Zagoria Valley Trek - Southern Albania

Zagoria Valley Trek - Southern Albania 830 , 8 Days

Discover the beauty of the hidden Zagoria Valley. Hike between off the beaten path villages, swim in warm springs, meet friendly hosts and enjoy home cooked meals at homestays. Visit the magical stone city of Gjirokaster & modern capital Tirana.

Highlights:
♦ Vjosa River - one of Europe's last living wild rivers
Zagoria Valley
♦ Museum city of Gjirokastra - a UNESCO World Heritage site


Itinerary:

Day 1. Arrival
Our staff meets you in town or at Tirana Airport (TIA) to hand over materials (road book, maps, GPS & SIM card), walk you through the trip and answer all your questions. Depending on your booking, you're either taken to the bus station for public transport towards the overnight location, where you can catch a taxi to the hotel, or depart on a private transfer directly to the doorstep. Driving yourself, this can also be accommodated. The transfer into Southern Albania takes up to four hours, it leads past the coastal plain's colorful produce stands and along the mountain backed Vjosa River to Tepelena. There, a bold bridge is followed by a narrow road that meanders into the small village right at the starting point of the hike. Our hostess Mirela is proud of her impressive collection of relics from the conflicts of the last centuries. After a round of introductions and an overview of the following days, we look forward to a hearty dinner and the start of the trek into the Zagoria Valley. -/-/D

Day 2. Zagoria Valley
Our hike starts at the doorstep of the valley. Zagoria is not yet visible, Dhembeli, Nemercka, Lunxheri and Bureto, four mountain ranges, encompass and shield it from the outside world. Only an almost forgotten caravan route leads inside this hidden place. Through open woodland the route ascends to a pass that reveals the full extend of the valley out of which mountains rise on both sides. Over terraced fields the path leads to the the almost deserted village Kala, where only three inhabitants remain, and down to the river. It's crossed via one of Ali Pasha’s impressive Ottoman stone bridges and climbing up to Limar remains of the cobbled caravan path are visible. The views to Mt Strakavec, remote feeling and vernacular stone architecture of Limar leave a lasting impression. A stroll through the village reveals its whole
extent and you can learn more about life here from your hosts. Overnight in the teacher's guest house who takes care of the fewer than 3 pupils who remain in the school, but actually gather from three villages. (11 km, ascent 750 m, descent 425 m, 5:00 h) B/LP/D

Day 3. Zagoria River - Doshnica Waterfalls - Hoshteve
Only footpaths connect the villages en route to the next overnight location, where luggage is transported by horse. Passing several hamlets gives you the opportunity to experience rural lifestyle, meet locals and admire the mountain splendor above as well as Zagoria River below, where the Doshnica waterfall waits to be visited. Depending on its water level, there's the option to continue along the river or backtrack into the village and continue on grassy meadows before the reascent to Hoshteve. Animal husbandry, beekeeping and the collection of medical herbs have been the only sources of meager income, triggering mass emigration to Greece. Your hosts lived there for 17 years, skype almost daily with their children in the US and opened a B&B on their return. They're a good example of the returning diaspora, equipped with new skill sets and savings to invest. Don't miss out on the Church of the Holy Apostle, a fine example of Orthodox heritage. (14.5 km, ascent 725 m, descent 575 m, 6:30 h) B/LP/D

Day 4. Vuthuq - Koncka - Nivan - Sheper
A shorter and easier route with views of Mt. Cajupi allows for a relaxed but rewarding walking day. The villages Vuthuq, Koncka, Nivan and Sheper are connected by roads, their influence manifests in newer buildings that serve as weekend and retirement houses. Nivan served as the center of the commune and remains of military installations and storage depots are visible, its central square is dedicated to William Tilman. Described as “the 20th Century's last true explorer", Tilman was a famed British mountaineer and sailor who, during WW2, fought based out of Zagoria with the resistance against German occupation. Only one more layer of history, only once more the trail takes us down to the river, a monastery and (on an optional detor) to the last of Ali Pasha’s stone bridges. A shortcut across meadows takes you into Sheper for a last village overnight with a family of Aroman roots, nomadic shepherds who were forcefully settled here during communism. Time can be spend with the family or exploring the village, in particular the neglected museum and buildings that are adorned with weathered Marx and Lenin quotes. Overnights in a guest house. (12.5 km, ascent 600 m, descent 550 m, 5:00 h) B/LP/D

