Plan your flight to arrive at Tirana airport ideally in the morning, but no later than 14.30 – this leaves time for the transfer and to be able to visit the town of Gjirokstra. Driving to Gjirokastra will take round 3 hours. Settle into your hotel, 10 minutes walking from the centre of historical Gjirokastra .You can have a walk around the historical town and 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. We recommend that you buy a map of the area before dinner in order to gain a good understanding of the itinerary.
You will start riding from our stable placed 15 minutes driving from Gjirokastra, at 360 m above sea level. You will be astonished by how this mountainous ecosystem changes so suddenly. The ride heads frist through the valleys offering long canters then it crosses Drino river. For the rest of the day we 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. We 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 which have hosted travellers for centuries. After lunch we 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 nature monuments- these have got specific forms of pillars or columns 3-4 m 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 centres 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. Riding hours 6
After a traditional breakfast at the family house we will get ready for a very long day riding (up to 8 hours). Our 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. Our lunchbreak will be at a mountain valley surrounded by a small oak wood. We 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 round 1 hour 30 minutes during the day in difficult paths and steep downhills. Good mountain hiking shoes are recommended for today. We 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.
Riding hours: 8 (including walking by leading the horses)
After a traditional breakfast with the shepherd’s family, we will start a shorter but very pleasant riding day. First we will visit the castle of Borsh (known in history as Castle of Sopot) located on a hill in Borsh´s village at 500m 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 1142 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 full view of the fortification at the time of Ali Pasha. The mosque was built at the castle by Haxhi Bendo, one of the supporters of Ali Pasha.
After visiting the Castle ruins we 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 defence bunkers remained along the seaside of Piqeras, an old fishing village. We will stop the ride in the village have lunch in the terrace of the hosting house. After lunch we will drive to the sea to spend the afternoon swimming, sunbathing and walking. You will return back for dinner and enjoy some seafood, the special local cheese and salad. Homemade raki and wine will be offered with the meal. Riding hours : 3,5
This morning we’ll enjoy breakfast on the terrace with the beautiful view of the Ionian Sea. You can enjoy traditional coast byrek (cheese pie) and cookies, butter, fresh milk and honey. Today we head down to the sea through olive tree terraces to the beach of Bunec. We 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 cooked by a small restaurant. The lunch stop includes possibilities to swim and relax for several hours. Later we 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 mediaeval center. The village suffered a long period of terror during the dictatorship being a labour camp for political prisoners. Hundreds of intellectuals suffered and died in this camp during 4 decades. The family can share with you memories of a very dark period of Albania. Traces of the past are visible everywhere. Your accommodation place is a typical house of the coast. Riding hours: 4
After breakfast we 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. South of the river Kalasa valley we 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. We will stop for a picnic lunch (packed by each rider in the morning) under olive trees.
We will reach the Skerfica mountain neck named after the King Skerdilajd Army pass in the afternoon hours. Here is nice to enjoy the cold mountain water and another short break Closer to the destination for the evening we will pass next to an old Phosphor Mine, an ex-labour camp for political prisoners of the communist regime. In Fushbardha, village does still exist the old abandoned buildings of the ex-labour camp. Dinner served in the garden will let you enjoy the homemade food, the fresh mountain air and the hospitality of the local family. Riding hours: 6
After a traditional breakfast we will start ride back to the stables. This day offers a diverse landscape ride, first to the Valley of Kardhiq river and later on we will meet the path of the first riding day. Pine woods, mountain valleys, water springs, fresh air and flowered landscapes will be the panorama of this day. We will canter again through Drino’s valley for several kilometres before climbing the hills to the stables. The stable is a good bye point with the horses. After we drive 5 minutes to the village “Asim Zeneli” for the lunch break, a picnic prepared by our last host. The accommodation for the evening will be the same hotel in Gjirokastra town. The afternoon is free to walk, visit monuments, have a coffee, bye souvenirs and prepare your luggage. We will share memories and impressions in a farewell dinner late in the afternoon. Riding hours: 4-5
After breakfast at the hotel you will be transferred to Tirana airport or Saranda port.