Medieval Albanian Trails riding holiday in Albania - Far and Ride
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Medieval Albanian Trails, Albania





Reviews



The horses and riding are great. The accommodations variable quality, but great to stay with local families. The owners and hosts are lovely. (I was) happy with the horses. They are very fit. (The) guide was great and the people who own and run the company are doing a great job.

Jackie A. (Zagoria, June 2017)
This is an adventurous trail which allows riders to discover the history, culture, food and traditional lifestyle of the people of Albania. The scenery you pass through will truly take your breath away! The perfect ride for lovers of adventure and culture, but certainly not for the faint of heart. Along the way, you will learn about the country's turbulent past, devastating recent history, traditional farming practices and colourful modern society as well. All from the back of the ultimate 4x4 vehicle!

Natalie (Far and Ride), Zagoria, June 2017
Adored every moment. 'Holiday' is too trite a term to describe it. I felt personally introduced into Albania, a country that is uniquely beautiful, uniquely historical and uniquely unspoilt. An adventure and a privilege. the horses were unimpeachable. Strong, sure and seemingly capable of doing and enduring anything. As a rider with small experience outside an arena, my Zanit was a perfect match and made me feel as skilled as any other on the trip. I trusted him fully but he was equally responsive to my commands and adjustments. The horses are well-known and well-loved.

Alexander C. (Zagoria, June 2017)
A wonderful equestrian adventure, and a wonderful cultural adventure! Stunning scenery, interesting company, peace and quiet on the trails to enjoy the incredible views and some fun fast canters whenever we got the chance. Was great to stay with local families and to experience the justifiably famous Albanian hospitality. It's obviously not a trip for people who want 5* luxury, but every night there was a comfortable bed, a hot shower and more delicious homemade (and homegrown) food than we could possibly eat. Elena's home made spinach and feta pie was a particular highlight! My horse (Kastor) was quite a quirky character, but very loveable. All the horses are clearly well loved, well take care of, and incredibly fit and healthy! I was amazed at how fast and forward going they were, even after a whole day of strenuous mountain climbing. (The guides?) Great - funny, laid back, full of interesting stories about life in Albania.

Kate S. (Zagoria Trail)
 

Horses



Type of horses:

Albanian horses - a mixture of Tarpan and Arab.

Nature of horses:

Strong, sure-footed, hardy, resilient, adaptable.

Height of horses:

12.2 - 13.2hh

Weight limit:

80kg (King Skerdilajd) or 90kg (Zagoria).

Tack type:

English.

 

Travel Advice



Please ensure you read the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) advice before you travel.
 

Ride Description

Discover the mountainous landscapes of southern Albania on hardy local horses, whilst staying with local families and learning about their traditions and cultures. Follow ancient caravan routes or trails followed by pre-Roman armies to uncover ancient artefacts and ruined castles. The challenging landscape holds a wealth of beauty and wildlife as you get well off the beaten track.

The local horses are a mixture of Tarpan and Arab and ideally suited to the mountain landscape. Although small they are strong and tough. Living always outdoors in this rocky environment ensures they are sure footed and trusting even across difficult terrain. For centuries these horses have been used by local inhabitants to pass through the mountains and transfer their livestock and bees from summer to winter pastures. During times of conflict and war, their horses transferred entire families to new villages. This breed was in existence in medieval times and even during the period of King Skerdilajd the breed were very similar.

Rides start from the town of Gjirokastra - known as the City of a Thousand Steps - which is a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2005. The town is surrounded by charming villages, byzantine churches, ancient ruins and spectacular mountain landscapes with forests, rivers and wildlife.

A highlight of the trails is the opportunity to stay with local families in their traditional homes and sample home-made meals and chat to the families over dinner. Your luggage is transported each day by vehicle, whilst saddle bags carry what you may need during the day.

There are two trails to choose from - one following caravan routes into the mountains, and the other following King Skerdilajd's route to the coast. Both have some very technical sections across challenging mountain paths and it is important that you are fit, active and not afraid of heights.

See Programmes.

 

Food & Accommodation

You spend the first and last night in a Babameto traditional house in the historical centre of Gjirokastra.

For the rest of the week you stay in different family houses in the villages you pass through. These are unique chances to mix with local families and experience their culture.

