Peak of the Balkans

 

Uncontained memories

Albania, Montenegro & Kosovo

                           16 days

Reference: HAMK1-16-UK

Description:

“Uncontained memories” leads the curiosity through two of the most recent and unperishable products, the Peaks of the Balkans and the High Scardus trail. Hike across three countries, master the land of the living past and the Accursed Mountains, let yourselves take away by the beauty of the Shar Mountains, stroll within young, dynamic, vibrant, ancient cities and places, fill yourselves with the Albanian traditions and cultures, share their passions and enjoyments.

Take only souvenirs, leave only fingerprints…

In brief:

2/2+
Difficulty
Experienced English-speaking guide
Maximum 15 / 16 persons
12hikes
No trek
Made by photo3idea_studio of flaticon.com
4 cultural visits: Prizren & Prishtina (day 8); Gracanica (day 9); Kruja (afternoon day 14) & Tirana (afternoon day 15)
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Outdoor activity: No
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16 days / 15 nights
Made by ultimatearm from flaticon.com
Luggage: Backpack or equivalent 15 to 20 kg max..
Made by freepik flaticon.com
Hotel 3* and 4* and guesthouses
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Tirana airport
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From May to October
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Porting: A small backpack is required for your daily equipment
Made by Eucalyp of flaticon.com
Transfer of luggage by mules and/or vans from one accommodation to another

Strengths:

  • A discovery hike with unforgettable memories
  • Route on the paths of the Accursed mountains
  • Itinerary in the colorful Shar mountains
  • 3 countries: Albania, Montenegro, and Kosovo
  • Meeting with a warm population
  • Visit of exceptional places
Day 1

Tirana– Vermosh

Welcome by an English-speaking guide at the “Mother Theresa” airport in Tirana. Departure by vehicle to Vermosh in the heart of the Kelmend region.

In the early twentieth century Edith Durham, a young British explorer, was lured towards Malesia e Madhe, the land of the Great Mountain. Despite many difficulties she was carried away by the charm of an ancient culture still alive: the land of the living past. To relive the same emotions of Durhan, the hike starts within the unforgettable landscapes, uncontaminated nature and the discovery of ancient traditions and customs.

For those craving twisting and turning roads and dramatic views, the route from Shkodra to Lepushë can be the epitome of adventure trips. Following the Montenegro border, the road will pass by Broje which looks like a fortress hung onto the cliffs, then Tamarë and Selca which is well-known for its natural monuments, historical and cultural sites.

After Lepushë, the drive ends to the northernmost albanian village, Vermosh. Vermosh is rich in natural beauty. The surrounding peaks descend sweetly over the flat and wide ceiling of Vermosh valley giving to that territory an appearance of a huge stadium. This is also the cradle of the myths and legends. The alpine forests, pastures and meadows are the homeland of a wide wildlife and fauna.

Diner and accommodation in a guesthouse.

Day 2

Vermosh - Lepushë

Hiking: ~ 5:00hours
Ascent maximum: ~ 597  m.
Descent minimum: ~ 239 m.
Distance: ~ 11 km
Made by Eucalyp of flaticon.com Van

On the way to the so-called “Italian” hike. A comfortable route that passes only a few kilometers from the border with Montenegro and runs along the Ljpusa River. The path winds along the curves of the hills and mountains offering an unobstructed view of the valley below and the opposite slopes. It crosses forests and pastures where it is not uncommon to meet shepherds and herds.

Then, Lepushë. It is named after a yellow-flowered plant that grows in the area. Lepushë, really is a land of natural beauty surrounded by the high peaks of the Accursed Mountains, pastures, and forests. This is one of the areas with the most snowfall in Albania. The local economy depends on animal husbandry, agriculture, handicraft and recently, tourism. An important event in the area is the ‘Lugu I Bjeshkeve’ an annual festive event that dates from centuries back which gathers locals, tourists and people from the area that live abroad. Young women from Kelmend area and diaspora dressed in traditional cloths join a beauty pageant. It is usually organized in August and it is considered one of the most original Albanian traditional events

Dinner and accommodation in a guesthouse.

