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8 Day Following Zagoria Pathways Horse Riding Holiday in Gjirokastra

Asim Zeneli, Njesia Antigone, Albania

Albania Horseback Riding Holiday

Travel back in time following the medieval Zagoria caravan pathways! The Zagoria trail in Albania represents a special contact with a smart horse, unique culture and heritage, and a special touch of history and people. Riding along the old medieval roads and following the story of the caravans of merchants is full of surprises! You'll meet another landscape every day, old roads' traces, beautiful stone bridges that appear in the middle of nowhere, paleo-Christian and medieval churches full of history, and frescos.

Key Information

  • Rider Weight Limit: 198 pounds / 90 kilograms
  • Horse Breed: Local breed mix of Tarpan and Arab Horses

Highlights

  • Daily great adventures on horseback
  • Approximate daily riding time: 3 to 5 hours
  • Ride on very good, smart, and surefooted horses
  • Enjoy great food and culinary experience and real-life encounters
  • Experience the culture and heritage and nature and diverse landscape
  • Have fun exchanges with other international riders
  • Daily meals and drinks will be provided
  • 7 nights accommodation

Styles


6 days with instruction in English
The organizer also speaks: Greek, Italian
Group size: Maximum of 10 participants
Airport transfer available:
Tirana International Airport Nënë Tereza (US$82 per person)
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Accommodation

Check-in Time:
15:00
Check-out Time:
10:00

You will meet friendly locals and learn about their traditions while enjoying accommodation as guests in local homes. Your luggage will be transported by car with the most necessary things in saddlebags on your horse.

Program

Ride back in time when this moving market was the main institution of life for the valley and mountain villages, a possibility for exchanges. The caravans were the first media of the time, they were also transporting news on horseback. There are many stories that the area still remembers from that time.

The Zagoria ride stops by the Antigonea Archeological Park, the "city build by love and destroyed by the hate" in 295 BC by King Pyrrhus. You can meet Albania's more recent history in this ride, full of communism time bunkers, architecture, memories of terror, and effects that still are keeping the country a secret to many visitors.

You can be amazed by nature in this ride that combines mountains with sudden gallop valleys and steep slopes with beautiful water streams. People from this ride will stay with you forever, they are authentic in lifestyle, traditions, hospitality, pride, and diversity. In this ride, you will meet the Albanians, also the Vllah, and the Greek minorities, differences that never effected harmony. Come and visit a country where religion has never divided people and where the main religion is to be Albanian and human!

Day 1 - Saturday

Plan your flight to arrive at Tirana, ideally in the morning, but no later than 3 p.m., this leaves time for the transfer and to be able to visit the town of Gjirokstra. From the airport, the transfer will be by a mini-van or an off-road car and will take around 3 to 4 hours (250 kilometers). Settle into your hotel, just a 10-minute walk from the center of historical Gjirokastra.

You can have a walk around the historical town of the old Bazaar before dinner. Riders can also visit Enver Hoxha’s house, Gjirokastra castle, the church of the Old Bazaar, the mosque of the Bazar, and Skenduli house, representing an ideal sample of Gjirokastra traditional life. 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. You are recommended to buy a map of the area before dinner in order to gain a good understanding of the itinerary.

Day 2 - Sunday

After breakfast at the hotel and allocation of horses, start to ride through the countryside towards the medieval village of Karjan. This village is traditional, a rural stop of the passing caravans with its small churches and old Roman bridge. The road to reach this destination passes through a rural environment; small houses, gardens, traditional farming, and cultivation of the land.

The route combines hilly landscapes, valleys, small water streams, and cliffs. This path also passes along the view of River Drino, the “Tree of Life” river. It is the most important water basin in the area and part of ancient pagan beliefs. On your way, meet the ruins of the castle of Santa Triada reconstructed during 1809-1810 by Ali Pasha, a strategic point to control all the caravan itineraries.

The castle ruins were used later during the time of socialism for military issues. Stop for picnic lunch just near the village of Erind and after around 4 to 5 hours of riding, you will reach Karjan village where a traditional dinner and accommodation will be hosted by a local family.

