Much Better Adventures

Adventures / Remote Rides

Cycle The Accursed Mountains of Albania

Cycle on backroads through the very finest of rural wild Albania

Location

Albania

Fly To

Tirana International Airport Mother Teresa

Perfect for

Cyclists of average fitness who are keen to spend a few hours a day on a bike in the mountains, with some steady ascents and descents.

Difficulty

Moderate

Why it's much better

  • Cycle the striking mountain passes and rolling hills of wild rural Albania
  • Hop on a ferry and journey through the dramatic fjords of Komani Lake
  • Optional hikes to the tree-flanked peaks of Valbona National Park, eyes peeled for lynx
  • Kayak or wild swim vast Lake Shkodra, gaze over to Montenegro on the other side
  • Enjoy lunch at a traditional farm, part of the local slow food movement

What's Included

  • Guides Expert, English-speaking local guide and bike mechanic
  • Accommodation 4 nights in a hotel, 3 nights in a local guesthouse
  • Meals All your food is included
  • Equipment Specialized Crosstrails Disc bikes and kayaking equipment
  • Support Vehicle To transport your overnight kit
  • Transfers All airport transfers
  • Permits All permits and entry fees
  • Happiness Guaranteed We're so confident that your holiday will be your best yet, we actually guarantee it
  • Feel Good Vibes We mitigate 4x the carbon emitted by all our travellers and support important conservation projects

Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Albania!

Landing at Tirana Airport you’ll be greeted by your local guide and whisked off to your hotel in the the centre. If there’s time, it’s worth exploring the city: the Old Bazaar, the Bllok district and Scanderberg Square are all fascinating spots. You’ll then head for your first traditional Albanian meal at a local restaurant. Here you’ll meet your fellow adventurers and hear about the journey ahead from your guide.

Day 2: To the giant lake of Shkodra

An early start today - you'll hop on a local bus for an hour’s journey out of the city and towards the mountains. Arriving at the start point, you’ll get set up with your bikes and start pedalling through the backroads. Get stuck into the great views across rolling countryside. This lowland area is hugely fertile and produces much of the food Albania consumes.

You’ll stop for lunch at Mrizi Zanave, a 'Slow Food Movement' spot and farm that is famed for its organic local produce. Well-fed, you’ll hop back on your bike and continue to Lake Shkodra, a vast body of water that spans Montenegro and Albania. The lake is the perfect spot for some peaceful kayaking, so you’ll spend a couple of hours on the water as the sun starts to set. For those who would rather chill, the lake is also great for some wild swimming. Overnight in Shkoder town centre.

Distance: 50km / Ascent 300m / Descent 290m

Day 3: Komani Lake Fjords and Valbona National Park

You’ll start today with a short transfer from Shkodra to Komani Lake. Hopping on the ferry, enjoy the dramatic fjord-like views as you spend 2.5 hours cruising towards the small town of Fierza. Your bike will be waiting for you on the other side as you set off into the Accursed Mountains.

This is a tough day, but you can cycle at your own pace and enjoy the landscape. These quiet mountain roads are what it’s all about; some long climbs but with huge mountain vistas as the reward. You’ll reach Valbona National Park in the late afternoon. There’ll be an optional hike to one of the nearby vantage points in the mountains for those who are keen. Or you can kick back and relax at your overnight spot: a traditional guesthouse tucked away in the trees.

Distance: 42km / Ascent 1200m / Descent 450m

Day 4: The Great Descent

A bit of a later start today as you soak up some more time in the beautiful Valbona Valley. You can enjoy all the climbing you did yesterday but in reverse - that is, on one huge descent back down the mountain you climbed! You’ll pause for a coffee in the tiny village of Lekbibaj and have time to chat to some of the locals. The downhill joy runs out near the end of the day, with a somewhat steep 3km to get to your guesthouse for the night. An entire day of downhill would be too good to be true!

Distance: 55km / Ascent 694m / Descent 1343m

Day 5: More time in the Mountains

Today you'll head off towards the village of Dardha, with a fair bit of climbing again. The first stretch is downhill, before you get stuck into a climb of approximately 7km. You’ll pause at the top as you feast your eyes on amazing views across all of Fierza and Komani Lake.

