This exhilarating trail offers a captivating riding experience through diverse landscapes, presenting ample opportunities for swimming in rivers, river hiking, canyon exploration, camping, and immersing yourself in local culture. Along the way, you’ll have the chance to visit rare cultural monuments and encounter remnants of Albania’s communist dictatorship. Indulge in local traditional cuisine, savor the famous Permeti Raki and wine, witness livestock rituals, and even delve into city nightlife, making this trail an incredibly diverse and enriching adventure.
The highlight of this trail is encountering the majestic Vjosa River, known as the last wild river in Europe. Riding alongside its untamed, free-flowing waters and camping in the river bed offers a breathtaking experience. The Vjosa, also referred to as “the blue heart” of Europe, spans over 270 kilometers and boasts stunning canyons, braided river sections, islands, oxbows, and meandering stretches. It serves as a complex habitat for spawning fish and migratory birds.
2024: 1719 Euro / Full board
Included: Included in the package are the following: all accommodations and meals starting from dinner on day 1 until breakfast on day 12, an English speaking guide, and a second guide (if there are more than 4 riders). Additionally, water and drinks will be provided during meals, and luggage transport will be arranged by car from one destination to another.
The following items are not included in the package: flights, entrance tickets to monuments or parks, lunch on day 1, extra drinks, any other services or expenses during free time, meals, drinks, and additional activities on Day 7, which is a designated free day.
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 3 riders are booked onto the ride.
If, at the time of departure, more than 3 riders are booked, the small group supplement will be refunded.
The small group supplement is 183 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.
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 ideally in the morning, but no later than 14.30. This allows time for the transfer and an opportunity to explore the town of Gjirokstra. The drive to Gjirokastra takes approximately 3 hours. Settle into your hotel, which is conveniently located just a 10-minute walk from the historic center of Gjirokstra. Before dinner, take a stroll around the historical town, including the old Bazaar, and visit notable attractions such as Enver Hoxha’s house, Gjirokastra castle, the church of the Old Bazaar, and Skenduli house, offering insights into traditional Gjirokastra life. Enjoy a traditional dinner at a local restaurant, where your guides will provide information about the trail, address any inquiries, offer advice, and share useful details. We recommend purchasing a map of the area before dinner to familiarize yourself with the itinerary.
After breakfast at the hotel and horse allocation, embark on your ride through the countryside towards the medieval village of Karjan. This village holds a traditional charm and once served as a rural stop for passing caravans. Admire its small churches and the old Roman bridge. The route traverses a rural landscape, passing by small houses, gardens, and traditional farming activities. Expect a mix of hilly landscapes, valleys, small water streams, and cliffs. Along the way, catch glimpses of the “Tree of Life” river, the important water basin in the area associated with ancient pagan beliefs. Encounter the ruins of the castle of Santa Triada, reconstructed by Ali Pasha in 1809-1810 as a strategic point for controlling caravan routes. The castle ruins were later utilized for military purposes during the socialist era. Pause for lunch in Shen Toder village, and after another 1.5 hours of riding, reach Karjan village where you’ll be hosted by a local family. Experience the local cuisine, prepared from their own garden produce, and indulge in raki and wine.
Riding hours: 4.5
After breakfast, we’ll start our ride through the picturesque Drino’s Valley. Our first stops will be Andon Poci village and later Hundkuq village, where the ride becomes more challenging as we enter a small forest. Emerging from the forest, we’ll reach the historic village of Labova of Zhapa, renowned for its magnificent Church and grand merchant houses, although most of them now lie in ruins. Labova is also the birthplace of Vangjel Zhapa, a famous businessman and philanthropist who lived around 200 years ago. We’ll enjoy a visit inside the unique medieval church, known for its distinctive style and pagan elements in the wall paintings. Afterward, we’ll start riding up the mountain, marvelling at the rare vegetation and endemic plants along the way. The path will lead us to the valley of Cajupi, where we’ll encounter a cattle of 1000 sheep. This scenic spot will be our camping place for the night, offering the chance to taste the famous Brati spring water, witness a small medieval protection tower called “karakoll,” and experience sheep milking and cooking with the shepherds. Please note that depending on the day’s temperatures, the guides may opt for a shorter path to Cajupi valley and plan an afternoon ride in the surrounding mountains.
Riding hours: 5
After enjoying a delicious traditional breakfast, our trail will follow the medieval Caravan pathway, passing by the infamous bandit hideout known as ‘Hija e Mallkuar’ or ‘The Cursed Shadow.’ This pathway was once used by medieval thieves to ambush caravans traveling through Zagoria. Continuing our ride, we’ll traverse the most important horse pathway of the 17th and 18th centuries, which connected the major commercial centers of Southern Albania. Along the way, we’ll be treated to the breath-taking view of the natural monument, the Rock of Zhej.
Prepare for a challenging downhill route that will lead us to the ruins of a medieval stone bridge, where we’ll enjoy a lunch break and a refreshing swim in the nearby river. In the afternoon, we’ll make our way to the Church of the Monastery of Nivan, constructed in 1702, and cross a symbolic bridge over the Zagoria River to conclude the day’s ride in Nderan, one of the region’s significant villages. We’ll spend the evening and night with a welcoming local family.
