Zagoria Pathways

Central Albania: (IT-ALBCV01)
URL: https://www.hiddentrails.com/tour/albania_zagoria_pathways_riding_tour.aspx

Introduction
Central Albania
Travel back in time following the medieval Zagoria caravan pathways into a land of myths, tales, and ballads. Your ride will pass through ancient ruins of the Illyrian civilization, medieval villages, and many remote churches and monasteries. See the mountain bridges built during the period of Ali Pasha; they are a wonder to see with their rare and unique design. The culmination of this extraordinary trail will be the climb on Swallow’s Rock.

You will soak in rural Albanian traditions by staying with local people and riding through vibrant, unspoiled natural landscapes.
The horses used on this ride are local breed mix of Tarpan and Arab horses. They are small but perfectly suited to the rocky terrain being surefooted and accustomed to trekking long mountainous routes, allowing riders to feel confident, relaxed, and free to enjoy the stunning views.

You will meet friendly locals and learn about their traditions while enjoying accommodation as guests in local homes. Your luggage will be transported by car with the most necessary things in saddle bags on your horse. The guides are professional and good company. The main objective of this ride is to celebrate the harmony between humankind, horses, nature, and culture.

Accomodation


Accommodations
This is a progressive ride so nights are spent in different locations.

Description
We spend 5 nights in different village family houses & 2 nights (the first and the last) in a hotel in Gjirokaster. Bathrooms are shared during the whole trip.
Access to electricity is possible every evening and the whole area has a good phone coverage.  Laundry can be done at various locations for a small fee.

Wi-Fi access is only available in Gjirokaster. Internet access is difficult during this ride so we recommend guests to buy an Albanian sim card (around 12 euros) to get free internet access and about 30 minutes of free calls. We have electricity and phone service available during the entire ride.



Accommodation Itinerary - subject to changes based on availability
Night 1: Hotel in Gjirokaster
Night 2: Family House in Karjan
Nights 3 & 4: Family House in Ndëran
Night 5: Family House in Polican
Night 6: Family House in Libohovë
Night 7: Hotel in Gjirokaster



Room Occupancy
The single supplement does not apply if no one is found to share a room.
Most nights include shared accommodations so the single supplement fee only applies for the first and last night, in Gjirokaster.



Meals
All meals are included except for lunch of the first day.
Dinner & breakfast are eaten at the hotel and family houses and lunches generally consist of a picnic, except for the first lunch at the hotel in Gjirokaster.

Breakfasts include eggs, butter, cheese, local pancakes, fruit jams, honey, milk and tea.
Lunch is a picnic that consist of bread, cheese, tomatoes, eggs, olive, pie fruit and a drink.
For dinner, we serve meat (chicken, calf  or pork meat, fish by the sea), salads, cheese, local yogurt sauce, olives, pickles, vegetables from the garden, fruits and Raki and wine (included in the trip cost).  

Dietary Restrictions
We can cater to most dietary restrictions with prior notice.

This trip includes some wine with dinner and can accommodate special dietary requests.

Riding


Riding Experience

This trip has been designed for intermediate riders who are reasonably fit and in a decent state of health. You should also be happy to share facilities with others and live in basic conditions.

Horses
The horses used for this ride are locally bred and ideal for the terrain. They are small but very robust and surefooted Albanian horses (between 13 and 14.2 hands). The Albanian horse, a unique mountain breed that is s local mixture of the archaic Tarpan and medieval Arab horse. They are great climber, have a clear mind and are surefooted. Our breeding program aims to help saving this declining breed of horses.
Our stable include 38 horses and is situated amidst scenic hills, green valleys, surrounded by high mountains. Our horses are trained with natural horsemanship techniques that we are pleased to share with the guests.

Pace
The rides are at a moderate pace overall. Most of the time we are traveling through mountains so that must be taken into account in regards to your expectations of speed, however there are indeed occasions where you can have a good canter. We ride for 6 days, for about 5-6 hours per day.
The total distance covered on this trip is about 130 km.

Guides
Kristina, Aurel and Ilir are all native from Albania and always happy to share their love for horses and their knowledge of Albania with guests.
If there are more than 4 riders, we will have two guides for this trip.

Itinerary


Sample Itinerary - subject to changes

Please note that this itinerary is given as guidance only and may be altered.

Day 1 (Saturday): Arrival
Plan your flight to arrive at Tirana airport ideally in the morning, but no later than 3:00 pm - this leaves time for the transfer and to be able to visit the town of Gjirokstra.
From the airport, the transfer will be by mini-van or off-road car and will take around 3-4 hours (250km). Settle into your hotel, 10 minutes walking from the centre of historical Gjirokastra. You can have a walk around the historical town of the old Bazaar: visit the Enver Hoxha’s house, Gjirokastra castle, the church of the Old Bazaar, the mosque of the Bazar 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.
Meals included: Dinner
Overnight at Hotel in Gjirokstra