Day 3 - Monday

After breakfast, continue further north to the villages of Small Labova and the valley of Cajupi. Follow the ancient merchants' stone road of Zhapa with its mountain panorama, a wide view of the hills and valleys. The first break will be in Small Labova, a village well known all over the south for its wonderful Church and the big houses belonging to the merchants which are now mostly ruined.

Labova is the birthplace of Vangjel Zhapa, the organizer of the first Modern Olympic Games; Zhapa was a well-known businessman and philanthropist who lived around 200 years ago. After visiting the church, a very unique medieval building, start riding up the mountain, you will be impressed by the mountain's rare vegetation 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'll stop by a cattle of 1000 sheep to visit shepherds and spend lunch with them. You will have the chance to taste the Brati famous spring water, a typical station of the old caravans with its small tower “karakoll”. After a nice gallop through Cajupi valley, the trail will follow the medieval caravan pathway with its famous bandit hideout "Hija e Mallkuar" or "The Cursed Shadow".

From here, medieval thieves could rob the caravans passing through Zagoria. The final destination of today will be the village of Nderan, placed in the heart of the Zagoria region. You will stay with a Vllah linguistic minority family and this will be your destination for two nights. Dinner will be a delicious mixture of local products, raki, and wine.

You can join the local life and accompany the family during the milking process, dinner preparation or have a look at the families, farming animals, and garden. This village is one of the most important producers of mountain honey in South Albania and it offers nearly 10 different tastes of honey as per season and bee pasture.

Day 4 - Tuesday

This morning, you will wake up feeling the effect of the mountain air. Breakfast will be traditional mountain food, fresh homemade bread, cookies, butter, jam, eggs, cheese, honey, and milk. A cup of mountain tea is very typical for this region. On your way to Lliar, Hoshteva, Koncka, and Nivan villages, you will encounter various terrain combining hard cliffs, rivers, woods, and rolling hills.

The beautiful scent of flowers, mountain fresh air, wild landscapes, shepherds, and animals will also be part of your day. Continue riding to the most important horse pathway of the 17th and 18th centuries, which used to connect the biggest commercial centers in Southern Albania. A very beautiful natural monument is the Rock of Zhej that can be seen along the way.

Stop for a short break at the water spring of Lliar, reconstructed by Ali Pasha in the early 19th century. Take a challenging downhill route to the ruins of a medieval stone bridge (the bridge collapsed in February 2018), where it is possible to take a refreshing swim during the summer months.

Hoshteva, a unique church that was initially built on 999 AC and last restored in 1866, has a very particular style with lots of pagan elements in the wall paintings. You will also pass by the byzantine church of Lliar and the monastery of Nivan Saint Mehilli, built on 1702. Ride over the medieval bridge built in the same period to connect the monastery with the Nderan village, one of the famous centers of medieval livestock fairs and which, again, will be your overnight residence. You will spend the night at the same Vllah family house.

Day 5 - Wednesday

This morning will be a really exciting equestrian experience. After a fresh country breakfast, ride through a mountain valley, perfectly suited for gallops; passing small remote farms, wild cliffs, and many historical small routes off the tourist trail. The route through Pogoni region is a true travel in time; you will be passing by ancient ruins and mythical natural wonders.

The picnic lunch will be near the most famous stone bridge of Hllomo or Kacarello’s, which are the most isolated construction of the merchant’s period and can only be reached by horse. In the afternoon, after five hours of riding, you will reach the center of the Pogon region. The mountain village of Polican is populated by a Greek minority.

Spend the night with a Greek minority family, in their company, you have the chance to explore some very particular cult monuments of the medieval period. Later in the evening, enjoy local gastronomic delights.

Day 6 - Thursday

This morning, leave the Greek minority behind to reach the town of Libohova. The route will pass through demanding but beautiful mountain landscapes with a vast finish at the Swallow Rock, 500 meters over the river of Suha. The picnic lunch point will be the Church of Labova of the Cross, 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. This church is decorated with an old wooden iconostas full of floral and symbolic animal scenes. Later in the afternoon, ride to Libohova, a small town nestled at the foot of the Bureto Mountain.

