Riding in the fields
Mountain Views
perfect riding weather

Discover the mountainous landscapes of southern Albania on this challenging 11 night horseback trail. Follow ancient caravan routes on hardy native horses while stay with local families, sampling homemade meals and experiencing rural Albanian culture. This equestrian trail combines a challenging horseback riding experience (between 5-7 hours on riding days) in varied landscapes with wild swimming, river hiking, canyon exploring, camping and visiting rare cultural monuments.

Ride along the banks of the Vjosa river characterized by beautiful canyons, braided river sections, islands, oxbows and meandering stretches; before camping in the dry river bed, one of the highlights of this trail. This is the perfect habitat for migratory birds. The equestrian trail passes charming villages and ancient ruins set in magnificent scenery

This trail is suitable for adventurous and fit riders of intermediate and advanced ability who are happy ro travel off the beaten track.

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2024 Sample Itinerary:

Day 1
Plan for arrival at Tirana airport no later than 14.30 - this leaves time for the transfer and to visit the town of Gjirokstra, approx 3 hrs journey. The hotel is a 10 minute walk from the centre of this historical town where traditions can be seen in a visit to Enver Hoxha’s house, Gjirokastra castle, the church and mosque of the Old Bazaar, and Skenduli house. During the welcome dinner at a local restaurant, the guides will brief the group about the upcoming trail and discuss any needs or preferences you may have. It is recommended to buy a map of the area so as to gain a good understanding of the itinerary.

Day 2
After breakfast at the hotel and allocation of horses, the adventure starts with a ride through the countryside towards the medieval village of Karjan, once a regular stop for passing caravans with its small churches and old roman bridge. The route passes through a rural environment with small houses, gardens, and traditional farming methods. Enjoy the view of the River Drino, the “Tree of Life” river, and the most important water basin in the area. Visit the ruins of the castle of Santa Triada, a strategic point that was used to control the caravan trade. Stop for lunch in Shen Toder village before another 1.5 hours in the saddle to reach Karjan village and the overnight stay in a local home with a meal of local produce, and of course, raki.
Riding hours: 4.5

Day 3
After breakfast the group heads to the Drino River valley and onward to Andon Poci village, and Hundkuq village where the ride becomes challenging as it enters the small forest near Labova of Zhapa. This is a well-known village with a wonderful church and ruins of the merchant houses. After a visit, the ride into the mountains begins. Ride through local flora like mountain tea, oregano, wild rose and other endemic plants like digitalis or 'Dig–Dag' as it's known locally. The mountain path leads to the valley of Cajupi, home of the famous Brati spring water. Tonight the group camps on a cattle farm with huge flocks of sheep. These farms were the typical caravan stop in the past. Experience milking sheep and cooking along with the local shepherds before settling in for the night.
Riding hours: 5

(Depending on the weather, the guides might decide to take a shorter path to Cajupi valley and do an afternoon ride in the mountains around Cajupi’s valley).

Day 4
After breakfast, the trail follows the old Caravan pathway with its famous bandit hideout 'Hija e Mallkuar' or 'The Cursed Shadow'. From here, medieval thieves used to rob the passing caravans. Continue riding along the most important horse pathway of the 17th and 18th century, a route which connected the biggest commercial centres in Southern Albania. After taking a short break at the water spring of Lliar, there is a challenging downhill route to the ruins of a medieval stone bridge and today's stop for lunch and refreshing dip in the river (weather permitting). In the afternoon the route climbs to Hoshteva, a village of just 30 inhabitants, and home to a unique church with pagan wall paintings (999AD - restored 1866), before passing the 16th century Monastery of Nivan, and the bridge over the Zagoria river to Nderan where the group spends the night with a local family. 
Riding hours: 3.5

Day 5
Today's ride heads back to Hoshteva before climbing to reach the Gjurmemushka mountain pass, followed by a long downhill ride. At Maleshova village, the riders can visit the church and castle ruins and a picnic lunch next to a stream. The view of the river Vjosa from the afternoon's mountain top ride is magnificent. The stop for the night is the isolated, but welcoming village of  Grabova, known for its Raki. Check into a comfortable local guest house and dinner on the terrace with a spectacular view of the river Vjosa and sampling local specialties like 'petanik' pie and their famous 'spoon desserts'. 
Riding hours: 6-7

Day 6
After breakfast, the morning starts by riding downhill to reach river Vjosa and following the riverbank. The landscape and terrain offer lots of oportunities for long gallops. Stop for a swim (weather permitting) near Piskova village before heading on to enjoy lunch at a small restaurant in Permet. After spending a leisurely afternoon the ride continues for another 1.5hrs to Permet where the horses are stabled and the group checks into a small hotel to freshen up before heading into town for dinner and a spot of nightlife.
Riding hours: 3

Day 7
Today is a free day. Options include visiting Benja thermal waters in Langarica canyon (30 minutes); exploring the canyons; swimming, or a river hike to explore the “Pigeons Cave” on a rock along Langarica river (only for the brave of heart). 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. Riders are welcome to make their own plans if none of the options interest them.

