End: Lake Koman
Distance: 80 miles (129 km)
Time: 8 days
Surface: Mountain and Forest Trails
Walking in Albania’s Accursed Mountains
There’s an old Albanian story about how the Accursed Mountains got their name. Long ago two brothers went out hunting, and as they were making their way through the forest, they discovered a beautiful fairy. They asked her to choose one of them, but she liked them both-one for his looks, the other for his bravery. When the brave one killed his brother and took the fairy home to meet his mother, she was so enraged that she placed a curse on the fairy and on the mountains where they found her. To this day, many locals still believe in this curse and say some of the mountains are haunted.
In the past, things haven’t always gone to plan in Albania, but one thing you can count on today when you walk the well-marked trails through the Accursed Mountains is a transforming experience of nature. it is a spectacular and almost impenetrable setting, with just a handful of high passes allowing access to small farms and communities in deeply incised valleys that seem almost cut off from the outside world. One of many trails begins in the historic town of Shkodra and passes down into the Bogra Valley(where the sealed roads come to an end) and over Diagonal Pass and into Theth National Park, an untouched world of waterfalls, caves, and canyons dominated by the vertical 3,280-foot (1,000-m) south face of Albania’s version of the Matterhorn, Mount Arapit, which is that rarest of things-an as yet unclimbed vertical European rock wall.
Follow in the footsteps of shepherds over the Valbona Pass and then descend into the breathtaking beauty of the Valbona Vailey as you make your way to the fjord-like Lake Koman, where a ferry-if all goes according to plan-will take you back to the Albanian capital, Tirana.