Things to Do in Theth, Albania

Nestled deep within the beautiful Albanian Alps is the stunning alpine village of Theth. Also forebodingly referred to as the Accursed Mountains, this area in the northernmost reaches of Albania is almost a complete 180 from the sparkling blue waters and sunny beaches in the far south. That said, exploring the things to do in Theth, Albania is every bit as wondrous as beach-hopping along the Ionian Sea coast. It’s a fantastic way to experience the sheer diversity Albania has to offer in regards to its locations and landscapes.

Located roughly a three-hour drive from the city of Shkodër, Theth is absolutely gorgeous. As the city melts away and you follow the road that leads to Theth and, eventually, neighboring Montenegro, you’ll be greeted with pristine views of the towering mountains ahead.

Getting to Theth

Further on, as the road condenses down to one narrow lane and winds its way through the Accursed Mountains, the vistas become breathtaking. Some of them would not look out of place in locations like Switzerland—a place I was forcibly reminded of as I made the journey north.

Theth is located in the eponymous Theth National Park, or Parku Kombëtar i Thethit, as it’s known in Albanian. The national park covers only a little over 26 square kilometers, including much of the Shala Valley. But the Albanian Alps are vast, encompassing countless valleys, thick forests, glorious waterfalls, unique rock formations, and much more.

The national park can be nearly impossible to reach in the winter, as heavy snowfall can completely block the narrow road leading from Shkodër. But in the summer, the warm temperatures and lush and wild landscapes make the park a popular destination among travelers.

What to Bring and Wear

I spent two weeks in Albania in August of 2020, which is a great time to visit Theth. Just know that, even though it’s located in the mountains, doesn’t mean it can’t get hot there. In fact, I highly recommend bringing sunscreen and wearing loose, light-colored clothing, as I often found myself baking under the hot Albanian sun. Comfortable shoes, a hat to keep the sun out of your eyes, and a trusty pair of hiking boots, are also musts!

Although I explored Albania for two weeks, I barely scratched the surface of what Theth has to offer due to my packed itinerary. But in the handful of hours I was able to explore the area, I found everything I crave when I travel.

The six hours or so that I spent exploring Theth took me to natural wonders and amazing historical sites. I also experienced beautiful examples of northern Albanian culture and fantastic local food. That said, when you come to Theth, I highly recommend spending two or three days there so you can fully immerse yourself in everything the area has to offer. These are my favorite things to do in Theth, Albania!

Hike to Waterfall Theth

If you find yourself with limited time to explore Theth, one thing you must do in town is to take a hike to Waterfall Theth. If you start at the Logu i Harushave Guest House, you’ll reach it in about 45 minutes if you walk the trail at a leisurely pace. And while reaching the waterfall is the goal, there’s a lot to see before you get there!

The Hike

The first point of interest you’ll see along the forest trail is Kishna e Thethit, or the Church of Theth. It dates back to 1892. I would have loved to have stopped inside, but it was under construction when I visited. You can camp in a tent on its grounds, though!

As you continue toward the waterfall, the path gets rocky, so I highly recommend wearing hiking boots. My Gary Vee sneakers held up fine for the most part, but boots definitely would have had more grip. 

Further on, you’ll pass an old traditional house and have to cross a wooden bridge that’s missing quite a few planks. Crossing it is a pulse-pounding experience! I had to place my feet very carefully so I wouldn’t slip into any of the holes!

Waterfall Theth

Further down the trail, you’ll come across a stream, and a bit later, a small waterfall trickling over some rocks. It’s just a teaser for what is to come a few minutes later. As you clamber over some nearby boulders, you’ll hear the constant din of rushing water. The source of the sound, Waterfall Theth, is on the opposite side of those boulders and is a true sight to behold. It is the epitome of a picturesque mountain waterfall.

The water cascades across high rocks and splashes down into a pool far below. The water may look tempting, but be warned—it comes straight from the heart of the Albanian Alps and is downright icy! I took off my shoes and waded around below the falls, but my feet went numb after just twenty seconds!