It is not possible to request single accommodation and so you should be prepared to share both bedrooms and bathrooms.

You will eat with the families who cook traditional, home-made meals for you. Breakfast consists of home-backed bread, butter, honey etc - all of which are locally produced.
Lunch is a picnic out on the trail.

The families will produce their own meat and dairy products from their own stock as well as making olive oil and growing fruit and vegetables. On some trails it is also possible to eat fantastic seafood and special dishes such as byrek (cheese pie).

Every family will offer mountain tea, and the famous Albanian Raki and wines are also homemade.

 

Activities

These trails are not suitable for non-riders.

There are some long riding days and so you may not have the desire or time for other activities, however, plenty of interesting historical visits to monasteries and churches are included along the routes.

 

Further Details

Languages: English

Health requirements: You need to be fit as there are times you need to lead your horse in mountainous terrain. It is also important that you are not afraid of heights.

Age limit: The trail organisers do not have a set limit, but we do not recommend these trails for riders under 12 unless very fit and competent.

Tuition: No

Included: Riding, accommodation, all meals (unless you arrive early on Day one), drinks, transfer of luggage

Not included: Flights, transfers, personal insurance

 

Travel Information

The nearest airport is Tirana. Direct flights from the UK are not possible everyday and so you may need to arrive a day early and spend a night in Tirana before the ride. For example, British Airways fly direct on Saturdays and Tuesdays. Otherwise there are many indirect flight options.

Alternatively, you can fly cheaply to the island of Corfu (with Ryan Air for example) and then take a boat across to Saranda port. The transfer from Saranda port to the ride start takes c. 1 hour.

Transfer costs, payable in advance, are:
70 Euro per person return from Tirana airport
40 Euro per person return from Saranda port

Airport: Tirana

 

Programmes


Zagoria Trail



Follow the medieval pathways of caravans through Zagoria, in a land full of myths, tales and ballads. Pass ancient ruins, remote churches and monasteries, as well as rare mountain bridges from the period of Ali Pasha. The trail culminates with a challenging climb to Swallows Rock. Stay with local communities and learn about their traditions and rites whilst discovering local grown food, Albanian Raki and wine.

Day One:

You should aim to arrive in the morning. You will be met at Tirana airport and transferred 220km to Gjirokastra town, a journey of c. 3-4 hours. You will have time to settle into your room at the traditional hotel in the historical centre of Gjirokastra before meeting for lunch (to own account; provided you arrive early enough). In the afternoon you are free to explore the town, perhaps visiting the bazaar, Gjirokastra castle, the church, mosque or Enver Hoxha's house. We would recommend buying a local map as during dinner your hosts will discuss the route with you and may like to mark it. Dinner will taken at a traditional restaurant and the guides will be on hand to fully brief you for the week ahead.

Day Two:

After breakfast at the hotel, the horses are allocated and you set off on your first day of riding towards the village of Karjan which has been populated since the early Medieval period. Along the journey you will pass through a rural environment of traditional farming, small houses and gardens and cultivated land. You will cross hilly landscapes, valleys, small streams and some cliffs. The path passes the Drino river or "Tree of Life" river which is the most important water basin in the area with many ancient pagan stories. You will also pass the ruins of the Santa Triada castle which was reconstructed during 1809-1810 by Ali Pasha as an important strategic point along caravan routes. The castle ruins were later used as a military base during socialist times. A picnic lunch is taken near the village of Erind.

After 4-5 hours you will reach the village of Karjan, which was once a rural stop for the caravans. You may wish to visit the church and old bridge before dinner at a local family house where you will also spend the night.

Day Three:

Continue riding northwards to the village of Small Laboya and the beautiful valley of Cajupi. The trail follows the old cobblestone merchant road of Zhapa, with wide open views of the mountains and valleys - you may even find ancient market artefacts alongside the trail. Stop in Small Laboya with its wonderful church and large houses which once belonged to merchants. Laboya was the birthplace of Vangjel Zhapa, a well known businessman and philanthrop who was the organiser of the first modern Olympic Games c. 200 years ago.

