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The Balkan 3 Peaks Challenge

Tackle three summits across four countries on this tough trek through the wild heart of the Western Balkans

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Trip Ref #10535

The Balkan 3 Peaks Challenge

Tackle three summits across four countries on this tough trek through the wild heart of the Western Balkans

DURATION
6 nights
LOCATION
Albania, North Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro
ANNUAL LEAVE
5 days off work
SEASON
Jun-Sep
GROUP SIZE
Up to 14 people
MEETING POINT
Tirana International Airport Nënë Tereza
ACCOMMODATION
Classic

Guesthouse · Hotel · Mountain hut

OVERALL RATING

4.7

Based on 35 reviews
DIFFICULTY
Tough

Three summits in a week? Prepare to hike up to 10 hours per day up steep, exposed and loose trails. Only for experienced and fit hikers.

Scramble to the top of Mt Gjeravica (2656m), Mt Zla Kolata (2534m) and the shared summit of Mt Korab (2764m)

Trek remote trails and over mountain borders to the highest points in Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro and North Macedonia

Sail across Lake Koman, bed down in a shepherd hut and fuel up on ‘slow’ food in the heart of the Accursed Mountains

Day 1

Welcome to Albania!

Driving

4hrs

Your adventure starts in Tirana airport where you'll jump in the bus and get whisked off towards the northeast near the border of Kosovo and North Macedonia. The journey follows a scenic motorway through Albania’s wild and mountainous Mirdita highlands. Your road trip will end in the sleepy village of Radomire, surrounded by verdant valleys and majestic high peaks. Get comfy in your guesthouse and tuck into a hearty dinner together with your fellow adventures. Tomorrow's hike starts right from your doorstep.

Day 2

The mighty Korab (2764m), the roof of Albania and North Macedonia

Hiking

8hrs · 17km · 1475m up · 1475m down

Driving

3hrs

Up bright and early to tackle your first and highest peak of the week, Mt. Korab (2764m). It’ll be a long and strenuous climb due to the elevation but it’s not technically difficult. Following the path from the village, you’ll cross shady woodland via open pastures speckled with shepherd huts before pushing on to the summit for dramatic views of North Macedonia's Mavrovo National Park and the high peaks of the Korab Koritnik Range. Celebrate with a picnic lunch at the top before starting your descent back down to the valley. You’ll then hop back in the bus for a scenic ride along the River Drin and into Europe's youngest nation, Kosovo, and onto the historic quarter of Gjakova, your home for the night.

Day 3

Summit Gjeravica (2656m), the highest peak in Kosovo

Hiking

8hrs · 14km · 1150m up · 1100m down

Set off early in a 4x4 drive to the bottom of Mt. Gjeravica, then lace-up your boots and get ready to tackle your second summit of the week. With your luggage loaded onto horses and eyes set on the peak, you’ll stride across blueberry-covered meadows to the ridgeline. The path winds through a boulder field up to a tranquil, heart-shaped alpine lake reflecting Gjeravica's dark and imposing roof. The final stretch to the summit becomes steeper, rugged and rough underfoot but once at the top your efforts will be quickly repaid by sweeping vistas of the Dinaric and Albanian Alps. After the obligatory summit photo, you’ll start your descent via an old Yugoslav border patrol route, before spending the night in a mountain hut below the point at which Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro meet.

Day 4

Eastern Alps and shepherd settlements

Hiking

8.75hrs · 20km · 875m up · 1600m down

Wake up to complete silence at the remote mountain hut. After a hearty breakfast you’ll set off on a spectacular undulating hike across the border into Albania. You'll hike through enchanting old growth forests, summer pastures and along the scenic Gashi River Gorge towards the Montenegro border. The fir forests here are home to brown bear, chamois, wolf and Albania's national animal, the golden eagle, and their wilderness has been preserved by the remoteness of this once off-limits border region. You’ll catch a glimpse of tomorrows summit in the distance and end the day in the sleepy village of Cerem hosted in a simple accommodation by a friendly local family.

Day 5

Ascend Zla Kolata (2534m), Montenegro's highest peak

Hiking

10hrs · 18km · 1500m up · 1750m down

Bid farewell to your host family, today you face the longest and hardest stage of the trek. You’ll start with a gradual ascent to the Bori Pass then cross into Montenegro through a labyrinth-like karst field with brief scrambling sections. From Persllopit Pass (2,045m) you’ll see the summit of Zla Kolata and commence a steady 2.5hr climb to the summit, tackling steep craggy karst terrain. Once at the top you’ll be rewarded with views across Albania’s Accursed Mountains, and into Prokletije and Valbona National Park. A steep descent over meadows, through forest and rocky mule paths will lead to your home for the night, a comfortable guesthouse in the beautiful Valbona Valley. Enjoy a substantial home-cooked meal and celebrate the bagging of your third and final summit - you made it!

