One of the biggest highlights from my recent trip to Albania was hiking through the Theth Valley- between two small towns in Albania’s far north; Valbone and Theth. While it does take some effort and many travel hours to get to the location of the hike, it’s incredibly worth it, both for the natural beauty and the experience of staying with local families.
In this post I share my experience on traveling to the Theth Valley as a solo female traveller. I’ve listed 7 steps on how to get to and do the walk, followed by some of my photos from the trip.
1. Start at Shkodër
This is the easiest jumping off point to head to the mountains. I’d recommend staying for a night or two to as there is quite a bit explore in and around Shkodër- see this post for ideas. I stayed at the Wanderers Hostel which had a great atmosphere and the hosts helped organise my transport to the mountains.
2. Get to Valbone
The trip to Valbone includes a 2 hour bumpy mini bus, a three hour stunning ferry ride, followed by another shorter, less bumpy bus ride on the other end.
The Wanderers Hostel can organise tickets for a mini bus to pick you up bright and early in the morning (6.30am) from the hostel, take you to the ferry and have a mini bus waiting at the other end to take you to a guesthouse in Valbone. For all three tickets it was 23€ (8€ for each bus ride and 7€ for the ferry).
3. Stay at a guesthouse in Valbone
The hostel also organised accommodation at the Arben Selinaj Guesthouse, a lovely home run by friendly locals, perched above a crystal clear stream. For 20€ a night you get a comfortable bed in a shared room and four home cooked meals; lunch when you arrive, dinner, breakfast and packed lunch for the walk. In summer each meal is served at a large outdoor table under the shade of a tree, with around 15 other travellers to share the meal with. It was one of the most relaxing experiences I had on my trip. The lack of WiFi might also have contributed to the relaxation!
If you don’t book ahead there are also several other options for guesthouses in Valbone. Just take a minibus from where the port docks and walk through the town asking locals with guesthouse signs out the front of their houses.
4. Walk from Valbone to Theth
The next morning you have the option of rising early to start the hike or spending another day at the guesthouse, swimming in the stream and exploring some small day walks around Valbone.
When you do head off for the hike it’s definitely a good idea to start early in the morning as the first few hours are in direct sunlight without much shade. After breakfast the guesthouse host will drive walkers down the road 5km to the start of the trail.
It’s then around a 12km walk to Theth, but with quite a high elevation of 1,000m. It took me and two other travellers around 6 hours, including a stop at the summit for lunch, a long break for coffee at a cafe on the way down and numerous other small water and photo breaks. We were all relatively fit and experienced walkers, so it can take several hours more if you are not so experienced. Definitely wear good walking shoes for the trek- especially on the way down there is a lot of loose gravel and it can be easy to slip.
The path is relatively well signed with white and red painted marks along the way. In peak season there are many others walkers heading in both directions and a few guesthouses and cafes on the way. I recommend downloading Maps.me as the trail is well marked and GPS tracking is available offline.
5. Visit the Blue Eye
Once you arrive in Theth you’ll find a small, somewhat sprawling village. There are also several day walks and attractions in the area- my favourite being the trek to Blue Eye.
This incredibly blue waterhole is one of the most stunning swimming spots I’ve seen. It’s a 3 hour walk one way from Theth village but if you’re lucky as we were some fellow travellers may offer you a lift. Otherwise buses or taxis can take you for around 10€ one way. The final kilometer or so must be walked. After an icy dip in the pool you can have coffee or food at the restaurant perched above the waterhole.
I loved the place so much that I asked the restaurant owner if there was a guesthouse nearby and was overjoyed when they said we could stay in their home, a 10 minute walk further up the valley.
The next morning we swam at the Blue Eye with no one else around- it was the perfect end to my stay in Theth.
6. Stay in Theth
There are several options for guest houses in Theth, most being slightly more expensive that Valbone at around 30€ including two meals, although I did see some cheaper ones at around 15€ with breakfast.
As I mentioned above, after falling in love with the Blue Eye I ended up staying the night at the guesthouse above the waterhole. A further 10 minute hike, it had a perfect local feeling to it. For a a bed in a shared room with up to four others and a wholesome dinner and breakfast, expect to pay around 23€.
The next morning we got to see the mother of the family making bread on their fireplace in the living room, the father making Rakia (traditional Balkan brandy often made from plums) and the neighbour collecting honey from his bees. While there was no hot water or wifi (or maybe because there wasn’t) staying with this local family was my favourite part of my whole visit to Albania.
7. Take a minivan back to Shkodër
The next day we walked half the way and caught a ride with the local minibus half the way, back to the main village of Theth. Here the bus to Shkodër leaves from the main restaurant– ask a local if you are unsure of the location. A ticket is 10€ pp and there are usually two trips a day, one in the morning and again at around 1pm. Again, for more up to date times ask one of the locals- they are incredibly helpful.
Below are some more photos from the trip. I hope you enjoyed this post and it gives you some inspiration to travel to the north of Albania!