Days on Trails

Peaks of the Balkans

A long-distance trail through the valleys and over the passes of the spectacular southern Dinaric Alps, bordering Albania, Montenegro and Kosovo. Choice between one week or the full two weeks.

Quick overview

What?
  • The full two week 170km (105 mile) long-distance walking trail takes you through the spectacular and obscure mountainous lands affecionately known as “Prokletije” (the accursed mountains). An otherworldly corner of the Balkans until recently inaccessible for Western travelers.
  • 3 Border crossings. Experience the ever changing culture and landscapes crossing between Montenegro, Albania and Kosovo.
  • You don’t need to worry about planning, logistics, border crossing permits… 
  • Although it’s called ‘Peaks of the Balkans’ we don’t go over the major peaks – instead the trail crosses passes, follows grassy ridges and meanders through beautiful beech and pine forests.
  • Immerse yourself in the local culture – we’ll enjoy fantastic hospitality, eat the local food and stop at cafes high in the mountains where we can sample shots of home-brewed raki or Turkish coffee while gazing out over the peaks and forested valleys. In the mountains, we stay with local families and get a glimpse into their lives.
  • Discover this hidden corner of the Dinaric Alps – admire the thousands of wildflowers, look out for eagles and signs of wolves, and take in the views up the towering limestone mountains.
  • Relax knowing that we have taken care of everything, from route-finding, accommodation booking, securing of cross-border permits and dealing with any unexpected incidents! You’re in the good hands of UIMLA International Mountain Leaders.

A borderland of soaring limestone peaks, an extraordinary diversity of wildlife, and the ever-present shadow of decades of conflict, the Peaks of the Balkans is a hike unlike anything you’ll have done before.  

The mountainous lands along the borders of Montenegro, Albania and Kosovo, known as the southern Dinaric Alps, are the ideal location for an adventurous walking journey. Where only recently there was armed conflict, little accommodation for travellers and difficulty getting access, now there is a growing network of walking routes, with the Peace Park at their heart.  

The walking is some of the most spectacular in Europe; each valley has a different character, the trails are often remote and obscure, and the guesthouses, though basic, provide you with the warmest of welcomes and ensure you’re never hungry!

Travelling through the landscape in a small group, with UIMLA International Mountain Leaders to guide you and tell you all about the area, you’ll be embarking on a journey where every day will give you genuine moments that will last in your memory.

A truely off the beaten path adventure we proudly name our signature trek for 2020! We understand time is a rare commodity. If the full two week adventure is too long, we also offer a condensed version of a week.

Want a little taster? Here's some video from our test trip!

When?
  • SHORT (9d) June 20 – 28
  • FULL (14d) September 5 – 18
  • SHORT (9d) September 19 – 27

Date doesn’t work for you? Just contact us!

Departure is guaranteed at 4 participants. To keep the group small enough to ensure a quality experience, we have a maximum number of 12 participants. 

Don’t wait too long to sign up! 4 Participants is easily reached and as soon as departure is guaranteed, we’ll let you know so you can still book cheap tickets well before departure! Last minute flights/trains are always more expensive.

Pricing

  • 9 Days option: EUR 1400 / CAD 2100 / USD 1600
  • Full 14 days: EUR 2100 / CAD 3150 / USD 2400

Book your trip!

To book, simply email us your interest (info@daysontrails.com) and we will respond with detailed information.

Feel free to mail/call us with any questions you might have!

What’s Included
  • Guiding by UIMLA International Mountain Leaders, the highest level of qualification for leading trekking groups anywhere in the world. To help deal with logistics, offer different options on some of the days and allow for a safer journey, we will always have two leaders on the Peaks of the Balkans.
  • All leaders are first-aid trained to a higher level than usual Mountain Leader first Aid (so either Wilderness First Responder or Expedition First Aid).
  • All evening meals from the arrival day to the evening before departure. The exception to this is the evening meal on the second rest day (on the two-week option), in Peja, which is a ‘free evening’ where you can go out on your own or in small groups to try different places to eat.
  • Breakfasts and packed lunches on all walking days and rest days.
  • Accommodation every night, in a mix of hotels and basic mountain guest-houses or bunkhouses.
  • Cross-border permits, which are arranged by us for you before we depart.
  • Emergency communications equipment so the leaders can deal with any incidents. 
  • Transport during the trip, including collection and drop-off at Podgorica airport, taxis during the hike on days we miss out road sections, and down to Peja for the second rest day.
  • Support from the Days on Trails team in the build-up to the adventure.
What’s not Included
  • Flights to Podgorica. (Can be arranged through our agent)
  • Extra activities on the rest days (though we can give you options and help you to organise it).
  • Extra snacks  
  • Alcoholic drinks
The full two weeks or the condensed one week? Which one is right for me?