Dinner and overnight at the hotel.

Day 3

Lepushë - Grebaje

Hiking: ~ 5:30hours
Ascent maximum: ~ 2056 m.
Descent minimum: ~ 1150 m.
Distance: ~ 9 km
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Direction the hamlet of Grebaje in Montenegro. The trail does not present any particular difficulties. It goes through beautiful forests and meadow terrains. The itinerary will gently climb the hills following time to time some streams descending from the surrounding mountains and summits, such as the Talijanka peak reaching more than 2000 meters. The path continues along mountain pastures offering beautiful views on the Albanian and Montenegro Alps. After crossing the border, the descent starts towards Grebaje through meadow terrains and forests.

Dinner and accommodation in a guesthouse.

Dinner and night in a guesthouse.

Day 4

Grebaje – Vusanje

Hiking: ~ 3:00hours
Ascent maximum: ~ 1050 m.
Descent minimum: ~ 900 m.
Distance: ~ 4.5 km
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The morning starts with a small walk on the surroundings of Grebaje along the river Crna Dolja to see the canyon and waterfall. Then a short transfer is needed to reach the small village of Gucinje.

A stopover to one of the natural wonders in Montenegro, the Ali Pasha Spring. One of the premium attraction in Prokletije National Park is Ali-Pasha’s Springs (Ali Pasini Izvori). The river that is formed directly by the outbreak from the soil, from the many small springs, is something that will for sure amaze the visitor very much.

Ali Pasha Springs are very spectacular and unique, and water is so clean and transparent clear that many people drink that water directly from this place.

Direction Vusanje, in the heart of the National Park Prokletije. After the check-in at the guesthouse and the lunch break a trail will lead the group up to the blue eye. Located at approximately 1000 meters, it is a karstic source which has a circular shape with deep opening on its center where water pops-out. The water has a typical clear green/blue translucid color.

Dinner and accommodation in a guesthouse.

Dinner and night in a guesthouse.

Day 5

Vusanje – Zastan Koliba - Valbona

Hiking: ~ 8:00hours
Ascent maximum: ~ 2050 m.
Descent minimum: ~ 900 m.
Distance: ~ 14 km
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Small trip by van or 4×4 to Zastan Koliba. The hike follows a shepherd’s path whose origin certainly dates back to antiquity. It made it possible to join the Vusanje Valley in Montenegro to the Valbona Valley in Albania. The route is certainly long, but does not present any particular difficulty. The path climbs gently up the mountainsides, crossing an alpine forest, then pastures and finally reaches the Rosi pass at an altitude of 2050 meters, before diving into the Valbona valley. About 5 km from the arrival, a stopover will be made at the Rama sheepfold to have either a coffee or a refreshment and a rest. This unknown and misjudged route offers over its entire length such surprising and magnificent views of the valleys, the Karanfiles Mountains, the Maja and Thate, the Maja and Rosit and all the surrounding peaks that it makes you forget the famous Theth to Valbona pass.

This might seems to be a long trail, certainly, but it’s magical.

Dinner and accommodation in a guesthouse.

Day 6

Valbona – Valbona – Peja

Hiking: ~ 4:30hours
Ascent maximum: ~ 1100 m.
Descent minimum: ~ 950 m.
Distance: ~ 10 km
Made by Eucalyp of flaticon.com No

The morning trail will lead up to the glacial valley of the mountain hamlet of Kukaj. The trail runs through meadows and enters the beech forest. It will pass by very few farms composing the hamlet of  Kukaj. Then, the path follows the right side of the valley until a small grassy plateau with a mountain hut, where drinks will be offered from the local shepherds. From there can be seen the beautiful Valbona Valley with its peaks, Maja e Thate, Pecmara, Cet Harusha and Brijaset.

Direction Tropoja and visit Mic Sokoli’s place of residence. He was born in 1839 in Fang de Bujan near Tropoja and died in 1881. He was a heroic fighter in the Prizren League. The 3-storey tower is now a museum.

