Valbona National Park – Valbona To Theth Hiking Trail

Nestled between the rugged peaks of the Albanian Alps and the serene shores of the Adriatic Sea, this unspoiled region beckons to the adventurous souls and wanderlust-driven hearts seeking an off-the-beaten-path escape. With its towering mountains, lush valleys, and crystalline lakes, Northern Albania presents a tapestry of landscapes that are as diverse as they are captivating. The magical path from Theth to Valbona will you through the lush mountains where you will be spoilt for views, leading you up to Valbona Pass. This incredible view point will leave you in awe as you look across both sides of the valley, before you descend on to th epicturesque village of Valbona. While have done other hikes in the region, the effot to reward ratio of this hike is extemely high, the views all along the route we found to be nothing short of spectacular. That being said given the remoteness of the location, getting to the start and finish points of the hike require some degree of planning to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience. With this in mind, we have put together this detailed guide and itinerary on how to do the hike – from what to expect, how to prepare and how to travel to and from the hike start and end points – this guide will cover everything you need to know before completing the majestic Theth to Valbona trail.

THETH to VALBONA HIKE – ITINERARY

VALBONA NATIONAL PARK – THETH TO VALBONA

The Theth to Valbona hike is a 3-day trek that spans approximately 17 kilometers (10.6 miles) through rugged terrain, connecting the villages of Theth and Valbona. While there are other hiking routes in Albania, this particular trail is renowned for its exceptional beauty, encompassing dense forests, alpine meadows, and panoramic viewpoints. The route is a stunning blend of natural wonders and local culture, making it a must-do for any adventurous traveler seeking an authentic experience. This distance makes is the perfect one day hike.

Day 1: Arrival Day
Bus from Schkoder to Theth
Relax in Theth and explore the town or do a short hike to the Blue Eye
Dinner at Guesthouse

Day 2: Day of Hike
Breakfast at 7am
Arranged drop off at trail start point or walk
Complete hike and arrive at Valbona
Dinner at Valbona Guesthouse

Day 3: Departure Day
Breakfast at 8am
Option 1: Direct Transfer to Schkoder/ Option 2: Bus to Fierze + Ferry to Koman + Bus to Schkoder

The end to end time required to complete this hike is about 3 days. The starting and end point of this journey is the town of Schkoder where you will stay the night before heading to Theth. Hotels here is used to hikers using this as a start point for hiking region and plenty of places offer to store your main luggage for free while you complete the hike. We highly recocommend doing this and lightening your load as much as possible. While the itinerary may look like it has a lot of steps, these are simple to arrange and should not be intimidating as each step is relatively straightforward.

Theth sign post

WHICH DIRECTION TO COMPLETE THE HIKE IN VALBONA NATIONAL PARK?

THETH TO VALBONA OR VALBONA TO THETH

Ahead of arranging the journey, you should understand the pros and cons of completing the journey in either direction. We carefeully researched both options and have summarised the pros and cons of each below.

Theth to Valbona
Pros
More things to do in Theth ahead of the hike, e.g Blue eye as a warm up hike a day before
Short journey the day before – Schkoder to Theth is a 2 hour bus ride
The descend (2nd half) of this hike has spectacular views, which you can better appreciate when you heading down facing the valley, rather than on the way up with your back to the valley.

Cons
Longer journey on the way back from Valbona to Schkoder (via ferry)
The hike from Theth to Valbona to Theth is mostly covered for ascent (first half), but uncovered for desecnd (second half) so this can be challenging with the sun beating down especially if doing the hike later in the day

Valbona to Theth
Pros
Shorter commute post hike from Theth back to Schkoder
The first half of the hike will be mostly uncovered and second hald mostly covered. This is ideal if you prefer to do the hike in summer and are starting later in the day as the sun can make the hike increasingly challenging.

Cons
Less to do in Valbona before the hike
This route is more crowded in peaks seasons at the main viewpoints of the hike

In the end, it is a matter of pesonal choice, both options are perfectly, viable. We did our hike early in the day and did not regret the decision to do the Hike from Theth to Valbona. We also noted a lot less people doing it in this direction which meant we were not waiting behind groups as much on sections of the trail and at key photo spots. However we did find the return journey on departture day long and tedious, so it really is a matter of pesonal preference. Let the facts above help you decide what works for you.

WHERE TO STAY AND WHAT TO DO IN SCHKODER

THE START AND END POINT OF THE JOUNREY

We would recomend arriving eary in the day in Schkoder to check out some of the main attractions in the city. We would also recommend staying within a 10 minute walk to the main bus stattion which you will arrive at from Tirana.

