Theth to Valbona hike – Best hike in Albania

Last Updated on January 2, 2024


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If you plan on visiting Albania, then you must put the Albanian Alps on your trip’s itinerary.

The northern areas of Albania are filled with lush green valleys and mountains, small towns and villages, and some very exciting hiking trails. 

Hiking is very common in Albania, even for travelling from one village or town to another up in the north. One such very important hike is from Theth to Valbona. 

Valbona is a small village in the Kukes County of the Albanian alps. It is essentially a small valley, next to the river Valbone.

Valbona is house to the famous Valbone Valley National Park, a very popular tourist attraction in Albania.

The Park has alpine houses and inns, alongside a picturesque view of the Albanian alps and of course, the Valbone River.

Enjoy the Theth to Valbona hike, view of mountain range with river running through valley

Theth is also a small village in the Shkoder County of the Albanian Alps. It is a historic centre, prestigious to Albanian culture. Theth also has a popular tourist site, the Theth National Park.

Theth also has beautiful sites like the Catholic Church, Thethi Blue Eye, Lock-in Tower and a lot more. 

Hiking from Theth to Valbona is a very popular expedition that a lot of tourists go to, even those without inexperienced in hiking.

Perhaps the beauty and calmness of being surrounded by Albanian mountains outweigh the fear of hiking for many. The stunning Valbona pass is also a massive draw.

I have never been a sporty or hiker kind of a person, and for me, the hike was a whole new experience. The breathtaking view of Albania along the hiking trail made the experience less tiring. 

If you’re planning on visiting Albania, then you should definitely check out Valbona and Theth. While you’re at it, it is strongly recommended that you do the hike.

This article will guide you on how to make the most of your Albania hiking trip from Theth to Valbona and what to prepare for.

I have tried to answer the most relevant and common questions that people on the internet, and from my Travelling Albania Facebook group, asked.

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Try out the Theth Valbona hike, view of mountain range through trees

The Distance of the Theth Valbona Trail 

Starting with the most obvious, the distance between the two villages. Although there is a distance of 260km between the two villages, the hiking trail stretched about 17km or 10.5 miles.

It might vary, depending on where you start from, and eventually stop in either Theth or Valbona. Make sure to check this out before you make any reservations at your destination.

To make it easier, there are transport services available to give you a ride to where the trail starts. This can make your overall hike shorter than usual.

You can check in with your accommodation to see if they have a transport service available.  

How long does it take to do the hike?

Given the distance of the Theth to Valbona hike, it takes around 6-8 hours to complete it.

It must be noted that every person has a different pace, and some might stop along the way for taking a breather or capture the scenic beauty of the Albanian Alps.

It also depends on where you’re staying and starting the hike from, or whether you get a ride to where the trail starts. 

When we were hiking, we didn’t get a ride to reach the trailhead. We left our accommodation at 8:20 am in Theth and arrived in Valbona at around 4:45 pm.

The hike in total took a little more than 8 hours to complete. We stayed in Hotel Bujtina Polia in Theth and Hotel Margjeka in Valbona. 

We also stopped a lot during our hike. Mainly because we were in bad shape fitness-wise and had to stop to relax.

Also, because we weren’t just going to walk for 8 hours straight, we took pictures and captured some video shots with our drone.

You might also want to stop at the top of the trail – a great place for having lunch and relaxing, even if for 30 minutes. 

What difficulty is the hike?

The Theth to Valbone hike itself isn’t that difficult, perhaps at a medium level of difficulty. There are some portions that are steeper than usual but nothing too strenuous like rock climbing or scrambling.

How quickly you complete the hike, and your overall experience definitely depends on your physical fitness. It also makes a huge difference if you’re a regular hiker or not. 

I have had an experience with hiking prior to this, in New Zealand, and some were harder than this, but that doesn’t make me an avid hiker. 

Before hiking, make sure you have good-quality hiking shoes, and not sandals, which would be difficult.

