Ride Overview - Wild River Ride
An adventure horseback riding vacation in Albania! Your trail will traverse along the Vjosa River, “the blue heart” of Europe. This river is untamed, free flowing and characterized by beautiful canyons, braided river sections, islands, oxbows and meandering stretches. It is also one of the most complex habitats for spawning fish and migratory birds. This horseback vacation combines a challenging riding experience in different landscapes. Riding and camping (2 or 3 days) along this last wild river in Europe is a memorable experience. You will also have an opportunity to swim the river, and explore canyons. Early arrivals on day one will allow you to explore the prettiest Ottoman-era town of Gjirokastra. A non-riding day is planned to explore either the Benja thermal waters in the Langarica canyon (30 minutes drive) or if you are feeling brave, you can go hiking to the prehistoric Pigeons Cave on a rock along Langarica River. In addition, you will experience rare cultural moments by sharing time and accommodations with the local people. Local traditional food, famous Permeti Raki and wine tasting are on the menu.
Ride Itinerary - Wild River Ride
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. There are 2 transfers one at noon and the other at 3:00 PM. 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 centre of historical Gjirokastra. You can walk around the historical old Bazaar before dinner. Riders can also visit 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 introduce you to the upcoming ride. 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, your group will ride through the countryside towards the medieval village of Karjan. This picturesque village with its small churches and old Roman bridge was a stop for passing caravans. The route combines hilly landscapes, valleys, small water streams and cliffs. This path also passes along the view of the Drino, “Tree of Life,” River. This is the most important water basin in the area and part of ancient pagan beliefs. Along your way, you will see the ruins of the 17th century Castle of Santa Triada which was a strategic point to control all the caravan itineraries. The castle ruins were used later during the time of socialism for military issues. Your group will stop for picnic lunch near the village of Erind. After around 4-5 hours riding, you will reach the Karjan village where a traditional dinner and accommodation will be hosted by a local family.
After breakfast, you will ride down along Drino’s valley to the Andon Poci village and then later the Hundkuq village. Next, you will find your trails more become challenging as you enter a small forest to Labova of Zhapa. This village is well known all over the south for its wonderful Church and the big merchant house ruins. 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. Here your group wil stop for a picnic lunch. After visiting a medieval church, you will mount up to ride an ascending mountain trail. 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. The mountain path continues past a huge herd of sheep to the valley of Cajupi. This place will be your campsite for the night. You will have the chance to taste the Brati famous spring water, see a typical station of the old caravans and visit a small mediaeval tower of protection called “karakoll.” You can also experience the sheep milking process and cooking with the shepherds.
After a nice traditional breakfast, the trail will follow the medieval Caravan pathway near the famous bandit hideout ‘Hija e Mallkuar’ or ‘The Cursed Shadow.’ From here, medieval thieves could rob the caravans passing through Zagoria. You will continue riding to the most important horse pathway of the XVII and XVIII century which used to connect the biggest commercial centers in southern Albania. Along the way, you will see the beautiful natural monument, Rock of Zhej. After a short break at the Lliar water spring. Next, you will ride down a challenging trail to the ruins of a mediaeval stone bridge (the bridge collapsed on February 2018). Here, your group will stop for lunch and for a long refreshing swim in the river. In the afternoon, you horse will climb to the village of Hoshteva village, your destination for the night. In this village, only 30 people live. Hoshteva has a unique church which was initially built in 999 AC and restored in 1866. The monument has a very particular style with lots of pagan elements on the wall paintings You will spent the night by a small family hotel, the only one in Hoshteva village. You are having home cooked dinner in the family’s garden.
This day ride will start with a mountain climb to reach the Gjurmemushka mountain pass. Your trail then descends to the Maleshova village. Here you will visit the church and pass by the Limari castle ruins. You will stop for a picnic lunch and rest near water stream. A view of the River Vjosa opens before you at the summit of the mountain. You will spent the night in a village house in Mbrezhdan. This is a poor and forgotten area very isolated due to the lack of roads and immigration but still very welcoming. You can experience the traditional way of cooking outside and the famous “petanik” a special pie of the mountains. Mbrezhdan is a Raki area and very well known for their “spoon” deserts. You will have dinner with the host family in their garden.
