Theth is an isolated village in mountainous Northern Albania.
Photo by ViolaCiv
Albania is filled with glorious scenery, isolated communities, and ancient traditions, and nowhere is more picturesque than the Northern mountains, close to the borders with Montenegro and Kosovo. Hidden there is the tiny village of Theth, perhaps Albania’s most gorgeous location. This isolated village, set amidst a dramatic natural park, is a stop on the Great Balkan Ride minimal assistance rally. Let’s learn more.
Theth: “Majestic isolation”
In the early 20th century, an English traveler by the name of Edith Durham visited Albania, quickly falling in love with the nation and its people. She was particularly fond of the mountains, and their communities, describing both in glowing terms in her book High Albania, first published in 1909. Though a century has passed and much has changed in the country, her experience of visiting the village of Theth still stands true: “I think no place where human beings live has given me such an impression of majestic isolation from all the world.”
Where is Theth?
Theth is found high among the Albanian Alps, which are also known locally as the Accursed Mountains. More precisely, it’s at the center of Theth National Park, covering over 26 square kilometers of astonishing terrain, full of steep peaks, remarkable valleys, and the Theth river. This is all in the very North of Albania, close to the Montenegrin border, but on the Great Balkan Ride we approach from, and depart to, the South-West. The roads we travel will be unforgettable, packed with stunning views, though it won’t always be easy: innumerable hairpin bends and steep climbs await, while last time we checked the planned asphalting of from Shkodra was incomplete.
Why is Theth so special?
To be considered remote and picturesque is one thing, but to be the most remote and picturesque village in Albania, is quite another. There are several elements that aid its case as a mountain paradise. Firstly, the setting: distant mountains encircle the village, with stunning vistas in all directions, particularly at sunset. The valley is rich with bright meadows, and the mountain air is refreshing. The remoteness is also a factor: when it takes so long to reach, you really appreciate the destination. The isolation has ensured that the village has maintained its traditions, untouched by time or trespassers. Lastly, the attraction of Theth is partly that it is such a great site for exploring the surrounding landscape. The village makes the perfect base for those wishing to go hiking, or to see nearby caves and waterfalls.
What to See in Theth
Aside from trekking to mountain peaks or hidden waterfalls, there are several sites of note in the village itself. There is a famous church, which often features in visitors’ photos. And there are the notorious “Shutting Towers”, where families with blood feuds could lock themselves in for protection. Close by is another tower: this was used to house those who had killed rivals with whom they were feuding (suggesting the “shutting towers” proved insufficient a inadequate defense)! You can find many other towers in the area, hidden among the valleys of the forest. Despite the violent history of the village, the locals are famously friendly. If you chance upon some while walking, they’ll likely offer you a bite to each, or perhaps a shot of strong spirit!
The Future of Theth
Not long ago, locals were leaving. Completely cut-off from the world all winter, and without sufficient electricity or amenities, in previous decades the population dwindled to less than one hundred families. However, slowly, tourists have realised that Theth (when it’s accessible, at least) is a gem of Albania, and Europe. More guesthouses are opening, though the region’s poor roads should prevent too sudden a development into a tourist hotspot. Still, though, better to see it while it’s still relatively undiscovered. And there’s no better time than this summer, on the Great Balkan Ride!