Day 5. Dhembel Pass
The crossing of the Dhembel-Nemercke Range is the last stage of our treak and leads back into the outside world. As the drive around takes almost as long as the walk across, the challenging route is still in use by locals. Enver Hoxha's bunkers still protect the entrance to a crack that climbs with fabulous views of Mt. Cajupi to the top of the mountain. Shepherds come from as far as Konispol, the southernmost point of Albania, to these summer pastures. It isn't uncommon for flocks to travel two weeks to reach fertile meadows. The alpine valley is bare of vegetation and flanked by steep slopes, the Dhembel Pass (1450m) sits at its end and offers views of the Eastern Mountains, across into Greece and to the city Permet far below. The long rocky descent requires attention and leads into Leuse, another stone village with fresco covered church - perhaps the most beautiful in Southern Albania? From here it's only a short walk to the centrally located hotel, where we will spend the night. Put up the tired lacks and look forward to trying the city’s famous cuisine, wines and raki. Overnight in a hotel (10 km, ascent 625 m, descent 1250 m, 7:30 h) B/LP/-

Day 6. Sopot Waterfalls - Lengarica Canyon - Springs of Benja
The scenery alone is worth the 45 min drive to today's trailhead. Below us the turquoise waters of the Vjosa have dug deep into the rock, above the river towers the rugged Nemercka Range. From afar the sheer, 650m high wall of Southern Albania's second highest summit looks impressive, but only walking the along water channels towards the Sopot Waterfall at the wall's base reveals its full extend. Returning from the hike, another unique nature gem at the nearby entrance of the Lengarica Canyon waits to surprise. The warm thermal pools of Benje are said to have a healing effect on many ailments. They are welcome treatment after the last days of hiking. Soak and relax in their sulfuric waters or explore the river canyon on foot. From here it takes a good 90 min to transfer to Gjirokaster one of the vernacular Ottoman mansion that houses guests in the oldown. Start exploring the streets of the "City of Stone" and absorb the atmosphere in one of the many small cafes, tomorrow there's time for more. Overnighs in a hotel. (6 km, ascent 350 m, descent 350 m, 3:00 h) B/-/-

Day 7. Gjirokastra - Tirana
Famed for its intricate, fortress-like Ottoman mansions, it's also known as the birthplace of dictator Enver Hoxha and Albania's most influential, Nobel-nominated writer Ismail Kadare - his Chronicles in Stone is a must-read. Protected by the status of "museum town", Gjirokaster survived socialist modernization campaigns and is today inscribed in UNESCO's world heritage list. Get lost in a maze of narrow, cobbled streets, visit one of the Ottoman mansions and climb to the towering castle above. The group transfer leaves at 13:00 for Tirana (airport/city, later depending on flights), but one can easily spend more days exploring the area or visiting nearby sites: The archeological highlight Butrint, Blue Eye (a karst spring) and beaches of the Albanian Riviera are a mere two hours drives from here.
Overnight in a hotel. B/-/-

Day 8. Departure
Transfer to airport for departure.

Difficulty: A moderate tour including either easier, medium-duration walks or harder, shorter walks. While experience is not necessary, it is desirable. Good health and reasonable fitness are more important. Some walking on loose underfoot, steep sections and occasional longer/harder days may be involved, still general conditions will be fair. A walking day is normally three to five hours and daily ascents will likely be around 300m to 700m, perhaps with an odd day ascending around 800m to 900m.

Recommended equipment: hiking boots, rainwear, sun protection (cream, hat, glasses) 25-30 liters daypack, 1.5 litre water gear, towel and swimsuit(optional)

Good to know: Summer temperatures in Southern Albania are very high - especially in July and August. The best season to travel the South is spring and autumn - up till mid-June and from early September. With temperatures going above 35 degrees celsius, the hike won't be enjoyable and rather risky for heat strokes.


Price Includes:
materials for a self-guided trip
accommodation: 3x hotels,4x homestays
meals according to the itinerary
transfers as foreseen by the itinerary including airport pick-up
luggage transport: one piece up to 15 kg in soft bags only*

Not Included:
meals not listed above as well as drinks other than table water
personal expenses such as gratuities and souvenirs
international flights
overseas health insurance* is compulsory to offer best possible care


Gallery


Zagoria Valley Trek - Southern Albania (Rated 4.94 / 5 Based on 125 Reviews.)
Price
830 EUR
Duration
8 Days
Single Supplement
110 EUR
Status
Open for booking

Currency fluctuations might cause correction of price at any time.

Most of you, who are used to walking/cycling during a long weekend, will be in condition to cope with a tour of this level. You should be in a good health condition. We have successive days of longer and more difficult walking and days of lighter walking/cycling. Some parts of the day routes are done at a higher altitude. The paths are in good condition. We walk/cycle for 5/7h a day.

These tours include trekking which is a little harder, normally on a challenging terrain. We take it for granted that you are in good condition and fit. You should be physically prepared at home to get the maximum of the tour. Most of the trekking is done at a greater height (max 3000m).

Group Size
Min. 2
Reservation System Code
ALWALKSELF
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