We stayed at the Hotel Epoka the night before heading to Theth , where the host were kind and welcomong and made sure we had everythign we neede during our stay.

Schkoder mosque Albania
Shkodër Albania

We also arranged the following with our hotel the night before we recomend doing this to make your journey as smooth as possible.
Bus transfer to Theth: Arrange bus transfer to Theth directly with the hotel. They typically offer hotel pcik up so you may not need to walk to the bus station in the morning.
Luggage storage: Arrange luggage storage with your hotel. Most hotel are more than happy to store your luggage for free while you compete the hike and loop to and from Schkoder to Theth/ Valbona
Local tips and recommendations: Get local recomendations for traditional Albanian food. Check out our more comprehensive guide on where to eat in Albania here.
Packed meal: Most places offer a packed breakfast/ lunch for the following day depending on what time you are heading out.

Due to the lack of infrastructure in Theth and Valbona, there are no ATMS in these areas. As such, before leaving Schkoder we would highly reccomend getting cash from an ATM to cover any costs you will have for Theth and Valbona. Almst everywhere in these towns will only accept cash as payment. In addition to covering your accomodation costs make sure you have enough cash for dinners, lunches, water and snacks along the way as well as enough to cover buses and taxi tansfers if you opt for these.

VALBONA NATIONAL PARK: WHERE TO STAY IN THETH AND VALBONA

We would highly recommend picking a guesthouse close to the start and end points of the hiking trail. Alternatively, if this is not possible, we reccomend checking with the hotel in advance if they would be happy to drop you off at the start point of the hike. We did this and found it saved us a lot of time and effort at the beggining of the hike.

Theth Albania

The primary accommodation in Theth and Valbona consists of small family run guesthouses, these range from basic lodges with standard amenities to higher end options. Most of these guesthouses also provide dinner for guests around 10 EURO pp and offer an option to for a packed lunch for the hike. We opted for dinner at our local guesthouses in both Theth and Valbona and did not regret our decision! The food was homemade, authentic and exactly what we needed after a long day hiking. We also got to sample some homemade local Raki (local fruit brandy popular in the Balkans).

Theth
Bujtina Kometa – We stayed at Hotel Epoka and we could not have been happier with our choice. We were warmly welcomed by the host family and shown our rooms. The hosts were also nice enough to pick up our luggage earlier in the day when we reached Theth and store it for the day while we explored the Blue eye before checking into our hotel later in the evening. The accommodation was basic but had everything we needed for a good night’s sleep ahead of our hike the following day. We were provided a hearty dinner with lots of fresh dishes, even catering for our choice to be vegetarian in the indoor-outdoor veranda surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery. The next day the hosts were kind enough to provide us a basic packed breakfast and drop us off a little ahead of the start point of the hike, saving us walking up the first large incline of the hike saving us about 3km along the pebbled road.

Valbona
Guesthouse Drinos Valbone
We stayed at Guesthouse Drinos Valbone, this was located on the southern end of Valbona. Although not the closest to the end of trail, we found most guesthouses offered pick up and drop off options at no extra cost, espesically if arranged in advance. The staff were hospitable and friendly. The building was modern and new and we had a nice balcony overlooking the picturesque mountain landscape. Dinner was outside under sheltered pods amongst a beautiful and open landscape surrounded b ymoutains in the distance, a perfect ambiance with which to spend our final evening in the mountain region. One thing we would recomend bringing for your trip would be ear plugs. Despite our comfortable rooms, we had thunder and lightening overnight, with the windows open for cool air in summer, it is really hard to sleep through the noise without these!

Valbona Albania

VALBONA NATIONAL PARK: THETH TO VALBONA HIKE

A GUIDE TO THE TRAIL

Finally, you may be wondering what the path itself is like and and what the 17km hike entails and whether this is something you want to do. Having some quite some hikes on our travels, I have to say this one may be one of my absolute favourites for the views. The good thing about this hike is that although it is challenging in places, it is completely doable. We encountered people of all abilitiies on this hike, from frequent hikers to people travelling with family and parents. The frequent rest stops which are small basic cafes/ cold drink stalls with benches make this hike doable at your own pace. We noted at least 4 such stops along the full route. The views along the hike especially those at the top and those on the decend down to Valbona make the hike 100% worth it. Here are some basic details for the hike:
Distance: 17km from start to end, this does not include additional time spent travelling to and from your accomodation in Theth and Valbona to the start and end points of the hike.
Duration: 5 – 9 hours. This is entirely dependent on your pace. We found going from Theth to Valbona better if you prefer a faster pace as there is less of a crowd going this way.
Trail markings: The trail is relatively easy to follow with clear white and red stripe markings posted along the way. If traveling in July and August you will almost always have other hikers enroute, so its pretty hard to get lost on this hike.
Rest stops: We encountered about 5 different cafes/ water stops along the route. So there are plenty of opportunities to fill up on water. One thing to note though, if you are starting your hike early in the morning, some of these may not be open until 9am or so, so ensure you have plenty of water for at least half the hike.
Elevation: The hike ascends to a maximum elevation of 1800 metres. The ascend is shorter and more strenous on the Theth to Valbona direction. The ascend is more gradual on the Valbona to Thether direction. However, we found the Theth to Valbona direction more rewarding. Although this is a slightly shorter, more strenous climb, you are treated with spectacular views facing straight on as you descend down to Valbona.

