Transfer from Tirana airport to your accommodation in Gjirokstra. After settling into your hotel you can enjoy 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 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. 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 either the stable or from Viroi’s lake, depending on the weather and possibilities to cross river Drino. You will be astonished by how this mountainous ecosystem changes so suddenly. The ride heads through hilly terrain, small rivers and pine woods. 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 will 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. Today’s ride finishes 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: 5-6
After a traditional breakfast at the family house you will get ready for a very long day riding (up to 8 hours). Your ride will follow the tracks of the King Skerdilajd Army which passed through the "Neck of the Rock" around 2,300 years ago. 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 lunch break will be in a mountain valley surrounded by a small oak wood. After lunch 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 dismount and walk for 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 provide comfort after the long day.
Riding hours: 8 (including walking by leading the horses)
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 500m above sea level and dates back to about IV-III century B.C. 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. We 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.
Riding hours : 3-4
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 will 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 will 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, and your hosts can share with you memories of a very dark period of Albania. Traces of the past are visible everywhere. Your accommodation for the night is the ex-dormitory for the soldiers that served the camp.
Riding hours: 4
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. Here 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, there still exists the old abandoned buildings of the ex-labour camp. Fushebadha is a destination that you have already visited on your first riding day. 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 you will start the 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 pick up the track of the first riding day. 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.
Your accommodation will be the same hotel in Gjirokastra town. A farewell dinner late in the afternoon will be enjoyed by all.
Riding hours: 4-5
After breakfast at the hotel you will be transferred to Tirana airport.