Our two-week trip is the real deal, walking the full trail (other than sections of newly constructed road which we skip with taxis) through all three countries. We’ll end up walking roughly 170km (105 miles) over 10 days, with two rest days built-in at regular intervals, so you can recover, climb nearby mountains, or head out to see local cultural sites.

The one-week option takes in what’s probably the most stunning scenery, the mountains and valleys of northern Albania on the border with Montenegro, over 6 walking days. The lengths of each day are the same as on the two-week version, with the same stops, but we cut the route short before entering Kosovo. Although you do enter Kosovo when reaching the famous peak Tromeda, this hike is mostly in Albania and Montenegro. There are also no rest days, though there is a day at the end to explore the area around Plav. This is a great chance to see the highlights and still get the Balkans experience if you only have a week; we’ve named it the ‘Accursed Mountains Trail’, as that’s what the area’s name translates as in Albanian!

Open/close the drop down menus to compare the two itineraries.

Note: Ground conditions, weather & group factors may lead to changes in the program by the guide(s). The goal is always to offer the best possible experience, but safety & wellbeing are always the priority and basis of all decisions made.

Day 1 – Arrival

You’ll arrive into Podgorica airport in Montenegro and within 10 minutes be out of the airport! (it really is that small). We’ll meet you at the airport at 1pm where we’ll take a privately hired minibus on the 4-hour journey from Podgorica to Plav.  

Arriving in Plav late afternoon, we’ll check into the hotel before heading out on a short exploration of Plav, including a stop at the supermarket where you can stock up on snacks for the next few days.

Back at the hotel we’ll have a briefing about the days ahead, and then sit down to an excellent evening meal where you can immediately try the local delicacies!

Day 2 – Plav to Vusanje

Our first day starts with an ascent up to Mount Bora, which stands at just over 2100m and gives you incredible introductory views back down to Plav and out over the highest peaks of Montenegro. Progressing along a wide ridge path, we descend to Vusanje, a village perched between two valleys, where we can relax on the balcony of the guest-house gazing up at the peaks.

Numbers: 24.5km (15.2 miles) and 1000m of ascent

Day 3 – Vusanje to Theth

Most of this day is spent making our way through the stunning Ropoja Valley, past the flanks of the highest mountain in the Dinaric Alps, Maja Jezerces. We cross into Albania and climb up to the Pejë Pass, which is littered with long-abandoned communist bunkers. Beyond the pass, the Theth Valley comes into view, and we descend an intricate path snaking down the cliffs.

Numbers: 21.3km (13.3 miles) and 1110m of ascent.

Day 4 – Theth to Valbona

Possibly the most popular single stage of the whole route, this is a classic day, crossing over the Valbona Pass from Theth to the Valbona Valley. The views from the top of the pass start to reveal the landscape we’ll be walking through for the next few days, where mountains crowd the horizon in every direction. We descend past several tea rooms and a waterfall and finish the day walking along the shingle of a dry river bed.

Numbers: 19.5km (12.1 miles) and 1070m of ascent.

Day 5 – REST DAY

Our first rest day is in the Albanian mountain village of Valbona, a good chance to wash some clothes and relax a bit! We’ll also offer a day walk in the area if you want to get out and about, perhaps an ascent of the nearby Maja Roshit (2525m).

Day 6 – Valbona to Ceremi

During these next few days we head into the remotest parts of the trek, where facilities are limited and the accommodation is more basic. But we are rewarded with solitude and wilderness on a grand scale!

This day actually has two options depending on how you’re feeling. One group will head up the route to the Prosllopit Pass, under the shadow of Montenegro’s highest mountain, Mount Kolata. We then cross briefly into Montenegro before returning to Albania via the Borit Pass and heading down the flower meadows and beech forest to reach Ceremi. The easier option is to walk further up the Valbona valley and then follow the Ceremi river up to the village. You’ll be able to choose which option is for you the evening before.

Numbers: Either 14km (8.7 miles) or 11km (6.8 miles) with 1200 or 600 metres of ascent.