There might be some parts on the trail that would be slippery after rain so try to get shoes that have studs for a better grip.

Take the Theth to Valbone hike for the best hike in Albania, aerial view of waterfall cascading from mossy rocks down into a large aquamarine pool of water with green foliage nearby

Do I need a guide?

Not necessarily. A very common misconception about Albania hiking is that you might need a guide. If there is a proper trail, you probably don’t need one.

Although a local might say that you need a guide as Albanians are very cautious about safety.

The Theth to Valbona trail is marked and often there are other people hiking as well, so you might not be alone. 

Do I start from Theth or Valbona?

There are a lot of debates about where the hike should start; Theth or Valbona.

In terms of difficulty, it would be much easier to start by hiking Valbona to Theth, as the path from Theth consistently goes uphill.

The Valbona trail is relatively flat and after some distance, it would become steep. 

To answer where to start from is a tricky one.

Instead of thinking about this, you can create a brief itinerary of what to do after the hike and let that help you decide on your Theth Valbona hike direction.

We stayed in Theth for some nights before and also did the Blue Eye hike and another one to the Theth waterfall. Visiting Theth after the hike from Valbona would have been difficult that way. 

When is the best time to do the hike?

The best time to hike is spring or autumn. Autumn is much better as there might be snow until May sometimes.

Summer is the most preferred season for trekking Albania, but it can also be very hot, and the trail might be congested. I recommend going for the hike in late September or October.

We hiked during October when the weather was pleasant. Due to snow, it is only possible to hike at certain times throughout the year and the trail is only open from May to October. 

The closer to the winter months that you hike, the more likely you are to see the remnants of snow on the mountains, particularly on the Valbona pass.

Hiking in Theth, path leading up mountain with more mountains in distance

When should I start the hike?

We recommend starting the hike as early as possible. Leaving at 7:30 am or 7 would be optimal. Since it can get very hot in the summer, leaving early would be best. 

Also, walking in the dark is not an option so go for a light breakfast and get going on the hike as soon as you wake up.

Where can I refill my water bottle?

There are around 4 cafes along the Theth to Valbone hike trail. You can get your water bottles filled or grab a snack or drink while enjoying the view.

If you head out early, then it would be possible to make frequent stops along the way and enjoy the view.

Some cafes even have freshwater springs near them, perfect for refreshing yourself on hikes from Theth to Valbona!

Is the trail marked?

Yes, the Theth hike trail is marked with red and white symbols that describe the pathway. There are a few places near Theth which don’t have proper markings, but you can use maps.me.

I strongly recommend downloading the app before beginning your hike. The app can be used offline and is very useful for both Theth hiking trails and others around the world. 

📚 P.S. Grab access to my Travelling Albania Guide on Amazon to get a comprehensive insight into the best places to visit in Albania (including secret spots that are not recommended in the usual guides!)

Exlpore the theth hiking trails, cat looking out from roof of wooden building

Do I have to worry about animals?

You should be on guard, but don’t worry too much about animals – Valbona/Theth hikes are not overtly dangerous in that regard.

The National Park accommodates many animals. Some of these are brown bears, wolves, snakes, lynx, and deer in the Theth valley.

We recommend staying vigilant for any sounds along the track. And in case you hear something, make a lot of noise.

Normally animals don’t roam around the trail as it is very busy with people enjoying their Theth National Park hikes.

Can I visit in Winter?

No, the hikes in Theth and Valbona can’t be done alone in winter. Especially if you’re not with a guide or a professional hiker.

It snows heavily in Theth and Valbona and being unprepared for the hike would only result in difficulties along the way.

Both villages are popular tourist attractions during the winter, but the hike is not recommended for winter. 

Even for a winter escape, you have to access these villages and make sure to check if the path to Valbona or Theth is open or if there are any hotels or guesthouses open. 

Where to stay in Theth?

