Our Montenegro & Albania: Balkans Adventure is the gay hiking tour you never knew you needed. To help you better understand this magnificent march and the European countries it navigates, we compiled everything you need to know below. Read on, and then trot on.
Introduction to the Balkans
What are the Balkans?
Technically speaking, the Balkans is a southeastern peninsula in Europe defined by the Balkans Mountain Range. However, the term more commonly refers to a group of countries ranging from Slovenia on the northwest down through Greece on the southeast. This picturesque peninsula is overflowing with history, culture and natural wonders, not to mention one of the most ravishing rivieras in the world—sorry, not sorry, Italy.
What will I see/experience in Montenegro?
The bulk of our Balkans Adventure takes place in Montenegro, home to terra-cotta roofed towns, fortified island villages and some of continental Europe’s last reserves for brown bears and wolves. Along the country’s Adriatic coast, we’ll wallow in medieval cities clinging to plunging cliffs. Specifically, we’ll enjoy private tours of Kotor Bay and Herceg Novi. And while we can’t actually get into Sveti Stefan, we will wallow in its majesty from the mainland.
When our tour swerves inland, we’ll enjoy the tiny country’s untouched wilderness. We’ll hike Montenegro’s highlands and wander alongside the spectacular Tara Canyon in Durmitor National Park. We’ll visit ‘Katune’ (small houses) and eat regional cheese. We may even take a dip in Biodradsko Jezero’s frigid glacial lake. Or not. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
What will I see/experience in Albania?
Albania only shook the dust of communism off its shoulders in 1990, finally opening its doors to international tourism. In the 30 years since the coastal country has seduced thousands of globetrotters looking to nibble on the previously forbidden fruit. Touched by the Roman, Greek, Venetian and Ottoman empires, it oozes culture and history. Today, Albania seems lost in time—don’t be surprised if our private transfer gets stuck behind horse-drawn carriages clunking along cobblestone streets, for example.
On our tour, you’ll dip your toe in Albania’s impressive green spaces during the popular Blue Eye Lake hike and Valbona Valley hike. You’ll also cruise the striking Fierza reservoir en route to the country’s unpretentious capital of Tirana, where the tour concludes.
Other than hiking, what else will we do on Out Adventures’ Montenegro & Albania tour?
Aside from our tenacious treks, we’ve also planned private tours of the region’s famous sites and cities, including Kotor Bay, Herceg Novi and Tirana. We’ll enjoy shorter pit stops in tiny villages, tasting local delicacies and learning a little more about the region’s volatile history. There will also be optional opportunities to swim in glacial lakes, indulge in our Mojkovac hotel’s spa treatments and take a bite out of the Balkan’s culinary culture—spoiler alert: expect carbs. Perhaps the most exciting activity we’ll enjoy will be our morning whitewater rafting the Tara River—no experience necessary.
Difficulty of our gay Balkans hike
How difficult is this tour?
We’ve given our Balkans gay hiking tour a 3.5 out of 5 physical rating as the majority of our treks are less than four hours and are on well-used trails. All hiking days are interspersed with less active days, so you have plenty of time to rest. The most difficult activity will be our 13.9km/8.6 mi Valbona trek on day 7. The lengthy excursion will ascend and descend 1000m/3280ft. Because we approach all hikes at a reasonable pace with plenty of breaks, we believe most reasonably fit people are capable of enjoying this tour.
Will we be hiking in high altitudes?
While we will be hiking through hills and some mountain ranges, the altitude should not be a factor. It would be extremely unusual to experience altitude sickness on this tour.
How far do we hike each day, and what is the terrain like?
Three of the four hikes on this tour are well under 10km/6.2 mi and will take between 1–4 hours max to complete. In general, the paths are well-used and clearly marked with ascents & descents barely exceeding a few hundred meters (500 or so feet). The one exception is the aforementioned Valbona hike. We’ll enjoy this longer hike at a leisurely pace, ensuring everyone successfully completes it.
What support will I have?
On every hike, you will be accompanied by one local guide and an Out Adventures host. Both the guide and host are available to assist you should it be required. They also carry first-aid kits in case of emergencies.
If I have a recent injury/surgery/special physical requirement. Can I still participate, and what safety precautions are in place?
The honest answer is ‘it depends.’ Because the vast majority of this tour is totally achievable for most fitness levels, we believe a small surgery or special physical requirement shouldn’t negatively impact your enjoyment of the adventure. And while we politely ask you to disclose any physical concerns/injuries with us, the decision to participate is ultimately up to you and your physician. We can not make medical recommendations.
I’m worried I might be the slowest/fastest walker. Can the team split up, so I don’t hold other walkers up?
Absolutely. Because you’ll be accompanied by both a local guide and host, our group can easily split up. Ultimately, we want you to enjoy the adventure, and that means hiking at your preferred pace. Whether that be as slow as an aging drag queen in six-inch heels or as fast as a gay millennial slurping his third iced coffee in an hour.
Packing for the Balkans and other practical information
When is the best time to hike in Montenegro and Albania?
Summer is widely considered the best time to hike in both countries. While the coast can be quite hot, the hilly inland regions we visit are pleasantly warm with the odd cool evening. Days are at their longest, while rain and humidity tend to be minimal.
What will the weather be like, and how should I prepare accordingly?
Daytime temperatures inland will vary between 24C/75F and 31C/87.8F. In the evenings, the temperature may drop to medium-low 20s/70s. As mentioned, July & August experience the least amount of rain while the humidity is generally very low.
