Transfer from Tirana airport to your hotel accommodation in Gjirokstra. Enjoy a visit to the new Bazaar, and if there is daylight left you can also see Enver Hoxha’s house, Gjirokastra castle, the church of the Old Bazaar, the mosque of the Bazar and Skenduli house before dinner, which will be 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.
After breakfast at the hotel and allocation of horses, you will start to ride through the countryside towards the small town of Libohova, nestled at the foot of the Bureto Mountain. The route to Libovoha is of intermediate difficulty and combines hilly landscapes, valleys, small water streams, cliffs and many chances to canter. You will ride to your evening’s accommodation spot, and after settling the horses in for the night you will be driven to the center of the town (10 minutes) to a small traditional restaurant where you will enjoy lunch. Sample the local food, wine and Raki.
During the afternoon you will take a long walk to visit Libohova’s castle, a Bektashi cult object and the tomb of Ali Pasha’s sister, Shanisha. The archaeological evidence indicates a very ancient settlement which reached its zenith in the 17th-century when the town of Libohova became an important commercial centre. After your visit, feeding the horses and taking care of them is part of your evening activity. You will overnight at the local family farm and will be treated to delicious local food, which you can help prepare if you wish.
Riding hours: 3-4 hours
This morning you will ride through rolling hills, Drino’s valley and a few streams before climbing a steep hill to reach Antigonea National Park where we will stop for a visit. Antigonea was built by King Pyrrhus in 295 BC and named after his first wife Antigona, daughter of King Ptolemeus of Egypt. After the break you will ride for one more hour to the stables. Lunch will follow in a closeby village. Your night’s accommodation will be at the same hotel in Gjirokastra. After lunch you will visit the cold war tunnel in Gjirokastra, a building of communism defence paranoia that has a lot to tell. Before dinner you will visit a painter’s studio and learn about local art and traditions, and ideological art during communism. Dinner will take place at a small local restaurant in the historical area. A well-known iso-polyphonic group will be invited to talk, sing and explain about the UNESCO protected world heritage.
Riding hours: 3-4 hours
This morning after a fresh cooked breakfast you will be taken by car towards Butrint, a UNESCO protected archaeological park, through a challenging off-road path. The driving experience will be exceptional with some beautiful views. Small remote villages, old houses, windy roads, small gardens, very few animals, old churches and the sense of time stopping somewhere in the past is the impression this driving day offers. You will stop to visit the ruins of the church of Leshnica and will have a coffee stop by Cerkovica village. A local person will give a short presentation on how this area lives, their past, and what they expect from the future. When you arrive in Butrint a visit the archaeological park awaits. Originally part of an area called Epirus, Butrint has been occupied by the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines and the Venetians, and according to mythology was also where many escaped to following the fall of Troy. As a result, Butrint offers a wealth of incredible archaeological structures, including a well preserved theatre and Roman public baths, inside which lies a paleo-Christian baptistery and a 9th century basilica. The sanctuary of Asclepius, the god of medicine, sits on its hill or “acropolis” and dates back to the fourth century.
Lunch will be in Saranda in a restaurant next to the sea, with plenty of food cooked the local way. Before returning back to Gjirokastra for dinner you will visit the local art gallery and be given a presentation by the manager who is also a very good painter. Dinner will take place in a restaurant in the old bazaar.
Driving hours: Total 5 hours
After breakfast and the views of a wonderful sunrise in the mountains you will head back to the Drinos valley by car to the thermal baths of Benja in Pwrmet. Along the river there are splendid warm water human-made pools to soak on a cool day. It is believed that the baths have healing properties. The pools are off the beaten path, and during winter months you can have some privacy. Kadiu bridge, a monument of culture built in 1760 during the Ottoman period, offers a stunning view of the Langarica river. Throughout the day there are chances to explore the canyons by hiking and swimming. Lunch will take place in Pwrmet, the city of roses, where you can enjoy the local raki and the local sweets. Later on you will drive to a remote area close to Ballaban village to visit another unique farm that will be your accommodation for the evening. Dinner and wine tasting to be enjoyed this evening.
Driving hours: Total 3 hours
After breakfast you will be driven back to Gjirokastra to the stables for another horse riding day. Today’s route passes through a rural environment; beautiful steep hills, small valleys, traditional farmland, bush areas, small lakes, small water streams and cliffs and old defence infrastructure from communist time. The view of Drino river remains during the morning ride. Drino is the most important water basin in the area and part of ancient pagan beliefs. On your way you will meet the ruins of the castle of Santa Triada, reconstructed during 1809-1810 by Ali Pasha, a strategic move to control all the mediaeval caravan routes. The castle ruins were later used by the military during the time of socialism.
You will stop for a picnic lunch near the village of Erind. After around 4-5 hours riding we will reach Karjan village where a traditional dinner and accommodation will be hosted at a local farm. In the afternoon you can visit the village and be part of the family activities, and also help to feed, clean and water the horses.
Riding Hours: 4-5
After having breakfast with the family and packing your picnic you depart on your horse at 9am.. You are riding first to Nokova village to visit both of the medieval churches, and later through the Lunxheria area with a picnic stop in Dhoksat village. It has a unique architecture and is famous for its stone and beautiful doors. A local expert will be invited to talk about the characteristics of life, tradition, folklore, costumes and ethnography of the area. The ride after lunch heads takes you to cultivated land, gardens and meadows.. You will have another short stop by Qestorati lake to enjoy the view and return back to the stables from another direction.
The last part of the ride before reaching the stables in the afternoon is the most beautiful as the landscape allows several canters and the hill climbs are stunning. After the ride you will be driven back to Gjirokastra to your hotel. You can have a walk around the historical area before the farewell dinner. Later in the evening enjoy a drink in a popular bar.
Riding hours: 5 hours
After breakfast at the hotel you will be transferred to Tirana airport for your flight.