Day 8
This is a long and sometimes difficult day in the saddle. Long sleeves are recommended because of branches, as the ride climbs into the Dhembel Mountain. The view is amazing. Today's picnic lunch will be carried in the saddle and meets up with the logistics team in Hoshteva where riders camp near the church under the trees. The whole group will be involved in cooking before enjoying dinner under the stars.
Riding hours: 6

Day 9
This morning starts with an exciting ride through a mountain valley, perfectly suited for gallops, passing small villages, rocky cliffs and remote farms. There are numerous small routes off the tourist trail and the one through Pogoni region is a travel through time with ancient ruins and mythical natural wonders. Today's picnic lunch will be near the famous stone bridge of Hllomo, the most isolated construction of the merchant’s period that can only reached by horse. The ride reaches village of Polican, the centre of the Pogon region. This village is one of the most important areas for mountain honey in the country, with 10 types in the region. The mountain is populated by a Greek minority and the group spends the night with a local family. Explore the local medieval monuments before enjoying a traditional meal with tonights hosts.
Riding hours: 6

Day 10
Today combines changing landscapes and riding paces. Wide valleys, steep downhills, green forests and the beauty of the Suha River are part of the itinerary. Stop to swim, explore the bridge, the waterfalls and caves along the river. The climb to Swallow Rock is a special equestrian experience. Reach the village of Labova of the Cross for a late lunch at a restaurant before visiting the famous church which is decorated with an old wooden icons, floral and symbolic animal scenes. The ride continues another 2hrs to Libohova, a small town nestled at the foot of the Bureto Mountain that reached its zenith as an important commercial centre in the 17th-century. Overnight in a local family house and enjoy dinner with the hosts.
Riding hours: 5

Day 11
This will be a short riding day heading through rolling hills and Drino’s valley before climbing a steep hill to reach  Antigonea National Park. After the break the ride continues to the stables and a fond farewell to the horses. Enjoy a final picnic lunch in the village Asim Zeneli. Check into the hotel in Gjirokastra to freshen up before the farewell dinner will take place at a local restaurant.
Riding hours: 3.5

Day 12
After breakfast at the hotel riders will be transferred back to the airport of Tirana. 

Single Supplement
It may be possible to pay for a single supplement on the first and last night of the trail, but riders must be prepared to share accommodation on the other nights. The single supplement is payable on-site.

Small Group Supplement
Please see 'Detailed Prices' for the small group supplement price. This 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.

Please note: All itineraries are given for your guidance only and it may be altered on the ground and in accordance with the prevailing conditions by the organising team.

Horses & Riding

The horses are a mix of Arab and Tarpan cross horses. These breeds were mentioned in the ancient chronicles from the time of the King Skerdilajd. The horses are up to 14hh tall (145cm) and they can be ridden very easily by both English and Western riders. Although small, the horses are very strong and surefooted - they know their way round mountainous paths, this rocky landscape is their natural environment.



A typical riding day of 6 hours will have a minimum of 2 stops, one of them will be for the picnic lunch delivered by car or in the saddlebags depending on the riding day. The usual distance covered in 6 hours is around 35-40 km. The ride combines all paces of riding from walking, climbing steep hills and riding downhill to trotting over old stone routes and cantering and galloping in wide valleys. This trail is considered to be fairly fast and riders must be prepared for changing landscape and pace.



Every riding trail has two guides, one in front and the other at the back. The guide at the back is responsible for everything technical; saddle fixing, noticing riding problems, looking after the weakest riders etc. The front guide is responsible to lead, explain, translate and choose the pace. Guides are knowledgeable in horsemanship, First Aid, history, archeology and biology. They also speak English, Italian and Greek.


Rider requirements

Riders must be able to walk, trot and canter and ready to spend 6-9 hours in the saddle over varied terrain and landscape. Help to mount or dismount can be provided by the guide if necessary.

There is no age limit but there is a strict weight limit of 80 kg. On difficult paths every rider should be able to walk beside their horse but for no longer than 20 minutes everyday. Riders participation with grooming and tacking up is not obligatory as help is provided all the time by the guides.

Weight Limit

The weight limit for this ride is 176 lb/80 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.

Accommodation is in in twin bedded rooms with shared bathrooms in different family houses in the villages you pass through. These are unique chances to mix with local families and experience their culture. This trail also includes two nights of camping. Tents and equipment are provided but you will need to bring your own sleeping bag. The first camping night is out in the wilderness and there are no shower facilities that night. The second camping night, you are next to a family home and can use the shower facilities there. Please note that on some nights you might be asked to share a room with 3 beds.



