Winter in Albania riding holiday in Albania - Far and Ride
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Winter in Albania, Albania





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:

80kgs

Tack type:

English

 

Travel Advice



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

Ride Description

New for winter 2019/20 is this ride from our partners in Albania. Using the same horses as their summer rides, you can discover the highlights of southern Albania during the colder winter months.

Combining three days of horse riding across ever-changing landscapes of valleys, hills, forests and rivers, with plenty of steep climbs and descents, you will also spend three days enjoying the culture, local hospitality, monuments, thermal baths and archaeological sites of Albania.

One day you'll have an adventurous off-road experience by vehicle to discover some unspoilt areas and glorious hiking trails to explore on foot.

The Albanian horses might be small but they are perfectly suited to the rocky terrain, being sure-footed and accustomed to trekking long mountainous routes in all kinds of weather. There are opportunities for faster riding where the terrain allows as well as slower riding where you are free to enjoy the stunning views.

A highlight of the ride is the possibility to interact and participate in local life. You'll meet families and be introduced to their traditional way of life, allowing for a very social experience. Travelling this route in winter allows you the chance to slow down and absorb the history of the region that isn't possible during the fast and dynamic summer season.

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 your host families who cook traditional, home-made meals for you. Breakfast will usually consist of home-baked bread, with butter, honey, jam etc - all of which will be locally produced if not directly from your host family's garden!

Lunch will usually be a picnic whilst out on the trail.

The families you stay with will usually produce their own meat and dairy products from their own stock, as well as making olive oil and growing their own seasonal produce. This means that things such as fresh fruit and vegetables will be scarce in the winter months. You will be able to sample many of Albania's authentic and traditional dishes.

Every family will offer local drinks such as "mountain tea", as well as homemade wine and Albania Raki (fire water).

 

Activities

The itinerary includes lots of non-riding visits to historical sites and there isn't much free time outside of this.

 

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, meals (unless you arrive early on day one), drinks, transfer of luggage.

Not included: Flights, transfers, personal insurance, entrance fees to museums, art galleries etc.

 

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

There are two transfers from Tirana airport each Saturday: 12:00 (midday) and 15:00 (3pm). Your flight should arrive in time to meet either of these transfers, or you'll have to pay extra for a private transfer. If you arrive early to spend time in Tirana city then you need to make your way back to the airport for these transfers - city pick-up is not possible.
Your departure flight should leave no earlier than midday.

Private transfers from Tirana airport cost 150 euro each way for the vehicle (max 3 people).

Airport: Tirana

 

Programme


Albanian Country & Culture Trail



This unique winter itinerary combines three days of thrilling horse riding with three days of culture in rural Albania. Ride through valleys, hills, small forest, streams and up and down steep hillsides before discovering ancient monuments, thermal baths and archaeological sites on foot.

Day One:

You should arrive into Tirana no later than 13:00 (1pm). Your transfer will take c. 3-4 hours to your hotel in the heart of Gjirokastra. If there is any daylight left this day, you are encouraged to explore the town, perhaps visiting the castle, church or mosque. It is recommended that you purchase a map of the area so you can follow your itinerary. Dinner this evening will be served in a traditional restaurant with your guide on hand to answer any questions you might have about the week ahead. 

Day Two:

After breakfast you will head out to meet the horses and set off riding through the countryside to the small town of Libohava which is nestled at the base of Bureto mountain. Your route combines hilly landscapes with small streams and cliffs, offering many opportunities to canter. At the end of the ride, you will leave the horses next to a small farm and transfer into the centre of town for lunch in a traditional restaurant which offers local food, wine and Raki. In the afternoon you can walk to Libohova's castle, a Bektashi cult object and the tomb of Ali Pasha's sister Shanisha. Later on, you can help the guides to feed and settle the horses before joining your host family at the farm for a delicious home-cooked meal. You can also help the family to prepare this local dish if you wished to and learn about their traditional cooking techniques. Overnight at the farmhouse.

