Theth, Albania – Valbonё, Albania

Trail distance: 13.9 kilometers
Elevation min: 745 meters max: 1,759 meters
Cumulative height uphill: 1,068 meters downhill: 792 meters
Difficulty level: Moderate
Time: 7 hours
Markings: white/red/white

This itinerary involves a hike from Theth (745 m) over the Valbona Pass (1759 m)
to Valbonë (995 m). This hike follows the route of an ancient mule track linking
the tribal regions of Shala and Nikaj.

The trail can be separated into two parts through having an overnight at one
of the guesthouses of Rragam approx. 6 km before reaching Valbonё
center. Another option for separating the trail is camping at the
meadows before reaching Valbona pass. There are no people (neither shepherds
during the summer time) near the Valbona pass, but recently a bar is being built
and people can be found during the summer time.

The hike starts at Theth center, waypoint (WP) 1, and continues northwest on a
gravel road with the Theth River on our left. The main bridge of Theth and Prek
Harusha guesthouse can be taken as orientation points. After a few hundred
meters, we cross a stream along a footbridge and immediately take the path
on our right at the junction. The trail takes a right turn at WP 2 and continues
northwest. A few meters further on, there are signs for Gusinje, Montenegro and
Valbonë, Albania. The hike continues gently up along a dirt road until we see
the first house of Gjelaj village along with the mule track on our left at WP 3. We
take the mule track and the ascent becomes steeper. After approx. 200 meters,
the mule track enters the forest, continuing through it for 1 kilometer until we
reach a picturesque meadow (WP 4). This is an inviting place to rest awhile. Our
hike next leads steeply uphill northeast, reentering the forest after approx. 500
meters. After walking through the forest for about 1 kilometer, we reach a water
source (WP 5). A few meters further on, we pass a new wooden bar which was
closed at the time (in Nov 2011), but according to locals will be opened during
the summer time for hikers. We follow the path southeast through the forest for
approx. 700 meters and then we exit the forest and continue east to the Valbona
pass (WP 6). This point offers breathtaking views onto two valleys (Valbonë on
the east, Theth on the west).

The descent to Valbonë begins northwest and then heads northeast through a
series of zigzags (WP 7). At the end of the zigzags, we cross a (dried-up) stream
(WP 8). We then continue southwest as the path enters into an open, wooded
area along a clear trail. After approx. 600 meters, we reach a stream with drinkable
water (WP 9), a good place to rest a bit before taking the final descent to Rragam
village (WP 10). At this point, we take a left turn at the junction. In Rragam, our
hike is lined by fences and the Valbonë valley can be seen on our right.
After a few hundred meters of walking through the village, we take a right turn
at the junction (WP 11) and this route leads us down a gravel road lined by pine
trees. This is the main road connecting Valbonë with Rragam. We take this route
for about 3 kilometers and we finish our hike at Fusha e Gjes Hotel (WP 12).
Valbonë center is located 3.5 kilometers northeast and can be reached by taking
this route.