There are plenty of accommodations to consider in Theth. The one where we stayed was the Bujtina Polia, a hotel situated near the Catholic Church in Theth.

You can stay in small cabins that are fully furnished with necessities. The cabins overlook the Albanian alps.

The hotel has a restaurant, a cosy fireplace, 24-hour desk service, a garden, a bar, and a terrace. Wi-Fi and parking services are also available.

In terms of food, the place offers a breakfast buffet, and a wholesome menu for lunch and dinner.

Overall, the hotel was at a good spot from where you can easily go hiking to the Theth Blue Eye or start the trail to Valbona. 

We also recommend checking out Molla Guest House and the Guesthouse Marashi.

The Molla Guest House is a beautiful structure built with grey cobblestone, situated 4km from the Theth National Park. It has a restaurant, a bar, private parking, and a shared lounge.

The guesthouse has family rooms and a small playground for children. The front desk offers currency exchange as well. In terms of food, there is a continental and vegetarian breakfast offered every day.

The Guesthouse Marashi is situated inside the Theth National Park and is perfect for tourists with pets. The guesthouse has a restaurant that offers local and organic food options.

It also has a bar and numerous activities like fishing, horse riding, and hiking. What’s even better is that it is 72 km away from Shkoder.

Hiking Valbona to Theth, small mountain hut with seating area

Where to stay in Valbona?

Just like Theth, Valbona has a couple of great accommodation options as well. Though we recommend staying at the Hotel Margjeka. It is close to the hiking trail in Valbona.

The hotel offers continental breakfast daily, alongside a great restaurant for lunch and dinner. It also has a bar, garden, terrace, and a shared lounge.

Guestrooms have all the facilities that you might need – toiletries, Wi-Fi, a private bathroom, and bed linen. Every room has a heating facility, and the staff was very welcoming.

It is also very near to Theth, just 9km away, thus perfect for staying at if you want to hike from Valbona to Theth.

We also recommend checking out the Bujtina Valbone which is 11 km from Theth and the Guesthouse Mehmeti which is 13 km from Theth.

Bujtina Valbone has all the facilities that you might need – free Wi-Fi, family rooms, a snack, and a drinking bar. Every room comes with a private bathroom and necessary toiletries.

You can also do fishing nearby if you choose to stay at the Bujtina Valbone.

The Guesthouse Mehmeti is located in Valbone and has family rooms along with a garden, a bar, free Wi-Fi, private balconies, and a terrace.

Every room is equipped with essential items and even a desk and kettle. Every day there is a continental breakfast offered at the guesthouse. 

Are there ATMs in Theth or Valbona?

Both villages are located in somewhat remote areas of the Albanian Alps, thus there are no ATMs.

It is recommended that you go prepared with plenty of cash for expenses like food, accommodation, or any souvenir shopping while you’re out Theth trekking!

Can you pull off the journey and hike in 3 days?

If you’re short on time but want to still look around Theth and Valbona, you can complete the hike and visit both villages in three days.

Here’s how I would recommend doing it, based on starting from Shkoder:

Day 1: Prepare to leave Shkoder to reach Koman. You can catch the Koman ferry which takes around 3 hours to reach Fierza.

A fun fact: the Koman ferry is considered one of the most beautiful and worthwhile ferry rides in the world, so you should definitely try that.

After reaching Fierza, you can catch the shuttle service to arrive at Valbona.

Day 2: This is when you would begin the hike to Theth from Valbona. Try to get a good night’s sleep in Valbona so that you can wake up early and start the hike to Theth.

Remember, the earlier you start, the more you can take spend time enjoying nature along the way. The hike will take around 6 to 8 hours and you might arrive at Theth on time if you start early.

This way you can see a few places around Theth and spend the night comfortably.

Day 3: The last day of your journey is when you would go back to Shkoder from Theth. You can take a shuttle service for this ride, and it would take around 3 hours to reach Shkoder.

