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Albania is an underrated vacation destination. The people are kind, the cost of living is low, and they have some of the most beautiful hiking in the world!
I knew Theth National Park looked nice from the picture I saw online, but our time in the Albanian Alps blew me away. No photos or blog posts can capture the serenity and quiet connection with nature that I felt among the jagged peaks. All I can do is try my best to convince you that Albania, and Theth National Park, shouldn’t be missed.
If you’re thinking of visiting this remote mountain town (and I strongly recommend that you do) use this guide to discover where to hike, what to budget, and everything you need to know before you go.
How to Get to Theth
No Theth guide is complete without explaining how to get there. Unlike most other vacation destinations, the options to get to Theth are kind of strange.
First things first, you must visit the city of Shkoder if you want to go to Theth. There is only only one road in and out of the town, and it leaves from Shkoder. However, you can take a bus from Tirana to Shkoder (2 hours) and then hop on a minibus to Theth in the same day if you don’t want to stay overnight.
From Shkoder, there are two options. Take a mini-bus or jeep ride to Theth, or take a ferry to the town of Valbona and walk 8 hours through the pass from Valbona to Theth. I opted for the minibus because I don’t like boats and get a little seasick, and also because walking from Valbona to Theth presents its own problems, namley: what to do with our giant bags?
Some people carry them on the 8 hour walk, others leave them in Shkoder, and others hire a horse to pack them on for the trek. All of that is to much for me, and we simply took the mini-bus to Theth and spent a day hiking from Theth to Valbona Peak and back. We got the exact same views with zero hassle, so it’s a better choice in my opinion.
If you do decide on the minibus, ask your hostel owner in Shkoder to arrange the pick-up for you. As far as how long the ride to Theth takes, that’s honestly the luck of the draw. Our trip out was super slow with many stops and took us 4.5 hours. On the way back we did it in 2.5 hours. So, cross your fingers for luck but don’t plan on a quick trip!
Important to know: Don’t try to drive into Theth on your own. The last kilometers are on a poorly maintained dirt road (and curve along a cliffside) so this route is not for the faint of heart or a car that isn’t designed for the challenge. Instead, pay 10 euros per person and grab a ride in the jeeps and minibusses who drive in every day.
How Much Should I Budget for a Trip to Theth?
If you’re looking for a mountain vacation on a budget, Theth is undoubtedly the place.
Daniel and I spent three nights in Theth National Park and with our transport in and out, a private room in a guesthouse, all of our meals and even a few drinks, we only spent 236 euros! If you want to cut costs even more, you can bring a tent and camp for only a few euros per night.
If you’re curious, here’s the complete breakdown of prices…
Accommodation: 104 euros for 3 nights in a private room with breakfast
Food: Lunch at the guest house was 6 euros per person and dinners were 7 euros per person. A packed sandwich for a hike was 3 euros per person and we had a few beers and glasses of wine for 1.5 euros each as well. In total, this cost 75 euros for two people.
Snacks: We got coffee and fries at a cafe at the Blue Eye of Theth, and more coffee and pastries on the hike to Valbona peak. The total for all this was 16 euros.
Transport: The minibus from Shkoder to Theth is 10 euros per person. We paid 40 euros for two round trips.
Important to note: Bring cash! I didn’t specifically search for an ATM in Theth during our stay but I would be very surprised if there is one.
Where to Stay in Theth
Next up on the Theth guide is where to stay. There aren’t too many options, so if you want a fancy hotel this is definitely not the place. The only two choices for accommodation in Theth are camping or a guesthouse.
I recommend Guesthouse Pasko. Vera, the owner, was incredibly kind and the location was great – right by the lovely and picturesque little church. There were friendly cats, small pigs running around, and lots of happy kids playing outside. Plus, her cooking was phenomenal, especially the fresh baked bread. At the end of the stay, her husband gave us a ride back to Shkoder.
All in all, it was cozy, comfortable, and a really relaxing stay with a family that clearly cares about every guest that comes through their doors.
What to Do in Theth National Park
In Theth, the two most popular hikes are to the Valbona Peak and to the Blue Eye, a pristine swimming hole in the mountains.
The trek to the Blue Eye covers about 12 miles and takes about 6 hours. We did this on our first full day in Theth and the view was really nice. I actually felt like the mountain and canyon views on the hike were better than the destination itself, but that’s just me.
