Need to know: Peaks of the Balkans Trail
Learn everything you need to know to hike the Peaks of the Balkans trail, an 11-day loop through Montenegro, Albania, and Kosovo. It is 192 kilometers and you can hop on the trail in any of the three countries. While it’s pretty short, this trail is not for the weak of knees. Every day, you ascend and descend 1000 altimeters, which is a total of 10,250 altimeters throughout the loop.
Stages of the trail
- Stage 1: Plav – Vusanje | 27.5 kilometers
- Stage 2: Vusanje – Theth | 21.3 kilometers
- Stage 3: Theth – Valbona | 19.5 kilometers
- Stage 4: Valbona – Ceremi | 14 kilometers
- Stage 5: Ceremi – Doberdol | 15.5 kilometers
- Stage 6: Doberdol – Milishevc | 23 kilometers
- Stage 7: Milishevc – Reke e Allages | 16 kilometers
- Stage 8: Reke e Allages – Leqinat | 23 kilometers
- Stage 9: Leqinat – Babino Polje |15.3 kilometers
- Stage 10: Babino Polje – Plav | 20.5 kilometers
Packing List: What to bring for the Peaks of the Balkans
For thru-hiking, we have put together a large packing list. You can find the extensive list here, which is relevant to hike the Peaks of the Balkans trail. A packing list is of course always personal but there are some items that I recommend you bring for a better time.
- Trekking poles
Every day on this trail, you climb and descend 1000 altimeters and a lot of the time on scree and uneven surfaces. This means you need to protect your knees! When I saw people without poles, they would complain about their pain and often shared a set with a friend to make it through the trail. I highly recommend bringing poles you’ve tested before to be certain they suit your needs. You can learn more about choosing the right poles here.
You can buy food at the guesthouses every night (even if you camp!) but you’ll also want snacks to fuel your hike. There are three places you can re-supply your snacks: Plav, Valbonne, and Theth, but otherwise, you’ll be on your own. Taking fruit leather or other lightweight, high-protein (or high-sugar) bars proved helpful.
- Navigation app and book
This trail is well-marked, but there are sections where downloaded GPX or the guidebook/map was very helpful for way finding. There’s power and outlets at every guesthouse, so it’s okay to rely on your downloaded maps. I recommend bringing an extra battery pack in case of emergency, but otherwise, it is easygoing.
Where to sleep on the trail?
We stayed in guesthouses along the trail to cut down on extra pack weight and ate at the guesthouses every night. At most guesthouses, you pay a flat rate for your bed and dinner, breakfast, and a packed lunch. Talk about a great deal! You’ll likely end up in a private room or the occasional dorm (we only had 2 dorms in 11 days).
Camping is allowed on the trail with a few stipulations. In the national parks, wild camping is prohibited, and you will pay to camp at the guesthouses. The fees are low but are necessary to pay because you want to be a respectful representative of the thru-hiking community! Outside of the parks, wild camping is allowed.
Hiking solo or with a group?
When initially researching the trail, I saw very few accounts of women, or anyone for that matter, hike the Peaks of the Balkans trail solo. This seemed to be due to a lack of trail markings. However, with good GPX and strong backcountry skills, I don’t believe this should be a problem. Even on the trail, we met only one or two solo (male) hikers. Since then, I’ve heard accounts of a few women successfully hiking the trail alone.
Best time to visit?
This hike has a long season, from June to October. Because the entire trail is in the mountains, the later in the season you go, the colder it will be, and you will have a higher chance of snow. The peak month is July, when the wildflowers begin to bloom and the rainstorms lessen. We went in August and found it lovely with quieter trails and an abundance of wildflower meadows.
All in all, it’s a beautiful trail. The Accursed Mountains are some of the most awe-inspiring peaks I’ve been privileged to explore, and I recommend them! If you regard the hike as what it is, an adventure, then nothing can stop you from enjoying this one.
For more information about the trail, visit the Peaks of the Balkans official website, where you can find segment breakdowns, guesthouse recommendations, and more. If you’d like to bring the Cicerone guidebook, you can find it here.
If you have more questions about the Peaks of the Balkans Trail, please email us at [email protected] or ask your question via Instagram. There you will also find a glimpse into the trail in our highlights.