Albanian Alps: Rosni Peak (Maja Rosit)

Rosni Peak summitRosni Peak summit

We booked two nights in Valbonä, giving us time to explore other trails before taking the most popular one to Theth. Having read a couple of blogs, we settled on hiking up the Rosni Peak (Maja Rosit), crossing the Albanian border, and venturing for a while into the Montenegrin part of the mountains. The path sounded challenging but scenic - a beautiful Albanian Alps adventure we couldn’t pass on.

Rosni Peak hike summary

  • Distance: 21 km
  • Moving time: 8h 5m
  • Total time: 9h 36m
  • Elevation gain: 1'682m
  • Highest point: 2'525m

Hiking in Albania: mind the signs

The trail starts off the main road crossing Valbonä. Despite a few signs along the way, some crossroads and trails lack markings, while some existing markings have deteriorated or been knocked over over time. It was not always clear where to go next. Even though we had downloaded an Alltrail map, we did a few short detours, costing us 10-15 minutes in total. Admittedly, a small price to pay for not having to stare at your phone all the time.

Signs in the Albanian Alps

Rosni Peak part 1: the quiet Albanian Alps

Valbona village at the sunrise

We started the hike around 7 AM, immediately after breakfast. The sun was still rising and covered Valbona in a beautiful glow of sunrise. Almost at the outset, the trail began to ascend and continued the trajectory until we reached the peak. That being said, the first and, by far, the easiest third of the hike was pretty chilled. The road passed a few scattered houses and campsites and eventually led through a refreshing shade of a dense forest. Although uphill, the walk remained pleasant, so we chatted away while enjoying the serenity of the countryside. We even debated whether our little nieces could do the hike. Oblivious to what was ahead of us. Why the trail profile in the app didn’t scare us from doing the hike remains a mystery, but I am happy it didn’t.

Rosni Peak part 2: The romantic Albanian Alps

The second leg of the journey leads through meadows. Immediately, it evoked a romantic and poetic mood, which later helped deal with the ascent. This was the quintessential alpine experience we were craving: the vastness of the blue sky above, the firm majesty of the mountains around us, and the cheerfulness of the flower fields beneath our feet, all accompanied by the jingle of cow bells echoing through the valley. Yes! We felt embraced with the powerful energy only the Alps can deliver.

After 2.5 hours of hiking, we took our first break next to a little shed, doubling down as a little shop. Since there are no water refill stations nor any accessible water streams on the entire trail (at least at this time of the year), this little pop-up store becomes the ultimate source for getting any refreshments besides the ones you’ve packed. 

It was a hot sunny day; the temperature was 30 degrees. Although we each had 2l of water, it soon became apparent it was insufficient. We really should have had the double of that. Inevitably, we had to ration our water intake and finished the hike really dehydrated, each downing a liter of water in one gulp upon return.

Rosni Peak part 3: the majestic Albanian Alps

The last part of the hike is punishingly, mercilessly steep. Not everyone ends up going all the way up. We saw a couple turn around, defeated, 15 minutes before reaching the summit. Other hiker groups split, half waiting for the others to go up and rejoin them on the descent. 

Can we do it? 

We crossed a joyful older Dutch man on his way down, encouraging us to persevere and not be intimidated by the particularly hard section of the trail. So, one step at a time, with regular breathing stops, we continued and gradually reached the top. We had ascended 1’650 meters and were now having a lunch snack from the Rosni Peak at the height of 2’524 meters. The man did not lie. The view was worth it. We felt profoundly at peace, seated there in silence, embracing the majesty of the mountains and listening to the wind blowing through the valley.

The way down was easier on the heart rate but really hard on the quadricep and calve muscles. It seriously hurt. We adapted a higher pace and even did a bit of jogging on the flatter surfaces, letting gravity do most of the work. Having completed “the harder” part, we now concentrated on returning to the village as soon as possible. 

We saw the sunset while cooling our feet in the mountain river. The 1 euro beer from the mini market was a great accompaniment.

Hiking in Albanian Alps

The hike was as difficult physically as it was mentally. Just when we began to think we had reached our limits, a breather break would bring a new impulse of energy and motivation to continue. When one of us was down, the other lifted the spirit. For the last 2-3 hours leading up to the peak, neither of us thought or spoke of anything else - we were merely focusing on breathing and the path ahead. Very few other activities can level with the meditative effect of hiking. I would passionately advocate for this to be prescribed to anyone thinking a lot in their everyday life. Give your brain a break it deserves.

