Ride Overview - Royal Conqueror’s Mountain Trail
An invigorating horseback riding vacation in Albania! You will follow in the ancient footsteps of Ilirian King Skerdilajd as he embarked to conquer Kaonia. You will experience an unspoiled nature, a colorful heritage, warm hospitality and reliable, strong horses. Your trails combines mountain climbing, steep hill rides, and river crossings. Along the way, you will find ancient ruins, castles, churches and monasteries sitting adjacent to past communist bunkers and military infrastructure. Participation in this trail will allow you to experience the true Albania with the best local cuisine, history and hospitality. A first day early arrivals will allow you to explore the prettiest Ottoman-era town of Gjirokastra. You will lodge in either in local or family guesthouses where your host will provide a delicious local meal and enjoyable conversation. Most of the dishes are homemade while fruits, vegetables and meat come from local gardens and farms. From May to the end of September, you can enjoy swimming in the sea (without horses) on two of the trail days.
Ride Itinerary - Royal Conqueror’s Mountain Trail
Plan your flight to arrive at Tirana airport ideally in the morning, but no later than 15:00 – this leaves time for the transfer and to be able to visit the town of Gjirokstra with your guides. From the airport the transfer will be by mini-van or off-road car and will take around 3-4 hours (250km). After you have settled into your hotel, you can walk 10 minutes to the center of historical Gjirokastra. Riders can also visit Enver Hoxha’s house, Gjirokastra castle, the church of the Old Bazaar, the mosque of the Bazzar and a traditional Skenduli house. During dinner at a traditional restaurant, your guides will discuss your upcoming ride. We recommend that you buy a map of the area before dinner in order to gain a good understanding of the itinerary.
Your ride will begin at the Gjirokastra Lake, Viroi Park at 720 feet/220 meters above sea level. You will be astonished at how this mountainous ecosystem changes so suddenly. You will ride through hilly terrain, small rivers, pine woods, and across steep hills. Lunch will be a home prepared picnic at the monastery of Cepo. You can visit this cliff perched monastery which is an important orthodox cult object and has one of the most strategic views of the Drinos Valley. Currently, only two structures remain of the former monastery complex: a dome basilica and former guesthouses. After lunch, you will ride along the Kardhiq River. You will marvel at the pillar rocks, Gods of the Light, and other natural pillar monuments. Today’s ride finishes after around 5-6 hours at the village of Fushbardha, one of the most important centers of Laberia. Labëria Laws originate from ancient times and were reintroduced by Pope Julius 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 mount up for a long day riding (up to 8 hours). Your trail will follow the tracks of King Skerdilajd Army which passed through the “Neck of the Rock” around 2,300 years ago. King Skerdilajdi was the commander of the 5,000 troops sent by Queen Teuta in 230 BC against Epirus. 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 route 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. A picnic lunch is planned in a mountain valley surrounded by a small oaks. Your group will 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 walk round 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 comfort you to sleep after the long day. Riding hours 8-9 (including walking by leading the horses).
After a traditional breakfast with the shepherd’s family, you will begin a shorter but very pleasant ride. First, you will visit the 6th century castle of Borsh (known in history as Castle of Sopot) located on a hill in Borsh´s village at 1,600 feet/500 meters above sea level. Its surface is rocky. 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, 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 ride along an old seaside road for a 3 hour ride from Borsh. Olive trees, oranges, lemons, citrus and grapefruits are planted everywhere on the upper part of the road. Many defense bunkers remain along the seaside of Piqeras, an old fishing village. You will dismount in the village to 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 will enjoy breakfast on the terrace with a beautiful view of the Ionian Sea. You can enjoy traditional coast byrek (cheese pie) and cookies, butter, fresh milk and honey. Your olive tree lined trail will then lead you down to the beach of Bunec. You will then ride up to the Lukove village and then 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 through a small dense jungle of trees, bushes and rocks to the remains of an old road connecting the sea with the villages of the upper coast. In the afternoon, you will visit the medieval village of Shen Vasil. The village served as a labor camp for political prisoners during the communist dictatorship. Hundreds of intellectuals suffered and died in this camp during the four decades. Traces of the past are visible everywhere. Your accommodation place will be an former dormitory for 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. Along the way, you will have the chance for a very nice and long gallop. Your group will then ride back along King Skerdilajd Army´s route. South of the river Kalasa Valley, you can see the Foinike Hill. At this point, 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 will be able to see the bunkers of the cold war. Your group will stop for a picnic lunch under olive trees. In the afternoon, you will ride to the Skerfica Mountain’s neck named after the King Skerdilajd Army pass. Here you can enjoy the cold mountain water and another short break. You will then pass an old Phosphor Mine, an ex-labor 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-labor camp. Fushebadha is a destination that you have already visited in your first riding day. Dinner will be served in a garden with homemade food, the fresh mountain air and the hospitality of the local family. Riding hours: 6
After a traditional breakfast, you will begin your ride back to Gjirokastra. Today is going to be another diverse landscape ride. You will ride first to the Valley of Kardhiq River and later will meet the traces of the first riding day. The ride will finish right where it started – near the Viroi Lake. Pine woods, mountain valleys, water springs, fresh air and flowered landscapes will be the highlight of this day. Finally, you will be driven to the stable where you will be introduced to Albanian horsemanship. 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.
*The guide reserves the right to change the itinerary due to unforeseen circumstances.
Ride Details - Royal Conqueror’s Mountain Trail
Dates: Saturday – Saturday, May – September
Airport: Tirana airport (TIA)
Riding Days: 9
Daily Riding Hours: 5 – 8
Riding Ability: STRONG INTERMEDIATE: Confident and in control at all paces including posting trots, two point canters and gallops in open country and narrow ascending and descending trails. Able to lead a horse across narrow mountain trails and bridges. Fit for walking up to 1 hour 30 minutes. Comfortable with river crossings. Able to tack and untack a horse.
Restrictions: no children
Health: Please consult your physician regarding immunizations.
Group Size: 2 – 10
Horses: Arab Tarpan cross, 13 – 14 hands
Accommodations: 2* farmhouses, B & B’s
*Price: $1,185.00 per person, double occupancy $40.00 single supplement**
Small group fee of $150.00 will apply if total group size is 2 people.
*Price is based on USD/EURO exchange rate and will be fixed at final payment.
**Single lodging available only on the 1st and last night. The remainder will be a shared room.
Included: all accommodations and meals from dinner of day 1 till breakfast of day 8, English speaking guide, second guide (if more than 4 riders), water and drinks during the meals, luggage transport by car from destination to destination.
Not included: airfare, entrance tickets in monuments or parks, lunch on day 1, extra drinks, other services or expenses during free time. transfer to and from the airport (70 euros round trip) at specified times.
Royal Conqueror’s Mountain Trail: Gallery
Royal Conqueror’s Mountain Trail