Continuing on undulating roads, you'll reach the guesthouse with some time to spare. If you fancy a walk in the woods behind your overnight spot, keep your eyes peeled for Albanian Lynx or foxes, both seen in these parts. Settle in for a final night in the mountains and perhaps join your hosts for a nightcap of Raki, sure to send you into a deep slumber.

Distance: 53km / Ascent 1190m / Descent 725m

Day 6: Puka in Puka!

Relax into a meandering day of undulating quiet roads as you make your way towards the city of Puka - famous for its local craft beer and Porcini Mushrooms, its main export to Italy. Steady cycling through the woods eventually brings you out in the city. You can head to the local microbrewery serving the craft beer, Puka, made from the freshwater springs of the area.

Distance: 53km / Ascent 785m / Descent 785m

Day 7: Back to Civilisation

Last day on the bikes today as you make your way out of the woods and rural areas. You'll be pedalling along rolling hills, on backroads, until the final flat stretch as you roll into the village of Kozmac near Shkoder. Then it's back to the main road that connects with Tirana. You’ll say goodbye to your trusty steed as you hop on the bus for the short journey back into the capital. You’ll check into the hotel, before heading out to a restaurant for a last traditional meal - a chance to celebrate all those miles achieved this week.

Distance: 65km / Ascent 1240m / Descent 2036m

Day 8: Goodbye Albania

Final breakfast at the hotel before hopping on your transfer to the airport.

Please Note

All our adventures take place in wild places. Things can go wrong in wild places. Your perfectly planned itinerary may change a bit (or a lot) if the weather turns, someone gets hurt, or a volcano erupts. Usually though, changes make it all the better.

Accommodation

In Tirana, you'll stay in a centrally located 3/4-star hotel. You'll stay in twin share rooms as standard.

When on the road, you'll stay in small locally owned guesthouses or basic hotels. These are clean and comfortable and you'll be in twin rooms with shared facilities. Accommodation is usually family-run, so each will come with its own cuisine and stories. There is the possibility of one night being in triple share rooms, depending on availability. As tourism is very new to the region, there are limited options available.

Private Room Upgrade

For solo travellers looking for their own space, an optional private room can be booked for 100Euros per person (subject to availability). Please request this at the time of booking.

Location

Some say that visiting Albania is as close as you'll get to travelling back in time. It wasn't until the collapse of the People's Socialist Republic of Albania in 1991 that the world got its first glimpse of the country within. You'll find huge snow-capped mountains, vast beaches, pretty rural villages, a genuine subsistence culture and an exceptionally friendly welcome. You'll cycle through the very north of the country, an area still largely unfrequented by tourists, to the mountain range known locally as the 'Accursed Mountains' or the Albanian Alps.

Meeting Point

Start Point

Your adventure begins at Tirana Airport. Airport transfers are included if you arrive on the start day, so please let your host know your flight times.

Finish Point

Your adventure ends Tirana Airport on Day 8. Airport transfers are included, so please let your host know your flight times.

Please note, transfers are only included if you arrive or depart on the start and end days of the trip. If you would like to arrive early or extend your stay, your host can arrange airport transfers for an extra cost.

Frequently Asked Questions

The following are not included in the trip price:

  • Travel to/from Tirana
  • Travel insurance
  • Personal expenses
  • Alcoholic drinks

This trip is designed for cyclists of average fitness. You should be comfortable riding back to back days covering an average of 50km a day. As you are cycling in the mountains for most of the trip, there is a reasonable amount of climbing. However this can always be taken at your own pace and there will be plenty of stops for water and snacks. The pace is approximately 15km an hour.

There will also be vehicle support (with limited seats) for those who may need a rest. You should, however, feel comfortable with the distances and elevation before joining.

Sure can! Over 50% of our travellers travel solo, it’s a great way to meet like-minded people.

This trip will run with a minimum of 5 people and a maximum of 16.