Theth to Valbona trail

VALBONA NATIONAL PARK: HIKING THE TRAIL

WHAT TO EXPECT ENROUTE

Ascent from Theth: The hike from Theth to Valbona in Albania begins on a wide pebbled road ascending up. The start is point is easy to find from the main road, with yellow sign posts indicating the start. The climb is graudual at first but soon challenging in sections, as the pebbled road finishes and path into the forest begins. You will soon find yourself surrounded by the rugged beauty of the Albanian Alps. The trail meanders through a lush forests, dense in sections and ascends quickly at first then more gradually, offering glimpses of the pristine Theth Valley below. As you make your way up, the scent of pine fills the air, and the distant sound of rushing water accompanies your journey. The path is well-marked, guiding you through rocky terrain and past crystal-clear streams.

Valbona National park
cafe on trail

Reaching the Top – View of Valbona Pass: Upon reaching the summit, a remarkable panorama unfolds before your eyes. The view from the top encompasses the awe-inspiring Valbona Pass, where towering peaks frame the deep valley below. Looking down across the valley on either side of are the stunning views of Theth valley and Valbona valley on either side. Rolling hills give way to jagged cliffs, and the turquoise ribbon of the Valbona River winds its way through the valley. The ruggedness of the mountains is contrasted by the serene expanse of the pass, creating a scene that is both invigorating and tranquil. Here you will encounter a lot of people, so make sure you go early to avoid larger number of hikers in the middle/ of the day. Our goal was to start early and finish the ascend prior to 11am, so we face less crowds at the top and avoid the summer heat while completing the ascend. We would highly recommend having an early start for these reasons!

Valbona Valley

Descent to Valbona: The descent from the summit to Valbona unveils a new facet of the hike, leading you through alpine meadows and verdant valleys. The trail descends gently, allowing you to relish the changing scenery. You’ll pass by traditional stone houses, where local farmers may greet you with warm smiles. The descent offers a chance to reflect on the journey you’ve undertaken, and the transition from lofty heights to the embrace of the valley below is a metaphorical return to the grounded world. As the landscape transforms, you’ll find yourself surrounded by wildflowers and the soothing sound of rustling leaves. The trail eventually guides you into the charming village of Valbona at last. Where you can finally relax over a delicious meal and some cold beverages.

Valbona to Theth hike viewpoint

Each section of the Theth to Valbona hike in Albania offers its own unique charm and challenges, painting a holistic picture of the captivating Albanian wilderness.

TRANSPORT TO AND FROM VALBONA NATIONAL PARK

LOGISTICS OF GETTING TO AND FROM THE START AND END POINTS

Schkoder to Theth
Best option: Bus (2 hour ride)
Cost:
How to book: Arrange directly with your hotel in Schkoder as they will arrange the booking for you as well as offer a hotel pickup.

Valbona to Schkoder
Best option – there are 2 viable options here
Option #1 Bus + Ferry + Bus (7 hours min): If you have a day to spare and prefer to include ferry ride – we recomend Bus to from Valbona to Fierze + Ferry to Firenze to Koman + Bus from Koman to Schkoder. This journey starts at 10am in Valbona with bus pick up typically directly from your guesthouse. You are then taken to the farry terminal, the daily ferry departure, at the time of this blog being written was once a day at 1.30pm. The ferry takes about 2 hours to Koman. In Koman you will take the 3pm bus to Schkoder, arriving in Schkoder by 5pm.
Cost:
Option #2: Direct car transfer (5 hours): If you are looking for a faster option that does not take up the full day, consider a direct car transfer. We decided to opt for this option so we could reach Schkoder by 1pm and make our way down to the Albanian Riviera later that day. We got picked up directly from our hotel by the driver and driven to Schkoder, our journey took a total of 5 hours.
Cost: EUR 200, although this is expensive, with 4 people our cost was EUR 50pp. Cosidering we needed to get to Seranda later that day, this was an option i do not regret taking as it saved us a lot of time in the end allowing us to maximise the day.