Day 6

Cross Lake Koman to Tirana

Driving

4hrs

Sailing

3hrs

An early morning start today as you leave Valbona Valley and transfer to the small port of Fierza. You’ll board a local ferry for a 3hr scenic sail across the picturesque Lake Koman. Put your feet up, relax and soak up the views of this fjord-like landscape on the outer edge of the Albanian Alps. Disembarking in Koman, hop in the van and drive to the world class farm-to-table restaurant Mrizi i Zanave, a leader in Albania's slow food movement, and a very special culinary experience. Later in the afternoon you’ll head back to Tirana and celebrate your achievement over dinner with new friends.

Day 7

Goodbye Tirana!

Tirana city, Albania. Photo: GettyImages-1214330003

Enjoy the day strolling through Tirana's colourful bazaars, parks or museums then head back to the airport in time for your flight home.

Included

Guides

Expert, local, English-speaking guide

Accommodation

3 nights in a guesthouse, 2 in a hotel and 1 in a traditional shepherd hut

Meals

Munch on tasty and hearty local food throughout

Transfers

To and from the airport and everything in-between

Porterage

Your overnight bag will be transported each day by jeep or horse

Permits

Entrance fees, trekking and border crossing permits

Not Included

Flights to and from the meeting point

Travel insurance

Personal expenses

Tips for your guides

Visas where required

Day 1

Guesthouse · Twin or triple share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 2

Hotel · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 3

Mountain hut · Same sex dorm

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 4 – Day 5

Guesthouse · Twin or triple share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 6

Hotel · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 7

Departure day

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

What is the food like?

Breakfasts are typically eggs, fresh bread, jam, honey and coffee or tea, while for lunch you’ll carry fresh products and sandwiches provided by your guesthouse. On Day 6 you will get the chance to taste a variety of regional dishes and produce at the world class farm-to-table restaurant Mrizi i Zanave, a leader in Albania's slow food movement. Dinner is always a warm and filling meal after a big day of hiking, and courses often come in meze form and are served with vegetables, freshly baked bread, homemade cheeses, local wines and (of course) Raki. There are snacks available to purchase locally but if you'd like specific things then please bring them from home.

Vegetarians and other dietary requirements and allergies can be catered for - please just request on your passenger info form. Please be aware that options for vegans will be limited.

What is the accommodation like?

On the trek

You'll spend three nights in small, family-run guesthouses or basic hotels. You’ll stay in a twin-share en-suite hotel room on day 2 and 6, whilst on the rest of the trek your group will be accommodated in same gender dorm rooms depending on availability. One night will be spent in a shepherd hut, offering a shared sleeping area with floor mattresses and blankets (mixed-dorm style up to 6 people per room). This is a unique opportunity to experience traditional Albanian hospitality in a unique remote location.

Tirana

You'll stay in comfortable and centrally located accommodation, usually Hotel Vila 60, Hotel Theatro or Hotel Boka, in a twin-share room.

Upgrades

Due to the nature of the guesthouses and hotels used on this trip, it is only possible to have a private room on Day 2 and Day 6 of the trip. See Optional Extras for the price and request it upon booking.

The Area

map

Logistics

Starts

Tirana Airport (TIA)

Catch any flight arriving before 13:10 on Day 1

Ends

Tirana Airport (TIA)

Catch any flight on Day 7

Transfers

On Day 1 you can choose to be collected at the airport or at Tirana Rinas Bus Station if you happen to already be in town. If you fly in on the first day of the trip, please make sure you book a flight that lands by 13:10 at the latest. Your host will inform you of transfer logistics and timings prior to your trip.

Airport transfers between Tirana and the airport are included for any time you choose to depart on Day 7. Transfers between the city and the airport (before or after the trip) can easily be arranged locally and independently by shuttle bus. There is a regular bus line that offers daily service, from 06:00 in the morning until 24:00 in the evening called Rinas Express, which travels from Tirana to the Airport and back every hour. The journey takes 30 minutes. If you would like to arrive early or extend your stay, your host can arrange accommodation for an extra cost. See the Optional Extras section for further details.

Travel options

There are regular direct flights to Tirana from major airports across the UK and Europe.

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What do I need to bring?