Direction the small town of Peja in Kosovo which still retains the cultural imprint of the Ottomans whose descendants still reside in the region. Walk in Peja to discover this cultural heritage: the Bazaar, the hammam or the Bajrakli mosque. Peja is the gateway for the Rugova valley and the National park of Bjeshkët e Nemuna, both rich in natural wonders.

Dinner in a traditional restaurant and accommodation in a hotel.

Day 7

Peja – Koshutan - Peja

Hiking: ~ 5:00hours
Ascent maximum: ~ 2150 m.
Descent minimum: ~ 1400 m.
Distance: ~ 10 km
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Small transfer from Peja to Koshutan hamlet in the Rugova mountains. Before 2016, this location was completely isolated during winter time, as there was absolutely no way to reach it. The trail will lead to the Dromodol pass then to the Dromodol summit. The trail itself is not challenging. From the pass or from the summit, the views are simply 360 °splendid. Many peaks emerge from the horizon giving the impression that it is possible to touch them with fingers just by reaching out  the hand. The beauty gives the desire to go further and further. Back to Koshutan and transfer to Peja.

Dinner in a traditional restaurant and overnight at the hotel.

Day 8

Peja - Prishtina

A cultural day of fitness and rest.

Direction Prishtina, capital of the last state born and not yet recognized by all nations. Since its inception, Prishtina has been at the heart of many conflicts and divisions. The Romans, then the Ottomans, the wars and finally the Serbian attempt in 1999 to put an end to the actions of the Kosovo Liberation Army left its mark on the cultural and social life of the inhabitants. Today, a young and dynamic population is trying to revive the economy of the city, the lung of Kosovo.

Prishtina is home to many cultural institutions, such as the Kosovo National Theatre, the National Museum of Archaeology, or Natural or Ethnographic Science. There are also many galleries and bookstores. But beyond these institutions, the city is teeming with life with its many clubs, bars and restaurants. Visit of the city center and the Ethnographic Museum.

Dinner in a traditional restaurant and overnight at the hotel.

Day 9

Prishtina - Prevala

Hiking: ~ 4:00hours
Ascent maximum: ~ 2050 m.
Descent minimum: ~ 1500 m.
Distance: ~ 6 km
Made by Eucalyp of flaticon.com No

Direction the Shar Mountains. On their ways,  the drive will stop to visit the Monastery of Gračanica. Its first construction dates back to 1321 and it was built on the ruins of a 6th century basilica. It is currently under the protection of UNESCO. During the Ottoman Empire it became a very important cultural center. After the Kosovo war, the Archbishop of the Orthodox Church in Kosovo will transfer his offices there, making Gračanica a place of spiritual importance for the Kosovo Serb community.

4 days of hiking in the heart of the Shar Mountains on unknown High Scardus routes. Shar means colorful. The road will meander through the sandstones of the valleys and open onto landscapes that are more beautiful than the others. The permanent colors of the vegetation, the changing light, the lack of housing, the diverse landscapes, give the impression of travelling in another universe. Stop at Prevala.

High Scardus is a newly developed transnational product designed to discover the mountains, valleys, inhabitants, villages, fauna and flora that border and occupy Albania, Northern Macedonia and Kosovo.

Prevala is a skiing center and touristic village. Prevala is a popular destination for hikers or skiers. The village borders a large forest. During the summer, people go to relax and rest, whereas during the winter people visit it for its seasonal recreational sports. The place is very well-known for its fresh, pure and healthy environment which profits to asthmatic people.

Within the afternoon, the hike starts from Prevala and goes through forests and mountain pastures to finally reach the summit of the surroundings hills offering gorgeous views on Shar mountains and peaks such as Bistra or Guzhbaba, the Prevala valley and on the very horizon the Accursed mountains. After a good breath of fresh air, it will be time to start descending to the village.

Dinner and overnight at the hotel.