I had never been in water this cold in my life! To warm up my feet, I had to find a rock in the middle of the pool to stand on for a few minutes before I scrambled back to shore. My guides told me that some people actually bathe in this frigid pool, but just getting my feet and ankles wet was enough for me!

Visit the Lock-In Tower of Theth

Rising above the village of Theth is the Tower of Nikoll Koçeku, better known as the Lock-in Tower of Theth. This four-sided stone tower dates back over 400 years and is one of the main attractions in Theth. The tower, which also boasts an alpine roof, is considered an architectural monument. But outside of its architectural significance, it also carries an impressive and fascinating history.

The current guide at Lock-in Tower is a man named Sokol. He is a descendant of the Koçeku family, who have owned the tower for centuries. The story of the tower’s history has been passed down through the generations, and Sokol is more than happy to recount it to anyone who’d like to hear it.

Lock-in Tower is a well-made defense structure that contains small windows called frëngji, which allowed the people inside to see any enemies approaching the tower or village. The tower also served as a prison for those who followed a set of 15th-century Albanian laws called the Kanun of Lekë Dukajin. The tower was used for defense until the Communist era!

Inside Lock-in Tower

The interior of the tower is very simple. The ground floor is pure rock, but the floors above are made of wood. While you’re on the second level, Sokol may play a beautiful song on a traditional instrument for you!

The décor inside is sparse; outside of some wool seats, low tables, a furnace, carpet, and a small chest, there isn’t much in the way of furniture or decorations on the second and third floors. There is, however, an old rifle on the third level. I also guessed that archers would fire at invaders through the windows.

Visiting the tower was an eye-opening peek into Albania’s culture. Even if you don’t consider yourself a history buff, I highly recommend paying it a visit. It’s one of the best things to do in Theth, Albania!

Lock-in Tower

Fushë e Thethit – Grunas Street

Theth, Albania

Stay at Logu i Harushave Guesthouse

There are many guesthouses you can stay at in Theth, but I recommend laying your head at its most highly regarded, Logu i Harushave. This large, alpine guesthouse offers sensational views of Theth, which you can enjoy while listening to the sounds of the northern Albanian wilderness. It features rustic, mountain accommodations including 25 rooms and three cottages.

The rooms are comfortable and cozy. They feature king-sized beds, and some also have one or two twin beds, which are perfect if you’re traveling with friends or children.

The cottages are all wood and feel like a nice, upscale mountain cabin. They feature a comfortable king-sized bed and large windows that look out at the property. One of the more unique features of the cabins is that the main room and bathroom are separated by only a transparent glass wall that allows anyone inside to see into the bathroom. Because of that, it may be a bit much to share a cabin with a friend, but they’re perfect for couples!

There, you can enjoy their popular continental breakfast and take part in activities that include hiking and fishing. You can also enjoy a fabulous, authentic lunch.

During my stay, I dined on local beef, fried potatoes, homemade yogurt, roasted eggplant and red pepper, a tomato-and-cucumber salad, fresh goat cheese, baked potatoes, and a flaky, crispy byrek stuffed with spinach, cheese, and onions!

Everything was incredible, but the crispy, cheesy byrek and the fatty, organic beef with the yogurt were the highlights. I could taste the freshness of every ingredient, which really impacts the quality of the food. It’s next level and trying it is one of the things you must do in Theth, Albania!

Logu i Harushave

Rruga Fushe 4009

Qender Theth, Albania

+355 69 627 9267

Conclusion

Of course, there are many more things you can do in Theth. If I’d had more time, I would have loved to have done the famous hike from Theth to Valbona and the hike to the Blue Eye. But even without going on those particular adventures, exploring Theth was magical. It, like Albania as a whole, exceeded my greatest expectations in every way. The natural beauty there is almost overwhelming, as it truly is everywhere you look. The people are kind and welcoming as always, and the bits of history you’ll unearth and culture you’ll immerse yourself in are more than worth the three-hour trip from Shkodër. Book a trip to Albania today to experience Theth for yourself!

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