Big cities that have epic hikes nearby are the best. As fun as it is to explore a new city, spending some quality time in nature is an important part of any trip. It’s a peaceful break from bustling city life, plus you get to exercise with beautiful views.
That’s why we decided to take the 30 minute bus ride from Tirana, Albania to the small village of Pellumbas. We had heard about an epic hike to a cave, and we couldn’t resist checking it out. It wasn’t easy figuring out how to get there, but in the end the hike was worth it.
The Cave of Pellumbas was even cooler than we were expecting, but that wasn’t the only highlight of the hike. There were also beautiful views of surrounding mountains, cliffs, and a beautiful river and waterfall down below. And while the hike was definitely challenging, we’d recommend it to any nature lovers who are spending time in Albania.
What to Bring
When you’re doing a hike of this caliber, it’s important to bring the right gear. You don’t want to get dehydrated, sunburnt, or even worse, hangry. We did our research before leaving for this hike, and packed plenty of sustenance and water to keep us healthy throughout the hike.
Here’s the bulleted list of everything we would bring:
- One liter of water per person (you will get very hot hiking uphill in the sun so bring plenty of water)
- One meal per person (we ate PB&J sandwiches on one of the benches)
- Headlamps (you can rent these at the shop at the bus stop)
- Fully charged phone (in case of emergency – we had service for much of the hike)
- A bathing suit (if you plan to hike down the mountain to the river)
If you’re doing the hike in the summer, it can get really hot. So plan to wear shorts and a t-shirt. You’ll also definitely need sneakers, but hiking boots would be even better if you have them. The trail has lots of loose rocks so it can get slippery at certain places.
How to Get There
Figuring out how to get to the trail head of the Cave of Pellumbas was definitely challenging. We didn’t want to take a taxi since that can get expensive, so we knew we would have to find public transportation.
We ended up relying on someone’s TripAdvisor comment from 2 years earlier. He advised visitors to take a bus from the Southeast Bus Station at 7 AM to Pellumbas. His advice ended up working out perfectly!
We recommend taking the bus too, since it is so inexpensive. It costs 100 lekes per person, which is about $1 USD. Catch the 7 AM bus to Pellumbas from the Southeast Bus Terminal (it’s called Terminali i Autobuzëve Juglindje – Southeastern Albania Regional Bus Terminal in Google Maps).
It was a bit challenging figuring out which bus was going to Pellumbas since the buses didn’t have signs. We just asked a bunch of people and eventually someone knew which bus to take.
Once we had boarded the bus, it was a short 30 minute ride to get to the trail head. Just take the bus all the way to the last stop. From there, you end up at a small shop where you can rent a headlamp. The store owner will show you which way to go to get to the trail head, but it’s very close.
To return, catch the 2:30 PM bus from the same place it drops you off. However, we finished the hike really quickly and didn’t want to wait around for hours. So we started walking down to the main road then hitchhiked the rest of the way to Tirana. It worked out well for us and we saved ourselves a couple hours of waiting around.
Hiking to the Caves
The hike to the cave is challenging. We’ll just put that out there right away. We are experienced hikers, and even we were winded in a few places. Don’t get me wrong, it’s completely doable if you start early in the morning and take your time. But, it’s definitely not a great hike for small children or older people.
For most of the hike, you are following along the ridge of a cliff on a mountain. The views are absolutely stunning, but you have to be careful with your footing. There is only a railing in a few places, and the trail gets very rocky.
The last stretch of the hike is definitely the hardest. It gets very steep right before you reach the caves, but it doesn’t last for long. We stopped to take lots of pictures along the way, but it ended up taking about an hour and 15 minutes to reach the Cave of Pellumbas.
The actual cave is a little further than where Google Maps says it is, so don’t be deterred if your hike goes further than expected. The cave is very visible from the trail, so you won’t accidentally go past it.
Exploring the Cave of Pellumbas
After arriving at the Cave of Pellumbas, the first thing we noticed was a cool breeze exiting the cave. It is so much cooler in the cave than in the hot Albanian sun. It’s a very welcome reprieve after completing such a challenging hike.
The area outside the cave is a wooden platform, constructed with two benches to sit on. We took a break on the benches and caught our breath before venturing into the cave. Also, since we hadn’t seen a single person on the hike, we left our backpacks behind a big rock at the cave entrance. We didn’t want to have to carry them around in the dark.
The entrance to the cave isn’t hard to get into, with just a few big rocks to step over. The walls inside the entrance are covered in graffiti, but there it disappears once you are further into the cave.
It’s definitely very spooky at first when you enter the Cave of Pellumbas. You can hear water dripping from stalactites on the ceilings, and the sound of bats off in the distance. There is a massive hole near the entrance to the cave, so be careful. It has a caution sign next to it, but definitely be very careful where you are stepping.
As you round the first bend in the cave, most of the light from the entrance disappears. Then, you have to follow a luminescent guide rope up a small rocky hill. It was extremely wet and slippery when we were there, plus we didn’t have headlamps. So we didn’t go very far in, but exploring the caves was so cool.
As we excited the cave, we were definitely very happy to see sunlight again. Being in pitch darkness with nothing but flashlights is very creepy. You start to see and hear things that aren’t there. It almost felt like the beginning of a horror movie (The Descent!).
You also have the option of booking a tour group. There are pros and cons to doing this, but one big pro is that transportation is included. Plus, you get an English-speaking guide who can explain more about the caves than we probably know.
We prefer doing cool adventures like this without large groups of people, so we opted to do it alone. It’s the cheaper option, plus we got to take pictures without lots of people in them. In fact, we only passed two other people on the entire hike which was pretty cool.
Hiking to the Cave of Pellumbas is a once in a lifetime experience. Not only is the cave incredibly beautiful, but it’s also not very crowded. There wasn’t a single other person in the cave when we visited, so it was very cool experiecing nature the way we were intended to–without crowds of people.
The one thing that we wished we did was hike down to the water. There is a trail that leads past the cave and goes down to the water. We were very tired and didn’t want to hike back up, but pictures of the water look stunning.
Don’t forget to check out our video for more details on our spooky experience inside the Cave of Pellumbas:
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