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This program is a winter unique offer from the South of Albania. It combines 3 days of horse riding adventure in changing landscape, of valleys, hills, small forests, rivers, steep climbing and downhills, with another 3 days of culture, hospitality, monuments, thermal baths, archaeological sites, Ionian coast and shepherds life. The program offers real moments in the saddle, dynamic off road experiences to explore the very unspoiled parts of the South and many hiking paths to be explored.
The horses used on this ride (Albanian horses) are local breed mix of Tarpan and Arab horses. They are small but perfectly suited to the rocky terrain being surefooted and accustomed to trekking long mountainous routes, in all kind of weathers, allowing riders to feel confident, relaxed and free to enjoy the stunning views.
The whole itinerary is designed as a dedication to a different season that has a lot to offer, in terms of adventure, fun, smaller groups, culture, history, monuments, local houses, music, art and tradition. Food and cooking experiences, wine and Raki tasting will be something really exceptional about this trail. Guests will have the possibility to interact, participate and live part of the Albanian local life.
Meeting people and introducing our guests to their life and activity is a very social part of this program. Many things experienced with this offer can’t be enjoyed with the fast rhythm of the high season that’s why this is a suggestion for slow life, dynamic ride, slow food and slow adventure.
Plan your flight to Tirana airport ideally in the morning, but no later than 13:00 pm – this leaves time for the transfer and be able to visit the town of Gjirokstra. The transfer from the airport of Tirana will take around 3-4 hours (250km). You will be accommodated in a traditional hotel, in the heart of the historical Gjirokastra .The new Bazaar, and if there is daylight left , Enver Hoxha’s house, Gjirokastra castle, the church of the Old Bazaar, the mosque of the Bazar and Skenduli house can all be visited before dinner. Dinner will be served at a traditional restaurant. During dinner your guides will be able to speak to you about the trail: possible requests or needs, advice and things which are good to know. We recommend that you buy a map of the area before dinner in order to gain a good understanding of the itinerary.
After breakfast at the hotel and allocation of horses, we will start to ride through the countryside towards the small town of Libohova, nestled at the foot of the Bureto Mountain. The route to Libovoha is of intermediate difficulty and combines hilly landscapes, valleys, small water streams, cliffs and many chances of canters. After the accommodation of the horses next to the small farm where you will spent the night we will drive to the center of the town (10 minutes) to reach the lunch stop a small traditional restaurant. You can taste the local food wine and Raki. During the afternoon we will take a long walk to visit Libohova’s castle, a Bektashi cult object and the tomb of Ali Pasha’s sister, Shanisha The archaeological evidence indicates a very ancient settlement which reached its zenith in the 17th-century when the town of Libohova became an important commercial centre. Later on feeding the horses and taking care of them is part of you evening activity. You will overnight at the local family farm and will taste delicious local food. You can also participate in cooking a local dish with the family. Riding hours: 3-4 hours
This morning you will ride through rolling hills, Drino’s valley and few water streams before climbing a steep hill to reach Antigonea National Park where we will stop for a visit. Antigonea was built by King Pyrrhus in 295 BC and named after his first wife Antigona, daughter of King Ptolemeus of Egypt. After the break we will ride 1 more hour to the stable where you can enjoy the experience of letting free your horses. Lunch will follow immediately after in a village close to the stable. You will be accommodated at the same hotel in Gjirokastra. After a short break we plan to visit the cold war tunnel in Gjirokastra, a building of communism defence paranoia that has a lot to tell. Before dinner you will visit a painter studio and listen from him about local art and special techniques of painting and installations, also about many elements of tradition that were involved in his works. Ideological art during communism can be one of the topics to be discussed. Dinner will take place at a small local restaurant in the historical area. A well-known iso-polyphonic group will be invited to talk, sing and explain about the complex role of iso- polyphonic group members during dinner. South Alabian Iso-poliphony is a UNESCO protected world heritage. Riding hours: 3-4 hours
This will be a very different day. The morning half is focus on visits to few very important monuments of culture that are placed next to each other over the hills next to Drino’s valley. The old paleo Christian church of Peshkepia, an ex-episcopal center of the 9-th century. The place itself has evidence of building since the 3-rd century. Next we visit the Melani Bektashi monastery. We plan a guided by the bektashi father (priest) tour inside the Sufi object placed over the ruins of an antic city that is thought to be Justinianopolis. Bektashism this sect of Islam has its world center in Albania. The religious place is very peaceful and welcoming for foreigners. You will be introduced to some of the main concept on the basis of bektashism and rules of their life.
Later on we will visit another religious monument the church of Labova of the Cross in Labova, which will also be our lunch stop. This monument is representing one of the oldest church in Albania. The legend says that was built by Justinian the Great in 554. Justinian married Teodora his wife at the small chapel of this village and the women of the village inherited her wedding dress for centuries. This church is decorated with an old wooden iconostas full of floral and symbolic animal scenes.
After lunch we will drive up Lunxheria’s mountain and will stop at Çajupi’s valley, placed at 1300 m. A shepherds camp very basic but pleasant will be your accommodation for the night. Before dinner (if still daylight) we can hike around the place on the slopes of the mountains that surround the valley. Dinner will take place next to the fire with lots of mountain food raki and wine. Driving hours: total 3 hours.
