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The Best of the Via Dinarica

from $2,649.00

Stunning mountainous landscapes in Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro

  • Reviews 15 Reviews
    5/5
  • Vacation Style Holiday Type
    Guided
  • Activity Level Challenging
    7/8
  • Group Size Small Group
    5 - 16
All about the The Best of the Via Dinarica.

Discover a network of old shepherd trails as we traverse through high alpine mountains, taking in vibrant forests and glacial lakes. The Via Dinarica trail spans nearly 2000km across Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, Serbia, Albania and Macedonia. This epic route cannot be completed in two weeks, so we explore the southern part of the Via Dinarica. The mountains encircling Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro offer some of the most remote and wild scenery. Picturesque mountain villages are inhabited by agricultural communities, where farming practices and traditional shepherd life have been preserved for generations. We enjoy breathtaking views as we cross remote borders with time to soak up the traditional shepherd mountain life along the way. With a slew of awards – Via Dinarica was National Geographic Traveller’s “Best of the World” destination for 2017 – this is guaranteed to amaze and challenge the keen trekker.

The tour package inclusions and exclusions at a glance
What is included in this tour?Items that are included in the cost of tour price.

* All breakfasts, 10 lunches and 12 dinners
* 5 nights hotels, 4 nights guesthouses, 3 nights shepherd mountain huts (please see accommodation section)
* Airport Transfers (at designated times)

Group normally 5 to 16, plus local leader. Min age 16 yrs

What is not included in this tour?
  • Flights
  • Single Accommodation (available on request, inquire for supplement)

 

Highlights

  • Traditional shepherd hospitality
  • Cross remote borders
  • Wild mountain scenery
  • Picturesque mountain villages
  1. Day 1 Start Tirana, Albania

    The tour starts at our centrally located hotel in Tirana, Albania’s trendy capital (approx. 30 minutes drive from the airport). The group transfer takes place in the evening. Our leader will hold a briefing in the morning to discuss the upcoming trip and answer any questions.*Hotel Kruja or similar*

  2. Day 2 Drive to Komani Lake; scenic ferry journey, followed by a walk to Tropoje Village

    This morning we drive (approx. 4 hrs) to Komani Lake. We then have a 2 hour ferry journey through the gorge to Fierza. The boat journey allows us to take in the spectacular scenery whilst we wind our way between high cliffs and towering peaks. It is described as one of the world’s great boat journeys. Three hydroelectric power plants have been built here at the lake, which produces approx. 70% of Albania’s electricity. Upon arrival in Fierza, we’ll visit the 200 year old Mic Sokoli tower, which is significant in northern Albanian history and culture. We’ll then walk for 2 hours to our guesthouse in Tropoje.*Aste Guesthouse or similar*

  3. Day 3 Through Tropoje Valley, following the river to Sylbice

    We walk up through Tropoje Valley and follow the river, taking several breaks along the way to enjoy the beautiful alpine scenery. Lunch will be a picnic in the valley. In the afternoon we reach our alpine huts in Sylbice Alpine Pasture, which is where we stay for the night. The huts belong to a local family and we’ll enjoy the homemade food and traditional hospitality, which has remained unchanged in this area for decades.Max. altitude 1620m.*Sylbica Huts*

  4. Day 4 Cross the border into Kosovo; trek through green alpine pastures to Belegu

    Today we cross the border into Kosovo and trek through green alpine pastures to Belegu. We start walking at 1650m, eventually reaching Ali Cela Pass at 2227m, where we have stunning views of the glacial lakes in Albania. We then start descending to Belegu. For lunch, we’ll enjoy another picnic en route, and dinner will be taken at Belugu shepherd huts, where we’ll be staying this evening. Our host built this hut in the pine forest and plays the cifteli, a traditional musical instrument, so we’ll enjoy some folk songs from the area.Max. altitude 2300m.*Belegu Huts*

  5. Day 5 Walk along ridges to the shepherd village of Milisevac

    Today’s trail is carpeted with a dazzling array of wildflowers as we ascend from deep valleys to green mountain pastures, enjoying breathtaking panoramic views as we walk along ridges to the shepherd village of Milisevac run by a delightful family. Today’s route takes us off the tourist map and follows trails known by our local guide, we are unlikely to pass fellow trekkers as our paths takes us away from the Peaks of the Balkans trail. The halfway point of today’s walk is the remote village of Prilep where we will enjoy local hospitality and have our lunch. Max. altitude 2018m.*Milishevc hut, *Lojza hut**

