A destination that may not first come to mind, but which you will recommend to everyone once you have been there: The Balkans! And specifically the Peaks of the Balkans Trail. My boyfriend and I were a bit unsure whether we were up for this (hike) adventure, but after a friend came back so enthusiastic, we decided to take on the adventure too!
Online I found little information and (practical) tips about this destination and the Peaks of the Balkans Trail. That's why I really enjoy telling you more about our trip, so that I can hopefully inspire other travelers and help them on their way!
We traveled a total of 14 days. In the first week we walked part of the Peaks of the Balkans trail. We walked the route in September, had wonderful weather and no problems with snow on the trails. In the second week we mostly relaxed.
Table of contents
Start of the journey
Day 1 | Amsterdam – Tirana – Shkoder
Once you have arrived at the airport in Tirana, you walk outside and the buses to the bus station are already waiting. For €2,50 pp you can drive to the bus station in half an hour. Here we switched to the bus to Shkodër, it runs until 18 p.m. The bus ride from Tirana to Shkoder costs €00 pp and takes about 2,90 hours.
We slept one night in Shkodër Hotel Bicaj (prices and availability here ). Do not expect luxury, but a spacious room with free coffee, tea and water. The guy from the reception helped us very well with arranging the bus and ferry for the next morning.
After a long day of travel we walked from the hotel to Peja Grill (Location here ) for our dinner. We had a whole table full of delicious food, beer, cola and only had to pay €16 (including tip)!
We chose to take the bus to the ferry the next morning at 07:00. If you have a little more time, I would definitely recommend staying an extra night in Shkodër.
Day 2 | Shkoder-Koman-Fierze-Valbona
The bus ride from Shkodër to Koman costs €6 pp and takes about 2 hours. In between you will also make a stop to enjoy the view.
You buy a ticket on the spot to get on the ferry. There are 2 ferries departing at 09:00 from Koman to proud. The first boat was packed, so we decided to get on the second boat. A good choice, since there was sufficient seating space on this boat. The second boat waits neatly until the first boat is out of sight so that you have just as breathtaking views. The tour costs €5 pp and takes 2,5 to 3 hours.
It is said that this boat trip is one of the most beautiful boat trips in the world. We found the trip indeed impressive, with the beautiful mountains around us.
Once we arrived in Fierze, a van was already waiting to take us, together with a number of other tourists, to Valbona. We had an incredibly nice bus driver, who dropped everyone off at their own accommodation and gave some tips along the way for the hike towards Theth.
Day 3 | Valbona
In Valbona we stayed with Bujtina Malaj (Location here ). An accommodation with an incredibly beautiful view where you can already see the route to Theth. At Bujtina Malaj we only had to pay €25,- pp including dinner and breakfast.
We decided to take our rest, socialize a bit with other guests, play games, eat well and go to bed in time to start the first hike the next morning full of energy!
Peaks of the Balkans Trail
Day 4 | Valbona–Theth
There we went! We both found it quite exciting. Our backpacks were full of food, each with a water bag, each with a walking stick and so we started the first hike.
From Bujtina Malaj you can descend via a shortcut to the beginning of the route. Once there, the route is well signposted with red/white stripes, but just to be sure, we also keep maps.me at hand.
It is a breathtaking hike. The views are beautiful everywhere. With a good basic condition, this route is fine to walk. Neither of us have even had real hiking boots on, even though it is quite a bit of climbing and clambering now and then.
From Valbona to Theth you walk fairly short and steeply up. The route down was quite long… Because my knee was bothering me a lot, the descent was unfortunately not that fast. We have walked this route (16 km, 1000 vertical meters) in about 8 hours. As we descended, we took extra breaks. Otherwise, this route should also take about 7 hours.
When we (finally) arrived in Theth, we had to do some sort of scavenger hunt to get to our accommodation. Over fences, between the cows and over improvised bridges, we eventually arrived at Molla Guesthouse. Wow!
Day 5 | Theth
After the first hike we decided to plan a rest day in Theth. The guesthouse where we stayed was so fantastic that we wanted to chill there all day. Because we thought that was a shame, we walked to the village, looked at the church and had a nice lunch. Furthermore, we really rested this day and enjoyed the view and the mega hospitable people of Molla Guesthouse (availability and prices here ).
The breakfast and dinner here are great. Everything is freshly made and the milk comes directly from the cow that grandma still milks every day. The two of us spent €131 for 2 nights, 2 times a 3-course dinner, beer, cola, wine, figs, melon etc… You really have to go here! I have never experienced such authentic, hospitable people.
A nice additional advantage is that this guesthouse is very close to the trail. On the map it looks like you have to walk around, but thanks to the improvised treasure hunt you can easily reach the trail via the shortcut!
Day 6 | Theth–Vusanje
On day 6 we started our second part of the trail: from Theth to Vusanje. Crossing the border from Albania to Montenegro.
I was so glad we walked this part of the trail in this direction. The first part was very steep uphill over all loose stones and grit. On some parts I really didn't dare to look next to me, because it was so deep down. We were also afraid for a while that we had gone wrong, but when we kept walking briskly, maps.me finally (luckily!) took the route again. We have thought a few times "this can't be a path?!" but every time it turned out to be fine.
When you've had the steep part up, you'll come across one beautiful viewpoint after another. Really beautiful, expansive views. The descent is very gradual and that is why I found it a very pleasant route to walk (in this direction).
In the end we walked this part of the trail (22 km, 1100 altimeters) in 9,5 hours.
Once we arrived in Vusanje we could have dinner at our guesthouse and we could rest from the beautiful hike. We slept in Guesthouse Ulaji (availability and prices here ) and had to pay €50 together for the overnight stay, dinner, beer and breakfast.
