Embark on a captivating journey through time along the medieval Zagoria caravan pathways, immersing yourself in a realm of legends, folklore, and melodies. Traverse through the remnants of the ancient Ilirian civilization, meander through medieval villages, and discover hidden gems like remote churches and monasteries. Marvel at the remarkable mountain bridges constructed during the governance of Ali Pasha, boasting rare and exquisite designs. The pinnacle of this extraordinary trail awaits you at Swallow’s Rock, a majestic ascent that will leave you awe-inspired.
Indulge in the rich tapestry of rural Albanian traditions as you forge connections with the local populace and traverse vibrant, untouched natural landscapes. Our chosen steeds for this adventure are the Albanian horses, a blend of Tarpan and Arab breeds. Despite their compact size, these horses are perfectly adapted to the rugged terrain, boasting surefootedness and familiarity with arduous mountain paths. Their presence instils a sense of confidence, relaxation, and the freedom to revel in breath-taking vistas.
Interact with warm-hearted locals, gaining insights into their customs and way of life while experiencing the warm embrace of authentic homestay accommodations. Our knowledgeable guides not only ensure your safety but also make excellent companions, sharing their expertise and engaging in delightful conversation. Ultimately, this equestrian expedition seeks to celebrate the harmonious bond between humanity, horses, nature, and culture.
2024: 1224 Euro / Full board
Included: Accommodations and meals from dinner on day 1 to breakfast on day 8, English-speaking guide, Second guide (if more than 4 riders), Water and drinks during meals, Luggage transport by car from destination to destination
Note: The first meal provided is dinner on the day of arrival, and the last meal is breakfast on the final morning.
Not included: Flights, entrance tickets to monuments or parks, lunch on day 1, extra drinks, and other services or expenses during free time are not included.
2024: 02.03 – 09.03 / 09.03 – 16.03 / 16.03 – 23.03 / 23.03 – 30.03 / 30.03 – 06.04 / 06.04 – 13.04 / 13.04 – 20.04 / 11.05 – 18.05 / 25.05 – 01.06 / 08.06 – 15.06 / 22.06 – 29.06 / 06.07 – 13.07 / 03.08 – 10.08 / 31.08 – 07.09 / 14.09 – 21.09 / 28.09 – 05.10 / 26.10 – 02.11 / 02.11 – 09.11 / 09.11 – 16.11 / 16.11 – 23.11 / 23.11 – 30.11
It may be possible to pay for a single supplement on the first and last night of the trail, allowing riders to have a single room. However, on other nights, riders must be prepared to share accommodation.
The single supplement for a single room is 25 Euros per night, payable here.
The small group supplement is applicable if only 2 riders are booked onto the ride.
If, at the time of departure, more than 2 riders are booked, the small group supplement will be refunded.
The small group supplement is 158 Euros per person.
All itineraries provided are for your guidance only and may be altered on-site and in accordance with prevailing conditions by the organizing team.
This ride takes place from March to December.
Albania offers optimal conditions for visiting between April and October, with reduced rainfall compared to other months. Despite generally higher precipitation levels in the country, the central highlands receive the majority of rainfall due to the influence of the continental air mass. Albania encompasses a diverse range of climatic regions considering its landmass. The coastal lowlands exhibit a typical Mediterranean climate, while the highlands feature a Mediterranean continental climate. The specific trail mentioned in this context is located in southern Albania, where temperatures tend to be approximately 5 degrees Celsius higher than in other parts of the country. As you traverse the trail, you can expect to encounter varying weather conditions, ranging from cooler mountainous air to a warmer climate along the coast.
We still strongly advise consulting with your General Practitioner before traveling in 2024. It is important to seek their medical advice regarding any necessary immunizations or health precautions based on your individual medical history. Recommendations for travel health and safety can vary depending on various factors, such as destination, current health conditions, and other potential risks.
While the information regarding COVID-19 may be different in 2024, it is still prudent to consult with your doctor before your trip to ensure you are in good health and ready for travel. Keep in mind that travel policies and guidelines, including those related to COVID-19, can change over time. Staying informed about the current situation and any specific requirements for traveling to your chosen destination is important. It is recommended to consult official sources, such as government health agencies or reputable travel advisories, for the most up-to-date information.
