“A week of guided walking in the Albanian Alps, staying in different accommodations along the way, your luggage transferred by horse.”
Tirana | Shkodër | Albanian Alps or Accursed Mountains | Theth National Park | Grunas Waterfall | Tropojë District | Valbonë Pass | Rosi Peak | White Circle | Rosi Peak | Berat UNESCO World Heritage Site | Krujë
Description of Albania walking holiday
Not as well known for hiking trips, but fascinating and fantastic in many ways, this week long Albania walking holiday takes you into parts of Mediterranean Europe that you never knew existed. It has almost been forgotten by the rest of Europe in many ways, not so much off the beaten track, this carefully crafted itinerary feels more like beating a track in the first place.
The focus of this walking holiday is the Albanian Alps, which lie to the north of the capital city, Tirana, and one of the gateways to which is the ancient city of Shkodër where we not only get chance to visit its impressive Rozafa Fortress but also stock up on hiking snacks, before hitting the very remote and stunning landscapes for the next few days.
Thankfully many of the elevated landscapes are protected by Theth National Park, a region packed not only with natural beauty such as spectacular waterfalls, glacial lakes and canyons, but also the famous ‘lock in’ towers, used during the country’s traditional blood feuds to protect those involved. Still a land of traditions, horse drawn style agricultural practices are still a common sight in these parts and so being a visitor on foot is one of the best ways to feel part of this natural ‘slow travel’ lifestyle here.
We experience some stunning alpine walks, particularly in the Valbonë and Theth Valleys with an option to push yourself a little more and complete the glorious heights known as the White Circle Trail, where we follow shepherds’ paths to the foot of Mount Jezerca, Albania’s highest peak,.
As well as magnificent mountains, Albania’s alpine terrain proffers lakes, rivers and waterfalls, and we enjoy a more relaxing day at one of its most famous, the glacial Komani Lake, by boat rather than on foot. Our final stops on this Albanian odyssey are cultural ones, exploring the medieval towns of Berat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities and then, finally Krujë.
With five days of walking, with some full days of up to seven hours on foot, this holiday takes us through very remote villages where we are welcomed at small local guesthouses for two nights, but we also spend five nights at 3* hotels. Not, however, these are based on Albanian ratings which are still working on a traditional, non Western Europe basis. But this is what we also love about it, and we have chosen our routes and accommodations to reflect all of these unspoiled qualities that Albania has to offer.
Hello. If you'd like to chat about this holiday or need help finding one we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.
Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, travelling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week holiday, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.
The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travellers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.
We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.
What are the main benefits?
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.
Make the most of your holiday time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!
Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travellers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your holiday.
Solo travellers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those travelling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.
Less confident travellers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travellers their own room.
“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.
“The accommodation will be basic” Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.
“I won’t like the other travellers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.
“Will we be following an umbrella?”
Meet a group Leader
Name: Valerie Parkinson
Story: The first British woman to climb Manaslu, Valerie climbed Everest for her 50th birthday. She’s spent fourteen Christmas Days trekking to Everest Base Camp, and is involved insetting up Responsible Tourism initiatives in the Himalayas.
Meet a local guide
Name: Roshan Fernando
Story: Roshan has led over 130 trips – he adores showing travellers around Sri Lanka. He won the company Leader Award in 2010, but his career highlight was working on their Tsunami Project – which earned him a responsible tourism award.
Responsible tourism: Albania walking holiday
Activity: Few holidays have such a low environmental impact as a walking trip. We are vigilant with litter disposal and avoid path erosion by sticking to routes which have been decided by guides. Although much of this trip is spent walking in very beautiful and isolated areas, we also make time for cultural activities. By visiting cultural sites like Berat’s Ethnographic Museum and the 17th century Sinan Pasha Mosque in Prizren, we are contributing to their upkeep. Our entrance fees go towards maintenance and often clients will buy souvenirs which benefit these establishments and local people.
Conservation: Although we work in very remote areas, where there are not many charities set up, we always support a local organisation called PPNEA (Protection and Preservation of Natural Environment in Albania). They are based in Rilindja Campsite in Valbona valley and are currently working on several conservation activities including the ‘Balkan Lynx Recovery Program’. This involves allowing this threatened species to recuperate by setting up monitoring systems and protected areas.
Waste Management: Waste management is a big problem in Albania and so we are very careful not to exacerbate this issue, operating with a ‘leave no trace policy.’ We encourage our suppliers and guides to minimise plastic waste in the mountainous areas by distributing paper bags for waste disposal. In Northern Albania, we can drink water fresh from the streams or taps, so we also encourage our clients to re-fill a bottle or canister to drink from. This prevents the needless buying of several plastic bottles.
UK Office: It all starts at home so we have first worked at reducing our carbon footprint in our UK Offices. Through energy conservation measures and recycling policies, we are proud to be actively reducing the waste produced and our impact on the environment. We support various projects all over the world to try and give something back to the places we visit.
Accommodation and Meals: We spend four nights in alpine guesthouses and four nights in hotels. By using local accommodation, restaurants and shops, we are supporting the community hugely by boosting businesses in low season. Where meals are supplied, we endeavour to use local produce. Otherwise, your guide will be able to recommend places which sell authentic and delicious meals such as baked rice, casseroles, stuffed aubergine and jani meat (beef or lamb sauteed with onions, garlic and spices). The mountainous regions particularly benefit from our commerce due to their remote location so we try to stop at coffee shops run by farmers from their huts.
A Fair Deal: Our guides are all people who live and work in the areas in which we operate our tours. This gives extra support to the local economy and offers our clients a level of expertise which would be otherwise unattainable. For these trips we have also contracted part time farmers and horse owners to help with luggage transportation from one village to the next. We make sure to engage different farmers on a rota basis so that several individuals can benefit from additional income. These people are particularly skilled in that they have explored this terrain for many years and have extensive knowledge of the area.
Group Size: This small group tour has a maximum of 16 participants, meaning that we have a low impact on the environments and communities we visit and are able to ensure that we do not disrupt or lead to the displacement of local people. The small number also allows us to stay in unique, family-run hotels that cannot benefit from coach tours and other mass tourism due to their limited sizes.