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8 Day King Skerdilajd Army Route Mountain Trail Horse Riding Tour in Albania

Asim Zeneli, Njesia Antigone, Albania

Mountain Trail Horse Riding Holiday in Albania

This is a mountainous trail ride with around 6 hours riding and some walking every day. The horses are small but very robust and surefooted Arab and Tarpan cross. Participation in this trail will allow you to experience true Albania with the best local cuisine, history, and hospitality. You will be accommodated in local or family guesthouses every night where your host families will provide a delicious local meal and conversation is enjoyed by all over dinner. Most of the dishes are homemade while fruits, vegetables, and meat come from local gardens and farms. From May to the end of September, you can enjoy swimming in the sea (without horses) on two of the trail days.

Key Information

  • Rider Weight Limit: 176 pounds / 80 kilograms
  • Horse Breed: Local breed mix of Tarpan and Arab Horses

Highlights

  • 6 days of riding
  • Ride on reliable and strong horses
  • Approximate daily riding time: 6 hours
  • Discover unspoiled nature, colorful culture heritage, and welcoming people
  • Mountain climbing, steep downhill and uphill, river crossings, woods, and the seaside
  • Ancient ruins, castles, churches, and monasteries near bunkers and military infrastructure
  • 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 be accommodated in local or family guesthouses every night. It may be possible to pay for a single supplement on the first and last night of the trail, but riders must be prepared to share accommodation on the other nights.

Program

Itinerary

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 organizing team.

Day 1: Arrive in Gjirokastra, Albania

Plan your flight to arrive at Tirana International Airport (TIA) ideally in the morning, but no later than 15:00 (this is the departure time for the transfer and to be able to visit the town of Gjirokstra with your guides). From the airport, the transfer will be by mini-van or off-road car and will take around 3 - 4 hours (250 kilometers).

Settle into your hotel, 10 minutes walking 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 Bazaar 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: Gjirokastra - Fushbardha

You will start riding from the lake of Gjirokastra, Viroi Park at 220 meters above sea level. You will be astonished by how this mountainous ecosystem changes so suddenly. You will ride through hilly terrain, small rivers, pine woods, steep down and up hills.

Lunch will be a home-prepared picnic at the monastery of Cepo. You can visit the monastery which is an important orthodox cult object and has one of the most strategic views of the Drinos Valley. Located on a historical scale, it cuts down a rocky slope on the north side of the “Wide Mountain”. Today, only two objects remain from the former monastery complex: the basilica with a dome and dozens of former guesthouses that have hosted travelers for centuries.

After lunch, you ride down to the river of Kardhiq. There are some really interesting things to see in this area such as pillar rocks “Gods of the Light” and other natural monuments. These have got specific forms of pillars or columns 3 - 4 meters high, which differ from far away.

Today’s ride finishes after around 5-6 hours at the village of Fushbardha, one of the most important centers of Laberia's area. Labëria Laws originate from ancient times and were reintroduced by Julie Pope, who lived in the XI century. During the Norman invasion in 1081, he was described as a priest and Mayor of Kurvelesh. You will spend the evening and night in a village house enjoying homemade traditional food and drinks.

Day 3: Fushbardha - Borsh

After a traditional breakfast at the family house, you will get ready for a very long day riding (up to 9 hours). The ride will follow the tracks of the King Skerdilajd Army which passed through the “Neck of the Rock” around 2,300 years ago. For the first time, King Skerdilajdi was mentioned as the commander of the 5,000 troops sent by Queen Teuta in 230 BC against Epirus. He was the youngest brother of King Agron and one of the main supporters of Queen Teuta. He led the invasion army in 230 BC to the capital of Epirus Phoinike (Finiq). King Skerdilajd played a determined role in Teuta's plans to create an Adriatic Front against Rome.

The path combines beautiful woods, mountain climbing, rocky landscapes and ruins of ancient civilizations. Basha Stones, Dhespina cave, the Rock of Kaze, The Valley of Cheries, the Crooked Brook, Shameti Brook, Trullas Neck and Derrasa Hole are some of the local sights en route today. The lunch break will be at a mountain valley surrounded by small oak wood.

You continue through the mountain of Borsh towards the next village. The whole day's landscape offers images of wild unspoiled nature. Flowers, old trees, streams of water shepherds, hundreds of goats, sheep and cows will be part of this riding experience. Be prepared to walk around 1 hour 30 minutes during the day in difficult paths and steep downhills. Good mountain hiking shoes are recommended for today.

You will arrive at a family house late in the afternoon and enjoy traditional food, rich in olive oil. Wine, raki and mountain tea will comfort you to sleep after the long day.

Day 4: Borsh - Piqeras

After a traditional breakfast with the shepherd’s family, you will start a shorter but very pleasant riding day. First, you will visit the castle of Borsh (known in history as Castle of Sopot) located on a hill in Borsh's village at 500 meters above sea level and dates back to about IV-III century B.C. Its surface is rocky.

In the Byzantine Empire, Emperor Justinian put it on the list of fortifications in the years 527 - 565. Sopot is mentioned in 1192 in memory of Anna Komnenes, daughter of the Byzantine Emperor Alexis I Komnenai. In 1266, Sopot was in the French power of Charles I of Azhuin and then under German jurisdiction, and later on, for a long time under the Republic of Venice. In the Middle Ages, it was adapted for military garrison and took a full view of the fortification at the time of Ali Pasha. The mosque was built at the castle by HaxhiBendo, one of the supporters of Ali Pasha.