  6. Day 6 Trek to Lumbardhi ridge; descend to Rugova Camp Hotel and continue to Reka e Allages

    Today’s landscape is truly untouched and wild starting at 1600m we hike up to 2150m over 6km. This area is renowned for its hospitality, with delicious cheese and homemade raki available to try. We first ascend to Lumbardhi ridge and then descend through forest (sometimes the trail may be muddy) to Rugova Camp Hotel. From here we take a ride in 4x4’s to our guesthouse in Reka e Allages to avoid walking along the tarmac road.Max. altitude 2127m.*Reka e Allages Ariu Guesthouse *

  7. Day 7 To Boge via Mt Hajla (2403m)

    An exciting day today as we trek to Boge via Mt Hajla (2403m). Hajla is a mountain situated on the border of Montenegro and Kosovo and belongs to the north-eastern part of the Prokletije mountain range (or the Accursed Mountains). It is the highest peak in this range. Many consider Hajla to be one of the most beautiful peaks in the area. Those who live in this area still rely on stock-breeding and forestry, where shepherds still migrate to their summer huts and high settlements using the trails on which we walk on. Lunch will be a picnic en route and tonight we stay in a mountain hotel in Boge.Max. altitude 2123m.*Hotel Magra Austria*

  8. Day 8 Transfer to Kuqishte; trek to Babino Polje, Montenegro

    We have a 30 minute transfer to Kuqishte, the start point of today’s trek. We begin with an ascent on a good path, which leads us through lofty pine trees. From here, we have a steady climb to a valley full of dramatic rock formations and lakes. This is our highest point of today, with expansive views of the Accursed Mountains to the south. Depending on visibility, we may be able to see Babino Polje in Montenegro. We cross the border into Montenegro from here, with a delightful descent through a high alpine meadow, until we reach the sheep pastures above the Babino Polje Valley. Max. Altitude 2276m.*Triangle Woodhouse*

  9. Day 9 Trek to Hrid Lake in Prokletije National Park; continue to Plav

    Today we trek to Hrid Lake, starting with a trail through woodland. Hrid Lake can easily be circled, with its western part offering enjoyable views. The lake is recognised as a strict nature reserve within the Prokletije National Park. If the weather is good we can enjoy a quick refreshing swim at this tranquil spot. We then continue along a series of hills to Plav. Today’s walk is one of the longest and we cover a variety of terrain. In Plav there is a supermarket so there is an opportunity to purchase snacks and ice-cream. Max. altitude 2046m.*Hotel Lake View or similar *

  10. Day 10 Transfer to Gradec; trek to Vuthaj via Bor Peak (2106m)

    We have a beautiful and exciting trek today, as we are going to summit Bor (2106m). This morning we start with a transfer to reach the start point of the trek, we begin driving on a tarmac road before turning off onto a gravel road where it gets progressively bumpier the higher we go. The trail starts in the beech forest and then it opens out into meadows covered in wildflowers. We then climb Bor (a steep ascent), from the top there are stunning panoramic views of the Guisinje Valley, Plav and the surrounding mountains of Kosovo and Albania. The next part of the trek follows a nice path as we gradually descend to the village of Vuthaj.Max. altitude 2106m.*Rosi or Dudushi Guesthouse Vuthaj*

  11. Day 11 Trek to the glacial lakes of Jezerca

    This morning we will be transported with our luggage by 4x4’s to the Zastan huts. From the old police border office, we climb up to the Jezerca lakes, passing through dense forest. It is important to carry enough water for the day on this day as there are limited water sources along this route. From the lakes, we continue through forest along a trail all the way to Rossi Pass. We then descend into the village of Valbona. Max. altitude 2000m*Hotel Margjeka or similar*

  12. Day 12 Drive to Prizren and onto Rubik; short afternoon walk. 

    This morning we leave the Valbona Valley and drive into Kosovo, we stop at the Old Town of Prizren. Here we will have a guided tour of the city including The League of Prizren, Sinan Pasha Mosque and the old town centre. After the tour, we will have lunch in Prizren before continuing our drive to the small village of Rubik (approx. 2 hours). Upon arrival in Rubik we will check into our hotel. In the late afternoon, we will take a short walk through the village. *Eco Hotel Marubi*

  13. Day 13 Drive to Tirana; free afternoon

    After breakfast, we transfer back to Tirana. When we arrive in the capital we will have a short orientation tour, the rest of the afternoon is free for you to explore the city. We transfer to the airport late afternoon in time for flights departing in the evening.

