Albanian Alps hiking three day itinerary: circular route back to Shkoder

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Albanian Alps


When we visited the Accursed Mountains, colloquially called the Albanian Alps, we hadn’t really known what to expect. We planned to walk the Theth to Valbona hike but hadn’t planned much else. Thankfully, we were not in a rush and had plenty of time to explore the splendor of the Alps. We discovered the fabulous Theth Blue Eye Hike, and the strenuous Mount Rosni climb.

Suffice to say, Albanian Alps hiking was incredible, offering breathtaking scenery from all angles. But what we remember is the genuine friendliness of the guest house hosts, the mountain air, the food and the satisfying feeling of drinking a local beer that had been chilled in a water spring. Theth and Valbona are both special places, becoming increasingly popular. Now is the time to visit.

Based on our experience, this blog posts sets out an itinerary for three days in the Albanian Alps hiking. This is a circular route, starting and ending in Shkoder. Read on to find out everything you need to know about hiking in the Albanian Alps and walking the Theth to Valbona Hike.

Where are the Albanian Alps?

The Albanian Alps, more formally called the Accursed Mountains are a mountain range in the western Balkans.The Accursed Mountains span the border region of Albania, Kosovo, and Montenegro.

The Albanian section of the mountain, the Albanian Alps, can be found to the North of the country.

What is the Albanian Alps hiking circular route?

We call this route a circular route, because you can start and finish in one place. Namely, Shkoder. But, it’s not a circular hike as such. You will require public transport to get to Theth and from Valbona (or vice versa – see note below on the direction of travel.)

This route takes in the best of the hikes in the Accursed Mountains (the Albanian Alps) and includes the famous Theth to Valbona hike as well as a few others in the area of Theth National Park and Valbona National Park. In total, our suggested itinerary includes three days of hiking and takes four days total. There are however plenty of alternatives to this.

We recommend taking a circular route as this provides an option to leave either your hire car, or luggage, in Shkoder and return to collect it after your hiking adventures in the Accursed Mountains.

Which direction should I do the Albanian Alps hiking circular route?

Starting in Shkoder, you can travel to Theth first or to Valbona first. If you travel to Theth, you will have a day to hike in Theth, a day to walk to Valbona and a day to explore Valbona before returning to Shkoder.

The alternative is to arrive in Valbona, walk to Theth and then spend a day exploring or hiking in Theth before returning to Shkoder.

The itineraries are very similar whichever direction you take. However, the majority of people choose the Theth to Valbona direction.

Theth to Valbona Direction

Here’s why we think Theth to Valbona rather than the other way round, is a better choice:

  • The Shkoder to Theth bus leaves at 07:00 and arrives at 09:00, this means that you arrive early to Theth and can take a full day hiking. Comparatively, the Shkoder to Valbone route takes a full day of travelling, limiting what you can do in Valbone when you arrive.
  • The climb from Theth to the Valbona Pass is steeper but shorter than the climb from Valbona to the Pass. Personally, we prefer a short but steep climb to a longer one. Climbing down from the peak to Theth is also harder than the climb into Valbona, as it is much steeper.

Otherwise, there isn’t much difference between the two. You’ll have a fabulous time whichever direction you choose.

How many days should you spend in the Albanian Alps hiking?

Many people arrive in the Albanian Alps just to hike from Theth to Valbona or the other way round. Although this takes two to three days of travelling, it only includes one day of hiking, which seems a shame to me.

The Albanian Alps are fairly remote and difficult to get to. If you’re going to travel all that way, why not stay for a little longer? To use a British phrase “in for a penny, in for a pound.”

I think the best itinerary for Albanian Alps hiking would be a minimum of three days of hiking, but four days total travel time. You could also spend longer if you have time and are really into hiking and the outdoors. We’ve put together some suggestions for that below.

Where is the best Albanian Alps hiking?

The Albanian Alps is a huge space, the mountain range takes up around 8% of the landmass of Albania. It would be quite difficult to explore the entire mountain region during a vacation to Albania.

This article focuses on some of the most popular and accessible hikes in the Albanian Alps which can be found in Theth National Park and Valbona National Park. There are other popular hiking routes, including Jezercë Peak and Valamara Pass.

Where to stay in the Albanian Alps?

