Hiking and relaxing in Theth Albania
With the outdoors and hiking high on our list for vacations, we took a look around for places that didn’t require you to be a super athlete and weren’t over-touristed. Hiking in Albania, albeit more known of its beaches than mountains, is a top destination for outdoor enthusiasts. And we weren’t disappointed by our vacation in the mountains of Theth in Albania: Think beautiful countryside and great food, all in the super tiny historic village of Theth Albania.
Part of Eastern Europe, Albania was a communist country until the breakdown of communism in 1990. Today, you still stumble across plenty of small military bunkers in the mountains, including those around Theth Albania. With Albania posed to join the European Union in the next few years, a hiking holiday there should be on your list now.
Hiking destination Theth
After a lot of research, we chose Theth as our base for hiking in the mountains of Albania. It’s a small village (only a few hundred residents) in a mountain valley that was declared a Protected Historic Center in 2015, and it sits directly in the Theth National Park. We most certainly would get away from the masses for a hiking vacation in Albania with a base in Theth. With an elevation of just 2,790 feet, you also won’t take much acclimatization.
Satisfying our goal of relaxing and hiking wasn’t difficult in Theth in the Albanian Alps. With a hiking guidebook and map in hand, we ventured off into the hills of the Theth National Park. Every level of trail is available, from easy to advanced, but we looked mostly for easier day hikes.
Three hikes to recommend in Theth Albania
The first hike we did was supposed to be about two hours to a waterfall and through a canyon. It is not difficult, although you do need to cross a red metal bridge (with a couple of boards missing, which is not a great thing when you have a tiny fear of heights). At the waterfall, there are pretty photo opportunities and places to relax.
Even though there is a trail marked to go straight on your way back, you need to turn right after you come down from the waterfall and cross the dry riverbed. Go straight and your hike may be much longer than planned – which may be OK too! It is possible to combine this hike with the Blue Eye Trail if you want a longer day.
This is the Theth hike where we saw the most people both on the way and at the “BlueEye.” The Blue Eye is a round, natural pond with a waterfall filling it with cold mountain water. Its name refers to the turquoise color of the water and the shape of the pond. The water is perfect on a hot day after a long hike to take a break since you can swim in the pond – or, rather, more like jumping in and getting out as fast as possible since it is so cold!
This hike out of Theth Albania is a bit longer than to the Waterfall Hike, above. At Blue Eye there are a few restaurants to take a break or get a snack.
The destination of this hike is a cave with the entrance located at the bottom of a mountain named Harapit (also known as Arapit). Our hiking guidebook declared this hike as easy. Ah, those Albanians seem to have a sense of humor! We would estimate it as moderate, although the first half of the trail is easy since it follows a dirt road. After that though you have to maneuver across dry riverbeds and up a bit of a mountain. Meaning this “easy” hike took us 6.5 hours.
Before reaching the bottom of Harapit you need to cross fields of big rocks that look like the result of many rockfalls. The rock field demands you take care with your footing. Apart from that you have a wonderful view over the valley while hiking between the rocks. On the other side you arrive at the cave explorers’ camp, which is a perfect place for a break. On your way out of the camp you have to cross a scree field where you can scatter loose rocks with every step so keep space between members of your group. Once across that, you find the entrance to the cave. Unless you are into spelunking, it is a tunnel of wet rocks. But if you are into caves and have the right gear (it does get pretty narrow), it may be just for you.
Our experience in Albania
Sure, we went for hiking, but people and food are also part of anywhere you travel. Our cook and everyone at the hotel were really friendly, even though only one of them was able to speak English. When he wasn’t there, we were handed a phone with an English-speaking friend to interpret for us!
Food in Albania leans toward Mediterranean-type meals like you may have in Greece or Turkey. For example, a few Albanian specialties include Byrek (also Börek or Burek), which is phyllo pastry layered with cheese and (most frequently) spinach; Tavë Kosi, a one-dish meal of lamb and rice with yogurt and eggs; and fried Kashkaval (or Kackavall), a salty yellow cheese found everywhere.
Other things to do in Theth
Remember we said Theth is a tiny village? Well, there isn’t really a lot there except guesthouses, making relaxing a highlight. There is a small stone and shingle church (only open when the priest is in town) and a tower called Kulla where men locked themselves up for protection (also only open occasionally).
HITT me with quick facts and travel tips
Getting to Theth Albania — We got to Theth with a rental car, which we picked up at the airport in Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro, which is actually closer than Tirana, the capital of Albania. It’s not quite a drive of 100 kilometers (62 miles) but with border crossing, uneven road conditions and a few other stops, it took us five hours. Some online warnings say not to drive it, but it works if you plan for daylight hours, have supplies with you, and do rent a 4WD or SUV. There are some magical views into a huge canyon along the way.
Lodging in Theth — Check with Booking.com for a range of choices, which is where we found our tidy little hotel called Perle e Alpeve with just 12 rooms, but only 4 rooms were occupied at any one time at most. Meaning we had nearly private meals there most of the time too. Take care about your preferences in lodging, however, since our simple place had no Internet, and only cash was accepted. Our hotel in Theth was also not directly in the village but up the mountain along a dirt road. Booking.com has a selection of the guesthouse and hotels available.
Money in Theth — Before you arrive, be sure to stop at an ATM because there is no ATM in Theth or anywhere nearby. Wherever you are coming from, be sure to get plenty of Albanian Lek prior to arrival.
Shopping in Theth — Bring everything you will need, including sunscreen and any special snacks since there is just one small store with a limited choice of items. It seemed to only be open when somebody needed something and was met there by the owner.
Theth Albania resources
Be prepared for anything. In remote places such as Theth, Albania, anything can happen, even when you are on vacation. Don’t leave home without the right travel insurance. We use Global Rescue for evacution coverage and advice and like World Nomads for travel insurance. Get a quick travel insurance quote from World Nomads here.