Valbona river

Valbona Valley National Park in the Albanian Alps

Valbona Valley National ParkValbona Valley National Park

Valbona, also known as Valbonë, is a quaint rural village in the Valbona Valley National Park in the northernmost parts of Albania. We stayed in Valbona for two nights during our hiking trip in the Albanian Alps. It’s odd yet wonderful how something we had not even heard of just a couple of weeks ago is forever carved with beautiful memories in our hearts. 

Getting to Valbona Valley National Park

Even though getting to Valbona from Shkodër takes seven hours, arranging the travel was straightforward. With some research fueled by my unrelenting need to plan ahead, we booked our transfer well in advance online. In contrast, most of our fellow backpackers at the Wanderers hostel (the de-facto backpackers central in Shkodër) booked their transfers and accommodation on the spot. I forgot to ask whether the hostel ever ran into capacity issues, but I imagine it has to inevitably come to that, especially in the high tourist season. 

David in front of the Wanderers Hostel, Shkodër

As transfers run only once a day, we would not take our chances. However, I do understand that those on a multi-month backpacking adventure through Europe approach the situation with a much more relaxed attitude. Lucky ducks.

The journey to Valbona Valley National Park starts shortly before 7 AM with a two-hour minibus ride to Koman Lake. As we sat on the fully packed bus, still sleepy, the sun slowly shone through the clouds and gracefully rose behind the mountains, announcing the start of a new day. 

Shkodër to Valbona by bus

By the time we got to Koman Lake, the sky had cleared. Happy about the sunny day, we secured great seats on one of the ferry’s terraces, ready to enjoy the view. The vividly emerald green water of Koman Lake, embraced by the limestone karsts, brought back fond memories of a similar scenery in the Khao Sok National Park in Thailand. This unexpected resemblance filled us with positivity, setting the tone for the beautiful adventures ahead.

Shkoder to Valbona route

  1. 06:45-08:30 Shkoder to Koman by minibus
  2. 09:00 - 12:15 Koman to Fierze by ferry
  3. 12:30 - 13:30 Fierze to Valbona by minibus

First Impressions of Valbona

Surrounded by the enchanting Albanian Alps, Valbona is tucked away from the city noise, beautifully frozen in time, embracing the simplicity and honesty of the countryside life. You can almost smell tranquility when you arrive. The change of gear is unmistakable. Although only about 200km from Shkodër, the nearest big city, it takes almost a full day to get there with a combination of minibusses and an almost 3-hour ferry ride. Undoubtedly, this is what has kept the village still so real.

First impressions of Valbona

While Valbona still doesn’t have a conventional grocery shop, a post office, or, heaven forbid, a souvenir store, the tourism infrastructure is visibly developing at full speed. There are multiple construction sites across the settlement, readying to accommodate the ever-growing tourist arrivals. We saw a fancy multistore resort hotel in the making with what looked like a big swimming pool. I wonder how the village will look and feel in a few years and what kind of tourists it will attract. Although I understand that change is inevitable, I hope Valbona maintains its charm and rustic sincerity.

First impressions of Valbona

Staying in Valbona Valley National Park

Finding accommodation in Valbona Valley National Park is easy. Seemingly, every guesthouse is on After a fun, but let’s admit, very short night in a hostel dormitory in Shkodër (for old times’ sake), we knew we had to balance it out with a private room to ensure we could recover between the hikes in the Albanian Alps. We chose Bujtina Arturi - a small family-run place offering a simple bed & breakfast. The hosts - a young couple with kids, grandma, a dog, countless chickens, and three cows gave us a shy but heartfelt welcome as we arrived. 

Staying in Valbona Valley National Park

The Relentless Alpine Cows

Our room, at the back of the property, let us have our privacy while getting discrete glimpses of the family going about their lives. Spotless hand-washed white bed linen air-drying in the Alpine wind, little kids eagerly waving at every passerby, random interactions between the family and guests, and… cows. Cows are everywhere and roam freely, on the roads, on the fields, not having a care in the world about anybody’s private property or anything else, for that matter. When you walk around Valbona, you will most certainly see somebody trying to chase away cows from their land. 

Staying in Valbona Valley National Park

The same happened in our guesthouse. Three cows quietly appeared from the dense bushes surrounding the property, munching on the juicy green grass. Everyone from the family gave it a go to shoo the animals away. Although everyone seemed to have their preferred technique worked out, all attempts failed. The shouting, running, and even rock-throwing had little impact on the cows, who just shamelessly kept returning. It was hilarious to watch, and the comedy of the situation was not lost on our hosts either. We exchanged laughs as we saw the beasts reappear from the bushes.