Day 7 – Ceremi to Doberdol

There are no major ascents on this day, as we find ourselves following the wide grassy ridge on the border between Albania and Montenegro. The path takes on a wonderful winding journey through the woods before one final climb up to the remote summer settlement of Doberdol, nestled in a bowl high in the mountains. An easy day, it gives you the chance to relax in the afternoon and enjoy the wild feeling at our highest accommodation!

Numbers: 15.5km (9.6 miles) with 1030m of ascent.

Day 8 – Doberdol to Milishevc

A quick morning ascent takes us to Tromeda, the peak where the borders of Montenegro, Albania and Kosovo meet. From here we follow the border ridge for a while before a gentle descent through the village of Roshkodol to Milishevc, with views over the highest mountains in Kosovo.

Numbers: 23km (14.2 miles) with 1440m of ascent.

Day 9 – Milishevc to Rugova

A reasonably short day, we begin with a climb up to a pass alongside the flanks of the mighty Guri i Kuq. The ascent is steep but the views back cover much of the terrain we’ve been passing over the last few days, and it’s encouraging to see how far we’ve come. Descending from the pass towards the Rugova Gorge, the mountains of Kosovo are now smoother and grassier.  

On arrival in Rugova, we get a taxi transfer to Peja.

Numbers: 10km (6 miles) with 500m of ascent.

Day 10 – REST DAY

This rest day is an excellent chance to explore Peja, a town in Kosovo where there’s history to explore, a monastery to visit and plenty of restaurants and bars to spend the day. This evening we don’t meet for dinner, instead it’s a ‘free evening’ where you are encouraged to explore and eat where you fancy. Of course our hostel hosts will no doubt give you some tips.

Day 11 – Rekë e Allagës to Liqenat I Kuçishtë

Returning into the Rugova Gorge by taxi, we skip some of the trail that has now become tarmac road and head up to the village of Rekë e Allagës. After an ascent through forest, there’s an optional detour to climb Hajla (2403m), a soaring peak with views right along the gorge. Whether you choose to climb this mountain or not, what follows is a balcony path, staying level high above the valleys below and slowly leading us down to the village of Drelaj.

The next section of the trail has also been covered with tarmac, so we get another taxi transfer up to our hotel at Liqenat I Kuçishtë. Perched high above the gorge, the views from the balcony restaurant are some of the best on the trail!

Numbers: 10km (6 miles) with 530m of ascent.

Day 12 – Liqenat I Kuçishtë to Babino Polje

This day reaches the highest point on the trail, and starts with a climb alongside Guri I Kuq, passing two mountain lakes before reaching the pass of Qafa e Jelenkut. Now back on the border ridge, we enjoy several miles of easy walking with spectacular views before we return to Montenegro and descend to the scattered houses of Babino Polje, which translates as ‘grandmother’s fields’!

Numbers: 16km (10 miles) with 1140m of ascent.

Day 13 – Babino Polje to Plav

Our final day of walking begins with a trail through the forest, with intermittent views out to the surrounding mountains but plenty of wildlife to look for among the trees. On reaching the beautiful mountain lake at Hridsko jezero, we only have a small amount of uphill left before an easy ridge walk begins our descent towards Plav. Before you know it we’ll be on the outskirts of the town itself, back where we were two weeks ago and ready for a celebratory drink!

Numbers: 20km (12.4 miles) with 720m of ascent.

Day 14 – Depart

This morning we travel by private minibus back to Podgorica airport. We aim to leave at 9am, arriving in Podgorica for 1pm.  

Note: Ground conditions, weather & group factors may lead to changes in the program by the guide(s). The goal is always to offer the best possible experience, but safety & wellbeing are always the priority and basis of all decisions made.

Day 1 – Arrival

You’ll arrive into Podgorica airport in Montenegro and within 10 minutes be out of the airport! (it really is that small). We’ll meet you at the airport at 1pm where we’ll take a privately hired minibus on the 4 hour journey from Podgorica to Plav.  

Arriving in Plav at around late afternoon, we’ll check into the hotel before heading out on a short exploration of Plav, including a stop at the supermarket where you can stock up on snacks for the next few days.

Back at the hotel we’ll have a briefing about the days ahead, and then sit down to an excellent evening meal where you can immediately try the local delicacies!