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Where you stay
Belegu hut, KOSOVO

Hotels, guesthouses, shepherd huts

5 nights hotels, 4 nights guesthouses, 3 nights shepherd mountain huts.

We’ll experience wonderful hospitality while staying at the shepherd huts and family-run guesthouses. At the huts, all group members share the sleeping space between two or more rooms. They are not too dissimilar to a Scottish mountain bothy or a French gite, whereby you sleep on mattresses on the floor. You will need to bring your own sleeping bag for the huts. Facilities are limited and basic but the warm hospitality more than makes up for it. Please note that charging facilities can be limited. At the guesthouses, rooms are welcoming but simple. We stay in dormitory rooms for between 4 and 6 people. It may be necessary for male and female group members to share. Our guesthouse in Tropojë belonged to our local partner’s grandfather and has been lovingly renovated into a guesthouse. There are 4 twin rooms and one quadruple room here; all bathrooms are ensuite except for one of the twin rooms where it is separate.

Our hotel in Boge is a nice welcome after a few nights in more basic accommodation, there is a swimming pool here so you may wish to bring your costume.

Please note that a single supplement is available (hotels only). Single rooms are not available at the shepherd huts or guesthouses. Also, at some of the guesthouses there is only one shower, so you have to be sparing with the hot water and be prepared to wait.

Eating and Drinking

All breakfasts, 10 lunches and 12 dinners included.

It wasn’t until the collapse of the socialist republics in the early 1990s that the world got its first glimpse of the Balkans. This region has retained its subsistence culture and show very little signs of changing. You can expect your food to have been reared/grown not too far from your plate. Dairy products, especially milk, cheese and yoghurt are present in almost every meal. Breakfasts consist of cereals, bread and jam, eggs and cheese, tea and coffee. Picnics are provided on the trek and usually consist of bread, meats and local cheeses. For dinner, simple grilled meats, usually beef, chicken or lamb, are commonly served with potatoes or rice, and locally-grown vegetables and salads. Pies and other pastry-based dishes are also a staple in this region.

If you follow a vegan diet you should expect that the variety of food may be limited whilst on this trip. This diet is relatively uncommon in this region and we cannot guarantee that the hotels, shepherd huts and guesthouses will provide meals that have the necessary variety.

Water is provided, but very often this is from local wells or mountain streams and is not chlorinated. If you are concerned about drinking untreated water, we suggest you bring a supply of water treatment tablets or a SteriPEN.

SteriPENs are widely stocked on Amazon, outdoor shops and other online retailers; look for the latest models but avoid USB charging ones. Better still, a SteriPEN will pay for itself over the course of the trek and you won’t leave behind a single plastic bottle – you will end up spending the same or even less than you would on bottled water, plus you can keep it for future trips.

Activity Level: 5 (Challenging)

This trek is suitable for keen trekkers who are prepared to put in some physical preparation. For the most part, our walks follow good shepherd trails yet the terrain can be very rocky in parts, winding through high alpine mountains. At times we will encounter some trails which are not well maintained and can be a little overgrown. We will encounter sustained steep ascents/descents (sometimes with gravel slopes) and you should be confident in your ability to deal with heights. Walking hours stated are given as approximates only.

Accommodation is basic. Facilities are limited at the shepherd huts and usually consist of sharing the floor space in a large room (not too dissimilar to a Scottish bothy or a French gite). Rooms at the guesthouses are mixed-sex dormitory style. In a couple of the properties there is only one shower, so the group will need to factor this in when deciding when to take a shower.

Due to certain areas still being relatively undeveloped, some of the drives will be on windy and quite bumpy roads. Some roads are full of potholes and of a much lower standard to what we are used to in much of Europe. Still, we are always rewarded with spectacular wild scenery throughout.

Luggage is transferred by horses at times during the trek. Please bring soft bags rather than hard suitcases.

Overall Rating
5/5
Reviewed On 25/06/2020
5/5

Amazing local hospitality

  • What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The welcome we got everywhere we visited. Some amazing views along the way!
  • What did you think of your group leader?

