The Best of the Via Dinarica
Stunning mountainous landscapes in Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro
Reviews 10 Reviews5/5
Vacation Style Holiday Type
Activity Level Challenging
Group Size Small Group
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.
* All breakfasts, 10 lunches and 12 dinners
* 5 nights hotels, 4 nights guesthouses, 3 nights shepherd mountain huts (please see accommodation section)
* Transfer for group flights
Group normally 5 to 16, plus local leader. Min age 16 yrs
- Single Accommodation (available on request, inquire for supplement)
- Traditional shepherd hospitality
- Cross remote borders
- Wild mountain scenery
- Picturesque mountain villages
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 flight arrives 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*
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*
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*
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*
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**
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 *
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*
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*
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 *
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*
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*
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*
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 the group flight in the evening.
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.
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.