To our surprise, it was the frail-looking, hunched grandma who decidedly took off her shoe and, with an unexpected speed and precision, made sure the cows understood who the boss was. Grandmas are badasses everywhere. The cows left for good. I wish we had taken some pictures or videos of that.

Food in Valbona Valley National Park

In all our planning, we made one dramatic mistake. We knew there were no ATMs or card payments in the Albanian Alps national parks, so we got cash in Shkodër. However, we completely overlooked that we still had to pay for all our accommodation upon arrival. That’s four nights. Bam. Luckily, we had enough to pay the hosts, but our food and drinks budget suddenly shrank substantially. After the initial shock and frustration, we considered it a fun challenge. We still had enough cash to enjoy ourselves; we just had to spend more deliberately.

Breakfast in Valbona

The family made a simple but filling breakfast with eggs, sausage, salty Balkan cheese, and a delicious herbal tea. We used the accompanying bread, fresh butter, and homemade fig jam to make sweet snacks for our hiking trips. It tasted simply heavenly on the top of the mountains.

Valbona Mini Market

Next to the resort hotel construction site is a pop-up mini kiosk selling soft drinks, beers, bananas, and typical snacks and sweets at higher but still reasonable prices. At the time of our visit, the store was operated by an incredibly cheeky eight-year-old (?) boy. I can only assume his parents left him in charge in the quieter off-season so he could learn the ropes. Having observed him interact with other customers, it is clear why the parents had no concerns about anybody taking advantage of the young entrepreneur. The little store manager is a natural salesperson. Even we, concerned about our cash balance, left the store buying more than initially intended. Respect.

Valbona mini market

Eating Out in Valbona

Many families running guesthouses offer dinners at their places for a €10-15 charge per person. Unfortunately, this was not the case at ours. Without many alternatives (the only other open place had suspiciously many “food poisoning” reviews), we ate twice at the lovely Guest House Jezerca. Our newly calculated budget allowed us €20 per dinner for two. Within that, we got a large Balkan salad, a portion of roasted potatoes, and a main - once a chicken and once - a fish. It was absolutely delicious! The warm homemade food tasted especially good after the Rosni Peak hike, where we each burnt over four thousand calories.

Guest House Jezerca dinner

Random observations about Valbona Valley National Park

Random observation #1: People.

We were pleased to see no “flip-flop tourists” in the Albanian Alps. Everyone we met had proper hiking shoes, most had trekking poles, and generally seemed fully aware of what they were getting themselves into. That is, unlike our hike to the Ijen volcano crater in Indonesia, where many tourists showed up in, you guessed it, flip-flops. But that’s a different (and old) story

There was a bunch of 20-something backpackers from around the world, a big chunk of European couples in their later 30s, and a very inspiring group of 50+ easily overtaking any previously mentioned groups. We also met a couple of solo female hikers traveling through Valbona Valley National Park over the mountains from Kosovo or Montenegro. Just when you start thinking you did something cool, another inspiring woman shows you to dream bigger. Left in awe.

Random observation #2: Bunkers.

Bunkers in the mountains, bunkers in the valley, bunkers everywhere around the country. It is estimated there are up to 75’000 concrete bunkers still remaining in Albania. It just doesn't feel right seeing these champignon-looking concrete constructions against the scenic Alpine backdrop.  What a sobering reminder of the country’s recent history.

Cows and bunkers in Valbona

Random observation #3: Similarities with SEA.

Surprisingly, this journey brought back many memories of our nine-month backpacking trip in Southeast Asia, so we often compared and contrasted the two. It was probably brought on by the underdeveloped tourist infrastructure, the welcome roughness of it all, the creativity and simplicity in problem-solving, and ... possibly the mere fact of traveling with our backpacks again :).

Most surprising similarities: 

  • Many backpackers from New Zealand.
  • No toilet paper, instead - a water hoe.

Most welcome differences: 

  • Sane bus drivers carefully navigating the serpentine roads.
  • Drinkable water from the tap and many other comforts.

Budget for Valbona Valley National Park

Transfer Shkodër to Koman8
Ferry Koman to Fierze9
Transfer Fierze to Valbona8
Bujtina Arturi Guesthouse inc. breakfast/ night32.5
Dinner for 2 in Guest House Jezerce20
Beer from the Mini Market1