Theth Valbona Hike: 27 Things You Need to Know!
Recently I completed the most popular day hike within Albania – The Theth to Valbona hike. This hike through the Albanian alps is one of the best things to do in Albania by far. Even if you are not an avid hiker like me, the views are incredibly rewarding, and you get to see a different side of Albania.
To give you a better insight into the hike I have decided to jot down 26 questions that are being asked online and from people in my Travelling Albania Facebook group.
1. The distance of the Theth Valbona trail
The distance of the hike is around 10.5 miles (or 17km). This can vary though depending on where you are staying in both Theth and Valbona. This is something you should definitely check before booking accommodation! You can get a ride to the trailheads to make it a shorter hike, just ask your accommodation.
2. How long does it take to do the hike?
The hike takes around 6-8 hours. Everyone has different paces and maybe stopping more for photos. Also as mentioned above, it depends on where you are staying if you are not getting a ride to the trailhead. We didn’t get a ride to the trailhead and left around 8.20 am from our hotel Bujtina Polia in Theth and arrived at our hotel in Valbona (Hotel Margjeka) around 4.45 pm so it took us just over 8 hours to complete.
We stopped a lot because of two reasons, our fitness level was poor and to take pictures and videos with the drone. You should also factor in the stop at the very top of the trail. It’s a great place to have your lunch and relax for 30minutes to enjoy the views!
3. What difficulty is the hike?
I would say medium difficulty. There are some definite steep bits, but you will not find yourself rock climbing or scrambling at all. But it depends on your fitness level and if you have done hiking before. I have done harder hikes in the likes of New Zealand than this one and I am in no way an avid hiker. But please make sure you have good shoes, not socks and sandals like I saw one guy doing it in. If there is rain on the trail there are some parts which can be slippery, so having a good grip is paramount for your own safety.
4. Do I need a guide?
No, this is a common misconception. If you’re talking to an Albanian, they will probably say you need one as Albanians are very safety conscious and always want to keep you safe. But having a guide is not necessary at all. The trail is clearly marked, and chances are you will be hiking with lots of other people.
5. Do I start from Theth or Valbona?
This is something I have been thinking long and hard about. There are many debates on whether you should start from Theth or Valbona. In terms of difficulty, I feel like starting in Valbona may be easier as starting from Theth it is a constant uphill. However, the Valbona side you will be walking flat and then boom, there’s more of an uphill. So, to answer this question, I don’t know, and I would say don’t think about it too much.
I would think about what you feel like doing after the hike, in the days before or after. I was happy that we stayed in Theth for a couple of nights before because we were able to do the Blue Eye hike and another hike to Theth waterfall which I don’t feel like we would have liked doing in the following day after a hike from Valbona.
6. When is the best time to do the hike?
I would say spring or autumn. Autumn is safer as there can still be snow until late May sometimes. Summer is when it’s the most popular, but it can be very hot and crowded. So, I would recommend visiting in late September or even October (if the weather holds!). We did it at the beginning of October and it was incredible with the autumnal colours and the weather was still amazing.
It’s not possible to do this hike all year round due to snow and ice, the trail is open from around May (usually late due to snow still not being melted) and late October for amateurs.
7. When should I start the hike?
As early as possible! I would recommend leaving at 7.30 or even 7 if you can get up that early. Particularly in the summer as it can get hot! I have heard of people still walking in the dark which you do not want to do so I would recommend having a light breakfast on the go and getting up to the top as soon as you can.
8. Where can I refill my water bottle?
There are cafes (about 4 of them) along the trail. You can grab a drink and enjoy the view. This is another reason why you should head out early, so you have enough time to stop at some of these places and enjoy the views they have. They have fresh springs near the cafes where you can fill up your water bottle.
9. Is the trail marked?
Yes, it is. There are clear red and white symbols showing you where to go. There are a couple of places on the Theth side which were not marked clearly which is where my maps.me came in handy. I would recommend downloading it just in case. It’s an offline map app that shows the trails and roads.
10. Do I have to worry about animals?
You don’t have to worry but you should be aware. Theth National Park is one of the most biodiverse destinations in Albania so many animals can be found. This includes brown bears, lynx, wolves, deer, and snakes. My recommendation is to always keep to the track and if you hear something, make a lot of noise. It’s something that you don’t really have to think about on this trail as there is usually a lot of people doing the hike and it’s too noisy for these types of animals to hang around there.
11. Can I visit in winter?
No, you cannot do the hike in the winter if you are not a professional or with a guide. In Theth and Valbona there is heavy snowfall so if you don’t have the right gear it’s not advised. The villages are attracting more and more people in the winter looking for a wintery escape though. Just keep in mind that you may have to do a tour to access these places and most of the accommodation suppliers will be closed so always double-check.
12. Where to stay in Theth?
We stayed at a place called Bujtina Polia which was right near the church of Theth. It has a big fireplace, breakfast buffet, great lunch and dinner options and cute cabins (where we stayed!). They also have the main house which has some great rooms with amazing views. It was a great place to stay as it was sort of a base to go either hiking to the blue eye or the other way to the start of the trail. Click here for latest prices and availability.
