Peaks of the Balkans Trail
Beyond Borders – Trekking through the Accursed Mountains
The Peaks of the Balkans is an amazing ~192km cross-border trek through the Prokletije Mountains (also known as ‘the accursed mountains’), which form the rugged borderlands of Montenegro, Kosovo and Albania – some of the most spectacularly wild and remote mountain scenery anywhere in Europe. I wrote the first English-language guidebook to the Peaks of the Balkans Trail, which was published by Cicerone in 2017.
The Peaks of the Balkans was developed as a way to encourage sustainable local tourism, and help create a sustainable income for the local population in these mountainous areas, and the trail was set up as a joint project between national and local tourism organisations, the German development agency GIZ, and local hiking clubs.
The route is usually broken down into 10 stages, with accommodation available at small, rural guesthouses which are incredibly welcoming and also usually offer delicious homecooked meals. The trail is mostly well marked, there’s a walking map (though it’s out of date in places) and a detailed guidebook. Despite being very remote in some places, the trails is still easy enough to access, whether starting from Plav in Montenegro (direct buses from Podgorica), Theth or Valbona in Albania (various combinations of bus and boat from Skhöder or Tirana) or the Rugova Gorge in Kosovo (which is within just a short distance from Peja).
Peaks of the Balkans Guidebook
Published by Cicerone 2017 (reprinted 2019)
The first (and only) English-language guidebook to hiking the Peaks of the Balkans Trail, through the mountainous borderlands of Montenegro, Kosovo and Albania. Available here.
A word on permits: Everyone hiking the Peaks of the Balkans needs to apply for a cross-border permit. While it’s possible to apply yourself, it’s much more straightforward – and reliable – to get a local tour operator to do it for you. I recommend getting permits through Zbulo in Albania, who along with Zalaz in Montenegro are extremely knowledgeable about the trail (having both helped set it up), reliable and very reasonably priced. Click here to apply for cross-border permits through Zbulo.
I started visiting the Montenegrin part of the Prokletije mountains, including trails which would later become part of the Peaks of the Balkans, back in 2005, when I was writing the first English-language hiking guidebook to Montenegro – and have returned many times since then. If you’re interested in commissioning me for an article on the Peaks of the Balkans Trail or photography from the region, please get in touch.
Peaks of the Balkans Photography
Clockwise from top left: Kula (defensive tower house) in Theth, Albania; view from the trail above Milishevc, Kosovo; waterfall near Theth, Albania; hikers on the border ridge between Montenegro and Kosovo. Photos © Rudolf Abraham
For more images of hiking the Peaks of the Balkans Trail in Montenegro, Albania and Kosovo by Rudolf Abraham, click here.