We recommend staying in both Theth and Valbona. Both are small hamlets that provide a base for Albanian Alps hiking to explore the area.

There are two main types of accommodation in Theth and Valbona. The first are guesthouses. These are small family run places with a handful of bedrooms. Most will provide breakfast within your room rate and will offer a simple dinner with drinks.

The other option is to camp in the Albanian Alps. Free or wild camping is legal in Albania, so this may be an option. Many of the guesthouses will allow tents in the garden for a small fee. This is great because it gives you access to the facilities in the guesthouse.

Itinerary for three days Albanian Alps hiking: A circular route

This is our itinerary for three days of hiking in the Albanian Alps. There are many alternatives, but this itinerary optimizes hiking days, but allows time to explore the rest of Albania as part of a 14 day itinerary (published soon).

We provide detailed information on each day in the itinerary below.

Day one: Shkoder to Theth Bus and Theth Blue Eye Hike

On day one, you will take an early bus from Shkoder to Theth. Arriving with plenty of time to enjoy the Blue Eye Hike, before a casual dinner and good nights sleep in Theth.

Bus to Theth from Shkoder

Buses leave Shkoder at 07:00 bound for Theth. Rather than an organized coach/ bus, transport is provided by mini-buses in combination with 4×4 vehicles.

The journey takes around 2 hours and 15 minutes on a good day, this includes a short coffee break stop at a cafe in the mountains.

It is best to arrange a ticket with your hostel or hotel the night before. The company will put on as many vehicles as required for the number of travellers but it’s best to express your intention to get the bus the next day. Buses or 4x4s will collect you from your accommodation.

The cost of the journey is 10 Euros, but hostels may take a small commission fee to secure your ticket.

The journey to Theth is not a completely comfortable one, if you get motion sickness, you may want to consider managing this as you climb up many mountain roads.!

Where to stay in Shkoder before the bus to Theth

A quick note on accommodation in Shkoder. We recommend staying in Shkoder for a night or two prior to your travel to Theth.

If you’re not traveling with a light backpack, then you will want arrange accommodation in Shkoder and pick somewhere you can leave your luggage during your trip to the Albanian Alps. Most hostels and hotels in Shkoder will provide this service, either for free or for a small fee (1 Euro per night is normal).

We stayed at Mi Casa es Tu Casa backpackers hotel, a quirky and friendly hostel in the centre of town. We recommend this place to anyone looking for a sociable and relaxed place to stay before visiting the Albanian Alps. Rates are around 30 Euros for a private room per night. Book here on

Albanian Alps Hiking: The Theth Blue Eye Hike

The Blue Eye in Theth is a stunning pool of turquoise water and a popular swimming spot. Because the water is so blue and the hike is fairly moderate in terms of difficulty, many people choose to do this hike from Theth. Despite it being a popular hike, the swimming spot has plenty of space so doesn’t feel crowded.

It is simple to navigate from Theth to the Blue Eye, you can find coordinates for it here on Google Maps. We suggest walking on the left side of the river (i.e. the side with the restaurants and guesthouses Theth).

Simply follow the river, then cross the bridge here. From there, follow up the hill until you reach the Blue Eye. The route is mainly signposted and trail marked. Plus, if you walk in the summer, you can just follow the other hikers.

There are cafes on route, one or two, and a drinking spot by the Blue Eye, but you can’t always guarantee that they will be open.

Top Tip: We recommend carrying your swimming stuff, water, sunscreen and something to eat for the hike. Leave anything heavy at your guest house.

How long is the Theth Blue Eye Hike?

We tracked our hike from our guest house in Theth to the Blue Eye and it was a 19km round trip. Most of the hike is flat, apart from the last 45 minutes which is up hill. You can expect to to walk between 2.5 and 3.5 hours each way.

Can you swim in the Blue Eye in Theth?

You can swim in the Blue Eye in Theth. But, the question is, how long will you manage to stay in the water! At 10 degrees Celsius the water is pretty chilly. There are some shallow areas and other deeper parts where people can jump in from the bridge.

Food & Drink in Theth

Theth is a hamlet, rather than a town, however there are a few places to get food and drink in the area.

There is a new food store, a small market selling sandwiches and dry foods. It’s open from 07:00 until late. Bread arrives at 11:00, so if you want some for your sandwiches for the next day, shop after 11:00! Thankfully, the shop accepts card payment too. It is a little expensive, but to be expected in a remote mountain village.