13. Where to stay in Valbona?
I would highly recommend staying at Hotel Margjeka because it’s one of the closest hotels to the start of the trail in Valbona. They also have a delicious breakfast which is included and it’s one of the best restaurants in Valbona. The room has a beautiful view and they had superb heating which was essential for October. The staff were super helpful and friendly too! Click here for the latest prices and availability.
14. Are there ATMs in Theth or Valbona?
No, there is not. Make sure you get enough money to last you for breakfast (most are included in your accommodation for free), lunch, dinner, snacks and any souvenirs you may want.
15. Can you pull off the journey and hike in 3 days?
Yes, you could. If you don’t have enough time here’s what you can do (from Shkoder):
Day 1: Leave from Shkoder to Koman and catch the Koman ferry (3 hours and named one of the most beautiful ferry rides in the world) to Fierza, then catch the shuttle to Valbona.
Day 2: Get up early and do the hike to Theth. This will take 6-8 hours. Arrive at your Theth accommodation and stay the night.
Day 3: Catch a shuttle from Theth to Shkoder. The journey takes around 3 hours.
You really couldn’t do this trip in just 2 days as the timings wouldn’t quite work if you don’t have your own 4×4 to get there.
16. How do I get to Theth from Shkoder?
The shuttle leaves at 7 am from Shkoder to Theth and cost 10 euro per person. Ask your hotel or hostel to arrange it for you. Make sure you do it the day before you want to go to Theth. Here’s the number of a shuttle if your accommodation doesn’t know (0682473011). Here’s a full guide on how to get from Theth to Shkoder.
17. How do I get from Shkoder to Valbona?
The best way by far is doing the Shkoder-Koman-Fierze-Valbona route. This trip is 2 shuttles and one boat trip which has been named one of the most beautiful boat trips in the world.
All of the booking can be done on their website here. The company will pick you up from your hotel in Shkoder and drive to the ferry port of Koman which takes around 1 hour 30 minutes. Then you will catch the ferry which takes 3 hours. Once you have arrived at the ferry port of Fierze you will then catch the last shuttle to Valbona which takes around 1 hour.
This whole journey costs 20 euro or 2800 lek and takes around 6 hours (by the time you wait for the shuttles etc). All of this can be booked online or by giving them a call. You must make an advanced booking; it cannot be made on the day. You can choose to pay online (note that you will only pay for the ferry online, you will pay for the shuttles in cash), or it can all be paid in cash.
I highly recommend doing this trip, it was incredible to cruise over the artificial lake of Koman with the mountains on either side!
18. Which is better, Theth or Valbona?
Valbona is a lot more geared for tourism and more developed than Theth is. I really enjoyed Theth as it had more of a village vibe and was quieter than Valbona (although both are very quiet!). As we stayed in Theth before the hike we got to explore more of it than we did of Valbona because we left the next day to go back to Shkoder.
19. Can I drive to Theth?
Yes, But only if you have a 4×4! You cannot drive if you have a regular car as the road was extremely bumpy and in bad condition. However, this will change soon as they are currently paving a new road which is expected to be finished at the end of 2020. The road is closed at certain times during this construction so please check the times above to see when you can drive the road.
20. Can I drive to Valbona?
Yes, there is a road to Valbona, and you do not need a 4×4. I cannot comment personally on the road condition though as I have not driven it myself.
21. Where can I leave my bags whilst doing the hike?
I would highly recommend leaving anything you don’t need in Shkoder at an accommodation supplier. If you stay in a hotel or hostel in Shkoder beforehand, they are usually happy to hold your luggage for you for a fee. You can also hire a mule to take your luggage over for you.
22. Do I have to book accommodation the night before?
Yes, it is advised too, especially in the summer months as accommodation can be booked. During the off-season (May-June and September to October) you could easily just turn up without a booking.
23. Is there are any other nice hikes I can do in Theth?
Yes! I highly recommend doing the hike to the blue eye which is 3 hours each way. The blue eye is beautiful and well worth the walk!
There is also a nice, smaller hike to Theth waterfall which is stunning also. There are a few more walks within Theth that you can do.
24. Are there any other nice hikes I can do in Valbona?
Yes, there is! Unfortunately, I didn’t get to do any of them as we were only in Valbona for 1 night, but I have heard that the Meadow Loop is beautiful and well worth it.
Another great option is to walk to the Valbona waterfall.
25. What do I need to pack?
Here are the 5 things I recommend you take for the Theth Valbona hike:
26. I’m a solo female, is it safe to do this hike alone?
Although I did this hike with my boyfriend, I would 100% recommend this hike, even if you are a solo female. As mentioned above with the guide thing, Albanians will tell you should have someone with you, but I don’t see why that would be a problem. I saw many girls doing this hike by themselves. Also, there will be other people on the hike too so it’s not like you would be doing it on your own.
27. Does the trail get busy?
Yes, in the summer it can. I was even surprised when I did it (beginning of October) that around 40 people were doing the hike also. I can imagine in the summer that this trail would get busy as it is the most popular hike in Albania after all and on so many people’s bucket lists!
I hope you found these 27 questions and answers helpful to prepare for the Theth Valbona hike (also known as the Valbona pass). If you have any further questions, make sure you leave them below so I can add them into the post.
Other articles you will love:
- How to get from Shkoder to Theth, Albania (Thethi)
- 8 Things to do in Theth, Albania
- The Best Places to visit in Albania
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