THE ACCURSED MOUNTAINS | Exploring Albanian Alps
Imagine traveling on a winding, narrow mountain road. As you drive up through Montenegro and Albania, the trail begins to crumble. Your adrenaline spikes as you slowly climb the mountain range and feel your car shake with the uneven trail below it. This is more than just a road trip – it’s a true adventure into a fantastical landscape. As you get higher and higher into the Albanian Alps, the views are spectacular. Blue skies show through the clouds which cling to the majestic mountain range. As you continue, you are constantly amazed by the wonder of this untouched landscape and the diversity of your surroundings, from rock formations to thick forests and mountain peaks. It feels like a faraway world as you see pastoral scenes of livestock taken up in the mountains to graze and simple homes outfitted with wood stoves.
Finally, you come to a valley and descend to find a small village nestled into the mountains. The village of Theth is home to only twelve families and is completely isolated from the rest of the world in the winter due to the snow and treacherous conditions. It is one of the many small, traditional villages which dapple the mountain landscape. Under the summer sun, children play volleyball by an ancient church and you admire the old-world charm of the village as you sit to an outdoor lunch of local delicacies such as lamb, lemon soup, roasted vegetables, and pastries adorned with fresh honey at a quaint restaurant or local guesthouse or homestay.
The Accursed Mountains is a name straight from a fairytale. It is truly a magical experience to spend time in this lesser-known corner of the world. The region is best known and widely visited for its hiking trails. The trail between Theth and Valbona is fairly easy and is spotted with teahouses offering respite from the heat. Guides are available to help with your journey, as are mules to carry luggage. The Lake Koman ferry, a three-hour ride which connects the villages of Koman and Fierzë, offers magnificent views of the expansive lake and surrounding mountains. Another truly wonderful spot is the Blue Eye of Theth in the village of Kaprre, the journey to which includes passing the marvelous Grunas Canyons of Theth. There are endless villages, national parks, and mountain peaks to explore.
While the scenery is magnificent, the local culture is unlike anything else in the world. There have been people living in the Accursed Mountains since the Stone Age. Today, the remaining inhabitants follow a unique way of life which has remained largely unchanged by time. Additionally, the legacy of the Cold War and the Kosovo War are visible in the crumbling military structures and stories from local villagers. While the region was once threatened by dictatorship and conflict, tourism now helps revitalize villages and keep the mountain traditions alive.
The Accursed Mountains offers the perfect escape from the fast-paced, digital world. While the rest of Europe bustles with lively nightlife, world-class restaurants, ritzy shopping streets, and renowned museums, this part of Albania offers blue skies free from planes, dirt roads free from traffic, pastures, orchards, beehives, and farms which produce local delicacies, springs and streams whose crystal clear water tastes incredible, and landscapes to inspire awe in even the most well-traveled visitors. The Accursed Mountains offer a once in a lifetime, truly magical way to slow down and appreciate the natural beauty of our world.