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A visit to Albania’s charming mountain village of Theth is an absolute must on any trip to Albania. A hike to the Blue Eye is one of the most popular things to do in Theth, after the famous Valbone to Theth hike. The Blue Eye of Theth is an icy waterfall in the mountains of Northern Albania, often referred to as the Albanian Alps. The swimming hole gets its name for the striking blue color, with a center that looks like a blue eye.
- Distance: The hike from Theth to the Blue Eye is 11 miles (18 km) round trip.
- Hike length: 5-6 hours (2.5-3 hours each way), not including time spent at the falls
- Guide Needed? A guide is definitely not required or necessary to hike from Theth to the Blue Eye. Here is a guided tour if you’d prefer though.
- Costs: The hike itself is free with no necessary permits.
- Difficulty level: easy, the travel is long but not strenuous. Make sure to wear proper hiking boots or sneakers, as much of the trail is along a rocky, gravel path.
- Currency: Both Euros and Albanian Lek (ALL) are accepted in both Theth and Valbona. As of August 2023, $1 USD is equal to 94 Albanian Lek (ALL). For the sake of this article, all conversions into dollars will be based on the exchange rate at that time.
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How long is the hike from Theth to the Blue Eye?
The hike from Theth to the Blue Eye is around 11 miles (or 18km) in total and takes around 2.5-3 hours each way.
The majority of the hike from Theth to the Blue Eye is a gradual descent, with a bit of incline in the last section before you reach the Blue Eye. On the way back to Theth, you’ll have a combination of flat terrain, and a slight, steady incline as you make your way back to the village.
Overall, there is a 1,400 ft (427m) ascent and 1,500 ft (457m) descent on the Theth to Blue Eye hike.
What to pack
You shouldn’t need to pack too much for your hike to the Theth Blue Eye, but there are a few essentials for any long hike:
- Hiking boots or hiking sneakers
- Enough water, I like to pack at least 1.5 L foldable Vapur bottle
- Snacks, although there is a cafe at the Blue Eye
- Proper hiking socks to avoid blisters, my favorite brand by far is Darn Tough (SO worth the price tag)
- Maps.me for navigating, Gaia app for tracking your hike
- Sunscreen and sun protection (hat and sunglasses)
- Cash if you plan to buy any snacks or drinks at the Blue Eye
Can you swim in the Theth Blue Eye?
Yes, you can definitely swim in the Theth Blue Eye, but the water is super cold. Even on a hot, sunny summer day, the water was too cold for me to want to take a dip. There were a few brave souls in the water though.
We found the Blue Eye itself to be super busy (we didn’t get an easy start that day), so we actually hung out in one of the swimming areas a few minutes away where there were less people. And by swimming area I fully mean that I was just sprawled out on a sunny rock reading, not actually swimming in the ice cold water.
Along the hike you’ll also pass the Baths of the Intercessors, which is a great alternative for a swimming area.
How do I hike to the Blue Eye of Theth?
The hike to the Blue Eye of Theth starts in the center of town. First make your way past the town’s iconic, and utterly charming, church. From here you’ll continue on the main road along the river. You’ll have a short climb as you leave the town, and an opportunity to detour to the Grunas Waterfall and Grunas canyon.
You’ll continue along the path for a while, through a mix of forested and exposed trails. Make sure to take a peek behind you as you hike for some incredible mountain views of the beautiful Albanian alps.
Eventually you’ll make your way to a trail that is super defined, and likely to be much much more crowded. This is because hikers and non-hikers alike have the opportunity to drive until this point, either with a taxi, rental car, or guided tour.
The Theth Blue Eye is a popular destination for locals as well, so you’ll likely see families visiting for the day to escape the city heat.
This last section of the hike is actually the most challenging, as it is a relatively steep ascent, followed by another steep descent down to the Blue Eye.
Make sure to download maps.me, as it is the most reliable map for navigating the trails around Theth. You can download the offline map for Albania if you do not have cell service. However, the trail is super straight forward, so you shouldn’t have any issues finding your way.
Can I drive to the Theth Blue Eye?
If hiking 6 or so hours in the sun isn’t your idea of a good time, then you have the option to drive to the village of Nderlysaj instead. From here it is just a 30-40 minute hike to the Blue Eye in Albania.
