photo: guide's archive

Illyrian Trail

Albania

 990

This trail is a kind of a wayback machine. The trail runs through ancient Illyrian ruins and medieval villages. We will ride through fairytale-like stone bridges over mountain rivers and visit churches and monasteries built centuries ago, but also run into traces of Albania’s communist past. We will ride into this amazing land on those brave, small-framed horses with huge hearts for riding. Welcome to Albania, the land of myths and tales of the past.

  • Days overall
    8 days
    Days in saddle
    6
  • Group size
    10
    Available
  • Standard
    highlanders' hospitality (under roofs and in bed linen)
    Luggage
    no limit kg
    Food
    local cuisine, vegetarian and vegan available
  • Skills
    walk, trot, gallop

We will ride into wild parts of Albania, untouched by human hand, visit natural monuments, villages and towns, spend time with shepherds, meet friendly locals and spend evenings and nights at their homes. We want our riders to experience the real life of Albanian families of different descent, traditions and material status and enjoy the ride through this amazing country.

The guides are trully passionate about horses and riding. Years ago they took on a challenge of recreating the Albanian horse breed (a mix of tarpan and Arab horse) that went on a brink of extinction. They run a breeding programme aimed at recreating the breed for trail riding purposes. As a result you will ride a rather small-framed, but strong, powerful and brave mountain horses.

The trail itself requires good physical condition, some trail riding experience is definitely a good thing. The group will gallop in every suitable spot, turns and small jumps also happen while galloping. We recommend using helmets, especially on the first day, when riders are getting accustomed to the terrain and horses.

Due to relatively small size of local horses, the weight of the rider is limited to 90 kg / 200 lbs.

What is included in this tour?Items that are included in the cost of tour price.
  • Accomodation in a hotel in Gjirokastra and at local hosts’ houses during the trail ride
  • Full alimentation (starting with a dinner on arrival day to breakfast on departure day)
  • Local guides for the entire trek
  • A horse with full equipment
  • Tourist insurance covering high-risk sports
What is not included in this tour?Items that are not included in the cost of tour price.
  • Flight tickets to and from Tirana / Flight tickets to and from Korfu and ferry to Saranda
  • Transfer to and from Tirana (around 70 Euro) or Saranda (around 40 Euro)
  • Minor expenses (souvenirs, additional snacks, admission tickets in free time, etc.)
  • Optional: a tip for the guides
  1. Day 1 Arrival

    Please plan your trip to arrive to Tirana or Saranda rather early, not later that 15:00. You will be transferred to Gjirokastra by car – please remember it takes 3-4 hours. If you decide to reach Gjirokastra on your own – the group will meet there in the late afternoon. You will check in at the hotel and then will be able to take a walk in the beautiful, medieval city center. Take a look a those small streets, a 12th century castle, Old Bazaar church and mosque, Enver Hoxha’s house and the Skenduli house – a model example of a local, traditional muslim house. Gjirokastra is an UNESCO Heritage site. In the evening a welcome dinner will be served in a restaurant, so you will have fun together with all riders and guides. The group stays for the night at a hotel.

  2. Day 2 The Tree Of Life

    After breakfast the group will be taken by car to the stable, where everyone will get a horse. After saddling up the group will ride to the village of Karjan. The place, centuries ago, was a popular stop for trade caravans. Nowadays one can amaze at small churches and an old, Roman bridge there. The landscape is quite idyllic: hills and valleys all around with small streams flowing here and there. We will reach Drino river, locally called „The Tree Of Life”. It’s the most important source of water in the vicinity, as well as a part of old local, pagan beliefs. During the ride we will cross The Holy Trinity castle ruins, a strategic point that controlled caravan routes, reconstructed by Ali Pasha in 1809-1810. During communism period the ruins were used for military purposes. We will stop in a village of Erind for a break and stay for the night at a local family’s house.

  3. Day 3 Caravan path

    We wil ride north that day, follow an ancient trade road of Zhapa, made of stone, with a nice view on mountains, hills and valleys. The first break will take place in a village of Small Labova, well-known all over the south for its wonderful church and big houses, today mostly ruined, that used to belong to more influential merchants. Labova is also the birthplace of Vangjel Zhapa, a famous businessman, philantropist and the precursor of modern Olimpic Games. After visiting the unique, medieval church we will mount up again. Look around on our way to Cajupi – you should notice some interesting plants here an there: mountain tea, oregano, wild roses and other local flora. We will ride in Cajupi valley and have a longer stop there, at a local shepherds’ place, surrounded by sheep and accompanied by shepherd dogs. A nearby tower is an another trace of caravans. In the middle ages the area was also a hideout for bandits, named „Hija e Mallkuar” – The Cursed Shadow. In the evening we will reach the village of Nderan, where famous Albanian mountain honey is made – ten different tastes of honey, depending on the season and bee pasture. We will stay for the night hosted by a local Vlach family.