In case you plan on taking your own 4×4 vehicle, you might be able to complete the journey in less than 3 days. Other than that, 3 days is the minimum a journey from Valbona to Theth would take. 

How do I get to Theth from Shkoder?

You can use a shuttle service to reach Theth from Shkoder. The shuttle leaves around 7 am from Shkoder to reach Theth.

The ride would cost 10 euros per person, and you can ask your accommodation provider to book it for you.

You should book it a day before when you plan on going to Theth and I have also added the number here in case you want to book it yourself: (0682473011)

Take part in some hikes from theth to Valbona, building in Shkoder with bicycle out front and wooden window shutters

How do I get from Shkoder to Valbona?

The optimum route for reaching Valbona, starting at Shkoder, is the taking the Shkoder-Koman-Fierze-Valbona route. This trip includes two shuttle services and the Koman ferry trip.

You can book all three trips on this website. The ferry company will pick you up from your accommodation in Shkoder and drop you off at the ferry port in Koman.

This short trip would take roughly an hour and a half. Once you begin the ferry trip, within three hours you would reach your destination in Fierze.

From Fierze, you can catch a shuttle service to Valbona which may last an hour.

This entire journey would cost 20 euros or 2800 lek and would be complete within 6 hours. All the booking can be done online, or you can contact them through call.

Payment can be made online or in person, in the form of cash. Make sure to book everything a day before you plan on starting your journey.

It is a wonderful short trip as you get to see four beautiful destinations with a cruise over the lake in Koman and a backdrop of the Albanian Alps.

Which is better, Theth or Valbona?

Valbona is a much more developed village than Theth and is designed to meet the needs of tourists. Theth, on the other hand, is quieter and has a small village vibe.

Since we had to go back to Shkoder the next day from Valbona, we spent more time exploring and hiking in Theth and enjoyed it a lot.

Can I drive to Theth?

Only if you own or have rented a 4×4 vehicle can you drive to Theth.

The road is bumpy and not properly carpeted so it would be difficult to drive a normal car or if you’re not that experienced with difficult terrain.

Though improvements are being made and soon enough, there might be a new and better road. Since construction is going on, it is recommended to check the road’s situation before leaving.

Update: As of 2022 I have heard the road is finished, but have not yet had a chance to revisit to confirm this. If you plan on driving, I would still suggest having a more capable vehicle just in case.

Discover the theth national park hikes, hiking marker on tree in dense forest area

Can I drive to Valbona?

Of course, you can! There is a well-maintained road to Valbona, and you don’t even need a 4×4 vehicle for that. Since I haven’t driven it myself, I cannot comment on its condition.

Where can I leave my bags whilst doing the hike?

You don’t have to carry all of your luggage all the way to the end of this hike.

I strongly recommend making arrangements with your accommodation provider in Shkoder and dropping off your bags there.

Normally hostels or hotels in Shkoder are accommodating in this regard and would hold your luggage by charging a minimal fee. But you can also hire a mule to transport your luggage.

Do I have to book accommodation the night before?

Yes! As advised earlier, it is better to book everything, from your transport to accommodation, in advance.

Although during the May-June and September-October period, which is the off-season, you can show up without booking in advance.

💡 TOP TIP: Looking to stay in this trendy location? Definitely check out Booking.com for the best deals on accommodation.

Get involved in some theth trekking, bottom of waterfall flowing into see-through water

Are there any other nice hikes I can do in Theth?

If you’re an avid hiker, unlike me, there are other hikes that you might enjoy than the Valbona and Theth one.

I strongly recommend hiking to the Theth Blue Eye. It is a 17km distance and would take around 3 to 4 hours.

It is a bit bumpy, but the end is worth it – a teal blue waterfall nestled between Albanian Alps. You can swim there or rest for a while and immerse yourself in the scenic beauty around.

Another option is a smaller hike to the Theth waterfall. In case you’re not a fan of hiking, you can also walk around in Theth. 

