How long was your stay?
How did you travel?
As a couple
Tell us why you traveled to this destination.
My boyfriend and I were backpacking through Eastern Europe and had heard this was a great place to visit. We had also heard there was a great through-hike to do, so that’s what we were really looking forward to.
Give us all the details! Tell us where you went and what you did on your trip.
Day one and two, we explored the town and got our hike details in order. The center of town has some nice streets to walk with lots of little shops and nice restaurants to eat at. There is a main strip that is pedestrian only where we assume most tourists go to eat and drink, the road is called Rruga Kole Idromeno. You can also find a photography museum and some souvenir shops there. We met some friends for dinner on the first night at a place called Restaurant PURI, a popular spot for good food. The meal was very inexpensive and the portions were very large. We had to work on day two and took a nice walk around in the afternoon.
Day three is when we started the hike. Basically, the hike is a 9-mile hike from one town to another, Valbona to Theth, a few hours away from Shkoder in the Albania Alps. We set everything up through our hostel (Wanderer’s Hostel). They booked us transportation to a guesthouse in the mountains and one night in the guesthouse. At 7:30 am, we started our journey. First, you take a 2-hour bus ride north, where you change over to a ferry. The ferry took us 3 hours up a big river. When we got off the ferry, we took another small bus another hour up the road, where they dropped us off seemingly in the middle of nowhere. I guess the bus drivers are pretty familiar with the area because once we looked around, we found a small sign that pointed up a trail with the name of our guest house on it. We followed it and came up to an incredibly beautiful guest house that sits next to a shallow creek.
We arrived in the afternoon so we had time to take a nice walk around the property where we found a little lake along a small trail. The guest house fed us dinner, breakfast the next morning, and gave us a little food for the hike. It was such a beautiful spot, we thought about staying an extra night, but we only brought one day’s worth of clothes, so alas, we went on our way the next morning. We began our hike before the sun fully came up. The trail starts along an older river bed and makes it’s way up one of the mountains creating the valley, and then you come down the other side and follow it all the way down to Teth. The hike took us just less than 6.5 hours and we walked a total of about 9.5 and it was glorious. I really love hiking so this experience was incredible. The views were breathtaking and knowing we were in the middle of nowhere in the Albanian Alps was such a cool feeling.
The trail was very easy to follow and there were cafes along the way where we could fill up our water bottles, use the restroom, and buy other drinks, food, snacks, and most important, beer (which is required when celebrating a good hike). This made the hike quite enjoyable. When you set up the logistics of the hike, you don’t pre-book your way back because people’s plans change too much. It’s possible to stay an extra night in Theth after you arrive, or before you start, and there are multiple trails in the area which you can take, so you are supposed to book your way back whenever you get there. We heard it was really easy to do this. Well, it wasn’t so easy. We were told the last bus would leave for Shkoder at 4 pm. Right at the end of the trail, you come across a large parking lot where buses take off from and a big outdoor cafe with lots of seating to refuel after the hike. We asked around when we arrived and nobody seemed to know what we were talking about. The tourism office sent us right back when we went to ask them after exhausting the locals in the cafe. Luckily, we met some other travelers in the same position and a local offered us a taxi ride back to town for a decent rate. We took it and got back to Shkoder that day.
On the fifth and final day, we were in town, we rented bikes from our hostel (this time Mi Casa Es Tu Casa) and rode the bikes up to Rozafa Castle, the main landmark in Shkoder. It was an easy ride and the sunset from the castle was beautiful. On the way back, the chain fell off my bike so we had to stop on the side of a road. A small kid came out of nowhere and offered to help me fix it. When I turned around, suddenly there were many kids. Some were in the window, and some had come outside. They were so friendly and sweet. One took my water bottle and filled it up. In broken English, one asked us where we were from. They were so excited to hear we were from England and the United States. It was a very random moment, and it was so heartwarming that this group of little kids wanted to know about who we were and wanted to help us in whatever way they could. After a few moments, we went on our way. That night we dined at one of the most popular restaurants in town, which we heard about from the hostel, called Fisi Restaurant. They serve traditional Albanian food and even had a vegetarian plate that my boyfriend and I shared. We left the next day after eating breakfast at a very trendy brunch cafe called Stolia Coffeehouse & Brunch. I couldn’t believe that I got a fancy plate of avocado toast with an egg and nuts and things for only $2! And it was delicious! We really loved our time in Shkoder. There were so many good places to eat, the hostels were comfortable, and everything was very inexpensive.
Would you recommend this trip to a friend?
What was the highlight of your trip?
The main highlight of the trip was the thorough hike. The first day was mostly travel to get to this random, faraway town, but everything was so beautiful that it felt like a whole day of exploring. The hike itself was one of the most beautiful hikes I’ve been on. It was challenging, like all through-hikes, but it wasn’t so hard and the views made it all worth it. It was the perfect way to get to know a piece of the country and I just loved it. Would love to go back to do more of the hikes around the area. The second highlight was probably the cheap avocado toast. It was such a trendy cafe, it definitely would have cost you $10-15 in the USA but here it was only $2 and the employees were really nice. One day I’ll go back to Shkoder and eat way more delicious food.
If you were to take this trip again, is there anything you would add or do differently?
If I were to do the trip again, I would probably opt to stay one extra night either in Valbona or Theth just because it was such a beautiful area, it deserves more than 2 days of sightseeing. There are some cool waterfalls you can see in Theth and a multi-day peak trail around Valbona that would probably be one of the highlights of my life if I were to do so.
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