Also, the water is freezing so don’t bother bringing a suit unless you’re very brave.
The hike to Valbona Peak is about the same distance and duration as the Blue Eye trek but more difficult with a harder climb. However, I also found it to be more beautiful.
If you only have time for one trek, the hike from Theth to Valbona Pead is the best and definitely should not be missed.
Your third hiking option is much shorter than these two and only takes a half day. This is the hike to the Grunas Waterfall.
Follow the steps on the trek to the Blue Eye and you’ll see the waterfall on the way, up on the side of the canyon wall. However, from there you need to climb up to it, and that’s something we couldn’t figure out how to do. It was a still a nice walk, though, and a good view.
Between our three nights and two big hikes, I felt like this was the perfect amount of time in Theth. I wouldn’t have wanted to stay longer or leave any earlier. Of course, it all depends on how you like to travel!
I love Theth because it’s totally untouched. There are no overpriced tours or paragliding companies or guided trips, just you and nature. It’s the best place to relax and unwind with waterfalls, swimming holes, mountain peaks, and really slow wifi.
The stargazing in Theth is also beautiful. There’s very little light pollution because the town is so remote, so make sure you take a few minutes to get outside your guesthouse and enjoy the heavenly view while you’re there.
At night we would eat a late dinner and watch the sunset, read a book, go stargazing, and basically just forget that the outside world exists, which I personally think is healthy for everyone to do for a few days every year.
What’s the Food Like in Theth?
I know this is kind of covered in the accommodation guide but I just wanted to dive a little deeper into the food you can expect while you’re in Theth.
Our meals were super heavy. Breakfast was just like the story books I read growing up: bread, eggs, cheese, butter, and milk.
Lunch was usually sheep sausages, pickled veggies, fresh bread, tomato and pepper salad, an Albanian spinich and filo pastry called byrek, and fresh cheese.
Finally, dinner was lamb or pork, more bread, cheese, vegetable spread, soup or stuffed peppers, and french fries.
If you’re curious, I wrote a separate post about our meals in Albania (’cause I love food) so you can learn more about what to try in Theth, Tirana, and Shkoder too.
Important to know: Pack snacks before you go to Theth! In town there are guesthouses to cook your meals but only one small and poorly stocked market. If you want chocolate, peanuts, or anything else on your hikes you have to bring it in yourself. Make sure you don’t forget sunscreen either.
When You Can (and Can’t) Visit Theth
I said the road into Theth was bad, but the truth is it’s so precarious that it’s closed all winter long!
Almost every family leaves Theth and moves into Shkoder for a few months, so if hiking in this park is on your bucket list, make sure you visit in the summer months. I’m not sure when exactly the road closes but I wouldn’t want to take any chances with early spring or late fall storms, and after you see the road you’ll definitely agree.
If you’re worried about totally melting on your hikes in the summer, don’t fret. We went in mid-July which is just about as hot as it gets (and I really don’t like to be hot) and honestly it wasn’t too bad. Just start your hikes early (8 am or even before) and drink lots of fresh spring water and you’ll be fine.
Important to know: Theth is colder than the cities. In July the days were hot and I definitely broke a sweat on my hikes, but on cloudy days and at night temperatures dropped fast. Make sure you bring a pair of pants and at least a sweatshirt no matter what time of year you go.
Interesting Facts to Know Before You Go
Even though Theth is in the Albanian Alps, they’re not actually part of the Alps Mountain Range. The range is named Prokletije but also referred to as the Accursed Mountains.
The spring water is so clean in Theth that it’s drinkable. Fill your bottle in the river or any springs you see on your hikes and enjoy cold, fresh water.
Theth is a stop on the 10-day Peaks of the Balkans Tour. This hiking route goes through Montenegro, Kosovo, and Albania and is now definitely on my bucket list!
So, what do you think?
If you’re interested in seeing Albania, Theth is the gem of the country. It isn’t too well-known outside of it (yet), but I really think it will be soon as infrastructure improves and Albania gets closer to joining the EU.
Theth is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. If you find yourself in Eastern Europe, definitely don’t miss it!
PS planning a trip to Albania? Learn more about the hiking in Theth with in-depth guides on how to hike to Valbona Peak and how to hike to the Blue Eye. Read my thoughts on if Tirana is worth visiting and learn what there is to do during 48 hours in the lakeside town of Shkoder.