Day 7 | Vusanje–Gusinje–Grebaja valley
On day 7 we went from Vsanje via Gusinje to the Grbaja Valley. You can arrange a taxi through your accommodation that will take you there in less than half an hour. However, we decided to take it easy again, because what is 12 km walking on a flat road after all the kilometers and altimeters of the previous days? To be honest a boring piece, which took us 3 hours. Nice daytime activity, but I would still recommend a taxi. To enter the national park, you pay €1,- pp per day.
Because we left early, we had to wait a little longer before we could get into our cabin. To kill the time we had lunch for € 15,- at Eco Katun (besides Katun Maja the only place where you can have lunch and/or dinner here).
We stayed in Katun maja karanfil (prices and availability here ) and paid here €74,- for 2 persons for 2 nights incl. breakfast. Dinner is also possible here for about €13.
Day 8 | Grebaja valley
This was my favorite part of this trip. We kept on maps.me the route to 'nice view under lonely tree' at. Again, we thought several times that we were not going well, because you didn't see a path at all and you just had to pass between grass and boulders… Yet every time we turned out to be still on the route.
Some parts were straight up and steep down and with the deep abyss next to us, I had quite a few anxious moments. It was clambering with hands and feet and I have never been so happy with the walking sticks that we had already borrowed from a friend.
But… even if it seems scary and you tend to turn around again: keep walking! The views you eventually get are breathtakingly beautiful. You look over Montenegro, Albania and Kosovo. Without a doubt one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. It was well worth the climbing and clambering!
Reminiscing in Montenegro
Day 9 | Ulcinj
After a few days of tough hikes, we decided to end the holiday with another week of chilling!
We were taken to the airport of Podgorica by the owner of Katun Maja to pick up our rental car. The fastest way was to drive through Albania, so we were checked several times by customs. This ran (thanks to the driver) super smooth.
From Podgorica we drove on to Ulcinj in the south of Montenegro. Because we had plenty of time, we decided to choose a route through the mountains instead of the usual (fast) road. Within 2 hours we were from Podgorica in Ulcinj.
We stayed here for € 188,- for 3 nights Holiday park olive tree (prices and availability here ). Again a very nice place with a private hut between the olive trees, a beautiful view, a lovely swimming pool and fantastic breakfast.
You can indicate daily whether you want to dine with them for €15 pp and that is highly recommended! However, we only did this once because there are so many nice restaurants in the area!
That's how you can get to Fisherman Haric eat a mega fish platter with the two of you for € 45,- and you can join Rigo go for delicious coffee and cocktails.
Day 10 | Ulcinj
On day 10 we decided to explore the center of Ulcinj some more and chill out on the beach. We first went to the beach in the center, we thought this was a bit too busy so we decided to drive on to another secluded beach, much more our thing!
In the meantime I had online restaurant Higo (location here ) found and reserved for the evening. What a fantastic place! You sit incredibly beautiful between the trees with a view of the sea with the setting sun (so go on time so you can catch this moment). At the end of the evening, the two of us had to pay a total of €85. As far as we're concerned, it's a pittance if you know how wonderfully delicious we ate 3 courses for it, including cocktails.
Day 11 | Budva–Kotor
Because a visit to Kotor must not miss on your trip to Montenegro, we are via Budva drove to Kotor.
Budva was not very special to us… The old center is quite nice to walk around. The beach is especially busy and touristy with many beach bars next to each other. Bee Beach club Coco we drank a cocktail and ordered a (mega!) platter with it. We had to pay €29. Quite pricey for Montenegrin standards!
After Budva we drove on to our accommodation in Kotor: Villa Preciosa (availability and prices here ). A modern apartment with balcony and swimming pool overlooking the Bay of Kotor.
Online you see everywhere that when you are in Kotor, you have to get a pizza slice at ReadySo we just did this. For €10, you have a pizza slice for two that will fill you up all evening and have a drink on the side. We wandered around the cozy streets of Kotor for a while and went back to bed in time.
Day 12 | Kotor and Perast
On the penultimate day we thought it would be fun to do some sightseeing in and around Kotor. In the morning we wandered endlessly through the cozy streets of Kotor.
We read some positive things about it online Perast, so we took the car there in the afternoon. Not worth going to in my opinion. We walked around and had dinner at a restaurant in the evening (note: high tourist prices!) and then returned to the apartment.
Day 13 | Kotor – Rijeka Crnojevica
Because we had to go back to Podgorica for our return flight, we thought it would be nice to end the holiday near the Pavlova Strana view point (Location here ), 'the horseshoe bend of Montenegro'.
After we enjoyed the viewpoint we drove on to S&M apartments (availability and prices here ). Here we were received very hospitably and food and drinks were immediately put on the table for us. As soon as one glass was empty, another was poured. What an incredibly sweet woman! Unfortunately both she and her son didn't speak English so communication went through Google translate, hilarious!
The rest of the day we took a walk to the river, where we swam a bit.
In the evening we ate at the nearby Dujeva Drago (Location here ) another very extensive, tasty meal for € 40,- together. Before we walked to the restaurant, the hostess and her son gave us all (spirits) and small snacks.
We paid €40 for one night at S&M apartments. We ourselves thought this was far too little given the hospitality and all the extras. A present to end the holiday in this place with these lovely people!
Day 14 | Time to leave
Unfortunately, all good things come to an end ;). We left on time for the airport in Podgorica, returned our rental car and flew back home.
I hope I was able to convince you to put beautiful Albania and Montenegro on your bucket list! Do you have any questions about this trip or would you like to see some more photos? Then find me on Instagram @fotopoek and I'm happy to help you on your way!