This ride follows the tracks of King Ilirian Skerdilajd, on his way to conquer Kaonia 2300 years ago.
eXperience unspoilt nature, colourful 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. Here you will find ancient ruins, castles, churches and monasteries sitting adjacent to the bunkers and military infrastructure from 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”.
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.
8 days | 7 nights
From April to September
Plan your flight to arrive at Tirana airport ideally in the morning, but no later than 15:00. This leaves 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 hours. Settle into your room at a traditional hotel in the centre of historical Gjirokastra before gathering for a welcome lunch. After lunch, riders are scheduled to have a walk around the historical town of the old Bazaar. Riders can also visit Enver Hoxha’s house, Gjirokastra castle, the church of the Old Bazaar, the mosque of the Bazzar 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 the lake of Gjirokastra, Viroi Park at 220m 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 which have hosted travellers for centuries. After lunch you ride up to Plesat village and down to the river of Kardhiq. There are some really interesting thing 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 4 m high, which differ from far away. Today finishes after around 5-6 hours total riding at the village of Fushbardhat, one of the most important centres of Laberia´s area. Labërian Laws originate from ancient times and was reintroduced by Zhulati Julie Pope, who lived in the XI century. During the Norman invasion in 1081 he was described as a priest and Mayer of Kurveleshi. You will spend the evening and night in a village house enjoying homemade traditional food and drinks.
After a traditional breakfast at the family house you will get ready for a very long day riding (up to 9 hours). Your ride will follow the tracks of the King Skerdilajd Army which passed through the "Neck of the Rock" around 2300 years ago. For the first time, King Skerdilajdi was mentioned as the commander of the 5000 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. Your lunchbreak will be at an antique water spring in the middle of a maple 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 during the day in difficult paths and steep downhills. Good mountain 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.
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 Sopo, 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 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 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 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 defence 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, the special local cheese and salad. Homemade raki and wine will be offered with the meal.
This morning you'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 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, 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 meet the village of Shen Vasil a very old medieval center. The village suffered a long period of terror during the dictatorship being a labour camp for political prisoners. The family can share with you memories of a very dark period for Albania. The ride for this day will take around 4 hours.
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. Here you can enjoy the cold mountain water and another short break You will pass an old Phosphor Mine, an ex-labour camp for the political prisoners of the communist regime. Further on inside the village of Fushbardha are still visible the old buildings of the ex-labour camp. Fushebadha is a destination that you already know from the first riding day. This day ride will last about 6 hours. Dinner in the garden will let you enjoy the homemade food, the fresh mountain air and the very welcoming host family.
After a traditional breakfast you will start an 8 hour ride back to your starting point, Gjirokastra town. Today is going to be a long and adventurous one. You will ride next to the church of Senica built in the XVII-th century and which was recently reconstructed. After 2 hours you will reach the Skerfica mountain neck named after the King Skerdilajd Army pass. Here you can enjoy the cold mountain water before riding further to the village of Fushebadha. You will pass an old Phosphor Mine, an ex-labour camp for the political prisoners of the communist. Further on inside the village you will find the labour camp. Steep slopes, an interesting karst ecosystem and startling beauty of pine trees will accompany you for nearly two hours. The Valley of the Kardhiq river is a very beautiful mountain valley with places suitable for nice gallops followed by a slow steep downhill ride. You will rest for one hour and later on, after two more hours, you'll arrive in Gjirokastra town. The ride will finish right where it started - near Viroi lake. Pine woods, mountain valleys, water springs, fresh air and flowered landscapes will be the panorama of this day.
A farewell dinner late in the afternoon will be enjoyed by all. Your accommodation will be a traditional hotel in the historical area of the town.
After breakfast at the hotel you will be transferred back to the airport of Tirana.
Transfers available | Tirana Airport 70 Euro p.p | Saranda Port 40 Euro p.p.