When you arrive in the morning, the mini market is the best place for food as it is the only place open. For the evening, there are a few restaurants (three), which sell basic food and drinks. We had a delicious pizza at Jezerca.

The other option for dinner, and the one most people take, is to eat in your guesthouse. Most will offer a typically Albanian mountain meal.

Where to stay in Theth

Theth is full of guest house accommodation, from basic to luxury. There are also campsites and a smattering of more upmarket hotels.

We stayed at Rupa Guest house in Theth. I chose this place as it had excellent reviews and I read about how it is run by a friendly lady in her 70s. It didn’t disappoint. The guest house is utterly charming, with the option for dinner or breakfast which can be eaten in the pretty garden.

Rates at Rupa Guest House are around 45 Euros for a double room with private bathroom. Book with here.

Day two: Theth to Valbona Hike

The second day of this Albanian Alps itinerary is the hike from Theth to Valbona.

Albanian Alps Hiking – The Theth to Valbona Hike: The Essentials

theth to valbone

Albanian Alps Hiking: Theth to Valbona Hike

The Theth to Valbona Hike is historically a mule trail, used to get across the mountains. Today, it is one of the most popular hikes, if not the most popular hike, in Albania. This gives the hike a really fun atmosphere as there are plenty of other hikers enjoying the trip.

After an initial climb, lasting around 2-3 hours, you will reach the top. There are a few cafes around on the route, but we recommend packing lunch that you can enjoy at the top. Then, stopping at one of the delightful mountain bars on the route down to Valbona to enjoy an ice cold beer. You’ll need it after the climb!

Enjoy spectacular scenery and views as far as the eye can see. This truly is a special hike and one of the best that we have ever done.

Food & Drink in Valbona

Valbona is a small mountain village, it has one tiny market shop. Otherwise, food is found in guest houses. Many guest house also open a restaurant, so you don’t have to eat in the guest house you are staying in. Breakfast tends to be included in room rates and you can normally arrange a packed lunch with your guest house too.

Where to stay in Valbona

Valbona has guest houses or camping options. There are quaint family run places, large guest houses or mountain lodges to choose from. Do note, that the accommodation in Valbona is mostly a few kms from the trail head. You can walk or take a taxi if required. The walk is flat and easy along a quiet road.

On our first night, we stayed at Guest House HYSA. This place is on the main stretch of road through Valbona, with a spacious garden. They serve simple but great food, including an ample breakfast to set you up for a day of hiking. You can also ask to purchase a packed lunch for your hike too. Rates are around 35 Euros for two people. Book here on

The second place we enjoyed was the tiny family run guest house Butjina Sherifaj. We paid 30 Euros for one night with a private bathroom, this included a huge breakfast. Dinner is an additional cost but inexpensive, genuine Albanian home cooking. The guest house is nestled into the mountains a little out of town, well worth the walk given the peaceful location. Book here on

Day three: Valbona Mount Rosit Hike

For the third day of hiking, we recommend staying in Valbona and tackling the Mount Rosit Hike. This hike takes you to the base of Mount Rosit (also called Rosni peak) at the Montenegro border. This is a 19.5km “out and back” trail, with the option to climb Mount Rosit rather than just reach the base.

The first half of the hike feels quite relentless, with little views out of the woods. But, after passing this you will be rewarded with more open views.

Albanian Alps hiking: How to find the Mount Rosit Hike?

There are two trails in Valbone that join the Mount Rosit hike trail. One is near to the school and the other is a little further into town. This Wikiloc trail shows the two options.

Is the Mount Rosit Hike trail marked?

The Mount Rosit Hike is well trail marked, but it can be easy to get lost. We suggest getting access to the trail on All Trail, Wikiloc or

How difficult is the Mount Rosit Hike?

The hike is challenging, particularly because you will climb 1600m to reach the base of Mount Rosit. The route down is very easy in comparison.

Day four: Valbona to Shkoder (or Tirana) by bus and ferry

How to book the journey from Valbona to Shkoder?

Book with your guesthouse in Valbona, through Komani Lake ferry, or on Albanian Bus. Do note, if you book with Komani Lake Ferry, you require a Paypal account.

What to expect on the journey from Valbona to Shkoder?