Please remember to prioritize your health and well-being during your travels, even if the COVID-19 pandemic is no longer ongoing. Your General Practitioner will be able to provide personalized advice based on your specific circumstances, ensuring a safe and enjoyable trip.
Health (ride specific)
Please take along sun cream and anti-allergy medicine for possible insect bites.
Film and Camera Equipment
Internet access will be difficult during the ride. Riders can buy an Albanian sim card/phone number for round €13 and have free internet access and around 30 minutes of free calls with most European countries.
Access to electricity is possible every evening and the whole area is covered very well with signal.
Long-sleeved shirts (avoid expensive or favorite clothing)
Riding trousers and chaps
Good mountain shoes with a grip (not too thick)
Avoid smooth-soled riding boots
Anti-allergy medicine for insect bites
Torch (flashlight) for walking to feed the horses in the evening
Small camera (avoid large professional cameras)
Copy of passport
Personal saddlebags welcome (provided by riders)
Small saddlebags provided by the ride for food and water.
In addition to the other items, including a torch (flashlight) is recommended for walking to the horses to feed them in the evening. This will provide better visibility and ensure your safety during this activity.
Arrival: Tirana Airport (TIA) or Saranda Port
Departure: Saranda (CFU) – Take a flight to Corfu and then a boat to Saranda
Tirana Airport to Gjirokastra (Round trip):
Cost: €90 per person (€45 one way)
Distance: 225 km
Duration: 3 hours
Scheduled transfers every Saturday at 12:30 pm and 14:30 pm
Recommended arrival time for flights: No later than 14:30 pm
Recommended departure time for flights: Not earlier than 12:00 pm (midday)
Riders arriving in Tirana one day in advance should plan their arrival for the 12:00 pm or 14:30 pm transfer
Transfers from Tirana can’t be organized, but it’s easy and affordable to reach Tirana Airport by bus. Buses run every hour from the center of Tirana (behind the opera palace).
Private transfer to/from Tirana:
1 person: €140 (one way)
2 persons: €70 each (one way)
3 persons or more: €55 each (one way)
Note: Private transfers can be booked if it’s not possible to schedule flights that align with the normal transfer schedule.
Saranda Port to Gjirokastra (Round trip):
Cost: €50 per person (round trip)
Distance: 60 km
Duration: 1 hour
Transfers can be organized based on the ferries’ timetable for 2024, typically with one morning and one afternoon option.
Assisting the Riding Center: Since Albania lacks equestrian shops, procuring necessary horse equipment from the local market becomes a significant challenge for us. If it’s feasible for you, we kindly request your assistance in bringing along any spare or unused items such as old pads, halters, ropes, girths, bridles, or any other equipment that you no longer require. Your contribution would be greatly appreciated by our center.
Arrive at Tirana airport, aiming for a morning arrival but no later than 14:30 to allow time for transfer and a visit to Gjirokastra. The drive to Gjirokastra will take approximately 3 hours. Once you reach your hotel, conveniently located just a 10-minute walk from the historical center of Gjirokastra, settle in and get ready to explore. Before dinner, take a leisurely stroll through the captivating historical town and the old Bazaar. Along the way, you can visit various attractions such as Enver Hoxha’s house, Gjirokastra castle, the church of the Old Bazaar, the mosque of the Bazar, and the Skenduli house, which offers a glimpse into traditional life in Gjirokastra.
For dinner, enjoy a delicious meal at a traditional restaurant. During this time, your guides will be available to discuss the trail with you, addressing any questions or requests you may have and providing valuable advice and insights. We highly recommend purchasing a map of the area before dinner to familiarize yourself with the itinerary and enhance your understanding of the upcoming journey.
