Blessed hiking in the Accursed Mountains

The Peaks of the Balkans is an epic long-distance trekking route, through the mountainous borderlands of Montenegro, Albania and Kosovo. Over a distance of 192 kilometres it meanders along remote valleys and over high passes, taking in some of the finest scenery this ruggedly beautiful corner of Europe has to offer.

The route involves slipping backwards and forwards over the borders between these three countries, so you do need an easily obtainable permit to hike the trail.

There’s a lake at the head of the Ropojana Valley, or at least it is sometimes there – it’s fed only by snowmelt and has a habit of vanishing, phantom-like, into the ground. In any case, the far side of the cold grey lake – or lush green grass-covered lakebed, depending on the season – marks the border with Albania.

Once this valley formed a trade route between the Theth Valley in Albania and Plav in what is now Montenegro. It’s easy enough to get here now – there are about five buses a day to Plav from the Montenegrin capital, Podgorica – but in the late 19th century, on the crumbling fringes of the Ottoman Empire, this was a spectacularly remote and difficult spot to reach.

The Peaks of the Balkans is an outstanding route through breathtaking and little known mountain scenery, which still attracts only a fraction of the number of hikers of Europe’s better-known mountain ranges. It’s an opportunity to experience genuine rural hospitality.

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