DAY 1: SKOPJE – MOUNTAIN HUT LJUBOTEN (1.630m)
Mountain hut Ljuboten dates from 1931 and it’s the oldest active hut in North Macedonia. It is located immediately above the tree-line at an altitude of 1.630 m. and it will take you about 2 – 2,5 hours to reach it from the village Staro Selo. At the beginning of your hike, after the village church there is a tapped spring where you can get your water. As soon as you leave the village at 900m asl a chestnut forest – a rare sight in Shara mountain – begins. Following the main jeep road – here and there – the markings will lead you to several single-track shortcuts – you will be accompanied by a chorus of bird singing. Occasionally, the cold breeze from Ljuboten peak will remind you of the glimpses of this summit through the beech-wood crowns all the way to the mountain hut. Overnight in villa Ljuboten, below the mountain hut.
Hike: 6,3 km / 982m D+
DAY 2: PEAK LJUBOTEN
Ljuboten peak is a significant summit on Sharr Mountain range with a pyramidal shape dominating the far background when seen from Skopje valley. Hence, it is not a coincidence that it is one of the symbols of the city represented on its coat of arms. The hike is 4km long one way (7,8h return) with 870 meters of climbing and it usually takes 4-5 hours of hiking. As you start hiking from the mountain hut the trail takes you immediately into the sub-alpine zone of Sharr Mountain, consisting of rock scree, pastures and occasional alpine bushes. The route follows the northeastern arm of the summit, and as it gets near the top it offers a real experience of hiking a typical alpine ridge. The sights during the hike are amazing: mount Skopska Crna Gora and Vodno in the east, south-east is the Jakupica central massif with Solunska Glava peak, below the Polog valley. Southern views open the whole Shara ridgeline with dozen of peaks looming above 2500m asl. West are the Kosovo and Albanian mountains and up north – as a contrast to everything described before is Kosovo plain. The descent from the peak is on the same trail back to the mountain hut. Overnight in the same villa.
Hike: 7,8 km / 888m D+, 888m D-
DAY 3: LJUBOTEN HUT TO VILLAGE BELOVISHTE
Today you will be hiking on the route that traverses the eastern side of Ljuboten peak, passing by Kozja Stena (goat’s rock) – a notable rocky landmark amidst the steep slope seen even from Skopje. You will be walking on a rocky path among many small and large boulders - minding your step is crucial here even though your sight is always being “stolen” by Ljuboten peak above you, Shara ridgeline to your left and Polog valley below you. Once you get on the ridgeline, you will see Livadicko Lake, one of the most beautiful and deepest glacial lakes in Shara Mountain range, situated in a rocky cirque at 2137 meters. If you continue along the ridge you will reach Livadica Peak. Our trail leads you down across the green pastures and beech-wood and chestnuts mixed forest (a rarity in Shara). Once you hear the roaring sound of several creeks and rivers you are close to Belovishte - the finishing point of this wonderful hike. At the local restaurant you can award yourself with a trout for lunch and well-deserved swim at the swimming pool in the shadows of chestnut trees. Late afternoon transfer to Popova Shapka ski center. Overnight in mountain lodge in Popova Shapka.
Hike: 15,7km / 945m D+, 1.708m D-
DAY 4: TITOV VRV
One of the most challenging, and probably the most beautiful route in Sharr Mountains is from Ski Center Popova Shapka to Titov Vrv via the ridgeline route. It is a very demanding but very rewarding hike of 21km with 1.800 D+ that usually takes around 8 hours. Nonetheless, all the way to Titov Vrv the ridgeline route offers 360 degree panorama of all Shar Planina Mountian massif. Walking to the second highest peak in North Macedonia with 2.747m height – you will climb over “smaller” summits Sin Vrv (2550 m), Karabunar (2600 m) and Bakardan peak (2702 m). On its very top there stands a 3-storie brick tower serving as a metaphorical lighthouse for the exhausted but thriller mountain devotees. The return to Popova Shapka is on the easier, ‘Vakaf’ trail - as you traverse Bakardan peak at its base around 2200 meters - the pure alpine and unspoiled wilderness of Upper Leshnica region opens up down in a network of glacial valleys. The first half of the return trail travels across waste pastures and alpine meadows, and the second one along the ski pists and a jeep road. Overnight in the same mountain lodge in Popova Shapka.
Hike: 21km / 1.800m D+, 1.264m D-
DAY 5: PEAK PLAT & LESHNICA WATERFALL
Leave Popova Shapka ski center in the morning and head to the most beautiful part of Sharr Mountains – Leshnica Valley. In the beginning, the trail climbs gradually to circumnavigate Ceripashina mountain where the single-track turns into a jeep road until the first sheepfold, where we join the hiking path again, to a high plateau on 2.050m. The last 350 vertical meters to reach Plat are worth the effort – it opens an awestruck view of the glacial valleys of Leshnica creek and Pena river, and on their opposite side the vertical couloirs of Sreden Kamen (2.465 m). From here we descend to Upper Leshnica area at 1700m asl - the last ice age has left miraculous scars in this terrain and as soon as you get to the upper base of the valley, a waterfall can be heard in the near distance – Leshnicki waterfall. Further down, the narrow valley broadens as Plat and Sreden Kamen eastern sides open up to a larger and flatter valley of river Pena – this area is known as Dolna (Lower) Lehsnica. It’s at altitude of 1.450 meters. Next two nights we will stay in tents in this beautiful valley.
Hike: 13,4km / 858m D+, 752m D-
DAY 6: LESHNICA VALLEY
A well-deserved relaxing day for camping in the pure alpine-like glacial valley of Dolna Leshnica, nested in the central part of Sharr Mountain. Having a break here comes naturally as this flat area puts you like on a small pedestal from where you are enclosed by massive natural formations such as is tall coniferous trees, overhanging rock faces, limestone cathedrals and almost vertical couloirs. There are couple of springs with the purest drinking water in the valley, and a river, where if you are skilled enough, you can catch a nice trout for dinner… Another overnight under the stars in this beautiful place.
Hike: no hikes
DAY 7: LAST DAY: BACK TO POPOVA SHAPKA
Walking back to Popova Shapka can be on the same trail that you followed to Leshnica Valley, with a bigger ascent as now you will be walking in the opposite direction. The other way is along the jeep road, enveloped by coniferous trees (a atypical site in the massif) until the sheepfold. As you pass by the sheepfold mind the dogs – call out the shepherd – chances are you will meet several autochthone mountain shepherd dog called Sharplaninec – whose job is to tend the sheep from wolves and bears – and this area is full with wildlife. This route is 14,5km long, with a total ascent of 873m, and it will take you around 4-5 hours to reach Popova Shapka ski center. A car transfer will be waiting for you there to take you to the bus station in Tetovo.
Hike: 14,5 km / 873m D+