Day 10

Prevala - Brod

Hiking: ~ 5:00hours
Ascent maximum: ~ 1948m.
Descent minimum: ~ 1545m.
Distance: ~ 6 km
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The today trail will ascend the Maja e Armenjit at 1948 meters. After breakfast, starting the trail in village of Prevalla. After passing Prevalla, the trail goes up through a beautiful forest up to the ridge. After that, following the ridge is very beautiful. 360-degree views of the Sharr Mountains will make the view even better. The views will follow until reaching the highest point for the day, Armenji Peak, 1948 m/alt. After a short break, following the trail from Armenji Peak to Prevalla. After arriving in Prevalla, and having a short coffee break, transferring to another great village in the middle of the Sharr Mountains, Brod.

Direction Brod, a small village located in the extreme south-east of Kosovo in the Gora region strangled between Albania and Northern Macedonia. The inhabitants speak the Gorani or Našinski dialect, which literally means “our language”. According to a study, Našinski is spoken in 19 villages in Kosovo, 11 in Albania and 2 in Northern Macedonia. Immersion.

Dinner in a traditional restaurant and overnight at the hotel.

Day 11

Brod - Brod

Hiking: ~ 6:00hours
Ascent maximum: ~ 2100 m.
Descent minimum: ~ 1450m.
Distance: ~ 13.3 km
Made by Eucalyp of flaticon.com No

The starting point for this trail is the ski station. The trail which remains rather accessible for every hiker, will follow the stream in a meadow terrain and mountain pastures. Later, during the ascent, the itinerary crosses the stream and follow a shepherd path which climbs the hill to reach the Qelepino peak. From its summit, the views are breathtaking. The descent will follow a small canyon and the Qelepino stream.

Dinner in a traditional restaurant and overnight at the hotel.

Day 12

Brod – Prizren

Hiking: ~ 3:00hours
Ascent maximum: ~ 852 m.
Descent minimum: ~ 452 m.
Distance: ~ 6 km
Made by Eucalyp of flaticon.com No

Direction Prizren, a splendour and symbol of Albanian history. Visit of the Shadervan and its fountain, its large main square that once housed the bazaar. Walk to admire the Kuklibeu mosque built around 1534, Hasan Sheu’s Ottoman house dating from the 18th century, the old stone bridge overlooking the river that cuts Prizren in half and the hammam built in the 16th century by Mehmet Pasha and considered one of the most important in the Balkans.

During the visit a detour is foreseen to hike up to the Prizren Fortress, to get the most beautiful views of the city.

Dinner in a traditional restaurant and overnight at the hotel.

Day 13

Prizren – Bajram Curri

Hiking: ~ 4:00hours
Ascent maximum: ~ 450 m.
Descent minimum: ~ 500 m.
Distance: ~ 8 km
Made by Eucalyp of flaticon.com No

Drive to Gjakova, a place of culture and learning in Kosovo. During the Ottoman Empire, the city of Gjakova benefited from its geolocation. Located on the Shkodra – Constantinople trade route, it quickly became a place of exchange. Education has always been a tradition in Gjakova. It has developed around several sectors such as literature, arts, music… Visit of its historical centre and the largest bazaar in the Balkans, Çarshia e Madhe

Transfer to Bajram Curri in Albania. Bajram Curri is located at the very entrance of the Valbona National Park. The city wears the name of an Albanian chieftain, politician and activist who struggled for the independence of Albania, later struggling for Kosovo’s incorporation into Albania following the 1913 Treaty of London. Bajram Curri died in 1925. Check-in at the hotel. The hike starts directly from the hotel. It will rapidly reach a chestnut forest and gently climb up to the astonishing lack of Markajt, also called locally the Liqeni I Panarit or Pomarve, at 1357 meters from the sea. The trail leads through local endemic forests listed in the UNESCO as ancient and primeval beech forests of the Carpathians and other regions of Europe. Back to Bajram Curri.

Dinner and overnight at the hotel.

Day 14

Bajram Curri - Fierze – Lake Koman – Kruja

Travel by ferry to Koman. This navigation of about 2h30 to 3h00 allows you to discover unique landscapes resulting from the erosion of the Albanian Alps by the Drin River, it is simply an incredible experience.