It's no secret that we love cycling. Many of us at HQ really think it's the best way to see a country. However, we realise that organising your own cycling adventure can be a total faff. So on our cycling trips, we have found a local guide who has put together a perfect route and will navigate for you all the way. We send a van that transports your overnight luggage and we even provide high-quality bikes and delicious snacks to keep you going. Faff eliminated!

All you have to do is turn up, pedal and take in the amazing landscape with your fellow tourers. You will cycle at your own pace, with regular stops to regroup, no-one gets left behind. These trips are not just open to lycra-clad roadies, although those are welcome too!

You will be using Specialized Crosstrail Disc bikes. These are light, aluminium hybrid bikes which are perfect for riding comfortably on the road. The bikes are equipped with a water bottle cage and standard flat pedals. If you would like to bring your own SPD pedals and saddle, these can be fitted for you.

The terrain is 100% tarmac. It will largely be good quality, however there will be some stretches in the rural areas that will be potholed and of poorer quality. Your guide will let you know of any particular points of concern.

Under the leadership of Enver Hoxha (the communist leader of Albania from 1944-1985), Albania became a self-sustaining country due to its isolation from the world. It is packed with lush fertile valleys, fresh mountain springs and a Mediterranean climate, which means the subsistence culture is showing very little signs of changing. Locally grown is a recurring theme here.

Breakfasts are typically eggs, fresh bread, jam, honey and coffee or tea. For lunch and dinner, meat dishes are often goat or lamb, with fish dishes ranging from trout to whitebait. Courses often come in mezze form and are served with vegetables, salad, freshly baked bread, homemade cheeses, local wines and (of course!) raki.

Local, energy-giving cycling snacks will be provided, but if you would like specific favourite snacks, please bring your own from home.

Vegetarians are well catered for, just let your host know upon booking.

Albania is known for its long sunny days, averaging 10 hours a day between May and September. The coast and Tirana can get very hot and reach average temparatures of 30 °C throughout summer. As most of the riding is done in the mountains, you can expect it to be cooler: usually hovering around the mid 20's °C maximum. This is perfect cycling weather and, although rainfall is a possibility, it is rare in the summer months. You might perhaps get just a short downpour.

If you arrive with extra luggage you will be able to store it in the hotel in Tirana.

We’ve teamed up with the guys at World Nomads to offer insurance designed for adventurous travellers across 140 countries that includes overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities. To get yours sorted, click here.

We suggest that you book travel insurance as soon as you book the trip, just to cover you for any last minute life changes. We know you’re an active lot and injuries do happen!

Afraid not, this group adventure is adult only so not suitable for children.

Your host will provide you with clean safe drinking water from large containers. Bring a refillable bottle, it will be used well.

Tips are not included in the trip cost. These are entirely at your discretion and, although there isn't a strong tipping culture in Albania, there is usually a quick whip around at the end of the trip and most choose to leave about 20Euros each for the driver and for the guide.

Of course, you are free to tip more or less and the amount should be reflective of your perception of service and quality. A tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.

Many destinations require a visa and for your passport to be valid for 6 months minimum. Up to date advice for UK citizens can be found here.

We recommend checking out the country specific information here and also talking to a travel nurse.

For current advice about travelling in Albania, have a read of the FCO pages here

Clothes
Padded cycling shorts
Sports top or cycling jersey
Fleece jacket or similar Jacket for the evenings
Trousers/leggings for the evenings
Waterproof jacket
Cycling gloves
Buff or neck scarf
T-shirts Underwear & socks Swimwear
Sunglasses
Sunhat
Something to sleep in
Cycling shoes (bring your own pedals if using cleats)
Sandals

Other
Bumbag or a small and light rucksack for when riding
Padlock for left luggage
Universal travel plug adapter
Power bank or solar charger
Passports (and visas)
Travel Insurance documents
Ear plugs
Insect repellant
Suncream
Personal first-aid kit (inc. blister treatment)
Personal items (biodegradable toiletries, sanitary wear etc)
Alcohol hand-gel
Reusable water bottle
Energy bars and snacks (if you have a personal preference)

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Dates & Prices

Bespoke trips only

There are currently no planned group departures. Please contact this host to request a quote for a custom trip.

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