Frequently Asked Questions
How long is the High Scardus Trail?
The main trail extends for 495 km long, there are additional secondary trails and a multitude of intersecting, unrelated side trails.
It can be continuously walked in three stretches (see map):
- North: Sharr, Korab & Kortinik Ranges - the crest between three countries (stage 1-11): From Staro Selo / Mt. Ljuboten (MK) to Maqellar (AL)
- Central: The Balkan Green Belt - Jablanica & Shebenik National Park (stage 12-14): From Modrich (MK) to Vevchani (MK)
- South: From Ohrid to Prespa through the Galicica National Park (stage 15-16): From Ohrid / Velestevo (MK) to Gorna Gorica (AL)
Between those stretches short transfers are required:
- 1 & 2 = 40 km asphalted road, a good hours drives + waiting time at the border point.
- 2 & 3 = 35 km asphalted road, little less than an hour
How long does it take to complete the walk?
The thru hike takes around 20 days, it can be split into segments or turned into shorter circular routes. The most popular options are ranging between 8 to 15 days, shorter and longer versions are possible.
When to walk the High Scardus Trail?
The best period is early June to end of September, this can be extended on both sides by about two weeks but also depends on which segment you're planning to walk. Further South the trail will be free of snow earlier (and see new one later), the temperatures are warmer here, too. The highest sections may see patches of snow lingering around until late June and new snow fall from mid-September.
Where does the High Scardus Trail start?
Walking the complete route you start in
- spring from the Southern end and walk North, Gorna Gorica (Prespa Lake) to Staro Selo (Ljuboten)
- autumn from the Northern end and walk South, Staro Selo (Ljuboten) to Gorna Gorica (Prespa Lake)
See when to walk (above) for more details.
Staro Selo is closest to Skopje Airport (92 km / 1:30 h), Pristina isn't much further but may delay at the border crossing
Gorna Gorica is closest to Ohrid's St. Paul the Apostle Airport (74 km / 1:45 h) and Kastoria (90 km / 1:45 h), both are smaller airports and the capital cities better connected.
Walking a segment of the route there are several entree and exit points mid-way, beyond the three segments' starting and ends points (listed above) some popular options are:
- Shishtavec (AL)
- Radomire (AL)
- Peshkopi (AL)
- Brod (RS)
- Veshala (MK)
Where to fly to / what airport to use?
The following four airports are the most closest and most suitable for the trail:
- Tirana / Albania (TIA)
- Pristina / Kosovo (PRN)
- Skopje / Macedonia (SKP)
- Ohrid / Macedonia (OHD)
- Kastoria / Greece (KSO)
- Kukes / Albania (due to open in 2021)
How to cross the border?
A special border crossing permission is required to pass the green mountain border outside of official checkpoints. Details of how to obtain those will be added here later. In the meantime you can contact Zbulo! Discover Albania to obtain them.
What is the highest point of the High Scardus Trail?
Mt. Korab (Maja e Korabit / Golem Korab) stands 2.764 meter tall and marks the highest point of both Albania and Northern Macedonia (stage 7). While the villages are located below 1.500 meters of altitude, the trails ascents to above 2.000 meters and almost all stages. This makes it the highest route in the Western Balkans.
Where to stay?
Stages start and end at inhabited places and while there's not yet everywhere "official" accommodation in place, there should be as soon with more hikers and bikers visiting the the trail each your. You will find locals very welcoming and friendly, many offering board and shelter to you. It is good manners to always insist to leave an appropriate compensation in return. Between the segments Albania has currently the best network of guesthouses as tours have started there first.
A detailed list of accommodation with contact data will be added here later.
What is accommodation like?
Accommodation on the High Scardus Trail varies in style and comfort. It's always wise to call ahead to ascertain they're open (huts) and prepared for your arrival. In the villages
The majority of nights is spend at basic but clean homestays and family-run guesthouses. Those invite you to experience local culture, taste home-cooked meals and get in touch with the local community. At this point most offer shared bedrooms sleeping 2-5 travelers, a common bathroom and additional toilet. Electricity is usually given, WiFi non-existent but mobile phone coverage good. Included in the price are dinner, breakfast and a take-away picnic lunch.
More spartan and rudimentary are overnights at mountain (few) and shepherd huts. Those are serviced and hosts provide meals, but there won't be a shower, hot water and mostly only a simple outhouse. Electricity at 12v is often sourced from a solar panel or temporarily available through a generator.
More comfortable are hotels that offer private ensuite rooms and include a restaurant section. Those are usually not located right on the trail but require detours or transfers. For an individual hiker they're not easy to access, bikers may not mind the extra kilometer so much. You're best off with an organized tour of days if you prefer staying in comfort.
How about camping?
If you're camping out, we suggest asking locals for permission. It's something they will certainly be happy to grand and likely invite you into their homes or to a glass or raki / rakija (the local fire water) to top.
Out in the wild and national parks certain restrictions apply to wild camping and we urge you to adhere to the principles of Leave No Trace. Treat lightly around you, take only pictures with you and leave only footsteps behind.