After visiting the church, continue riding up into the mountains passing endemic vegetation such as Mountain Tea, oregano, wild rose or Dig-Dag (digitalis). Follow the mountain path to the valley of Cajupi where you stop for a picnic lunch under the trees. Here you can also taste the famous Brati spring water at a typical watering station for the caravans and see a small tower which protected them from bandits known as Karakolls.

The afternoon trail through the valley is across terrain which is ideal for canters and gallops and the horses are happy to oblige. Follow the medieval caravan trails past a famous bandit station called Hija e Mallkuar or the Cursed Shadow - this area saw many battles as thieves tried to rob the passing caravans. Your destination is the village of Nderan where you will stay with a local cow and shepherding family for the next two nights. You can help the family with the milking process, preparing dinner or collecting honey from their bees - this village is one of the most important producers of honey in Albania with nearly ten different flavours depending on season and flower type. Dinner will be a mixture of local produce with raki and wine.

Day Four:

This mornings breakfast is a traditional mixture of mountain foods - freshly made bread, cookies, butter, jam, eggs, cheese, honey and milk. Today you will be riding some of the most important horse pathways of the 17th and 18th centuries which connected the biggest commercials centres in southern Albania. You will ride past the natural monument "Rock of Zhej" and stop for a break at the water spring of Lliar which was reconstructed by Ali Pasha in the early 19th century. Continue downhill along a difficult route to an ancient stone bridge where you stop for lunch. During summer months it may be possible to cool off in the Hoshteva river. After lunch visit Hoshteva's unique church which was built in 999AD and has many pagan elements visible in its wall paintings. The ride continues past the byzantine church of Lliar and the monastery of Nivan Saint Mehilli, built in 1702. Cross the bridge which connects the monastery with Nderan village and spend a second night with the same local family.

Day Five:

This morning's ride starts in an exhilarating way, with many canters along the mountain valley floor. Pass small, remote farms, wild cliffs and many isolated monuments. This ride follows in the footsteps of ancient commercial caravans towards important fairs and today's route through Pogoni is a true step back in time. Many byzantine monuments, artistic ruins and mountain springs can be found alongside the path. The picnic lunch is taken near one of the most famous architectural monuments - the stone bridge of Hllomo or Ciminxhi's bridge - only reached by horse this is one of the most isolated constructions.

After c. 6 hours of riding you reach the mountain village of Polican which is populated by a Greek minority - here you have the chance to explore some of the cult monuments before sampling some regional gastronomic delights.

Day Six:

Today you leave the Greeks behind for the most challenging day of riding through the mountains. Follow the trail uphill to Swallow Rock, 500m above the Suha river and stop for lunch by the Church of Labova of the Cross. This rare monument represents the oldest church in Albania which was believed to have been built by the imperator Justinian in 554AD. The church was saving relics of its original cross until they were stolen in 1989. Justinian married his wife, Teodora in the small chapel and the villagers inherited her wedding dress and preserved it for centuries.

In the afternoon, ride on to the small town of Libohova which is nestled at the foot of Bureto mountain. This ancient settlement is home to a well-known Albanian noble family who share their name with the town. You can visit the castle which was the dowry presented by Ali Pasha when his sister married one of the most important members of the Libohova family. Spend the night in a local family house and join them in another delicious meal.

Day Seven:

Watch the sunrise over the valley whilst enjoying breakfast in the garden. Before riding there is time for a guided walk through the town, visiting a small Bektashi cult object and the tomb of Ali Pasha's sister Shanisha.

Today's ride takes you through hilly terrain to the Antigonea national park, passing through the village of Suha. You will reach the national park in c. 3 hours. Here lies the city which King Pyrrhus built in 295BC and named after his wife Antigona, daughter of King Ptolemeus of Egypt. Plutarch wrote that the city was built by love but destroyed by hate. Enjoy a picnic lunch within the park before a guided tour of the monuments.

After another hour of riding you reach Gjirokastra town and the stables where you leave the horses. You stay in the same house as the first night and have a final dinner in a small restaurant in the old bazaar. Later in the evening you can take a celebratory drink in a popular bar.

Day Eight:

After breakfast you will be transferred to the airport for your flight home.