Meals: Expect  home-cooked breakfasts with pies, cookies, butter, jam, eggs, milk, mountain tea and coffee. Lunch is usually a picnic lunch which can be packed by riders themselves in the family houses (bread, cheese, vegetables, eggs, pies, water) except the first riding day where a cooked traditional meal will be provided. Dinner: Rich traditional dinner with different meat (calf, pig, chicken, goat and fish ), vegetables, pies, cheese, salads, wine and raki. Wine or raki (a traditional alcoholic drink) is included during dinners with the food. Tea, coffee or milk are also available with breakfast and dinner.



This is an opportunity to try traditional mountain food and fresh seafood. You can taste the local homemade and unique olive oil extracted in a traditional way.


Vegetarian or other dietary requirements within reason can be accommodated with advance notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests before booking.

Documents - Visa and Consulate Info

Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip.

NB: Be sure to check the COVID status of the country you plan to visit including entry procedures and requirements while travelling.

Visa requirements can change from year to year depending on diplomatic relations. Please request information from the appropriate Consulate in your home country.

Unicorn Trails will assist with any questions you have or supply any necessary supporting documents as required by the consulate should you need a visa.

All travellers will need a passport valid for at least 90 days following your departure date from Albania.

In the UK the British Foreign Office gives advice: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/albania

In the US: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Albania.html

In Canada: https://travel.gc.ca/destinations/albania

Climate Summary

The best months to visit Albania are from April to September. 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.

Climate Chart

Health

We still strongly advise consulting with your General Practitioner 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. 



It is recommended that you drink only bottled water as the tap water is not always potable. If you drink milk, make sure it is UHT (pasteurised). Please refer to your country’s latest health guideline for travel in Albania and contact your own GP for up to date advice on vaccinations and prophylaxis prior to travel.


Health (ride specific)

Please take along sun cream and anti-allergy medicine for possible insect bites.

Electricity

In Albania the standard voltage is 230 V and the frequency is 50 Hz. You can use your electric appliances if the standard voltage in your country is in between 220 - 240 V.

Mobile, WiFi and charging

Internet access will be difficult during the ride. Riders can buy an Albanian sim card/phone number for around €13 in 2023 and have free internet access and around 30 minutes of free calls with most European countries, including England.
Access to electricity is possible every evening and the whole area is covered very well with signal.

Packing List

Riding hat
Long sleeved shirts
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
Sun cream
Sunglasses
Swimming clothes
Towels for wild swimming
Sleeping bag
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
Water bottle

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. You are encouraged to bring your own water bottles to reduce plastic usage.

Programmes

This is a 12 days/11 nights programme with 9 riding days available on set dates.

Departure Dates

2024: 20 April (Full), 5 Oct (Full)

Pricing
No single rooms available (on some or all nights). Riders must be prepared to share with someone of the same sex.

It may be possible to pay for a single supplement on the first and last night of the trail, €20 per night, payable on-site.

No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description £
2024 12d/11n9double pp1,505
2024 12d/11n9Supplement for group of 3159
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description
2024 12d/11n9double pp1,719
2024 12d/11n9Supplement for group of 3185
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description US $
2024 12d/11n9double pp1,959
2024 12d/11n9Supplement for group of 3199
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description SEK
2024 12d/11n9double pp20,209
2024 12d/11n9Supplement for group of 32,155
Wildlife

The riding area of this trail is also the natural habitat of wild goat, wild pig, deer and mountain bears (it is very rare to see a bear on the trail). You might also spot foxes, rabbits, eagles, turtles, lizards, snakes and a variety of birds.

Flora and Fauna: If we refer to the Albanian species, of which are 3250, 13% belong to Gjirokastra´s territory. There are lots of medicinal and curative plants. The number reaches up to 50 kinds of such plants. The most widely spread animals are hares, deer, wild boars, martens, bears, wild cats etc. Different kinds of fish like trout, eels and many more lurk in the rivers.

Other Information

The trail is not suitable for non-riding companions.

Gjirokastra, the first and last destination on this trail, is a wonderful town in south Albania and is recognised for its history, heritage, culture and cultural monuments. Known as “the city of one thousand steps”, Gjirokastra has been under the protection of UNESCO since 2005 and is nominated as a World Heritage Site. The castle, the traditional ottoman style buildings, Enver Hoxha’s house and the New Bazaar are the main objects to visit. The town itself is surrounded by charming villages, old byzantine churches, Sufi monasteries, ruins of antique towns, historical mountain paths, nature monuments, rivers and springs, woods, hospitable families and organic traditional foods.

Travel Summary

Meeting-point (getting there):
Tirana airport (TIA) or Saranda Port - fly to Corfu (CFU).
Transfer:
2024: Tirana airport to Gjirokastra €90 return per person 3-4 hours. Saranda Port to Gjirokastra: €50 return per person 1 hour. Transfers payable on site (subject to change)
Flight Guide:
London - Tirana (TIA) return ticket from £75
London - Corfu (CFU) return ticket from £100
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