  4. Day 4 Treasures of southern Albania

    We will have our breakfast and ride out to visit a couple of local villages: Lliar, Hoshteva, Koncka i Nivan. You will notice some changes to the landcape, more diveristy: sharp cliffs, rivers, woods and mountains. We will probably encounter local shepherds with their herds. We will also ride on the most important horse trail of the 17th and 18th centuries that used to connect major trade centers of southern Albania. We will pass the Rock of Zhej, a beautiful natural monument, and stop for a short break at a spring in Lliar, built in the 19th century by Ali Pasha. We will take a look at a medieval stone bridge that collapsed in 2018 in a place where – on a warm day – you can enjoy a swim. There’s also a medieval Hoshteva church nearby, built originally in year 999 and recreated for the last time in 1866. We will also pass a byzantine church in Lliar and the Nivan Saint Mehill monastery, built in 1702. The bridge we will ride right through was built at the same time in order to create a good connection between the monastery and the village of Nderan, an important animal trade center in the middle ages. We’ll stay for the night with the same family as the day before.

  5. Day 5 Time travel

    We will start actively from the very beginning of the day – ride between some remote farms and gallop through a mountain pass. Next we will leave official trails and ride to forgotten, historical paths of the Pogon region. We will stop for a break near the village of Hllomo, accessible only on horseback. In the evening the group will reach the village of Polican, inhabited by Greek minority. We will stay for a delicious dinner and for the night with a local family. Our host will also be able to assist you in exploring local cult monuments of the medieval era.

  6. Day 6 Following in the steps of Justinian and Teodora

    We will ride towards the town of Libohova. The trail is demanding and very picturesque at the same time, finishing at the Swallow Rock, 500 m above the river of Suha. We will have picnic lunch break next to the Church of Labova of the Cross, the oldest church in Albania, built by Justinian the Great in 554. According to the legend Justinian married Teodora in a small chapel in the village. Local inhabitants preserved her wedding dress for centuries. Our next stop is Libohova, a small town located at the foot of the Bureto Mountain. Archaeological excavations revealed that there was an ancient settlement here and the town entered its best period in 17th century, as an important trade center. In the afternoon you can take a long walk and visit Libohova’s castle, a Bektashi cult spot and the tomb of Ali Pasha’s sister, Shanisha. We stay for the night with another local family and enjoy delicious, local food.

  7. Day 7 Last gallops

    We’ll spend the first half of the day in the saddle. After breakfast we will ride through hills and the Drino valley. The group will cross streams and climb uphill to Antigonea National Park, where we will stop for a visit. Antigonea was built in year 295 on the order of king Pyrrus and named after his wife, Antigone. Let’s leave the park and have the last moment in the saddle – our next stop will be at the stables. We will have lunch in a nearby village and go by cars to Gjirokastra. In the evening we will have a farewell dinner in a restaurant. Night at the hotel.

  8. Day 8 Farewell to Albania

    Riders leave Albania that day. Transfer to Tirana or Saranda available.

The guide might modify the route according to weather conditions and group's riding skills.
photo: guide's archive
photo: guide's archive
photo: guide's archive

Riders spend the first and the last night at a hotel in Gjirokastra. On the horse trail we stay with local families, at their homes. The standard differs, but we always have a roof over our heads and bed linen to sleep in. We taste local food and accompany local Albanians in their everyday, routine tasks.

The traditional Albanian quisine is based on different meat and various, delicious types of cheese. Ecological fruits and vegetables, honey, jams, eggs, bread, desserts and sweets will be served, too. We will drink local water, herbs brews, and – of course – local wine and raki.

 

Equipment

You will ride in good quality English-type saddles. Bridles are of regular construction, we use bits. The equipment in general is what most riders are used to.

Every horse is equipped with small saddlebags – for water and takeway food (sometimes we eat in the wild, sometimes are hosted for lunch). Additional straps (for attaching a raincoat) might come in handy.

Please note: we recommend using a helmet while riding.

What you should take with you

The trek in Albania are quite comfortable – as for a trail ride. A car transports all our belongings between particular spots. Every night the group is hosted at houses, no need for sleeping bags and mats. During the day you will need to only the basic personal belonging (documents, mobiles,), everything else will be waiting at the destination point in the evening.

  • passport
  • some cash, Euro is common in Albania
  • electronics – mobile, camera
  • flashlight, headlamps are handy
  • a canteen or other water containers (it might be an empty plastic bottle)
  • sunscreen
  • swimsuit
  • head cover (against heat and Sun)
  • riding clothes (breeches, gloves, helmet, etc.,)
  • trekking shoes/boots
  • lightweight raincoat
  • flip-flops
Date Trip Status Price Spots  
18 July 2020 - 25 July 2020
Available
 990
10
15 August 2020 - 22 August 2020
Available
 990
8
29 August 2020 - 5 September 2020
Available
 990
10
12 September 2020 - 19 September 2020
Available
 990
6
3 October 2020 - 10 October 2020
Available
 990
10
10 October 2020 - 17 October 2020
Available
 990
8
24 October 2020 - 31 October 2020
Available
 990
10
31 October 2020 - 7 November 2020
Available
 990
9
7 November 2020 - 14 November 2020
Available
 990
8
21 November 2020 - 28 November 2020
Available
 990
10