After enjoying breakfast at the hotel, we will proceed to the next part of our adventure—a horseback ride through the picturesque countryside towards the charming medieval village of Karjan. This village embodies tradition and serves as a rural haven for passing caravans, boasting quaint churches and an ancient Roman bridge. As we traverse the rural landscape, we will encounter small houses, gardens, and witness traditional farming and cultivation practices. The journey unfolds amidst a backdrop of rolling hills, serene valleys, babbling water streams, and majestic cliffs. Along the way, we will be treated to breathtaking views of the River Drino, also known as the “Tree of Life” river, a significant water source deeply rooted in ancient pagan beliefs.
En route, we will encounter the remnants of the Santa Triada castle, which was reconstructed by Ali Pasha between 1809 and 1810. This strategically positioned castle once served as a control point for caravan routes and later found utility in military affairs during the socialist era. We will pause for a well-deserved lunch break in the scenic Shen Toder village. Afterward, we will continue our journey, riding for approximately 1.5 hours, until we finally arrive at the enchanting village of Karjan. Here, we will be warmly welcomed by a local family who will provide us with accommodation. For dinner, we will have the opportunity to savor delectable dishes made from locally grown ingredients sourced from their own garden, accompanied by raki and wine, offering a true taste of the region.
Riding Hours: 4-5
After breakfast we will continue further north to the villages of Small Labova and the valley of Cajupi. We will follow the ancient merchant’s coble stone road of Zhapa with its mountain panorama, wide view of the hills and valleys. The first break will be in Small Labova, a village well known all over the south for its wonderful Church and the big houses belonging to the merchants which are now mostly ruined. Labova is the birthplace of Vangjel Zhapa, the organizer of the first Modern Olympic Games. Zhapa was a well-known businessman and philanthropist who lived around 200 years ago. After visiting the church a very unique mediaeval building you will start riding up the mountain. You will be impressed by the mountain’s rare vegetation such as mountain tea, oregano, wild rose and other endemic plants like digitalis or ‘Dig–Dag’ as it’s known locally. We follow the mountain path to the valley of Cajupi where we stop by a cattle of 1000 sheep to visit shepherds and spent lunch with them. You will have the chance to taste the Brati famous spring water, a typical station of the old caravans with its small tower “karakoll”. After a nice gallop through Cajupi valley, the trail will follow the medieval Caravan pathway with its famous bandit hideout ‘Hija e Mallkuar’ or ‘The Cursed Shadow’. From here, medieval thieves could rob the caravans passing through Zagoria. The final destination of today will be the village of Nderan, placed in the heart of Zagoria region. This village will be our destination for two nights. Dinner will be a delicious mixture of local products, raki and wine. You can join the local life and accompany the family during the milking process, dinner preparation or have a look at the families, farming animals and garden.
Riding hours: 6
Wake up to the refreshing mountain air and savor a traditional breakfast of homemade bread, cookies, butter, jam, eggs, cheese, honey, and milk. Don’t forget to enjoy a cup of mountain tea, a local specialty. Embark on a captivating horseback ride through Lliar, Hoshteva, Koncka, and Nivan villages, encountering diverse landscapes of cliffs, rivers, woods, and hills. Take in the scents of wildflowers, the presence of shepherds, and the charm of roaming animals. Follow an ancient horse pathway that connected major commercial centers in Southern Albania, passing by the impressive Rock of Zhej. Pause at the reconstructed Lliar water spring, commissioned by Ali Pasha. Experience a thrilling downhill ride to the ruins of a medieval stone bridge (now collapsed) and perhaps take a summer swim. Explore the unique church of Hoshteva, adorned with pagan-inspired wall paintings, and pass by the Byzantine church of Lliar and the 1702-built Nivan Saint Mehilli monastery. Cross the medieval bridge to reach Nderan village, a historical center of medieval livestock fairs, where you’ll spend the night in the welcoming embrace of a local family.
Riding hours: 5-6
Prepare for an exhilarating morning as we embark on an unforgettable equestrian adventure. Following a delightful country breakfast, we will journey through a picturesque mountain valley, perfect for invigorating gallops. Along the way, we’ll pass by secluded farms, majestic cliffs, and hidden historical trails, veering away from the typical tourist paths. This route through the captivating Pogoni region offers a true journey through time, where ancient ruins and mythical natural wonders await our discovery.