It seems like a complicated journey from Valbona to Shkoder, but it is not. You can book it all as one journey and just follow the crowds as most people will be doing the same trip.

First, you will take a minibus from Valbona at 10:00. This will collect you from your guest house. The journey is on mountain roads.

Next, you will take a ferry from Fierze to Koman which leaves around 13:00. The ferry takes three hours, but is a stunning journey. The ferry is crowded and small, but it does have a bar and bathroom. We recommend sitting inside if you want to avoid the sun!

Finally, you will take a bus from the ferry terminal in Koman to Skhoder. Expect this to take around 2 hours.

Book with your guesthouse in Valbona, through Komani Lake ferry, or on Albanian Bus. The journey should cost around 30 Euros.

How to spend five days in the Albanian Alps hiking?

You can spend longer than four days in the Albanian Alps and still find plenty to do. One option is to spend another day hiking in Theth, the waterfall walk is particularly popular.

Another option is to walk a few days of the Peaks of the Balkans Trail towards the border of Kosovo before returning to Valbona. This is ideal if you’re looking for hut to hut hiking in Albania.

What about the Peaks of the Balkans Trail?

The peaks of the Balkans Trail starts in the Albanian Alps. The first day of the walk is from Theth to Valbona, but then the walk continues into Kosovo and Montenegro, before returning to Theth. The trail is 192km and takes around 10 days. You can find more about the Peaks of the Balkans Trail here on their website.

A note of caution if you do decide to walk the Peaks of the Balkans Trail, you will need to get border crossing permits well in advance to enable you to walk between Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro. You can find information about this on the trail website.

Where else can I visit after the Albanian Alps hiking?

Albanian has so much to offer, there are lots of options for further travel and adventure after you have left the Albanian Alps.

Most people take the circular route and travel back to Shkoder, this can be lovely in the summer, especially if you get a chance to visit the lake just outside town.

It is also possible to continue past Shkoder and travel on to Tirana, should you be ready to enjoy the capital city. You can use Tirana as a jumping off point to or travel further South to Berat or to the Albanian Riviera.

Another popular option is to take a boat to the River Shala (Lumi i Shales), more on that below.

Can I visit Lumi I Shales after the Albanian Alps?

Lumi i Shales (the Shala River) has become a super popular tourist stop on summer vacations in Albania. It has known as the “Thailand of Europe”, owing to the clear blue waters of the Shala River which is flanked by fun bars and guesthouses. Long boats meander up and down the river doing day tours and dropping off visitors to spend a night by the water.

A visit to Lumi i Shales is a great addition to a hiking trip in the Albanian Alps, because you can stop off on route back to Shkoder.

If you are on route back from Valbone, one option is to take the ferry to Koman, stay overnight there and then take a day trip to Lumi i Shales. The tour starts early in the morning so you can’t take it on the same day as the ferry to Koman. More information on day tours can be found here.

If you want to stay longer in Lumi i Shales, you can grab a boat there from Koman and then return the following day, before continuing on to Shkoder or Tirana.

If you plan to stay overnight, book well in advance as there is not much accommodation. Bee Eco Guest House is one of the most popular spots, nestled right by the river. Book here on

What do I need to know about hiking in the Albanian Alps: Top Tips for Albanian Alps hiking

Here are our top tips, based on frequently asked questions.

What do I need to know about the Shkoder to Theth Bus?

The bus is quite informal. Expect a mix of 4x4s and minibuses. The journey can be a little uncomfortable, especially if you struggle with motion sickness and it takes around 2 hours.

Ask your hotel or hostel in Shkoder to arrange tickets for you and expect to pay 10 Euros.

How to get from Valbona to Shkoder?

It seems like a complicated journey from Valbona to Shkoder, but it is not. You can book it all as one journey and just follow the crowds as most people will be doing the same trip.

First, you will take a minibus from Valbona at 10:00. This will collect you from your guest house. The journey is on mountain roads.

Next, you will take a ferry from Fierze to Koman which leaves around 13:00. The ferry takes three hours, but is a stunning journey.

Finally, you will take a bus from the ferry terminal in Koman to Skhoder. Expect this to take around 2 hours.

Book with your guesthouse in Valbona, through Komani Lake ferry, or on Albanian Bus. The journey should cost around 30 Euros.