Day 2 – Plav to Vusanje

Our first day starts with an ascent up to Mount Bora, which stands at just over 2100m and gives you incredible introductory views back down to Plav and out over the highest peaks of Montenegro. Progressing along a wide ridge path, we descend to Vusanje, a village perched between two valleys, where we can relax on the balcony of the guest-house gazing up at the peaks.

Numbers: 24.5km (15.2 miles) and 1000m of ascent

Day 3 – Vusanje to Theth

Most of this day is spent making our way through the stunning Ropoja Valley, past the flanks of the highest mountain in the Dinaric Alps, Maja Jezerces. We cross into Albania and climb up to the Pejë Pass, which is littered with long-abandoned communist bunkers. Beyond the pass, the Theth Valley comes into view, and we descend down an intricate path snaking down the cliffs.

Numbers: 21.3km (13.3 miles) and 1110m of ascent.

Day 4 – Theth to Valbona

Possibly the most popular single stage of the whole route, this is a classic day, crossing over the Valbona Pass from Theth to the Valbona Valley. The views from the top of the pass start to reveal the landscape we’ll be walking through for the next few days, where mountains crowd the horizon in every direction. We descend past several tea rooms and a waterfall and finish the day walking along the shingle of a dry river bed.

Numbers: 19.5km (12.1 miles) and 1070m of ascent.

Day 6 – Valbona to Ceremi

During these next few days we head into the remotest parts of the trek, where facilities are limited and the accommodation is more basic. But we are rewarded with solitude and wilderness on a grand scale!

This day actually has two options depending on how you’re feeling. One group will head up the route to the Prosllopit Pass, under the shadow of Montenegro’s highest mountain, Mount Kolata. We then cross briefly into Montenegro before returning to Albania via the Borit Pass and heading down the flower meadows and beech forest to reach Ceremi. The easier option is to walk further up the Valbona valley and then follow the Ceremi river up to the village. You’ll be able to choose which option is for you the evening before.

Numbers: Either 14km (8.7 miles) or 11km (6.8 miles) with 1200 or 600 metres of ascent.

Day 7 – Ceremi to Doberdol

There are no major ascents on this day, as we find ourselves following the wide grassy ridge on the border between Albania and Montenegro. The path takes on a wonderful winding journey through the woods before one final climb up to the remote summer settlement of Doberdol, nestled in a bowl high in the mountains. An easy day, it gives you the chance to relax in the afternoon and enjoy the wild feeling at our highest accommodation!

Numbers: 15.5km (9.6 miles) with 1030m of ascent.

Day 7 – Doberdol to Plav

We start our final day with a steep ascent to Tromeda, the peak where the three countries of Montenegro, Albania and Kosovo meet. We then follow the grassy ridge path to the beautiful upland lake of Hridsko jezero before our long descent to Plav begins, returning us to our starting point after a fantastic week in the Balkans.

Numbers: 17km (10.5 miles) with 800m of ascent.

Day 8 – This is our “spare day” in case of weather or other emergencies.

If we didn’t use it, we’ll use the day to go out on an excursion we’ll discuss in the group. People who want to use it as a free day to explore on their own or just relax are free to do so.

Day 9 – Depart

This morning we travel by private minibus back to Podgorica airport. We aim to leave at 9am, arriving in Podgorica for 1pm.

Details and frequently asked questions

We deal with some details and frequently asked questions specific to this trip. We recommend you take time to read through our general FAQ here on our website.

For a breakdown of the walking equipment you’ll need for this trip please see the summer hut trip kit list.

Because the accommodation provides bedding, we won’t need to carry much overnight kit. We would recommend just taking a sleeping bag liner (cotton or silk), a wash kit, and some travel-wash (and string for a washing line) so that you can wash your clothes.   

Each walking day on the Peaks of the Balkans is usually split up between a climb to a pass, and then a descent to the next valley, other than the days between Ceremi and Milishevc where we stay high and follow the border ridge. The daily distance is around 12 miles / 19km, and there is usually around 1000m of ascent, most of it in the morning! The trails are often basic earth single-track paths, with rougher sections of manoeuvring over limestone rock on the mountains, and easier sections of track lower down. Some bits don’t feel like there’s any path at all!  

Anyone with average fitness can comfortably complete the walking days, and we feel each day is easy enough to complete while spending time looking around at the scenery, taking snack-breaks, and enjoying the views.  

Extremely varied.  