Minimum group size: 2
Maximum group size: 10
Ability description: You need to be a competent rider with plenty of experience riding outdoors across difficult mountainous terrain. Some of the trails are technically challenging, whilst others allow faster riding.
Type of ride: Trail
Total riding time: 8 days/7 nights/6 riding days (5-6 hours per day)
Departure dates: 2019:
17-24, 24-31 March; 31 Mar -7 April, 7-14 (Full), 14-21 (Full), 21-28 April; 5-12, 19-26 May; 23-30 June; 7-14, 21-28 July; 1-8, 8-15, 15-22, 22-29 September; 29 Sept-6 Oct, 6-13, 13-20, 20-27 October; 27 Oct-3 Nov, 3-10, 10-17, 17-24 November; 24 Nov-1 December.
 
Pricing: 2019:

£880 per person

Small group supplement (if there are 2 or fewer riders booked) £119 per person

Single rooms: It is not possible to guarantee single rooms on the trail and so you must be prepared to share. Sometimes single rooms are available on the first and last night for 16 Euro per night (payable locally).



King Skerdilajd Trail



Follow part of the trail that King Skerdilajd's army took to conquer Kaonia over 2,000 years ago, crossing some steep mountainous terrain and discovering the beautiful Ionian coastline. Stay with local families and discover their cultures and traditions as well as sampling local dishes and Raki.

Day One:

You should aim to arrive in the morning. You will be met at Tirana airport and transferred 220km to Gjirokastra town, a journey of c. 3-4 hours. You will have time to settle into your room at the traditional hotel in the historical centre of Gjirokastra before meeting for lunch (to own account; provided you arrive early enough). In the afternoon you are free to explore the town, perhaps visiting the bazaar, Gjirokastra castle, the church, mosque or Enver Hoxha's house. We would recommend buying a local map as during dinner your hosts will discuss the route with you and may like to mark it. Dinner will be taken at a traditional restaurant and the guides will be on hand to fully brief you for the week ahead.

Day Two:

After breakfast and the allocation of horses, set out riding from Gjirokastra lake - you will notice how quickly the terrain changes from being flat to very steep. Ride through woodland and past small streams whilst climbing up and down hills until stopping for a picnic lunch at the monastery of Cepo. This monastery is an important orthodox cult site which is located on a rocky slope on the northern side of Wide Mountain and has fantastic views of the Drinos valley. Of the former historical complex, only the basilica type church, with domed roof, and a few former houses remain - these houses were once places where travellers could rest.

After lunch, ride down to the valley of the Kardhiq river where there are natural pillar rock monuments - these pillars are unique to the area and stand 3-4m high. The locals call them "Gods of the Light" but scientifically they were formed by erosion. Continue riding until reaching the village of Fushbardha which is an important centre in Laberian Law Codic - this popular belief/law is believed to have been recognised by Julie Pope in the 11th century. The codic was re-written by Idriz Suli in the 18th century and there is a statue of him in the centre of the village. Spend the night in a traditional village house with home-made food and drinks.

Day Three:

After a traditional family breakfast, set off riding following the route that King Skerdilajd's army took around 2,300 years ago. King Skerdilajd was the youngest brother of King Agron who died in 230BC. He was the commander of 5,000 troops sent by Queen Teuta against Epirus in 229BC to create an Adriatic Front against Rome. The path passes through woodland, over mountains and rocky landscapes and past many ruins from ancient civilisations - Basha stones, Dhespina cave, the Rock of Kaze, Valley of Cheries and Shameti Brook are some of the local toponims you will pass. After a long morning (c. 5hrs) you stop for lunch in a mountain valley. The afternoon rides continues through the mountains to reach the village of Borsh after c. 8-9 hours. You will again be staying with a family and enjoying a meal in the company.

This is a challenging day and you will have to walk on foot, leading your horse, for c. 1-2 hours. You need to be fit and wear good walking boots.

Day Four:

After breakfast you set out to visit the castle of Borsh (also known as Castle of Sopot) which is situated on a hill 500m above sea level and dates back to c. 4000BC. This rocky castle has held an important role throughout history and many remnants and artefacts have been found here - it has been held by the French, Germans and Italians in it's time! In the Middle Ages it was adapted for military garrison by Ali Pasha and one of his supporters, Haxhi Bendo, built the mosque at the castle.