Can I travel from Valbona to Tirana?

You can get from Valbona to Tirana on public transport. The route is similar to the route to Shkoder, but when you get off the ferry in Koman, you will take a bus to Tirana rather than Shkoder. The bus costs 12 Euros and seats should be booked in advance as there is only one bus at 16:00 every day. In theory, it is a three hour journey but it can take up to five hours in traffic.

Book with your guesthouse in Valbona, through Komani Lake ferry, or on Albanian Bus.

Can I drive to Theth or Valbona?

You can drive to Theth and it’s an option to leave your car there.You can also drive to Valbona, via the car ferry. Personally, I would avoid both options unless you are particularly comfortable on mountain roads.

The roads are winding, very narrow and there are frequent pot holes. Most people choose to leave their car in Shkoder.

Do note, you cannot drive between Theth and Valbona.

Are there ATMs in the Albanian Alps?

Once you leave Shkoder towards Theth or Valbona (depending on which direction you travel), there are no ATMs on the route. This can catch a lot of people out.

We recommend getting enough cash out in Shkoder before you leave. Don’t do what we did and make a mad dash for the ATM two minutes before your bus leaves!

You will need enough cash for your guest house accommodation, food and transport for as many days as you remain in the Albanian Alps.

What should I budget for a trip to the Albanian Alps hiking?

Private rooms in Theth and Valbona cost around 30 to 50 Euros, depending on the type of guesthouse you go for. One of our favorites was only 26 Euros for two people per night.

Expect to pay around 10 Euros for dinner, including a few drinks. Breakfast tends to be included in the room rate.

We spent around 50 Euros each for transport to and from Theth and Valbona.

We recommend budgeting around 125-150 Euros per person for the entire four day itinerary.

When is the best time to hike in the Albanian Alps? What is the weather like in the Accursed Mountains?

The Albanian Alps are colder then the rest of the country. We recommend avoiding any hiking in winter, early summer or late summer are best. Expect day temperatures of around 20 degrees Celsius. Outside of the summer, you can expect some rain and cold temperatures.

Most people recommend avoiding high summer, but we visited the Albanian Alps in August. Peak summer can be hot, around 25 or even 30 degrees Celsius, but hiking early in the morning avoids this. The evenings and night time can be chilly, we suggest packing layers.

Can I camp in the Albanian Alps?

Yes, you can absolutely camp in the Albanian Alps. Firstly, free camping or wild camping is legal in Albania. We saw a few people camping in the national park, we suggest picking a spot near a cafe or bar!

If you want more formal facilities, then choose one of the campsites in Valbona or Theth. Many guests houses will also allow camping in the garden for an inexpensive fee (around 5 Euros.)

One of the most popular spots for camping is Free Camping Emanuel, which can be found towards the end of the trail head in Valbona before you reach the town.

Is the Theth to Valbona hike difficult?

We walk and hike a fair bit, yet we still found the Theth to Valbona hike difficult. Do not underestimate it and assume that because a lot of people walk it, that you will be out for an easy stroll.

The climb up to the peak is quite steep, from Theth is the steeper of the two climbs. From Valbona is less steep but may take longer.

The second challenge is the terrain under foot. There are quite a few lose stones and rubble which make walking down the slope quite tricky. I wouldn’t describe it as scree, rather just rubble, but it is quite challenging to walk down and careful balance is required.

Finally, at the to of the peak and coming down, you do need to have a bit of a head for heights. Many of the paths are narrow, with some steep drops. It’s important to keep your wits about you and watch your footing.

Are the other hikes in Albanian Alps difficult?

Our itinerary includes two hikes in addition to the Theth to Valbona hike.

The first is the Theth Blue Eye hike. This one is a fairly easy hike for the most part, but the last 45 minutes of climbing to the Blue Eye is steep and requires sureness of foot.

The second hike we did was the climb to Mount Rosini. This route is extremely steep and we found it very difficult. Although the walk back down was considerably easier.

How busy is the Theth to Valbona hike?

We walked in August, despite the heat the summer is peak season in the Albanian Alps. The trail is busy, you’ll see many solo hikers, couples and large groups. There are a few sections of the trail that are narrow and require some patience to allow others

The trail is busy, you’ll see many solo hikers, couples and large groups.

There are a few sections of the trail that are narrow and require some patience to allow others to pass.