The accommodation is a mix of guesthouses where we will be in twin or triple rooms, alongside the remote mountain huts where you’ll be sleeping in mixed dormitories (usually with no more than 8 in each room). Though the rooms and facilities can often seem simple, everywhere has hot water for showers and plenty of blankets to keep you warm at night. Often we are staying in the only available place, so the idea is to enjoy the rustic standard of living!

The food is all extremely local – often we’ll have cheese from the nearby cattle herd, and home-brewed raki, the local spirit made from grapes or plums. For most meals there isn’t a choice about what to eat, we’re served what they have. Examples of what you might get include bread and butter, aubergine with garlic, sausages, mince and cabbage, bean and milk broth, omelette, tomato and cucumber salad, and a lot more! What we can guarantee is that you’ll never be hungry, the hospitality is extremely generous. Also there’s always beer to buy from the huts, and sometimes wine.  

Due to the remote nature of the trek, dealing with dietary requirements can be difficult. A vegetarian diet is certainly possible, but we’ll need to know before we depart so we can alert the accommodation. If you have other dietary requirements please ask us whether they can be accommodated.

Huts all have drinkable water that we can fill up with in the morning before the walks. During the day if we need to replenish water from streams our leaders will have water purification tablets for you to use.

We aim to pick up everyone from Podgorica airport at 13:00 on Day 1. We aim to return everyone to Podgorica by 13:00 on the final day. Please let us know as soon as possible if your proposed flights arrive slightly outside these times and we’ll do our best to adjust our timings.

Visas are not required for Albania, Montenegro and Kosovo from most European countries, the US and Canada. Please check with your countries foreign office if you are unsure whether you need a visa or not.

As with any product or service, you will find seemingly similar offers at different price ranges. Offering something “cheap” usually means selling something in high volumes or compromising on quality. As a small dedicated team, we do neither. We are not a large operator that (re)sells bulk trips, to which we assign volunteers as leaders. Instead we do nearly all trip development “in-house” and assign only experienced and qualified leaders. This comes at a cost both for us and our guests. Compromise often comes at the expense of the guest. Remember, this might be your main holiday this year!

Going into remote and mountainous areas – just as any other activity in life – contains an element of risk. The biggest factor we are always dealing with is weather. As guides, the core of our job is risk reduction and risk management. We do this by careful planning and constantly re-evaluating everything while we are out on the trip. On the average day, you’re safer than you are in traffic back home. In order to deal with hazards caused by environmental conditions, we ask you to follow our gear & clothing advice as well as possible, to trust our decisions in the field and to accept there’s always a small amount of risk left. Still not convinced? Look at it like this… We make our living providing experiences. We wouldn’t have been doing it for this long if we were traumatizing and hurting people! In rare cases, extreme weather conditions can be reason for cancellation. Due to the realities of weather prediction, we can only make big decisions like this last minute.

We chose to go mid June and September when the weather is usually mild (15 – 25°C) and stable. We should have enjoyable mild summer conditions, but can’t guarantee there won’t be any rain. On hotter days, we can expect afternoon thunderstorms.

As much as we intend to avoid setbacks, they can be expensive. It is compulsory to prove that you have travel insurance covering search & rescue and repatriation. We strongly advise you to get cancellation insurance so you don’t lose any non-refundable deposits in case you can’t make it to a trip because of circumstances or due to unsafe weather conditions or natural disasters. For Canadians, travel insurance may be purchased through Georgia Hardy Tours Inc. at the time of registration. GHT and its insurance partner, T.I.P.S, offer a wide range of travel insurance plans, including but not limited to: Ultimate, All-Inclusive, Emergency Medical, Trip Cancellation/Trip Interruption. People from Europe have multiple options available from insurance providers and can be purchased online. Feel free to contact us for advice.

UK passport holders can enter Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro as a tourist without a visa and stay for a period of 90 days, as can most other EU passport holders including Dutch, French and German nationals. Similarly, US, Canadian and Australian passport holders do not need a visa to enter Montenegro, Albania or Kosovo as a tourist, and can stay for up to 90 days. Other passport holders should check visa requirements through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of each of the three countries through which the Peaks of the Balkans Trail passes.

It is important that you let us know about any pre-existing medical conditions you have so that we can make sure we can support you fully throughout the trip. If you are concerned that a medical condition will prevent you from completing the activity, it is essential that you see your doctor and show them the itinerary. Please remember that failing to declare a medical condition could invalidate your insurance, and if there is an incident, put yourself, our guides and other members of the group at risk.