Should I pack bug spray?
If mosquitos are drawn to you, like Cher fans to Farewell tours, then yes, bring bug spray. But on the whole, the regions we visit aren’t particularly known for pesky insects.
Will I have to carry my own day pack?
On this tour, there are no porters. If you choose to bring a day pack on hikes, then yes, you will have to carry it. However, larger luggage will always be safe in our hotel or locked on our private bus.
Anything specific I should pack?
To keep this organized, we’ve created a detailed packing list here. But the most important item to pack is a worn-in pair of hiking shoes/boots. If you’re looking to purchase a new pair for this tour, please see our Ultimate Guide To Buying Hiking Boots.
What kind of hiking shoes/boots are appropriate for this tour?
For our Balkans Adventure, we recommend a worn-in pair of hiking shoes. In our opinion, hiking shoes offer the correct blend of ankle support and lightweight for the terrain we’ll traverse on this tour. However, if you enjoy extra ankle support, a hiking boot may be appreciated. We do not recommend running shoes on this tour.
Accommodations on our Balkans gay hiking tour
What kind of accommodations will we be staying in?
We’ll be slumbering in a wide range of hotels and resorts on this tour. For example, in Herceg Novi and Mojkovac, we’ll enjoy the height of Mediterranean hospitality. Meanwhile, more simple accommodations await in Zabljak and Valbona. Finally, we’re particularly excited about our Tara lodge—if an acclaimed minimalist architect re-envisioned summer camp, this would be it.
Can I purchase a single supplement if I don’t have a travel buddy? How much does it cost?
Yes. If you’d prefer your own room throughout the tour, you can purchase a single supplement. Please see the Dates & Pricing section of our tour page here for exact pricing.
Will we have wifi access at the hotels and accommodations?
All of the hotels we’ve booked claim to have wifi connections. However, in our experience in similarly rural regions, said connections can be weaker than Twiggy at a strongman competition. Come prepared to enjoy a social media detox.
What adaptors are used in Montenegro and Albania?
In Albania, the power plugs and sockets are of type C and F. The standard voltage is 230 V, and the standard frequency is 50 Hz. For more information, click here. Montenegro is the same, except the power plugs, and sockets are only type F.
Money in the Balkans
What is the currency in Montenegro and Albania?
The local currency in Montenegro is the Euro (EUR), and in Albania, it’s the Albanian lek (ALL).
Will my credit/debit card work in most places?
Yes. However, smaller restaurants and bakeries in rural regions may not have debit/credit machines. Ensure you carry some local currency to pay for small ticket items.
Are there many ATMs in the region?
In the cities and tourist destinations, we visit, such as Kotor, there will be plenty of ATMs. However, the availability of ATMs will greatly decrease in the heart of our Montenegro & Albania tours when we’re exploring the national parks.
Dietary needs on our Montenegro and Albania tour
What will I eat?
We’ve been strongly warned that in both Montenegro and Albania, meals are large affairs focusing on fattier cuts of meat than some Americans are used to. Bread is a central pillar of Balkans cuisine, and you should expect loaves of it available at breakfast, second breakfast, lunch, second lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. In short, there is zero chance you will go hungry on this tour—you may end up waddling home.
What if I have a dietary preference or allergy? Is Montenegro, Albania and Out Adventures accommodating to food allergies?
Unfortunately, the Balkans is not the most flexible region when it comes to dietary preferences and some allergies. While we will always do our absolute best to accommodate everyone, vegetarians and vegans, in particular, need to manage their expectations on the variety of balanced meals they’ll be offered. Those who suffer from celiac disease or have gluten intolerances will have an extremely difficult time in the Balkans (see aforementioned note on bread).
Are snacks provided on hikes, or should I bring my own?
On our Valbona Valley trek, we’ll provide a full picnic lunch as well as multiple snacks to enjoy on the trail. If you’d like to enjoy a small snack on our other hikes, we recommend picking up some dried fruit, trail mix or chocolate beforehand.
LGBT acceptance in the Balkans
Are rural Montenegro and Albania gay-welcoming?
It pains us to say that neither country is particularly gay-welcoming. While both Montenegro and Albania have laws protecting LGBTQ+ people, the local attitude tends to be (at best) ignorance towards us and (at worst) distaste. It is almost guaranteed that public displays of affection will garner uncomfortable stares.
With that out of the way, it’s important to note Out Adventures only works with LGBTQ+ allies. From our local guide to all of the hotels we’ve reserved, you’ll feel comfortable and safe on our tour.
Will we connect with Montenegro and Albania’s respective LGBTQ+ scenes?
The gay scene in both countries is extremely small and is geared toward locals. Neither country has an openly gay bar, for example. So unfortunately, there are no opportunities to directly connect with local LGBTQ+ people on this tour.
Are apps such as Grindr, Scruff and Hornet safe in Montenegro and Albania?
A normal amount of caution should always be practiced while using apps abroad. However, aside from more skittish communications (users are understandably shy about sharing face pics), apps are generally safe in both countries.
If you have any questions leading up to your big gay Balkans hike, never hesitate to get in touch. We’re always happy to share our personal hiking tips and tricks. In fact, if it’s a hiking question specifically, ask to speak with Rob (owner and founder of Out Adventures) —he’s a passionate hiker himself and has led hundreds of gay men on some of the world’s most famous trails.
Photo credits from the top down: Unsplash x 2, Blue River Lodge, Shutterstock, Bianca Resort & Spa, Unsplash, Wikipedia Commons, Unsplash x 2.
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