Total riding hours: 3,5
Today’s ride will begin with a return to Hoshteva and a mountain climb to reach the Gjurmemushka mountain pass. Once we reach the summit, we’ll mostly enjoy a downhill ride, passing through Maleshova village to visit its charming church and the ruins of the Limari antic castle. We’ll pause for a picnic lunch near a tranquil water stream, where we can rest under the shade of the trees. During the afternoon ride, we’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the Vjosa River from the mountaintop. Our overnight stay will be in a comfortable village guest house in Grabova village, a remote and isolated area known for its warm hospitality. Here, you can experience the traditional mountain cooking and savour the famous “petanik,” a special local pie. Grabova is renowned for its Raki production and delectable “spoon” desserts. In the evening, we’ll enjoy dinner on the guest house’s terrace, overlooking the magnificent flow of the Vjosa River just 200 meters away.
Riding hours: 6-7
After a satisfying breakfast, we’ll embark on a downhill ride to reach the Vjosa River. The rest of the day’s ride will take place along the river bank, offering breath-taking and diverse landscapes. This leg of the journey will be particularly enjoyable, with ample opportunities for exhilarating gallops. We’ll pause for a swimming break near Piskova village, taking advantage of the dry part of the river bed. For lunch, we’ll relish in the delicious food prepared by a small restaurant in Permet, which will be conveniently transported to our riverside stop. If interested, you can also indulge in some fishing. Spend the entire afternoon swimming and relaxing before riding the final 1.5 hours to reach the small town of Permet. After settling the horses at the accommodation, we’ll spend the night in a nearby hotel, just a short 10-minute walk from the town center. Dinner will be served at a well-known traditional restaurant.
Riding hours: 3
This day is a free riding day, allowing you to choose your own adventure. We suggest a visit to the Benja thermal waters in the Langarica canyons, a mere 30 minutes away from Permet. There, you can explore the canyons, swim, and for the more daring, engage in river hiking to discover the “Pigeons Cave” perched on a rock along the Langarica River. We have arranged lunch at a restaurant near the canyons, and we’ll return to Permeti town in the late afternoon. Dinner will be served at a small restaurant close to the hotel. Alternatively, if you prefer to rest and relax, you’re free to create your own plan for the day.
Riding hours: None (but taking care of the horses yes)
Prepare for one of the longest and most challenging days of our journey. Due to branches and foliage, it’s advisable to wear long sleeves. We’ll embark on a mostly uphill ride, climbing Dhembel Mountain. The panoramic view from the top will leave you awestruck. We’ll carry a picnic lunch in our saddles since the car cannot reach us until the final destination later in the day. Our rendezvous point will be in Hoshteva Zagoria, where logistic arrangements await us. We’ll camp beneath the trees near Hoshteva’s church, and as a group, we’ll collaborate to cook dinner and enjoy a memorable meal under the starlit sky. This camping experience will be truly enchanting.
Riding hours: 6
Get ready for an exhilarating equestrian adventure this morning. After a fresh country-style breakfast, we’ll ride through a mountain valley that’s perfect for gallops. Along the way, we’ll pass small remote farms, awe-inspiring cliffs, and numerous historical paths off the beaten tourist trail. Our route through the Pogoni region will transport us through time, passing ancient ruins and mythical natural wonders. We’ll enjoy a picnic lunch near the famous stone bridge of Hllomo or Kacarello’s, an isolated construction from the merchant period accessible only by horse. In the afternoon, we’ll reach the heart of the Pogon region, the mountain village of Polican, inhabited by a Greek minority. You’ll spend the night with a Greek minority family, who will accompany you to explore remarkable cult monuments from the medieval period. In the evening, you’ll indulge in local gastronomic delights, including a variety of honey flavors, as this village is renowned for its mountain honey production, offering up to 10 different seasonal tastes.
Riding hours: 6
This riding day offers a blend of changing landscapes and varying riding paces. You’ll traverse wide valleys, navigate steep downhills, pass through verdant forests, and admire the beauty of the Suha River. We can take a refreshing swimming break in Suha River, explore the bridge, waterfalls, and caves along the river. Later, we’ll embark on a special equestrian climb up the Swallow Rock. Afterward, we’ll head to Labova of the Cross for a late lunch at a traditional guest house and restaurant. Before our afternoon ride, we’ll visit the Church of Labova of the Cross, one of the most significant churches in the country. Built by Justinian the Great in 554, this church served as the venue for his marriage to his wife, Teodora. The villagers have preserved her wedding dress for centuries. The monument was reconstructed in the 10th century and features an old wooden iconostasis adorned with floral and symbolic animal scenes. We’ll conclude the day with a two-hour ride to reach Libohova, a charming town nestled at the foot of the Bureto Mountain. The town boasts an ancient settlement that flourished in the 17th century, becoming a vital commercial center. During the afternoon, you’ll have the option to take a leisurely stroll, visit Libohova’s castle, explore a Bektashi cult object, or pay respects at the tomb of Ali Pasha’s sister, Shanisha. We’ll spend the night in a local family’s house and savor delicious local cuisine.
Riding hours : 5
On this day, we’ll embark on a shorter riding adventure. In the morning, we’ll ride through rolling hills and the picturesque Drino’s valley, crossing a few water streams. Afterward, we’ll conquer a steep hill to reach Antigonea National Park, where we’ll stop for a visit. Antigonea, built by King Pyrrhus in 295 BC and named after his first wife Antigona, showcases ancient ruins steeped in history. After the break, we’ll continue riding for another hour to reach the stables, where you’ll experience the joy of releasing your horses and bidding them farewell. A picnic lunch prepared by our last hosting family awaits in the village of “Asim Zeneli,” a short 5-minute drive from the stable. Later, we’ll return to Gjirokastra and stay at the same hotel. For our farewell dinner, we’ll gather at a small restaurant in the old Bazaar. If you’d like, we can conclude the evening with a drink at a popular bar.
Riding hours: 3,5
After breakfast at the hotel, you’ll be transferred back to the Tirana airport, marking the end of our equestrian adventure.