Make sure to negotiate the cost with your taxi driver ahead of time, as the prices can be quite high for the short drive. You’ll also want to make sure you have a pickup scheduled for your return back to Theth.
Or you can drive your own rental car, if you have one.
If you’d rather not deal with all of the logistics, you can book a tour of the area that includes a stop at the Blue Eye.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit Theth for hiking is between late May and October. Outside of these months the trails are often covered in ice and snow, so it is not possible to hike it.
The most popular months to hike in the Albanian Alps are July and August. These are, of course, also the busiest months. We visited in August and the weather was perfect, but if you’re looking for less crowds then early Fall would be a great option.
Dining at the Theth Blue Eye
You’ll find a few options along the route to buy cold drinks, especially when you are close to the villages. Once you arrive at the Theth Blue Eye there is one cafe up on the hill.
Where to stay
If you’re planning to hike to the Blue Eye, then I recommend that you stay in Theth. One of the best parts of visiting Theth is staying at the traditional, family-run guest houses. You’ll find these lodging options sprinkled throughout the town. Most guesthouses only have a handful of rooms available, so I highly recommend you book your room in advance. Especially if you are planning to visit Theth during the summer months.
Bujtina Pllumi Theth
I think Bujtina Pllumi Theth has to take the prize for our favorite guesthouse we stayed at in the Albanian Alps. Located right by the famous church in Theth, the location was perfect. Not too far from the trailhead for the Theth to Valbonë trek, but also not too far from the trail to the Blue Eye.
The rooms are super affordable and Franco and Leka are the nicest hosts. Franco speaks perfect English (and French) and is super helpful with anything you need. Plus, the 12 euro set dinner they served was some of the best we had in Albania.
Guesthouse “Gjin Thana”
While this guesthouse is a bit pricier than other options, its location at the top of a hill offers some of the best views of Theth. We booked a room with an incredible mountain view and it was worth every penny.
One thing that is nice about Gjin Thana is that they have a full menu to choose from, rather than a set dinner. The food was the best we had in the mountains, and only cost us $14.50 for 2 people for dinner
How to get to Theth
Previously it was very difficult to get to Theth, as you needed a 4×4 to reach the village. However, a new road was recently opened making it super easy for any type of vehicle to reach the village. The ride currently takes between two and three hours from Shkoder to Theth. Shkoder is considered the gateway to the Albanian Alps.
If you are starting your journey in Tirana, you can either rent a car and drive or take the public bus from Tirana (Tirane) to Shkoder. The journey takes approximately 2 hours, without traffic. But plan for traffic.
You have four options for getting to Theth:
01) Bus from Shkoder – the most popular way to get to Theth is by taking the bus from Shkoder. You can purchase a ticket at any guesthouse or hostel. The ride costs 12€ as of August 2023.
This is the option that I recommend if you plan on hiking the Theth to Valbone Pass trek, as you won’t want to have a car in the mountains with you. There is no road connecting the parks of Theth and Valbone.
The ride from Shköder to Theth is extremely picturesque, as you drive through windy mountain roads. But speaking of windy, I recommend taking something if you tend to get carsick.
02) Drive yourself – if you have a rental car or your own car, it is definitely possible to drive yourself to Theth from any of the major cities in Albania, or a nearby European country. This is a good option if you’re not planning to do the full Theth to Valbone pass. Or if you want access to nearby things to do, without the hike involved to reach them.
03) Join a tour – there are tons of a multi-day tours that explore Theth and the surrounding Albanian Alps. This is a great option if you’d like to leave planning all of the little details to someone else. Here are a few of the most popular tours:
- Day trip from Tirana (or Shkoder) to Theth
- 3-day Guided Hike from Theth to Valbone
- 4-day Kayaking and Hiking trip in the Albanian Alps
04) Hike from Valbone – forget the cars altogether and reach the charming town of Theth on foot. This is what we did! We made our way with public transportation to Valbone, and then hiked the 9 mile pass to Theth. The Valbone to Theth hike is one of the most beautiful hikes I’ve ever done, and one that I definitely recommend doing!
🏘️Book your accommodation
Booking.com will help you to book accommodation in advance and check availability
✈️Book your flight in advance
To find the cheapest flight options, you can use WayAway and find the most suitable option for you
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