After breakfast and the views of a wonderful sunrise in the mountains we will drive back to the Drinos valley and will follow later Vjosa river to reach the thermal baths of Benja in Pwrmet. Along the river there are splendid warm water human-made pools to soak on a cool day. People believe from centuries that the baths have healing properties. The pools are off the beaten path, and during winter months you can have enough of privacy. Kadiu bridge a monument of culture built in 1760 during ottoman period, offers a stunning view of the Langarica river. That is an entering gate to the canyons. Along the day there are chances of exploring the canyons by hiking and swimming. Lunch will take place in the city of roses, Pwrmet. You will especially enjoy the local raki and the local sweets. Later on we will drive to a remote area close to Ballaban village to visit another unique farm that will be our accommodation for the evening and dinner place also.The owners will have a short presentation on how they abandoned the city life and made it possible live and dream far form everything. This will be a special wine tasting place. Driving hours: Total 3 hours.
This morning after a fresh cooked breakfast we will drive first back to Gjirokastra and then towards Butrint, a UNESCO protected archaeological park, through a challenging off road path. The driving experience will be exceptional and the views some of the most beautiful met in your journey. Small remote villages, old houses, windy roads, no roads, small gardens, very few animals, old churches and the sense of time stopping somewhere in the past is the impression this driving day offers. We will stop to visit the ruins of the church of Leshnica and will have a coffee stop by Cerkovica village. A local person will give a short presentation on how this area lives and what was their past, and what do they expect for the future. We will later drive to Butrint to visit the archaeological park. Dating back to the 7th century BC based to the classic mythology the exiles following the fall of Troy moved to Butrint to escape. Originally part of an area called Epirus, Butrint has been occupied by the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines and the Venetians. As a result, Butrint offers a wealth of incredible archaeological structures, including a well preserved theatre, Roman public baths inside which lies a paleo-Christian baptistery and a 9th century basilica. The sanctuary of Asclepius, god of medicine sits on its hill or “acropolis” and dates back to the fourth century. Lunch will take place in Ksamil or Butrint in a restaurant next to the sea with plenty of sea food cooked local way. In the afternoon we will drive to Saranda small town to be accommodated in a hotel next to the sea. Before dinner we will visit the local art gallery and will have a presentation by the head of the gallery a very good painter. Dinner will take place in a small restaurant in Saranda. Driving hours: Total 4 hours
After breakfast we will drive back to Gjirokastra to the horse stables for another horse riding day. The today itinerary passes through a rural environment; beautiful steep hills, small valleys, pastoral atmosphere traditional farming and cultivation of the land, bush area, small lakes, small water streams and cliffs, old defence infrastructure from communism time. The view of River Drino, “Tree of Life” river remains on the left during the morning ride. Drino is the most important water basin in the area and part of ancient pagan beliefs. On your way you will meet the ruins of the castle of Santa Triada reconstructed during 1809-1810 by Ali Pasha, a strategic point to control all the mediaeval caravan itineraries. The castle ruins were used later during the time of socialism for military issues. We will stop for a traditional home-made lunch in Dhoksat village and will have invited a local expert to talk about the characteristics of life, tradition, folklore, costumes and ethnography of the area. The ride back to the stables in the afternoon is the most beautiful part of the ride as the landscape allows few canters and the climbing up hills is stunning. After the ride we will drive back to Gjirokastra in the same hotel. You can have a walk around the historical area before the farewell dinner. Later in the evening we can have a drink in a popular bar. Riding hours: 5-6 hours
After breakfast at the hotel you will be transferred back to the airport of Tirana.
It may be possible to pay for a single supplement on the first, third, sixth and last night of the trail but for the rest participants must be prepared to share accommodation and facilities. If single rooms are booked it will be a €20 supplement per each night, payable on-site.
Small Group Supplement.
This is applicable if only 3 riders are booked onto the ride. If, at the time of departure, more than 3 riders are booked, the small group supplement will be refunded. Small group supplement is 132 Euros/person
Please note: All itineraries are given for your guidance only and it may be altered on the ground and in accordance with the prevailing conditions by the organising team.
Health (ride specific)
Please take along sun cream and anti-allergy medicine for possible insect bites.
Film and Camera Equipment
Internet access will be difficult only during day 4. Participants can buy an Albanian sim card/phone number for about €10 and have free internet access and around 20 minutes of free calls with most European countries.
Access to electricity is possible every evening and the whole area is covered very well with signal.
Normal riding clothes: riding hat, long sleeved shirts (please avoid packing your favourite or expensive clothing due to risk of damage) riding trousers, warm clothes,chaps, gloves.
Good mountain shoes – with a grip for walking but not too thick as you will need to ride in them too. Proper shoes to walk in the river.
Normal riding boots with a smooth sole are not recommended as they can be slippery when walking on foot.
Casual clothes for the evening
Sun cream, sunglasses, hat, water bottles.
Anti-allergy medicine for possible insects bites
Camera – please bring small cameras as large professional ones are very difficult to transport on horseback.
Copy of passport
Personal saddlebags are welcome if riders would like to bring their own. Small saddlebags are provided by the ride but just for food and water.
2019- 2020: Tirana airport to Gjirokastra: €70 return per person, 225 km, 3-4 hours
Saranda Port to Gjirokastra: €40 return per person, 64km, 1 hour ( this might not be available during winter, but may be possible for the last departure of this trail.)
IntoAlbania does not operate or own any tours; IntoAlbania do not own any of the third-party providers (tour providers) nor are we under the economic control of any of these third-party providers in our platform.