    Dorien is a wonderful leader always looking out for people's needs. His father once owned the company, and it is a lovely experience being shown around someones homeland.
  • Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The walks are challenging and some of the paths are not always as well maintained as you might be used to, so do prepare to get fit before travelling, you will enjoy it much more. You are very rarely walking on the flat and are either walking up or down. It is worth the effort, one of the best Exodus trips I have been on!
  • Is there anything else you would like to add?

    If you are up for an adventure in an unexplored part of Europe and are ok with basic accommodation, this is the trip for you!

Reviewed On 25/06/2020
4/5

Unspoilt Mountains

  • What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Being surrounded by a crown of limestone peaks.
  • What did you think of your group leader?

    Good knowledge of history but not of flora or fauna.
  • Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be prepared for trekking through areas with no tracks or trails.

Reviewed On 25/06/2020
4/5

Fantastic - and challenging!

  • What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The final day of trekking (day 11) when we lunched by the Jerveca Lakes; criss crossed the borders between Montenegro and Albania; scrambled up rocks and across snow; coped with the very long steep scree downhill; ate wild strawberries; delighted, as always in the incredible views and fantastic flowers; found bear scat - all with the backdrop of the Accursed Mountains.
  • What did you think of your group leader?

    Bleard Y was a very good leader of people. He was friendly, supportive, on time with departures, good information in the briefings, good sense of humour. Very interesting person because of his Albanian military profession.
  • Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Agree on one person to collect all tips on day 2 (when you have recovered from the short overnight on day 1, but before you leave the guesthouse on the morning of day 3). That person should then consult with the group leader ON ARRIVAL into each guesthouse/hut, to find out what to tip the guesthouse for that night, and the driver/horsemen/local guide the following day. No need for a sleeping bag - just an inner sleeping bag. No need for sterilising tablets etc as good water is readily available. Get very few leks. If vegetarian, bring own interesting food. Bring Vit C tablets/dried fruit.

Reviewed On 25/06/2020
4/5

Solitary hiking in the Balkans

  • What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The hospitality extended by local owners of the guesthouses/alpine huts and the luncheon in Prilep.
  • Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    All of the guesthouses provided blankets so bring a sleeping sheet, not a sleeping bag. Some but not all guesthouses provided towels (another useful thing to pack). Fruit is limited and usually not included in packed lunches; bring dried fruit if this matters to you. Herbal tea was the common hot beverage, with Turkish coffee often available on request. There was always hot water if you want to bring your own tea or coffee crystals. Bring medicine for stomach flu and lots of hand sanitizer lotion. Half of our group got a stomach flu on the same day (including one guide) and the next day another person and the other guide got sick. We were unable to determine any specific cause; treating the drinking water didn’t make a difference. Fortunately people only missed a day of hiking.
  • Is there anything else you would like to add?

    For future trips I suggest that Exodus consider either hiring a professional tour guide for a 2-4 hour tour of Prizren or dropping the side trip and adding another hiking day. The tour of the mosque and museum were interesting, but content was thin and the side trip involved a lot of driving.

Reviewed On 25/06/2020
4/5

Peaks of the Balkans

  • What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Walking through alpine meadows carpeted with an amazing variety of flowers. The trek up to the glacial lakes lakes of Jezerca & on over the coll - the surronding peakes were stunning. The spontanious rakki party at the Sylbice hut was typical of the local hospitality
  • What did you think of your group leader?

    We had two guides / leaders throughout - Deni & Dorien. Both were caring, helpful & keen to impart local knowledge. Although Deni was the notional leader he was younger than Dorien, who was also his employer! Keeping the large (16) diverse group together proved difficult and unfortunately limited the information flow en route. On the occasions when Dorien lead & set the pace the group was far less spread out. However there was a significant pace difference across the group which would have tested most leaders.
  • Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The trek passes through very few centres of population 7shops are a rarety. Food is what is availble / grown locally. Fruit in particular is limited and not generally included in packed lunches. Stock up when the opportunity arises!
  • Is there anything else you would like to add?

    I appreciate that the spread of flight times makes the last day difficult to organise. Nevertheless I feel more could have been organised for those on the group flight given its late departure

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Package Confirmed Dates Trip Status Trip Status Price (PP) Excluding Flights Price (PP) Including Flights  
September 5, 2020
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$2,649.00
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June 26, 2021
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$2,779.00
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July 10, 2021
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July 24, 2021
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August 7, 2021
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