After visiting the castle ruins, you will start a 3-hour ride from Borsh and take the old road along the seaside. Olive trees, oranges, lemons, citrus, and grapefruits are planted everywhere on the upper part of the road. Many defense bunkers remained along the seaside of Piqeras, an old fishing village. You will stop the ride in the village and drive to the sea for a lunch break on the beach.

After lunch, you can enjoy a fairly long break to enjoy the sea and to rest. You will spend the night in a family house tasting seafood, special local cheese, and salad. Homemade raki and wine will be offered with the meal.

Day 5: Piqeras - Shen Vasil

This morning, you’ll enjoy breakfast on the terrace with a beautiful view of the Ionian Sea. You can enjoy traditional coast byrek (cheese pie) and cookies, butter, fresh milk, and honey. Today, you head down to the sea through olive tree terraces to the beach of Bunec. You will ride up again to Lukove village and down to the sea again through some challenging landscapes. You will reach the Shpella beach for lunch. The lunch stop includes possibilities to swim and relax for several hours.

Later, you continue by first entering a small “jungle” of trees, bushes, and rocks, meeting the remains of an old road connecting the sea with the villages of the upper coast. In the afternoon, you will visit the village of Shen Vasil, a very old medieval center. The village suffered a long period of terror during the dictatorship as a labor camp for political prisoners. The family can share with you memories of a very dark period of Albania. The ride for this day will last around 4 hours.

Day 6: Shen Vasil - Fushebadha

After breakfast, you will reach the valley of Kalasa river and later the hilly valley of Prapanica, and use the chance for a very nice and long gallop. You will ride back along King Skerdilajd Army's route. South of the river Kalasa valley, you can see the Foinike Hill. Exactly there, Skerdilajd’s army stopped to face the Epirot army in 229 B.C. Olive trees and nice paths for gallops will make this day very interesting and picturesque. You will continue to ride through the village of Fushe – Verri. You can see the bunkers of the cold war along the ride, representing the military ideology of the system. You can stop for a picnic lunch under olive trees.

You will reach the Skerfica mountain neck named after the King Skerdilajd Army pass in the afternoon hours. There, you can enjoy the cold mountain water and another short break. You will pass an old Phosphor Mine, an ex-labor camp for the political prisoners of the communist regime. Further on inside the village of Fushbardha, there still exist the old abandoned buildings of the ex-labor camp. Fushebadha is a destination that you have already visited in your first riding day. This day ride will last about 6 hours. Dinner served in the garden will let you enjoy the homemade food, the fresh mountain air and the hospitality of the local family.

Day 7: Fushebadha - Gjirokastra

After a traditional breakfast, you will start a 4-5 hour ride back to your start point, Gjirokastra town. Today is going to be a diverse landscape ride. You will ride first to the Valley of Kardhiq river and later will meet the traces of the first riding day. The ride will finish right where it started – near Viroilake. Pinewoods, mountain valleys, water springs, fresh air, and flowered landscapes will be the panorama of this day. Your guide will drive you to our horse stable to introduce you to our way of managing and to the horse’s life.

Your accommodation will be the same hotel in Gjirokastra town. A farewell dinner late in the afternoon will be enjoyed by all.

Day 8: End of trail

After breakfast at the hotel, you will be transferred to Tirana International Airport (TIA).

Beach riding

Please note that although this trail includes some beach riding, any fast riding takes place along an old path 200 meters from the beach. The sand is rocky and therefore is only suitable for walking on. The mountain horses are also not too keen on the water so they will not tend to want to paddle.

Location

This ride follows in the tracks of King Ilirian Skerdilajd, on his way to conquer Kaonia 2,300 years ago. Experience unspoiled nature, colorful culture heritage, welcoming people and ride reliable, strong horses. Wind your way through a variety of landscapes combining mountain climbing, steep downhill and uphill rides, river crossings, woods, and the seaside. There, you will find ancient ruins, castles, churches, and monasteries sitting adjacent to the bunkers and military infrastructure from the communist past. During this period of isolation and militarization, communist leaders built around 750,000 bunkers of defense in case of attack from western “enemies”.

Food

All meals from the dinner of Day 1 till the breakfast of Day 8, as well as water and drinks during the meals, are included in the package. Most of the dishes are homemade while fruits, vegetables, and meat come from local gardens and farms.

The following meals are included:

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
  • Drinks

The following dietary requirement(s) are served and/or catered for:

  • Regular (typically includes meat and fish)
If you have special dietary requirements it's a good idea to communicate it to the organiser when making a reservation

What's included

  • 6 riding days
  • Service of an English-speaking guide
  • A second guide if there will be more than four riders
  • 7 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 --

Availability

Arrival: Saturday September 26, 2020
Departure: Saturday October 3, 2020

Single supplement

No single rooms available (on some or all nights). Riders must be prepared to share with someone of the same sex. If available, 16 EUR per night is applicable on Night 1 and 7, payable on-site.

 

Availability

This tour is available from May to September with arrival every Saturday. Please select your arrival date below. 

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