Today is a shorter day of riding after yesterdays long day. Starting from the shore at Borsh, follow the old road along the seashore, passing olive trees and many citrus fruit trees. Many defense bunkers remain along the waters edge at Piqeras, an old fishing village. Leave the horses in the village and enjoy lunch on the beach where you can rest for a few hours and swim. The evening is again in a family home where you can sample fresh seafood and a special cheese from the area. There may also be time to walk around the village or visit the monastery of Kremansova if you wish.

Day Five:

Breakfast will be taken on a terrace with lovely views over the Ionian sea - here you can sample traditional byrek (cheese pie) and cookies, butter, fresh milk and honey. Your riding days starts by riding down through the olive terraces and onto the beach at Bunec. Then ride uphill again to Lukove village where you stop to visit the church of St Friday. You then ride downhill again, across challenging terrain, until reaching Shpella beach where you stop for lunch. You can relax and possibly swim for c. 2 hours before riding along an old road through jungle-like landscapes which connects the coast with the upper villages.

In the afternoon you will visit the village of Shen Vasil, a mediaeval centre. The village suffered a long period of terror during the dictatorship rule of Albania, being a labour camp for political prisoners. Hundreds of intellectuals suffered and lost their lives in this camp over four decades. The host family can share with you memories of a very recent dark period of Albania. Traces of the past are visible everywhere. Your accommodation will be in a home used as a dormitory for soldiers that served the camp. 

Day Six;

After breakfast, set out riding back to King Skerdilajd's army route. South of the valley of the river Kalasa you can see Foinike hill where Skerdilajd's army stopped to face the Epirot army in 229BC. Stop for lunch in the shade of some trees at the base of White Mountain. There are plenty of opportunities for long canters today! Later in the day, you climb the Neck of Skerfica mountain which was named after the pass the army crossed. Continue riding to the village of Fushbardha which is your destination for the night. An old phosphor mine (another ex labour camp for political prisoners) marks the entrance to the village but you will stay in a traditional village home.

Day Seven:

Your final day of riding sees you returning to Gjirokastra. Ride downhill from Fushebardha to the valley of the Kardhiq valley - after the challenging descent you can open up for some fantastic canters and gallops across the valley floor. Eventually you reach Cepo monastery, where you had lunch on the first day. Rest here for an hour and then it's a 2 hour ride back to Viroi Lake where you say goodbye to the horses.

Farewell dinner and overnight in your traditional hotel in the historic area.

Day Eight:

After breakfast you are transferred back to the airport for your flight home.



Minimum group size: 2
Maximum group size: 10
Ability description: You need to be a competent rider with experience riding outdoors in mountainous conditions. Some of the riding is technically challenging but there are opportunities for faster riding as well.
Type of ride: Trail
Total riding time: 8 days / 7 nights / 6 riding days (5-6 hours per day)
Departure dates: 2019:
28 April-5 May; 12-19, 19-26 May; 26 May-2 June; 16-23 June; 30 June-7 July; 14-21 July; 28 July-4 August; 4-11 August; 25 August-1 Sept; 1-8, 8-15, 15-22, 22-29 September.
 
Pricing: 2019:

£949 per person sharing

Small group supplement (if there are 2 or fewer riders booked) £119 per person


Single rooms (2018 & 2019): Single accommodation is not possible on the trail and so you should be prepared to share. It may be possible to have a single room on the first and last night on payment of 16 Euro per night (payable locally).



Vjosa River Trail



New for 2019 is this trail combining challenging riding across beautiful landscapes to the River Vjosa - the last wild river in Europe with canyons, islands and many migratory birds. Some nights are spent camping whilst others are with local families who welcome you into their homes.

Day 1

You should aim to arrive in the morning, to allow time for the transfer and to be able to visit the town of Gjirokstra. The transfer takes around 3-4 hours (250km). Settle into your hotel which is just a 10 minute walk from the centre of historical Gjirokastra, and take a walk around the historical town before dinner. You may also wish to visit Enver Hoxha’s house, Gjirokastra castle, the church of the Old Bazaar, the mosque of the Bazar or Skenduli house which represents Gjirokastra traditional life. Dinner will be served at a local restaurant and during dinner your guides will discuss the trail with you - this is your chance to bring up any requests. We recommend that you buy a map of the area before dinner in order to gain a good understanding of the itinerary.