The archaeological evidence indicates a very ancient settlement that reached its zenith in the 17th-century when it became an important commercial center. During the afternoon, it is possible to take a long walk and visit Libohova’s castle, a Bektashi cult object, and to the tomb of Ali Pasha’s sister, Shanisha. Overnight in a local family house and taste delicious local food. This day is a five-hour ride.

Day 7 - Friday

This will be a short riding day of 3.5 hours. This morning, ride through rolling hills, Drino’s valley, and a few water streams before climbing a steep hill to reach Antigonea National Park where you 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, ride for one more hour to the stable where you can enjoy the experience of letting free your horses. A picnic lunch will follow in the village close to the stable. You will be accommodated at the same hotel in Gjirokastra. Your farewell dinner will take place in a small restaurant in the old Bazaar and later in the evening, you can have a drink at a popular bar.

Day 8 - Saturday

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

  • Please note that 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 organizing team.

Location

The stable is situated amidst scenic hills, green valleys, and surrounded by high mountains and rural life, a few kilometers away from Gjirokastra’s UNESCO protected city in South of Albania. While much has changed since Caravan Horse Riding Albania's first year of operation, the motto remains the same: offering real moments in the saddle, which means enjoyable and professional riding holidays for international guests. The riding tours aim to keep harmony among humans, horses, and nature.

Distances

  • Tirana International Airport Nënë Tereza (TIA) - 3 to 4 hours, 225 kilometers

Food

All meals from dinner of Day 1 till breakfast of Day 8, as well as water and drinks during the meals, are included in the package.

The following meals are included:

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
  • Drinks

The following drinks are included:

  • Water

What's included

  • Daily horse rides
  • Service of an English-speaking guide
  • A second guide if there will be more than four riders
  • 8 nights accommodation
  • Daily full board meals from dinner of Day 1 to breakfast of Day 8
  • Water and drinks during the meals
  • Luggage transport by car from destination to destination

What's not included

  • Airfare
  • Airport transfers
  • Entrance tickets to monuments or parks
  • Lunch on Day 1
  • Extra drinks
  • Other services or expenses during free time
  • Personal expenses

How to get there

Recommended Airports

Arrival by airplane

Please arrange your flight to arrive at Tirana International Airport Nënë Tereza (TIA) or Corfu International Airport (CFU). Roundtrip transfers from Tirana are not yet included but are available at an additional cost of 70 EUR per person. From Corfu International Airport (CFU), you may take a boat to Saranda Port, transfers from this airport are also not yet included. The cost from Saranda Port to Gjirokastra is 40 EUR (return) per person, the distance is 64 kilometers or 1 hour.

Caravan Horse Riding Albania organizes two transfers from Tirana International Airport Nënë Tereza (TIA) every Saturday, the first one at 12 p.m. and the second at 3 p.m. Flights that fit their normal transfer’s schedule should be planned to arrive no later than 3 p.m. and departures no earlier than 12 p.m. (midday).

Riders that arrive in Tirana one day in advance can plan to arrive at the airport for the transfer at 12 p.m. or 3 p.m. It is very easy and cheap to reach Tirana airport by bus. There is a bus every hour starting from the center of Tirana (behind the opera palace).

Private transfers from or to Tirana are also available at 150 EUR (one way). A maximum of three people can share this transfer if it is impossible to book flights that fit the normal transfer schedule.

Airport: Tirana International Airport Nënë Tereza Airport transfer available: Tirana International Airport Nënë Tereza (US$82 per person) Additional charges may apply. You can request this in the next step.

Cancellation Policy

  • A reservation requires a deposit of 20% of the total price.
  • The deposit is non-refundable, if the booking is cancelled.
  • The rest of the payment should be paid on arrival.
8 days / 7 nights
from --
Pricing information
  • Single Supplement

It may be possible to pay for a single supplement on the first and last nights of the trail but riders must be prepared to share accommodation on the other nights. Single supplement, if a single room is provided, is 20 EUR per night, paid on-site directly to Caravan Horse Riding Albania.

  • Small-Group Supplement

Please note that the prices below for the 1 and 2-rider packages include a small group supplement. This is applicable only if 2 riders are booked in the ride. If, at the time of departure, more than 2 riders are booked, the small group supplement will be refunded. Small group supplement is 132 EUR per person

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