Our midday picnic will be enjoyed near the renowned stone bridge of Hllomo or Kacarello’s, a remarkable architectural gem from the merchant era. This isolated marvel can only be reached by horse, adding to its mystique and allure.
After a thrilling five-hour ride, we will arrive at the heart of the Pogoni region, the charming mountain village of Polican, predominantly inhabited by a Greek minority. You will have the opportunity to spend the night with a Greek minority family, immersing yourself in their rich cultural heritage. In their company, you can explore fascinating medieval cult monuments that hold a special place in the village’s history.
As evening descends, prepare to indulge in the gastronomic delights of the region. Polican is renowned for being one of the foremost producers of mountain honey in South Albania. Here, you will have the pleasure of savouring an array of honey flavours, with nearly ten different varieties available throughout the seasons, each capturing the essence of the local bee pastures.
This day promises an exciting blend of adventure, cultural exploration, and culinary delights, as we delve into the hidden treasures of the Pogoni region.
Riding hours 4-5
Today, we bid farewell to the Greek minority as we set our sights on the town of Libohova. The journey ahead will take us through challenging yet breath-taking mountain landscapes, culminating in a grand finale at Swallow Rock, perched 500 meters above the glistening Suha River. Depending on the weather, our chosen picnic spot will either be alongside the Suha River, allowing for a refreshing swim, or at the historic Church of Labova of the Cross. In both instances, we will have the opportunity to explore this extraordinary monument, the oldest church in Albania, constructed by Justinian the Great in 554. It holds great significance as the site where Justinian married his wife, Teodora, with the villagers preserving her wedding dress for generations. Adorned with a captivating wooden iconostasis adorned with floral and symbolic animal scenes, the church exudes a timeless charm. We will pause for lunch at a delightful local restaurant known for its exceptional regional cuisine.
In the afternoon, our journey continues to Libohova, a charming town nestled at the base of the majestic Bureto Mountain. Archaeological evidence indicates its ancient roots, but it flourished in the 17th century, evolving into a bustling commercial hub. During the afternoon, you may opt to take a leisurely stroll, approximately one hour in duration, to visit the historic Libohova Castle, an esteemed Bektashi spiritual site, and the tomb of Shanisha, sister of Ali Pasha.
For the night, you will be warmly welcomed into a local family’s home in Libohova, where you will have the pleasure of savouring delicious local cuisine. Immerse yourself in the farm life by engaging in activities such as assisting with chores, cooking, feeding the horses, or even enjoying local music. It’s a chance to truly experience the local way of life and forge unforgettable memories.
Riding hours: 5
Today’s ride will be relatively short but filled with captivating scenery. We’ll begin our morning by traversing rolling hills, passing through the picturesque Drino’s Valley, and crossing a few charming water streams. As we ascend a steep hill, we will enter the magnificent Antigonea National Park, where we will pause for a visit. This ancient site, constructed by King Pyrrhus in 295 BC, holds the name of his first wife, Antigona, who was the daughter of King Ptolemeus of Egypt. Take your time to explore the rich historical significance of this remarkable place before we continue our journey.
After our visit, we will ride for an additional hour until we reach the stable, where you will have the unique opportunity to experience the joy of releasing your horses and witnessing their freedom. Following this exhilarating experience, a delightful picnic lunch, prepared by your previous host family, awaits us in the village of “Asim Zeneli,” just a short five-minute drive from the stable.
Once we have satisfied our appetites, we will return to the same hotel in Gjirokastra for accommodation. The entire afternoon will be at your leisure, providing time to make preparations for your departure, explore local museums, or indulge in some souvenir shopping. As the day draws to a close, we will gather for a memorable farewell dinner at a cosy restaurant in the old Bazaar, savouring the last tastes of the local cuisine. Later in the evening, you may choose to join us for a drink at a popular bar, reflecting on the incredible experiences shared throughout our journey.
Riding hours: 3-4
After breakfast at the hotel you will be transferred back to the airport of Tirana or the port of Saranda.