Day 2

After breakfast at the hotel you will be allocated your horses. Set off riding through the countryside towards the medieval village of Karjan. This traditional village is a rural stop for passing travellers with its small churches and old roman bridge. Your route takes you past small houses and gardens, through traditional farming and cultivated land - a combination of hilly landscapes, valleys, small streams and cliffs. You are also blessed with a view of River Drino, the “Tree of Life” river - one of the most important water basins in the area. Along your route you also pass the ruins of the castle of Santa Triada which was reconstructed during 1809-1810 by Ali Pasha, as a strategic point to control all the travelling caravans. The castle ruins were later used during the time of socialism for military issues. Stop for a picnic lunch near the village of Erind.

After around 4-5 hours riding you reach Karjan village where you spend the night with a local family who treat you to a traditional dinner.

Day 3

After breakfast you ride down Drino’s valley to the village of Andon Poci, and then Hundkuq village. The ride becomes more challenging as you enter a small forest before reaching Labova of Zhapa. This village is well known all over the south for its wonderful Church and the old merchant houses which are now mostly ruined. Labova is also the birthplace of Vangjel Zhapa, the organiser of the first modern Olympic Games. Zhapa was a well-known businessman and philanthropist who lived around 200 years ago. 

Stop for a picnic lunch and visit the church before starting your ride up the mountain. The vegetation here is rare and unusual featuring species such as mountain tea, oregano, wild rose and other endemic plants like digitalis or 'Dig–Dag' as it's known locally. Follow the mountain path to the valley of Cajupi where you camp for the night. You will have the chance to taste the famous Brati spring water at this typical stopping point for the old caravans and visit a small mediaeval tower of protection called “karakoll”. You may also be able to experience milking sheep with the shepherds.

Day 4

After breakfast you follow the medieval trade route with its famous bandit hideout 'Hija e Mallkuar' or 'The Cursed Shadow'. From here, thieves would rob the caravans passing through Zagoria! Continue riding to the most important horse pathway of the XVII and XVIII century which used to connect the biggest commercial centres in Southern Albania. You'll pass a beautiful natural monument called the Rock of Zhej and stop for a short break at the water spring of Lliar, reconstructed by Ali Pasha in the early XIX century. Then it's a challenging downhill route to the ruins of a medieval stone bridge (the bridge collapsed in February 2018) where you stop for lunch and a refreshing swim in the river. 

In the afternoon, ride uphill to Hoshteva village, your destination for the night. Only 30 people currently live in this village with its unique church which was initially built in 999AC and last restored in 1866 . The monument has a very particular style with lots of pagan elements within the wall paintings.

Spend the night in a small family hotel, the only one in Hoshteva village, and enjoy a home-cooked dinner in the family’s garden.

Day 5

Your riding day starts with a climb to reach Gjurmemushka mountain pass, but after that you will ride mostly downhill. Pass Maleshova village to visit the church and Limari's castle ruins. and stop for a picnic lunch next to a stream under the trees.

Views of the River Vjosa open up to you from the top of the mountain during your afternoon ride. You eventually reach the village of Mbrezhdan, which is a poor and forgotten area due to its isolatation, lack of roads and immigration but still very welcoming. Here you stay in a local home and experience the traditional way of cooking outside and the famous “petanik” - a special pie made in the mountains. Mbrezhdan is a Raki area and very well known for its “spoon” desserts. 

Day 6

After breakfast you continue riding downhill to reach the river Vjosa. For the rest of todays ride you will follow the river bank. The landscape is very different to previous days and there are many opportunities for  long canters. 

Camp in front of Piskova village on the dry part of the river bed and enjoy a meal cooked by a small restaurant in Permet (the meal will be brought to camp by car). The afternoon is relaxed and you can swim in the river, or even fish if you wish. Dinner is taken later, under the stars.