Day 2 (Sunday): Ride to Karjan
After breakfast at the hotel and allocation of horses, we will start to ride through the countryside towards the medieval village of Karjan. This village is traditional, a rural stop of the passing caravans with its small churches and old roman bridge. The road to reach this destination passes through a rural environment; small houses, gardens, traditional farming and cultivation of the land. The route combines hilly landscapes, valleys, small water streams and cliffs. This path also passes along the view of River Drino, “Tree of Life” river. It is the most important water basin in the area and part of ancient pagan beliefs. On your way, you will see the ruins of the castle of Santa Triada reconstructed during 1809-1810 by Ali Pasha, a strategic point to control all the caravan itineraries. The castle ruins were used later during the time of socialism for military purposes. We will stop for picnic lunch just near the village of Erind. After a long day in the saddle, we will reach Karjan village where a traditional dinner and accommodation will be hosted by a local family.
Riding 4-5 hours
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Overnight at Family house in Karjan


Day 3 (Monday): Karjan to Nderan
After breakfast we will continue further north to the villages of Small Labova and the valley of Cajupi. We will follow the ancient merchants stone road of Zhapa with its mountain panorama, offering wide views 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 in a ruin state. 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 have 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. We will stay with a Vllah linguistic minority family and this 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. This village is one of the most important producers of mountain honey in South Albania and it offers nearly 10 different tastes of honey as per season and bee pasture.
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Overnight at Family house in Nderan


Day 4 (Tuesday): Ride in the mountains
This morning you will wake up feeling the effect of the mountain air. Breakfast will be traditional mountain food; fresh homemade bread, cookies, butter, jam, eggs, cheese, honey and milk. A cup of mountain tea is very typical for this region. On your way to Lliar, Hoshteva, Koncka and Nivan villages you will encounter various terrain combining hard cliffs, rivers, woods and rolling hills. The beautiful scent of flowers, mountain fresh air, wild landscapes, shepherds and animals will also be part of your day. You will continue riding to the most important horse pathway of the XVII and XVIII century which used to connect the biggest commercial centres in Southern Albania. A very beautiful natural monument is the Rock of Zhej that can be seen along the way. We will stop for a short break at the water spring of Lliar, reconstructed by Ali Pasha in the early XIX century. We will take a challenging downhill route to the ruins of a mediaeval stone bridge (the bridge collapsed on February 2018) where it is possible to take a refreshing swim during summer months. Hoshteva, a unique church which was initially built in 999AC and last restored in 1866 has a very particular style with lots of pagan elements in the wall paintings. We will also pass by the byzantine church of Lliar and the monastery of Nivan Saint Mehilli, built in 1702. We will ride over the mediaeval bridge built in the same period to connect the monastery with Nderan village, one of the famous centres of medieval livestock fairs and which again will be your overnight residence. You will spend the night at the same vllah family house.
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Overnight at Family house in Nderan


Day 5 (Wednesday): Nderan to Polican
This morning will be a really exciting equestrian experience. After a fresh country breakfast, we will ride through a mountain valley, perfectly suited for gallops, passing small remote farms, wild cliffs and many historical small routs off the tourist trail. The route through Pogoni region is a true travel in time. We will be passing by ancient ruins and mythical natural wonders. Our picnic lunch will be near the most famous stone bridge of Hllomo or Kacarello’s, which is the most isolated construction of the merchant’s period and can only reached by horse. In the afternoon, we will reach the centre of the Pogon region. The mountain village of Polican is populated by a Greek minority. You will spent the night with a Greek minority family. In their accompany you have the chance to explore some very particular cult monuments of the medieval period. Later in the evening you will enjoy local gastronomic delights.
Riding approx. 5-6 hours
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Overnight at Family house in Polican


Day 6 (Thursday): Polican to Libohova
This morning, you will leave the Greek minority behind to reach the town of Libohova. The route will pass through demanding but beautiful mountain landscapes with a vast finish at the Swallow Rock, 500m over the river of Suha. Our picnic lunch point will be the Church of Labova of the Cross - a rare monument representing the oldest church in Albania, built by Justinian the Great in 554. Justinian married Teodora his wife at the small chapel of this village and the villagers inherited her wedding dress for centuries. This church is decorated with an old wooden iconostas full of floral and symbolic animal scenes.
Later in the afternoon, we will ride to Libohova, a small town nestled at the foot of the Bureto Mountain. The archaeological evidence indicates a very ancient settlement which reached its zenith in the 17th-century when it became an important commercial centre. During the afternoon is possible to take a long walk and visit Libohova’s castle, a Bektashi cult object and to the tomb of Ali Pasha’s sister, Shanisha You will overnight in a local family house and will taste delicious local food.
Riding 5 hours
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Overnight at Family house in Libohova


Day 7 (Friday): Libohova to Stables
This morning you will ride through rolling hills, Drino’s valley and few water 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, we will ride 1 more hour to the stable where you can enjoy the experience of letting your horses free. A picnic lunch will follow in the village close to the stable. You will be accommodated at the same hotel in Gjirokastra. Your farewell dinner will take place in a small restaurant in the old Bazaar. Later in the evening we can have a drink in a popular bar.
Riding 3.5 hours
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Overnight at Hotel in Gjirokastra


