Bassingbourn Rd, Stansted, Essex CM24 1QW, London
8 Day Hiking, Swimming and Cultural exploration of village life in Montenegro and north Albania
You have been hiking all summer and you are fit and comfortable to walk up and downhill for more than 8 hours a day?
You can keep a good pace and have no injuries that will stop you from carrying a rucksack and not relying on transport other than your feet for 4 days? (No need to carry tents because we will stay in local guesthouses.)
You want to discover one of the most hidden and pristine mountain ranges in Europe?
If you have answered YES to ALL three questions then this is the trip for you.
We will be visiting a region which is remote and has been isolated either by communism up until the early 1990ies (especially the parts in Albania) or has been a route for smugglers during the Balkan conflicts later that decade. Now it is open for hikers and we can cross the border via the mountains.
The Slavic name is "Prokletije" and in Albanian it is "Bjesket e Namuna" but it means the same- Accursed Mountains.
End of August/ beginning of September is an ideal time for walking this part of the Dinaric Alps, the summer sun is not too hot and the mountain lakes and waterfalls although cold are not as icy as in spring. We will have a chance to swim in several lakes, rivers and waterfalls during all of the 8 days that we will be hiking the Peaks of the Balkans.
We've done this trip back in 2015 - check out the gallery of that trip here!
Europeans swimming in Skadar Lake (September 2014)
Our guide Vlatko (on the photo below) was a member of the team that was setting the trails to open this area to the first hikers a few years ago and cross border permits are available only since 2013. So, we will be crossing the border via the mountains, not at official border crossings.
If you are still reading this and are excited about it here are a few more details.
On day one, after we arrive to the Montenegrin capital Podgorica we are going straight to Plav at the foot of the Accursed mountain to visit the XIII century Moracha monastry. We are staying at Plav and will go for a swim to Plavsko Lake, before we go for dinner at Lake Views hotel where we are staying on the first and second night.
On day two we will take a 4 wheel drive to the village of Mramorje at 1850m and hike to Visitor summit at 2211m and then go back to Visitorsko lake at 1735m. There will be an optional swim at this mountain lake before we go back to Plav to visit a family museum,a XV century tower on five floors which was built as an inn for visitors in the middle ages.
This effectively is the end of the more leasurely part of this trip and from day 3 we will start our longer hikes. From today until day 7 we will have to carry bare necessities in our backpacks, but we will stay in comfortable guesthouses so there is no need to carry tents or sleeping bags.
We will start from the village of Feratovicha, go via Bor summit and Qafa e Perslopit to Valbona valley in Albania. Although the distance is only 19km the ascent is 850 m and the total descent is 1650m which means over 8 hours of effective walking. We will walk just under the highest summit of Montenegro which is 2534 m.
We will cross the border via the mounatins and arrive to the village Rragam in Albania where we will stay in a local guesthouse on a farm.
A meal in the guesthouse in Theth (September 2014)
On the next day we will be hiking from Valbona valley to the village Theth for about 6 hours, the total ascent is 650m and descent is 1050m.
Again we will stay in a family guesthouse. We will have enough time to see the village before we go for a well deserved dinner in our guest house. Here is a short story about the region.
Theth has an authentic "blood feud" tower where those who were targets of clan rivalries could take refuge. Near the village there is a waterfall a part of the Grunas canyon, which will be a part of the trail the next day. We will continue to see the Blue Eye spring and Zi river, so there will be plenty opportunities for swimming.
Europeans dipping under Grunas waterfall (September 2014)
On day 6 we will have another long day of hiking, crossing the border to go back to Montenegro via Ropojana valley where we will see Grlja waterfalls and Oko Skakavice spring. Our destination is Vusanje village and on this day we will hike for 16km with 850 m ascent and 800m descent.
As we are heading to Plav we will be able to swim in the lake before we go back to our hotel for dinner.
Kormorans in Skadar Lake (September 2014)
On our last full day in Montenegro we are going to Skadar Lake and this time we will pass the border to North Albania by car via an offical border crossing (for those of you keen on stamps) to bid farewell to the small remote villages settled in the magical canyon of Cemi river. After driving through the Canyon we will enter the Montenegrin National Parks of Skadar Lake and take a boat on the Moracha river to the village of Poseljani, an abandoned village which used to be a milling centre. We will see the village and have a swim in the fairy water pools.
By the way, the local population is convinced that fairies live in the area. Legend says that a fairy is responsible for the name of the Accursed Mountains, too.
Apparently two brothers went hunting and found a beautiful fairy. Asked which one she preferred, she answered: one for his bravery, the other for his good looks. The brave brother killed the handsome one and took the fairy home to their mother, who was so angry she cursed the fairy and the mountains for ever. Well, there is a love triangle for you.
We, on the other hand, safe from a curse and hopefully uninvolved in the drama of love triangles will be taking another boat trip to Virpazar, a small town on the shore of Skadar Lake, where we are spending our last evening on this trip. We will have our farewell dinner in "Badanj" inn. The next day we are leaving packed at 9am sharp to catch the flight from Podgorica.
A full payment £585 will secure your spot. Due to the fluctuation of the British Pound we reserve the right to amend the price to an equivalent of €650 at the time of payment. We will send you the conversion rate in British Pounds and the bank details of Hiking the Balkans when you RSVP. The deadline for payment for this trip is 20th of April 2017.
No single supplement is available in the accommodation arranged in the Albanian villages. If you want a single room on the last and the first two nights there is a £70 supplement.
Included in the price:
-Local certified mountain guide
-All transfers from and to airport (for recomended flights only) and group transfers during the hiking trip.
-Luggage transport except during 4 days in Albania
-7 nights (4 in hotels and 3 in guesthouses) including breakfast
-Packed lunches during hikes
-Permits for unofficial border crosses between Montenegro and Albania
Not included in the price:
-Flights to and from Podgorica
-Travel insurance for all the activities we are undertaking (highest point 2500m )
-Meals when we are not staying in guesthouses in Albania.
Recomended Ryanair flights from London Stansted
[masked] flight FR 7961 departing London Stansted 06:55 arriving in Podgorica 10:45
Price: £38.99 www.ryanair.com
and return flight on[masked] flight number FR 7962 departing Podgorica 11:10 arriving to London Stansted 13:05
Price: £149.99 www.ryanair.com
This trip is open to our members as well as members of London European Club. The total number of participants will not exceed 18 people. Please contact Maja or Lea via Meetup if you want to join us on a new Balkan adventure. We don't like mass gatherings so the trip has a limited number of spaces, once full it is full. These trips are organised with the intention of discovering new countries and destinations in Europe. We are not a travel agency nor are we holiday reps. You will be expected to be a good team player and look after yourself and the members of your group. It is essential that you respect other cultures and are open minded about new experiences. Join us if you are up for an adventure of a lifetime!