Day 7

Depart Piskova and keep following the river bank. Again you are riding through an undulating landscape with many opportunities to canter. You should reach Permet town by lunchtime. Leave the horses on the outskirts and transfer to a hotel in the centre of Permet.  Have lunch in a small restaurant and then the afternoon is free to visit the town, walk or climb the famous Premti rock. Before dinner you can visit the village of Leusa by car (a few kilometres away) to discover the Orthodox Church of St. Mary which is well-known for its outstanding mural paintings from the Byzantine era. 

Return to Permet for dinner in a family run restaurant in the middle of the town. You can later enjoy the night life in different music bars if you wish.

Day 8

Today is a rest day for the horses. We suggest you take a trip to the thermal waters of Benja in the Langarica canyons, which is half an hour away by car. There you can explore the canyons, swim, or if you're feeling brave, go river hiking to explore the “Pigeons Cave” on a rock along Langarica river. Have lunch in a restaurant close to the canyons and return back to Permet in  the late afternoon. Dinner will be served in a small restaurant close to the hotel. 

If you don't want to visit Benja then you can just relax in the town of Permet.

Day 9

This is one of the longest and most difficult days of riding and you will need to wear long sleeves to protect your arms from branches. Most of the ride is climbing Dhembel mountain, from where the views are amazing. A picnic lunch will be carried in your saddlebags as the car cannot reach you here. You may have to get off and lead your horse, both uphill and downhill. 

 During the afternoon ride you pass the byzantine church and monastery of Saint Mikhail of Nivan, built in 1702. Ride over the medieval bridge built in the same period to connect the monastery with Nderan village - a famous centre for livestock fairs and your stopping point for the night. You will overnight with a vllah family - their community represents a rare linguistic minority in Albania. Dinner will be a delicious mixture of local products, raki and wine. You can join in with local life and accompany the family during the milking process, dinner preparation or look around their farm animals and garden. This village is one of the most important producers of mountain honey in South Albania and offers nearly 10 different flavours of honey from different pastures.

Day 10

Todays riding combines changing landscape and riding pace. There are wide valleys, steep downhills, green forests and the beauty of Suha River before lunch. Lunch is taken beside the river with the chance to freshen up in the water. Later you climb Swallow Rock and visit the church of Labova of the Cross - one of the most important in the country. The Church of Labova of the Cross is a rare monument representing the oldest church in Albania, built by Justinian the Great in 554. Justinian married Teodora his wife at the small chapel of this village and the villagers inherited her wedding dress for centuries. The church is decorated with an old wooden iconostas full of floral and symbolic animal scenes.

Later in the afternoon you ride to Libohova, a small town nestled at the foot of the Bureto Mountain. Archaeological evidence indicates a very ancient settlement here which peaked during the 17th-century when it became an important commercial centre. It is possible to take a long walk to visit Libohova’s castle, a Bektashi cult object and the tomb of Ali Pasha’s sister, Shanisha. You overnight in a local family house with more delicious local food.

Day 11

A short riding day of just 3.5 hours. In the morning you ride through rolling hills, Drino’s valley and cross a few streams before climbing a steep hill to reach Antigonea National Park. Antigonea was built by King Pyrrhus in 295 BC and named after his first wife Antigona, daughter of King Ptolemeus of Egypt. After a break you ride one  hour to the stables where you can enjoy the experience of letting your horses run free and roll. A picnic lunch is taken in the village close to the stables. You are transferred back to the same hotel in Gjirokastra as you spent your first night. Your farewell dinner will take place in a small restaurant in the old Bazaar and later in the evening you can have a celebratory drink in a popular bar.

Day 12

After breakfast at the hotel you will be transferred back to the airport.



Accommodation: Two nights of camping. Other nights are in local hotels/guesthouse or staying with local families.
Minimum group size: 4
Maximum group size: 10
Ability description: You need to be a competent rider with plenty of experience riding outdoors across difficult mountainous terrain. Some of the trails are technically challenging, whilst others allow faster riding.
Type of ride: Trail
Total riding time: 11 nights / 9 riding days
Departure dates: 2019: 2-13 June; 11-22 August
 
Pricing: 2019:

£1257 per person sharing

Small group supplement (if there are 4 or fewer riders booked) £119 per person


Single rooms: Single accommodation is not possible on the trail and so you should be prepared to share. It may be possible to have a single room on the first and last night on payment of 16 Euro per night (payable locally).