BAGS
Duffle bag or rucksack (Maximum of 15kg) Hiking pack (30-40 litres)
Waterproof liner for kitbag or rucksack/drybags

CLOTHES
Lightweight down or synthetic jacket
Lightweight waterproof and windproof jacket
Breathable wicking layers
Fleece jacket or similar
Buff or neck scarf
Lightweight trousers/shorts/skirts for hiking
T-shirts
Underwear and socks
Sunglasses
Sunhat
Warm hat and gloves
Something to sleep in
Hiking boots (worn-in)
Lightweight shoes for overnight stays

OTHER
Universal travel plug adapter
Power bank or solar charger
Passports (and visas)
Travel insurance documents
Suncream
Personal first-aid kit (inc. blister treatment)
Personal items (biodegradable toiletries, sanitary wear etc)
Toilet kit (toilet paper, biodegradable bags to carry paper out to dispose of)
Quick-dry towel
Alcohol hand-gel
Face mask Headtorch or torch
Two reusable water bottles (1 litre) Trekking poles (these are usually required to be packed in checked-in luggage - please check with your airline)

OPTIONAL
Earplugs
Energy bars and snacks (there are limited opportunities to buy snacks in remote mountain locations, however, Tirana has supermarkets and the guide brings a small supply of dried fruits on the trek) Lunch box (to avoid using packaging and plastic bags for your meals during the trek) Eye mask for sleeping (some rooms may not have curtains) Sleeping bag liner (for if you feel the cold) Sleeping bag (2/3 season) - for early June and Sep departures only (you may wish to check the forecast before deciding whether to pack this)

*Requests for optional extras can be made after booking on your “My Bookings” page

Double/Twin room in Tirana

Payable Before Departure

Double/Twin room in Tirana

Single Room in Tirana

Payable Before Departure

Single Room in Tirana

Optional Private Room Upgrade (2 nights)

Payable Before Departure

Optional Private Room Upgrade (2 nights)

Imogen

This was a fantastic trip, a fun challenge but definitely manageable if you’ve got some hiking experience. The 3 peaks are all different experiences and the days are varied. As a vegetarian who doesn’t eat eggs, food was plentiful. Our guides Blendi and Tesi were both lovely, they went above and beyond to ensure everyone had a great time. The ferry ride and lunch on the last day were both also above expectations and a brilliant way to finish the trip. 100% recommend.

Carl

We thoroughly enjoyed the trip. Both of the guides -Mirjeta and Albanor - were excellent. The group worked really well together and there was a great mix of looking out for each other and having fun. The landscapes were amazing and we felt lucky to have had the opportunity to see them. Mirjeta was really lovely and her enthusiasm for and love of the region was very infectious.

James

Had a fab time, would definitely recommend! Incredible views across all the days and the restaurant for lunch after the ferry ride was a particular highlight. I would encourage people to take the difficulty seriously whilst all of the group were able to complete all the climbs many were experienced runners, hikers or had good fitness levels. Additionally walking poles I would list as strongly recommended but not essential to help take the strain on some of the descents.

Fiona

Beautiful mountains with a great group and a really knowledgeable guide.

Trip is face paced with a lot of transfers so bring lots of energy!

Mark

Amazing views all week - go while this area is still relatively quiet as it's developing quickly. Everything about the trip was good - the plan, the guides, the food and the different styles of accommodation.

Fergus

A really great experience in a lesser travelled part of Europe. The nature, scenery and views were incredible. The hikes were physically demanding in parts with some steep ascents and descents, the hot weather in August also adding to the difficulty. But overall challenging but enjoyable 😊 We were well fed and looked after throughout the entire trip. Bring cash both Lek and Euros (the smaller the notes the better), as opportunities for ATMs and card payments are very limited.

Eli

This trip was amazing, I travel a lot and this was easily one of, if not the best trip I have been on. Our guides Mirjeta and Noli were amazing guides and even better people! I would 10/10 recommend people to explore the Balkans, the region is an underrated gem for any adventure lover - I hope to visit this region again someday!

Elspeth

We had a brilliant time! A holiday that exceeded our expectations in so many ways. Fabulous guides, lovely group, amazing routes and big delicious dinners in comfortable accommodation at the end of the day.

Sophia

HIS TRIP IS AWESOME. I like to think of myself as quite a well seasoned hiker, I love hiking abroad and have been to the himalayas ect however this trip filled my mountain needs and hiking expectations perfectly! Just the right amount of challenging and what an experience to hike between 4 countries and 3 peaks! The views and scenery are unreal. Our local guides were amazing as was the accommodation and the food, both better than I expected! I can't complain about this trip! Amazing!

Katie

Fantastic trip is a fantastic location with fantastic guides! Each day's hike wasn't super strenuous, but when 4 days were done back to back and in the hot sun, it was a lot. Food was simple and delicious. The restaurants the last day were incredible.