Drive to Kruja, an ancient medieval city. The Skanderbeg Museum, one of the most visited places in Albania. Accessible via the bazaar, it is located in the heart of the historic citadel of Kruja and is dedicated to the Albanian national hero, Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg. The museum has collections of objects dating back to most of the wars that took place during the 15th century between the Albanians and the Ottomans.

And if it is not too late, visit the Ethnographic Museum of Kruja, which is located in the citadel in a house that belonged to one of the richest families of the 18th century. In a setting of elaborate ceilings and sumptuous murals, it presents objects and scenes of life that help us understand how an Albanian family lived in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Dinner in a traditional restaurant and overnight at the hotel.

Day 15

Kruja – Tirana

Hiking: ~ 3:00hours
Ascent maximum: ~ 1134 m.
Descent minimum: ~ 620 m.
Distance: ~ 8 km
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A stiff hike up the steep cliff from Kruja to a Bektashi temple on the top of the mountain. From there, follow a leisurely road and back to Kruja town (Optional).

Departure by bus to Tirana, the capital of Albania. Luggage deposit at the hotel.

Visit the House of Leaves Museum, which tells visitors about one of the darkest periods in Albanian history. The museum is dedicated to all those who have endured torture, assassinations, arrests and surveillance organised by the Albanian secret services.

Visit of the city center and its famous “Block” via the Tabakëve bridge, built in the 18th century in the heart of Tirana.

Direction the cable car for the ascent of Mt Dajti. Lunch at an altitude of about 1000 meters in a panoramic restaurant, offering a sensational view of Tirana, its surroundings and, in clear weather, the Adriatic Sea. Diner in a traditional restaurant and overnight at the hotel.

Day 16

Departure

INCLUDED
8* Nights in guesthouses 7* Nights in hotels
15* Breakfasts and dinners 15* Picnics or lunches
7* Picnics or lunches Transportation
English-speaking guide Ferry between Fierze and Koman
All visits mentioned in this program Bottled still water of 0.5l is included, per person, at each meal.
Experienced English-speaking guide for the duration of the stay Accommodation in hotels (double room and local standard) or guesthouses (shared rooms)
Meals (breakfasts, lunches or baskets, dinners) and drinks (table water) All luggage transport (1x backpack or equivalent of 15 kg maximum per person)
Costs related to planned visits, ferry and border crossing permits
NOT INCLUDED
All personal expenses Costs related to specific requests or those not mentioned above
Meals and drinks other than table water were served during meals The plane ticket
Accommodation in single rooms Travel insurance
  • For safety reasons and in case of force majeure, the guide has full authority to adapt or even cancel an itinerary. This is all the more valid depending on the evolution of the weather or for medical reasons.
  • As the guide is responsible for all the people in his care and for the cohesion of the group, he can at any time adapt the pace of the walk, the effort, the itinerary… in order to avoid the isolation of one or more participants.
  • The guide has a duty to ensure that the environment in which the group operates is respected.
  • In order to respect the rules and laws in force in the countries crossed, Savatours Incoming can call on the support of local partners licensed in these countries (guides, transport, equipment, logistics, etc.). We have ensured that these companies share the same values as those established by Savatours.
  • The distances and walking times are given as an indication.

Passport:

A valid passport (at least 6 months from the start of the stay) is required. A copy of each participant’s passport will be requested at least one month before the departure date of the trek in order to obtain border crossing authorizations from the competent authorities.

Insurance:

International travel insurance is strongly recommended to cover the consequences of incidents that may occur while travelling, travelling and staying abroad. It is the traveler’s responsibility to check with his travel agent or insurer before departure.

  • This discovery hiking includes walks over long distances in the wild. It is not recommended for children under 15 years of age.
  • It is advisable to be in good health and physical condition.
  • Avoid drinking tap water or spring water, unless your guide allows it.
  • Respect the environment in which you operate. He’ll give it back to you.

It is strongly recommended to bring clothing suitable for winter conditions and walking on snow coats. A pair of boots can be extremely useful.

Snowshoes and walking sticks are provided. Innok brand rackets model AXM, supporting a weight from 45 to 120 Kg, adjustable in size from 34 to 47. The use of mountain or trekking shoes is strongly advised. Soft shoes are advised.

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