/ The Peaks of the Balkans Trail - duration?
I was looking at various opportunities for hikes and would rather prefer a quiet one instead of a busy one. I got my eyes on the Peaks of the Balkans Trail and just ordered the guidebook. Haven't been to either country, so that's a bonus! I am thinking of doing it in late September.
However, I can't wrap my head around how many days it should take. I have done WHW in 3 days and some long hikes in Scotland (30+ Munros in 8 days in Cairngorms, I believe 200km+ and ~13km of ascent). I am not as fit as I was at those times, but 10-14 days sounds excessive!
Has anyone done it? How rough is it and what's the situation with water/food/accommodation? I am not yet sure whether I want to camp or stay in hostels, but having to book accommodation and all that sounds daunting. I have done long walks before, but never planned them very well.
The trail was designed to promote tourism and inter-Balkan co-operation, and was set up to provide income for local guides, pack horse owners and village home stay hosts. As such the concept is based on people doing the whole thing or sections, as a package and travelling at a gentle pace with a guide and pack horses.
To break out of this pattern will be difficult as the villagers speak only Albanian, some guides have perhaps 500 words of a couple of more mainstream European languages.
However the costs are quite low, the accomodation and food in the villages are fixed price, and the guides are pretty cheap as well.
I havent done the trek but know some of the guides who trained for the scheme, and did a small project with one of the NGO's who helped set it up.
From my experience of the remote villages in southern Albania there are no hostels, no shops and certainly no campsites! The model is catered homestays.
Hey, I did about 2/3s of it last year (basically skipping Kosovo as I ran out of time) in late March on ski/foot over 7 days or so. It's pretty well marked. I came across a couple bothy type shelters along the way and slept either in the forest or abandoned shepherd huts. In Doberdol, Albania (I think that's what its called from memory...) you'll find regular hostel/hotel accommodation and there's also a campsite in the area. Even in the summertime, I imagine you won't have any issues wandering off the trail and finding somewhere to sleep in the forests or around crags etc. The only thing that is important is to make sure you have your cross-border permits in place. I used 'Zbulo!', they provided a fast service. Although in March nobody was on the Montenegro-Albania borders to even check paperwork. Waterwise, I imagine it could be fairly dry in the summertime up high as it's mostly porous limestone. Down in the valleys, no problem, rivers will be running I'm sure and you'll easily find a few places to re-stock food in the higher villages as people will have returned to bring their herds to pasture etc.
A friend and I did all of it except the last bit of Kosovo. We did run into some unmarked sections in Kosovo and life would have been a lot easier with a GPS!
We didn’t book accommodation in advance. In all the little settlements/villages, people would offer to let you stay in their home, and there were occasional hostels. Important note is if you stay in someone’s home, always offer money (about 20 euros is fair) but only offer the money to the family’s children, don’t offer it to the adults.
The terrain is varied. Some easy forest bits like the Loch Lomond bit of the WHW, other bits quite steep, like going in and out of Okol. We took 4 days and would have needed a fifth to finish.
Get food when you see it!! It was hard to come by anything more substantial than bread, veg, and fresh cheese.
Learning a little Albanian before you go is a good plan and really improved the quality of the trip.
Btw there are quality boulders on the top of the pass between Okol and Valbone if you want to pack rock shoes...
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