We partner with the World Land Trust to ensure this trip achieves Net-Zero emissions. We also support their Buy an Acre programme, helping local communities to buy and protect natural habitats in perpetuity.

What's the number?
It works out on average at 244kg of CO2 emissions per person, including all local transport, accommodation, food, activities, guides, staff and office operations.

The only thing it doesn’t include right now is flights and travel to the destination. We do make an overall estimate across all our customers separately, but as we don’t book flights, have customers from all corners of the world, and no way of reliably knowing their travel plans, we simply can’t include an individual number in the figure on display here. We’ve got a goal to fix that, so that when you book, there is a way to measure and mitigate the carbon emitted by your flight too.

But what does the number mean?
Yep, hard to picture eh? To give you an idea:

  • Driving 1000miles/1609km would be approx. 281kg of CO2 in an average car (or 140.5kg per person if there was 2 of you in it).
  • A return economy class flight London - New York would be approx. 1,619kg (1.66 tonnes) per person.
  • 10 trees in a temperate forest are estimated to remove approx. 250kg of CO2 from the air in a period of 5-10 years.

What are we doing about it?
Our trips are relatively low-carbon by design, and we're working with all our hosts to develop long term carbon reduction plans. We partner with the World Land Trust to ensure this trip achieves Net-Zero emissions. We also support their Buy an Acre programme, helping local communities to buy and protect natural habitats in perpetuity, ensuring the protection of the reserve and its wildlife.

Want to know more?
Amazingly, no international travel company has ever publicly published their carbon measurements before, as far as we know. We believe that must change, quickly. So we’re openly sharing the method we used in the hope that other companies will be able to more easily follow suit and build on what we've done so far. You'll find it all here.

This trek is a serious challenge! At this difficulty level previous trekking experience is essential. Adverse weather conditions and exposed paths may be part of the tour although there is no technical climbing involved. 90% of the trails on this trip are also used by packhorses, that means the paths are reasonably wide for a hiker. There are few exposed stretches with steep drops which are almost exclusively part of the optional final ascents to the summits. These can be skipped, should one not feel comfortable with them. All together this is a non-technical trip that doesn't require scrambling, climbing, the usage of hands or gear. It's mostly about the ability to negotiate uneven paths or craggy karst terrain and good stamina to manage long walking days of at least 7 to 10 hours and ascents above 1000m, with the odd day of cumulative climbing of up to and above 1500m.

Sure can! Over 70% of our travellers travel solo, it’s a great way to meet like-minded people.

The tap water in the mountains is safe to drink. Please bring along your own reusable water bottle to fill up at the hotels and guesthouses to avoid buying single use plastic bottles.

Departures are scheduled throughout the summer season only (Jun-Sep). Typical summer weather conditions in this part of the Balkans are dry, clear and warm during the daytime, with the temperature dropping at night or as you climb higher to the summits. Occasional rainfalls are also possible at this time of year. You may encounter some snow on altitudes above 1800m until the end of June (especially on northern facing slopes). Your guides monitor the conditions in order to stay prepared and share information with your group before you set out on your trek.

During the trek you'll be trekking across the borders of Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Kosovo. Your host will collect a copy of your passport ahead of the trip and will apply for permits on your behalf, so there is no paperwork or applications for you to worry about.

Yes, you can leave your luggage in Tirana with your host on Day 1 as you'll be returning there for the last night of your trip.

No. You'll need to have a duffle bag or rucksack (max. 15kg) suitable for all your belongings which will be transported for you by vehicle, horses or mules, and then a small daypack (30-40L) to carry personal items during the day.

Tips are not included in the trip cost. These are entirely at your discretion 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.

For current advice about travelling in the countries visited on this trip, have a read of the UK Foreign Office pages:

For groups of up to 8 people, there will be 1 lead guide. For groups of 9 or more, there will also be an assistant guide.

In adverse weather conditions, it may not be safe to ascend the exposed peaks, especially Mt. Kollata. Your guide will monitor weather conditions and act accordingly.

In the event of unusually high amounts of snow in spring, you will not use crampons or ice picks on this non-technical trip and may divert routes instead. Your host will be in touch prior to departure and will let you know if any extreme weather is forecast. In the event of heavy snow, you may be advised to bring waterproof shoes, gaiters and walking microspikes.