Are there any other nice hikes I can do in Valbona?

Although there are some really cool hiking trails in Valbona, I didn’t get to try those as we were a bit short on time.

I only stayed in Valbona for a night, so couldn’t try the Meadow Loop or the hike to Valbona waterfall.

I have heard great reviews about the Valbona hiking, so you should definitely try these out if you have time.

What do I need to pack?

Challenge yourself to a theth valbona hike this year, four people on mountain top with snowy peaks in background

Here are 5 things I recommend taking along for the Theth-Valbona hike:

1. Filtered drinking bottle

Since it is a physically demanding task and if you’re not an avid hiker or don’t have experience walking on longer tracks, you need to keep a water bottle at hand.

No matter what the season is, keeping yourself hydrated is essential to making it to your destination without compromising your health. I recommend taking this BPA-free filtered water bottle.

It comes with a straw and is great for campers or hikers. It has capacity options of 550 ml and 650 ml. The bottle provides filtration for 1500l in a year and is more economical than other water bottles.

2. Good hiking shoes

It goes without saying that you need good-quality footwear when going for a hike or even a normal walk. For the hike, I recommend getting these Chaco hiking sandals.

These would be perfect for firming your grip along the way in case there are any slippery portions on the track.

3. A good camera

What’s the point of hiking all the way for 8 hours and not being able to capture a single moment with your camera? As an avid traveller, having a camera on hand is an utmost essential to me.

I use the Sony Alpha A7 digital camera which is pretty lightweight and had a good image resolution.

I have been using this for a long time now and would recommend taking it along with you for a hike, rather than relying on your phone’s camera.

📦 PACKING TIP: Don’t leave home without a solar powered battery pack so you can keep your devices connected at all times.

4. Light daypack

Carrying a backpack is essential for a hiking trip. I recommend getting the Outlander Packable Handy backpack. It comes in two size options, 20l and 33l, and a wide range of colours.

The bag is pretty durable and water-resistant. It is abrasion-resistant and has multiple compartments for carrying everything you need.

5. A mini first aid kit

If there is anything that my years of traveling experience have taught me is to carry a mini first aid kit at all times.

Especially for a remote location like the Albanian Alps and for hiking, you need to go fully prepared.

This small travel first aid kit comes with 87 pieces and is perfect for hiking, camping, or keeping in your bag at all times. It has a range of medical supplies, perfect for most occasions.

I’m a solo female, is it safe to do this hike alone?

Definitely! Though I did this hike with my boyfriend, I do advise you to try this out on your own.

There were a lot of women doing this hike alone and there are plenty of hikers along the way, so you’re never alone.

Locals might suggest otherwise, but I don’t think hiking as a solo female would be a problem.

Does the trail get busy?

Yes! It can get slightly crowded during the warmer months. When I was hiking in October, I was surprised to see so many people, there were around 40 at that time.

This is one of the most popular hikes in Albania so there is bound to be some traffic, especially in summer.

Frequently Asked Questions

✅ Where is the Albanian Alps?

The Albanian Alps are in the northern area of Albania, situated near to Albania’s border with Montenegro.

✅ How do I get to Theth from Shkoder?

There is a shuttle service that runs from Shkoder to Theth. It leaves around 7am and costs 10 euros per person.

✅ Can you drive to Theth?

When I visited the road to Theth was bumpy and not in the best condition. Even though improvements have been made I would recommend driving to Theth in a 4×4 vehicle.

I hope this article was a good overview for you before you plan on hiking on the Theth-Valbona trail.

It is a fun and one-of-a-kind experience, and you should definitely try it out if you plan on visiting Albania. There is nothing like experiencing the beauty of the Albanian Alps on foot. 


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The Comments

  • Lara
    September 22, 2022

    Cost?
    Food
    Hotel
    Four wheel drive, all terrain vehicle
    Etc