Hiking Route from Valbona to Theth
The mountain pass that connects Theth with Valbona is named after the latter. "Valbona's Pass" is located at an altitude of 1759 meters above sea level and surrounded by other higher peaks such as Alia and Hekurave. Mount Jezercë will be the main feature along the way. The hiking trail starts in Gjelaj, Rragam village in Shala, at the upper end of Valbona valley. It consists of a 9.5 km trail to Theth (end of the path marked with white and red signs in Gjelaj). Depending on your exact start- and end-point this might extend.
From "Valbona to Theth" or Vice Versa?
While the hike is (naturally) accessible from both ends, there is a good reason to start in Valbona: The 1000 meters altitude difference aren't equal between both starting options. Starting from Valbona you won't be faced with as much uphill as if you'll be starting from Theth. Starting from Theth you will have around 200 additional meters of height to claim compared to Valbona as a start.
Getting to Valbona
Assuming Valbona is your starting point, you'll still need to get there. Usually, people arrive from Tirana either:
For the boat option, it's recommended to pre-book online, especially if are keen to take the bus to the ferry from Tirana. If so, please note this in the comment field while booking to reserve your spot on the bus leaving Tirana at 5 am.
Stopping by at Komani Lake?
You might wonder if stopping along Komani Lake is an option and worthwhile. While we didn't there are some obvious considerations we head about or noticed.
If you are considering staying at the lake you should be aware of the environmental impact: There is no (functioning) trash management and the trash of the guesthouses usually ends in the lake.
Another factor is the additional boat rides. The buses will drop you off at the not-so-charming harbor and you will need to organize and pay for another boat (and back). The boat rides can come in more expensive than the guesthouse itself. Make sure to organize the boat with your guesthouse if you opt for this.
Where to stay in Valbona?
Naturally, we haven't tried many places in Valbona. Two places stood out for us: our newly opened guesthouse in a traditional building with a wooden roof and a guesthouse we had dinner one night. The guesthouse we had dinner one night welcomed us despite us staying elsewhere. We have had good food, plenty of cats running around, and gained lots of insights from the owners.
Our guesthouse was newly listed online and we booked it as it looked more traditional and was nearby:
To our surprise, it was located on a massive piece of land connecting directly to the river behind. Not too surprising the owners were super-friendly. They helped us out with any questions, guidance, late-night taxi services, and refreshing beers in the sun.
Plan ahead: Money
You should bring enough cash for your stay as neither Theth nor Valbona have any ATMs. Don't expect to be able to pay by card in Valbona or Theth. On the Valbona-side of the hike, you can get a mini-bus to Bajram Curri where you will find a local bank. As service isn't always guaranteed, cash in hand is always the preferred option. Depending on your needs and accommodation costs around 10k Leke or 100 Euro pocket money should serve you well for a few days.
Eat and drink
There are very limited options to eat and drink along the hike. Even in Valbona village you won't find many places to eat and drink. Many guesthouses and smaller hotels only serve their guests. In Theth the situation looks a bit better. Ask in advance to avoid surprises. Finding a good guesthouse that will feed you enough to sustain you throughout the hike is important. There is one restaurant on the hike where you can get food and two cafes where you can get drinks.
On the hike, you will find multiple natural springs to refill your water bottle for free. You can even try out the water from the source of the Valbona river after around one hour in the hike from Valbona. In both villages, there are options to buy snacks and a refreshing after-hike beer. Some guesthouses offer lunch packages for the hike too.