Are the trails in the Albanian Alps marked?

The main trails mentioned in this blog posts are all very well way marked. Look out for red and white trail markings.

Is there phone signal in the Albanian Alps?

There is some phone signal in Theth and Valbona but you may lose it at various points on the trails. We use Airalo E SIMs and found our local SIMs had OK signal in the two mountain towns, particularly Valbona.

The guesthouses tend to have WiFi, so you can connect once you arrive to your accommodation.

We recommend downloading This is a map tool that you can lose offline. The trails can be found on here and it is helpful if you have this in case you get lost.

Do I need a guide on the Albanian Alps for hiking?

If you’re planning to walk Theth to Valbona (or Valbona to Theth) then you do not need a guide. This also applies to any of the way marked trails, such as the Mount Rosini. However, if you want to explore further afield then you may need to consider a guide.

Can I hike in the Albanian Alps solo?

You could hike in the Albanian Alps solo. For safety reasons, we would not recommend hiking solo on secluded trails when no other hikers are around. The hikes mentioned in this blog posts are all popular and would be safe to walk solo as there are plenty of other hikers around.

Can kids hike in the Albanian Alps?

We saw a number of kids hiking with parents in the Albanian Alps. But, just be cautious that some of the trails are difficult and may be too much for little legs. The Blue Eye Theth walk has paths with some erosion and some broken bridges that you may not be comfortable for kids to cross.

Where can I get food in the Albanian Alps?

Theth and Valbona both have guest houses that serve food. Theth also has a mini market selling some fresh produce. See detailed information above on food.

Is there drinking water available in the Albanian Alps?

Generally, the only water available is in guesthouses. Most of them have drinking water available, but it may not be filtered. We recommend packing a water filter if you are concerned about this.

Between Theth and Valbona there are some cafes selling refreshments, but you can’t always guarantee that they will be open. There is also one water spring.

We suggest always packing sufficient water for the day on your hikes in the Albanian Alps.

Do I need to carry my luggage in the Albanian Alps?

You have three options for managing luggage during your trip to the Albanian Alps.

Option one: Pack lightly for your Albania trip and carry your pack with you throughout. We opted for this.

Option two: Leave your luggage in Shkoder at your hotel or hostel.

Option three: There is a luggage transfer service between Theth and Valbona – luggage is carried by horse. More information here.

What should I pack for the Albanian Alps

Hiking gear is not absolutely necessary, but you will want some sort of sports clothing and shoes. The majority of hikers opt for walking boots, others choose trainers. We wear Hoka trainers which have excellent grips.

The evenings in the Albanian Alps are not smart affairs, so you don’t need to pack fancy clothing. Shorts or leggings and casual tops are perfect. Even in the height of summer it gets chilly in the evening, we suggest packing a sweater and warm layers.

Packing list for the Albanian Alps

We carried our bags on our trip rather than leaving them in Shkoder, but here is what we would suggest packing for your hiking trip in the Albanian Alps based on our packing list:

What about wildlife in the Albanian Alps?

The main wildlife we saw in the Albanian Alps were cows! These roam pretty freely throughout Valbona and around the trails. The cows seem very used to seeing people and to our knowledge don’t threaten anyone walking past.

We also saw some wonderful colorful butterflies on our hikes in the Albanian Alps as well as some delightful birds. Indeed, the area is popular with bird watchers. Albania also has quite high numbers of stray dogs. It can be a good idea to take some dog food with you, I know we were keen to feed them when we met them.

Finally, do be aware that there are snakes, wolves and bears in the area. This is why it is important to stick to the trails and avoid hiking completely solo if you can.

Summary: top tips for visiting the Albanian Alps

Here’s a short summary of our top tips for visiting the Albanian Alps and walking from Theth to Valbona.

  • Leave your luggage in Shkoder or pack lightly
  • Pack hiking or sports clothing and decent footwear
  • Make sure to pack warm layers for the evening
  • Take enough cash for your trip – there are no ATMs
  • Use public transport, but plan ahead
  • Spend more than one night in Valbona
  • Stick to the marked hiking trails and download Maps.Me in case you get lost
  • Buy an Albanian E-SIM card

Where to next on your Albanian adventure?

Albanian Riviera

(Published Soon)

Albania two week itinerary

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