After breakfast, your trail will descend to the River Vjosa. The rest of the ride will traverse along the river bank. The landscape is amazing, very different from the other days with many chances for long gallops. We will camp again in front of Piskova village on the dry part of the river bed and enjoy very good food cooked by a small restaurant in Permet. You can swim the whole afternoon and enjoy a special dinner under the stars. Fishing is also possible if there is interest for it.
Your ride continues along the river bank. The riding landscape is rolling with many opportunities to canter and gallop. By lunch time, you will reach the town of Permet. After stabling your horse in the suburb of this small town, you will be transferred a hotel in the heart of this village. Lunch will be served in a small restaurant. The afternoon is free to visit the town or climb famous Premti rock. Before sunset, you can visit by car the Leusa village a short distance from the town. The beauty of the surrounding wood hides the real gem of Leusa. It boasts the Orthodox Church of St. Mary, well-known for its outstanding iconographic Byzantine mural paintings. Dinner will take place in a family run restaurant in the middle of the town. You can later enjoy the night life in different music bars of the town center.
This is a non-riding day. We suggest to drive you to Benja thermal waters in Langarica canyons 30 minutes away from Permet. There are chances of exploring the canyons, swimming, and the “most brave” can go river hiking to explore the “Pigeons Cave” on a rock along Langarica river. We have planned having lunch in a restaurant close to the canyons and return back to Permeti town late in the afternoon. Dinner will be served in a small restaurant close to the hotel. During this day is possible that you make your own plans if you don’t want to join this program.
This is going to be one of the longest and most difficult days. Long sleeves because of branches are needed. The majority of the ride is mostly climbing Dhembel Mountain. The view is amazing. Your picnic lunch will be carried in your saddle. No cars can reach us. Your destination is Nderan Zagoria. Be prepared to walk part of the uphill and downhill. During the afternoon, your group will pass by a Byzantine church and the 16th century monastery of Saint Mikhail of Nivan. You will ride over the medieval bridge which connects the monastery with Nderan village. The village was one of the famous centers of medieval livestock fairs and will serve as your overnight residence. You will spend the night with a Vllah family. Their community represent a rare linguistic minority in Albania. 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, and dinner preparation.
This riding day combines a changing landscape with a faster riding pace. Wide valleys, steep downhills, green forests and the beauty of Suha River are part of your itinerary before lunch. The lunch break by the river is a good chance for refreshing in the water. Later you will climb the Swallow Rock and visit the renown church of Labova of the Cross. This church is 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 have kept her wedding dress for centuries. This church is decorated with an old wooden icon full of floral and symbolic animal scenes. Later in the afternoon, you 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 it 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.
This will be a short riding day of 3 1/2 hours. You begin with a trail across rolling hills, Drino’s valley and few water streams. Then you embark on an ascending steep trail to reach the Antigonea National Park where your group 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 one more hour to the stable where you can enjoy the experience of letting your horse go 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 your group can have a drink in a popular bar.
After breakfast at the hotel you will be transferred back to the airport of Tirana.
*The guide reserves the right to change the itinerary due to unforeseen circumstances.
Ride Details - Wild River Ride
Dates: July 15th- 26th, October 7th – 18th
2021: July 24th- August 8th, October 2nd – 13th
Airport: Tirana airport (TIA)
Riding Days: 9
Daily Riding Hours: 4 – 6
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. 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: Eurasian, 13 – 14.2 hands
Non-riding Activities: hiking, fishing
Accommodations: 2* farmhouses, campsites
*Price: $1,780 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: 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: Flights, entrance tickets in monuments or parks, lunch on day 1, extra drinks, other services or expenses during free time, meals, drinks and extra activities on Day 8, which is a free day.
Wild River Ride: Gallery
Wild River Ride