The follow are contingency plans for parts of the itinerary that are most likely to be impacted if there is unseasonable adverse weather: Day 3: When the traverse behind Mt. Gjeravica is under heavy snowpack, you may transfer to another starting point and climb Mt. Trekufiri (2366m), the point where Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro meet. Day 5: If the Persllopit Pass is closed, you may take a transfer from Cerem to Valbona and aim to ascend Mt. Roshit (2524m). This is a return hike and can be shortened if needed but would adjust the hiking on this day to: 9.5hrs · 14km · 1450m up · 1450m down. Day 5: If the Persllopit Pass is open but the ascent of Mt. Kollata snow-covered and deemed too dangerous, the summit is skipped. This would mean the hiking on this day is adjusted to: 7hrs · 13km · 1075m up · 1125m down.

Our recommended travel insurance provider is Campbell Irvine.

Travel insurance is compulsory for all of our adventures and you are required to provide your policy information before departing.

Your insurance should include adequate protection for overseas medical treatment, evacuation/repatriation, your baggage and equipment and the specific activities involved on your adventure. We also strongly recommend it includes cancellation and curtailment insurance, should you be unable to join your trip for specific reasons such as illness.

We fully endorse Campbell Irvine as their insurance offers all of the above, so get in touch with them or call on 020 7938 1734 to get your insurance sorted. We suggest that you book travel insurance as soon as you book your adventure, just to cover you for any last-minute life changes. We know you’re an active lot and injuries do happen!

We automatically convert prices from the local currency that a host receives to your chosen currency. We update our exchange rates on a daily basis so this does mean that prices displayed on the site are subject to currency fluctuations, which is why you may see them change over time.

If you wish to change the currency you pay in, head to the bottom of the page.

All of our group adventures are specially designed for adults to enjoy (18+) as we want these adventures to bring together outdoorsy people who are truly like-minded. Children can be accommodated on some private departures.

You're always in good company on one of our adventures.

Our trips are typically made up of a mixture of solo travellers and small groups of 2 or 3 friends, with most in their 30s-50s.

Our sociable adventures are solo-friendly by design and naturally attract outdoorsy people with a shared mindset; a love for adventure, a desire to push themselves and meet awesome, like-minded people along the way.

It’s this camaraderie that has so often turned a great adventure into a life-changing one.

Don't just take our word for it:

  • 95% of people rate the group dynamics on our trips 5/5
  • 90% of people recommend joining a trip to make new friends
  • 75% of people have met people on our trips that they would now consider friends

See here for more info about the Much Better Adventures tribe.

Interested in a more exclusive experience? Opt for a 'Private Group' through the dates and prices tab to book this adventure for just you and your chosen companions.

Your trip is led by carefully curated local hosts and expert guides. See here for more info about the guides we work with.

TRIP DEPARTURE DATES

June 2024

Sunday • 9th June 2024

to Saturday • 15th June 2024
Fully Booked
Guaranteed to run

Sunday • 16th June 2024

to Saturday • 22nd June 2024
Fully Booked
Guaranteed to run

Sunday • 7th July 2024

to Saturday • 13th July 2024
13 Booked • 1 Spot left
Guaranteed to run

Sunday • 14th July 2024

to Saturday • 20th July 2024
6 Booked • 8 Spots left
Guaranteed to run

Sunday • 21st July 2024

to Saturday • 27th July 2024
8 Booked • 6 Spots left
Guaranteed to run

Sunday • 4th August 2024

to Saturday • 10th August 2024
3 Booked • 11 Spots left
Guaranteed to run

Sunday • 18th August 2024

to Saturday • 24th August 2024
8 Booked • 6 Spots left
Guaranteed to run

Sunday • 25th August 2024

to Saturday • 31st August 2024
Fully Booked
Guaranteed to run

Sunday • 1st September 2024

to Saturday • 7th September 2024
3 Booked • 11 Spots left
Guaranteed to run

Sunday • 15th September 2024

to Saturday • 21st September 2024
10 Booked • 4 Spots left
Guaranteed to run

Sunday • 8th June 2025

to Saturday • 14th June 2025
14 Spots left
Guaranteed to run

Sunday • 22nd June 2025

to Saturday • 28th June 2025
14 Spots left
Guaranteed to run

Sunday • 6th July 2025

to Saturday • 12th July 2025
14 Spots left
Guaranteed to run

Sunday • 20th July 2025

to Saturday • 26th July 2025
14 Spots left
Guaranteed to run

Sunday • 3rd August 2025

to Saturday • 9th August 2025
14 Spots left
Guaranteed to run

Sunday • 17th August 2025

to Saturday • 23rd August 2025
14 Spots left
Guaranteed to run

Sunday • 31st August 2025

to Saturday • 6th September 2025
14 Spots left
Guaranteed to run

Sunday • 14th September 2025

to Saturday • 20th September 2025
14 Spots left
Guaranteed to run

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