Day Three:

this mornign you will set off riding through the rolling hills of Drino's valley, crossing several streams before ascending a steep hill to reach Antigonea National Park. Antigonea is an ancient city built by King Pyrrhus in 295AD and named after his wife Antigona who was the daughter of King Ptolemeus of Egypt. Now all that can be seen of this once important fortified stronghold are the archeological remains. After a short break to take a look around the site, you will re-mount and ride for c. 1 hour to the stables where you can turn your horses out. Lunch will be taken in a nearby village before you have a tour of the cold war tunnels in Gjirokastra. Before dinner you can visit an artists studio to hear about his work and the traditional elements involved. During dinner in a local restaurant, a well known iso-polyphonic group will be invited to talk, sing and explain the complex role of South Albanian iso-polyphony which is now a UNESCO protected world heritage. Overnight in the same hotel as on day one.

Day Four: Non riding day

This morning you will be able to visit some important cultural monuments in the hills of Drino's valley. Firstly, the old paleo Christian church of Peshkepia which shows evidence of being present since the 3rd century. Afterwards you visit the Melani Bektashi monastery and will be guided by a priest through the ruins. Bektashi is an ancient sect of the Islamic religion, which has its world centre in Albania. This religious place is peaceful and welcoming to foreigners.

Your lunch stop will be at the church of Labova and the cross in Labova - this monument represents the oldest church in Albania. Legend claims it was built by Justinian the Great in 554AD. Justinian married his wife Teodora at the small chapel and the women of the village inherited her wedding dress for centuries. After lunch you transfer up Lunxheria's mountain and stop at Cajupi valley 1300m above sea level. A basic but pleasant shepherds hut will be your accommodation for the night. If there is enough light you can take a hike on the slopes before dinner around the campfire.

Day Five: Non-riding day

After breakfast whilst marvelling at the glorious views you drive back into the Drinos valley and follow the Vjosa river to the thermal baths of Benja in Pwrmet. Along the river are splendid warm water pools to soak in - during the winter months you will have plenty of privacy as no other tourists will visit! Local people believe that the pools have healing properties. You can also visit Kadiu bridge which is a cultural monument from the ottoman period with great views of the Langarica river. Lunch will be taken in Pwrmet - the city of roses - with local Raki and sweets to try. 

In the afternoon you are driven to a remote area close to Ballaban village to visit a unique farm where you will stay tonight. The owners will be able to tell you the charming story of how they abandoned city life to take up in the country. Before dinner you will be able to sample their home made wine.

Day Six: Non-riding day

After a home cooked breakfast you are transferred back to Gjirokastra through Butrint, a UNESCO protected archaeological park with a challenging off-road path! The driving experience is exceptional and offers beautiful views. Stop to visit the ruins of the church of Leshnica and stop for coffee in Cerkovica village before reaching Butrint. Butrint dates to 7th century BC and in Greek mythology is where the exiles of Troy escaped! Butrint has been occupied by Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and Venetians so offers a wealth of incredible archaeological structures, including a well preserved theatre, baths, baptistery and basilica. Lunch is taken in Ksamil or Butrint. 

In the afternoon you will transfer to Saranda and your hotel beside the sea. Before dinner you visit a local art gallery.

Day Seven:

After breakfast you transfer back to Gjirokastra for a final day of horse riding. Ride through steep hills, small valleys and farmland with small lakes, streams and cliffs as well as old defensive structures from the communist era. The river Drino is on your left throughout the ride - this is the most important water basin in the area. Pass the ruins of the castle of Santa Triada which was reconstructed in 1809-10 by Ali Pasha. Stop for lunch in Dhoksat village where a local expert talks about the characteristic folklore, costumes and traditions of the area. Ride back to the stables in the afternoon through the most beautiful landscapes which allow for a few canters. After settling the horses you transfer to Gjirokastra and your same hotel for a farewell dinner.

Day Eight:

After breakfast you are transferred back to the airport.



Minimum group size: 3
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: Eight days/ seven nights / three days riding
Departure dates: 2019: 21-28 December
2020: 4-11 January, 8-15 February, 29 February-7 March
 
Pricing: 2019/20:

£799 per person sharing

Small group supplement (if there are only three riders booked) £114 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 1st, 3rd, 6th and final night of the trail and these can be requested for 20 Euro per night (payable locally).

Note: All programmes and itineraries are weather dependent; in the face of adverse, or unexpected, weather conditions reasonable attempts will be made to provide equivalent riding.

All programmes are accurate at the time of writing. However, the team may adapt or modify details, whilst aiming to provide a similar experience.