The War Trail is a trek for experienced riders, ready and fit for a more demanding ride. We will follow in the footsteps of King Skerdilajd’s ancient army in times when he served Queen Teuta and fough Romans 2300 years ago. Let’s ride through old, forgotten fortresses in the wild, sometimes accompanied by 20th century military bunkers – the remains of Albania’s communist past. Let’s cross the mountains and ride down to the shores of the salty Ionian Sea on our brave, Albanian horses.
Days overall8 daysDays in saddle6
Standardhighlanders' hospitality (under roofs and in bed linen)Luggageno limit kgFoodlocal cuisine, vegetarian and vegan available
Skillswalk, trot, gallop
The trail leads through rocky mountains inhabited by shepherds, as well as through fishing villages along the sea cost. We will follow the history, sometimes very stormy, of wars and unrests that rolled through Alabnia throughout ages. The conquest trail taken by the the Illyrian King Skerdilajd 2300 years ago will take us to ancient ruins and bridges, medieval castles and monasteries standing next to bunkers and military infrastructure. During the communism period leaders of Albania, obsessed with the „western enemy”, covered the country with 750 000 bunkers, nowadays left empty or adopted for different purposes.
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 a helmet, especially on the first day, when riders are getting accustomed to the terrain and horses.
Due to relatively small size of the horses, the weight of the rider is limited to 90 kg / 200 lbs.
- Accomodation in a hotel in Gjirokastra and at local hosts’ houses during the trail
- Full alimentation (starting with 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
- A flight ticket 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 snacs, admission tickets in free time, etc.)
- Optional: a tip for the guides
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.
Gods of Light
After breakfast the group will meet the guides and the horses. We will move out from a picturesque Viroi Park, 220m above sea level. The trail leads through hilly terrain with some small streams and pine forests here and there. It will get a bit steeper then, before we reach the Cepo monastery for a break. Next we will ride towards Kardhiq river. We will pass a number of natural monuments along the way, rock columns or pillars of about 3-4 meters, known locally as the Gods of Light. In the afternoon we will reach the village of Fushbardha. The group will have dinner and stay for the night hosted by a local family.
In the Footsteps of Ancient Soldiers
This will be a long day, riders should expect an 8-9 hours trail, including about 1,5 hours on foot, leading their horses. The trail follows the path taken by King Skerdilajd’s soldiers 2300 years ago. The views are breathtaking: green forests mix with rocky slopes while ancient ruins hide between them. We will pass a number of interesting spots and places, including Basha Stones, the Dhespina cave, the Rock of Kaze, The Valley of Cheries, the Crooked Brook and the Shameti Brook. Riders will stop for a break in a mountain valley, in the shade of a small grove. In the evening we will reach friendly shepherds, who will host us for the night.
The Ionian Sea
This day will be a bit more easy. We wil ride for about 4 hours in a pleasant landscape. First we will visit a stone castle in Borsh, historically called the Castle of Sopot, that dates back to 4th-3rd BCE. Sopot is mentioned in 1148 book of Anna Komnenes, daughter of the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos. The region was controlled by several powers throughout history: France – under Charles I of Azhuin, then German jurisdiction and the Republic of Venice for a considerable period of time. In the Middle Ages Sopot became a military garrison and took full view of the fortification later on, under Ali Pasha’s reign. The mosque at the castle was built by Haxhi Bendo, one of the supporters of Ali Pasha. After the visit we will saddle up and ride along the coast, between olive, orange, lemon and grapefruit trees. Riders can spend the afternoon at the sea. We will stay for the night with a local family of fishermen, so fish and sea food will be served for dinner.
The Dark Side of History
The group will have the chance of tasting the traditional seaside byrek (cheese pie) for breakfast, accompanied by cookies, milk and honey. Next we will ride out to the beach nearby Bunect and to the village of Lukove. We will stop at the beach in Shpella, where riders can enjoy a swim in the sea. In the afternoon we will visit an old village of Shen Vasil, that has been there since the Middle Ages. During the communist dictatorship in Albania a camp for political prisoners was located here, with hundreds of intellectuals imprisoned and killed there. We wil stay for the night at building used as quarters by soldiers who served at the camp.
After breakfast the grup will ride to Kalasa river valley and then towards Prapanica. There is a nice spot for gallops over there. Next we will go back to the King Skerdilajd’s war trail and ride down close to the Foinike Hill, where Skerdilajd’s army fought the Epirus’ forces in 229 BCE. We will stay for the night at a local family and have a dinner together in the garden.
The Viroi Lake
After breakfast we will ride back towards Gjirokastra. The landscape is quite varied and pleasant to ride through. After crossin the Kardhiq river valley we will stand in our own tracks. Pine forests, mountains, streams, fresh air and flowers will accompany us along the way. We will finish the ride at the Viroi lake. In the evening the group will have the last dinner together. Night at the hotel.
Farewell to Albania
Riders leave Albania that day. Transfer to Tirana or Saranda available.
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. At the seaside fish and sea food will be served, too. Ecological fruits and vegetables, honey, jams, eggs, bread, desserts and sweets will appear during meals. We will drink local water, herbs brews, and – of course – local wine and raki.
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.
- 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)
- head cover (against heat and Sun)
- riding clothes (breeches, gloves, helmet, etc.,)
- trekking shoes/boots
- lightweight raincoat