Day 8 (Saturday): Departure
After breakfast at the hotel you will be transferred back to the airport of Tirana.
Meals included: Breakfast


Rates and Dates for Zagoria Pathways

Rates include:

Accommodations, All meals, Water and drinks with meals, 6 riding days, English speaking guide & Luggage transportation

Packages and Options



  • SeasonYearDescriptionEUR ~US$
    A
    20208 day tour, AP€980$1110
The US Dollar Rate is Based on Exchange Rate of 1.13

Rates Note:

Please, provide your passport information at time of booking

* prices are per person based on double/twin occupancy

Rates Note:

Please, provide your passport information at time of booking


Transfer and Other Charges:



 DescriptionEUR~US$
2020 Transfer from/to Tirana Airport, round trip, per person 90 $105
2020 Transfer from Saranda port and back (plan to flight to Corfu and then take the boat to Saranda) 40 $45
2020 Single rooms available only during the first and last night with a suplement of 20 Euro per night (subject to availability)
- to be paid locally
0 $0
2020 Small group supplement (2 pax only), pp 135 $155

Season Tour Dates  Min / MaxReserve
A 2020 09/26 - 10/03 8d / 7n 8 day tour, AP 5 /10 Expired
A 2020 10/03 - 10/10 8d / 7n 8 day tour, AP 5 /10 Expired
A 2020 10/10 - 10/17 8d / 7n 8 day tour, AP 5 /10 Expired
A 2020 10/17 - 10/24 8d / 7n 8 day tour, AP 5 /10 Expired
A 2020 10/24 - 10/31 8d / 7n 8 day tour, AP 5 /10 Expired
A 2020 10/31 - 11/07 8d / 7n 8 day tour, AP 5 /10 Expired
A 2020 11/07 - 11/14 8d / 7n 8 day tour, AP 5 /10 Expired
A 2020 11/14 - 11/21 8d / 7n 8 day tour, AP 5 /10 Expired
A 2020 11/21 - 11/28 8d / 7n 8 day tour, AP 5 /10 Expired

Dates Note:

Rates do not include:

Entrance tickets for museums and parks, Extra drinks, Airport Transfers & Gratuities

Note:

Due to COVID-19 Corona virus pandemic and certain travel restrictions we are applying some temporary policy changes to some of our tours.

For Ancient Zagoria Pathways (IT-ALBCV01):
If your booking is affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, you can postpone your trip to a later date at no extra cost.
Regarding safety protocols, we won't ask riders to wear masks during the ride.
We asked all our hosts to have enough disinfectant solutions, to keep everything cleaned and organised and most meals outside in the gardens.
Guests are asked not to meet or touch other people and try to stay distant. We will try our best not to have people that don't know each sleep in the same room. We will avoid all crowded places, bars or restaurants on the coast.
We also ask all riders to be responsible and aware of their health condition before booking our trails. If they have any suspicious symptoms of Covid they can cancel the trail without any extra cost. In case a guest starts showing symptoms while in Albania we are obligated by law to refer the case to the national health authorities and wait for their recommendations for the whole group.

For more information please visit our COVID-19 Updates page at https://www.hiddentrails.com/article/covid19update.aspx

Other Info
Meeting: Gjirokaster
Airport: Tirana International Airport Nënë Tereza (TIA)
Transfer: Tirana International Airport Nënë Tereza (TIA) or Saranda Port.

Climate:
                                        Gjirokaster area


Month

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Average High Temperature (°F)

41

45

52

59

67

75

82

83

76

63

51

42

Average Low Temperature (°F)

24

27

31

36

43

48

54

53

48

39

31

24

Average High Temperature (°C)

5

7

11

15

19

24

28

28

24

17

11

6

Average Low Temperature (°C)

-4

-3

-1

2

6

9

12

11

9

4

0

-4

Source: NOAA


Seasons
The best months to visit Albania are from April to October. Although precipitation is quite high in Albania there is less rain during these months and because of the continental air mass, most precipitation is over the central highlands. Albania has a high number of climatic regions relative to its landmass - the coastal lowlands have a typically Mediterranean climate; the highlands have a Mediterranean continental climate. This ride takes place in southern Albania which is around 5 degrees warmer than the rest of the country. You will experience different types of weather on the trail; from cooler mountainous air to a warmer climate down on the coast.

What To Bring:
Your luggage is transported by vehicle to the accommodations each night.

What to Bring
Normal riding clothes: riding hat, long sleeved shirts (please avoid packing your favourite or expensive clothing due to risk of damage)  riding trousers and chaps, gloves.
Good mountain shoes - with a grip for walking but not too thick as you will need to ride in them too. Normal riding boots with a smooth sole are not recommended as they can be slippery when walking on foot.
Waterproof raincoat
Casual clothes for the evening
Swimming suit, river shoes and towels
Sleeping bag for camping
Sun cream, sunglasses, hat, water bottles.
Anti-allergy medicine for possible insects bites
Camera - please bring small cameras as large professional ones are very difficult to transport on horseback.
Copy of passport
Personal saddlebags are welcome if riders would like to bring their own. Small saddlebags are provided by the ride but just for food and water.