. Click the link for more information and feel free to reach out with any questions!
ADVENTURE IS WHAT WE DO
MY EXPERIENCE HIKING FROM VUSANJE TO THETH
This hike was my first ever solo overnight trip in the Accursed Mountain Range. Instead of doing the hike in one shot, I left late in the afternoon and shaved off about 5km and camped by Lake Ropojan. I remember setting up my tent in a hurry because there was what looked like a massive storm heading right for me. Luckily, the mountain tops diverted the storm last second. Then two local guys came by and gave me the “you shouldn’t be doing this alone speech,” and must have got into my head because it was one of the longest nights of my life. The valley came alive at night. The sounds and squeals from animals unknown to me made sleep impossible to achieve.
I made a makeshift bayonet out of a hunting knife and my trekking pole and laid there clutching it until sleep finally came. I knew in my heart I was over reacting and letting my nerves get the best of me, but there was something I can’t explain about that night. Terror took over and I lost control. Maybe it was because it was the first time in my life I ever felt that way. I never scare when camping alone in the wilderness, so my reaction was new and a challenge.
Morning came. I unzipped the damp tent and opened it up to the peaks of the mountains still burning with the morning sun. Thankful that I survived that self-inflicted panic attack, I instantly knew that day was going to be a day to remember. I sparked up the butane and cooked my specialty, oatmeal with Turkish coffee grounds. After packing up camp, the hiking began. Quickly passing the border into Albania and climbing through the forest, I came up to the meadow Runica.
This was my first time hiking this trail, so when I came out the forest to this amazing meadow in a bowl of mountains, I was struck by it. I will never forget the feeling that overwhelmed me. The place contained a powerful energy that demanded an instant appreciation of life. The beauty was too much to bear. Wild flowers bloomed. The grass glowed green, the great towering rocks encouraged hypnosis, the sun’s rays embraced me. I felt alive. Every part of my being screamed for the skies. I dropped my pack, collapsed to the earth and let this moment find a special place in my soul.
Once I felt like I spent enough time lying on the ground. I got up, recorded a video to share with my family and continued on the trail. Just around the corner I met my friend, the Albanian Shepherd. He has a name, but it’s busy evading capture within my memory. It’s moments like these that make trails special for me. He welcomed me to his make-shift picnic table and we communicated with hand signs, facial expressions and the few words we shared between Albanian and English. In the brief moments of silence I thought about how different our two worlds were, but connected us was this place, Runica. I gave him a snickers bar and he offered fresh sheep’s yogurt. I grabbed a spoonful and embraced the pungent flavor with a poker face. Feeling refreshed, I grabbed my pack, shook his hand and set off, yet again, on the trail to Theth.
The rest of the hike was less eventful. I climbed up into another valley, passed a few more alpine lakes and finally made it to the mountain pass overlooking the village. I began the steep decent and let my mind run free. Thinking the thoughts of the trail. Thinking about life, coming up with new ideas and letting old memories come and go. Sometimes I sing. Sometimes I think of nothing. Without realizing it, I made it down the mountain. I continued along the gravel road paired with a river gushing with spring run off. I had to take a my boots off a few times to cross. The water was freezing but gave my tired feet energy.
Finally, I made it to the Albanian village of Theth. Feeling accomplished I set up camp, cooked a quinoa and canned tuna concoction for dinner and let the thoughts of the day lull me into a deep sleep.