Caravan Travel is a horse riding center placed in Southern Albania, Gjirokastra historical town. We started with the professional tours around 5 years ago. Our group is composed by five experienced guides who have been in this line of work for more than 10 years.
During these years we have mainly specialized in long riding tours which involve all riding pace especially mountain climbing and trotting in difficult landscape. We plan and program with the main objective to offer a harmonic relationship between human kind, horse and nature. Another big objective has been to make riders feel the Albanian way of life, to show them our traditions, to let them live with the hosting families, sharing their family environment and help with the preparation of meals or village works.
We carry the luggage by car and only the most necessary things are transported in saddle bags. We believe that by carrying little galloping becomes much easier.
Our best and longest trail until now is “the merchants” trail or Zagoria. However, we are proud to offer you this year another trail “King’s Skerdilajd´s Army Route”. This route has been tested many times during the past 5 years. This is the reason why many riders want to return to Albania. Also, this is one more choice for riders visiting us for the first time.
This trail that partly imitates the percorse of the Ilirian king Skerdilajd to conquer Kaonia 2300 years ago combines nature with culture heritage as well as village life with seaside town life. The trails offer the possibility of riding at all paces. The itinerary passes through a variety of landscapes combining mountain climbing, stip downhills, rivers, wood, seaside, ancient ruins, ancient castles, churches and monasteries.
Along the trail you can learn many things about the unknown communist Albania. Bunkers and military protection infrastructure has still preserved its traces all around villages and towns. It was a period of isolation and militarization when previous communist leaders built around 750,000 bunkers of defense in case of attack from “enemies”.
We like to underline as our advantage the accommodation. This will take place in family houses every night except the first and the last night of the trip. Our rider´s comments suggest that this is the only way to know the country and its life. Families have meals and talk to their guest as they savour their organic dishes. Fruits, vegetables and meat come from their gardens and farms. Their drinks like Albanian famous Raki and wine are also homemade. Mountain tea would be the typical drink every family will offer.
The trail makes possible the combination of mountain food and sea food. You can taste the family´s homemade and unique olive oil extracted on a traditional way. There will also be citrus fruits, olives and fresh fish.
From April to the end of September you can enjoy swimming in the sea on two of this trail´s days.
Flora and Fauna : The wide variety or plants and woods characterizes Flora. There are 420 species that contains vessels. If we refer to the Albanian species, which are 3250, 13% belong to Gjirokastra´s territory. There are a 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 river.
Horses: Our mountain horses (140- 155 cm) are an old mixture of the Tarpan and Arab horse and they represent established characteristics of a safe horse. Rocky landscape is their natural life environment. Living most of the time free in nature make these horses sure and trustfull even in tense situations. They are easy to manage, even the stallions and each of them represent a natural and not artificial personality.
This local breed of horse served for centuries to inhabitants of this area to pass the mountains and to transfers their animals or bees from summer pastures to winter pastures. These horses were used to transfer entire families and villages during different periods of conflicts or wars.This breed served the army till mediavel time and even during the period of King Skerdilajd the breed was very similar based to the ancient writers. Horses are very resistant and able of all paces: riding, trot, canter and fast galloping when possible.
Day 2: We will start riding from top of Gjirokastra town at a heigh of 600 m above sea level on the slope of the Wide Mountain. You will be astonished by how this ecosystems change suddenly from the horizontal direction tο the vertical one, of the roughness of this terrain and the great contrasts that exist between them. You will ride through rocky terrain, mountain valleys, small rivers, pine woods, stip down and up hills. Mediavel signs of pasture borders represented by pyramids of stones are a typical human trace we will meet till lunch point. Lunch is going to be a home prepared picnic under the trees. You will ride immetiately after lunch to a well-known territory of old civilization. Castle of Kardhiq is going to be another stop point. Kardhiqi Castle lies within the Valley of Kardhiq River and has the shape of a pentagon with 0.2 ha area. Its walls, about 1.30 m wide, are built with small unworked stones, firmly reinforced in every meter of height. Researchers date this fortification at about the XIV-XV century. Ali Pasha executed 640 men from this village at the end of the 18-th century.
Pillar rocks are other nature monuments really interesting in this area. Villagers connect them with the politeism belief as “Gods of the Light”. They have got specific forms of pillars or columns 3-4 m high, which differ from far away. Scientificly, it is thought they are formed during the Upper Crete due to distinticve erosion in formations with a variety of hardness and solubility.
This day finishes after round 9 hours at the village of Zhulat, one of the most important centres of Laberia´s area. Laberian Law Codic was shaped in its cattle. Although the popular law of Labëria originates from ancient times, popular tradition describes Labëria Kanun as a concept recognized by Zhulati Julie Pope, who is believed to have lived in the XI century. Moreover, it is said that the traditions and documents has recognized him as a priest and leader of the Kurveleshi by the Normans during their invasion in 1081. This Codic was rewritten by Idriz Suli another XVIII-th century ideologist. His statue is found in the center of the village made by the remains of a dry platan tree. This kind of tree has an identical tree planted in the center.
You will spent the evening and night in a village house, having conversations about the rare treasures of this area. Home made traditional food and drinks will accompany your evening.
Day 3 : After a traditional breakfast at the family house you will get ready for another long and interesting day. Today, you will follow the traces of King Skerdilajd Army that passed through the Narrow Path of Skerfica around 2300 ago. For the first time, he is mentioned as the commander of the 5,000 troops sent by QueenTeuta in 230 BC against Epirus. Skerdilajdi was one of the youngest brothers of King Agron who died in 230 and one of the main supporters of Queen Teuta when she took over the responsabilities as a queen until the infant son of Argon Pinnes became an adult .He led the invasion army in 230 B.C to the capital of Epirus Phoinike (Finiq). Skerdilajd played a determine role in Teuta´s plans to create an Adriatic Front against Rome. This path combines beautiful wood, mountain valleys and ruins of ancient civilizations. Basha Stones, Dhespina cave, the Rock of Kaze, The valley of Cheries , the Crooked Brook , Shameti Brook, Trullas Neck, Derrasa hole are some of the local toponims you will meet along the ride. Lunch point break will be near Skerfica Mountain´s neck, a famous battlefield till the antiquity.You will continue with the ride through the mountain valley of Borsh to reach this village during the afternoon after a total of 7 hours of ride.Before meeting your evening destination you will first visit the castle of Borsh. Borsh´s Castle (known in history as Castle of Sopot) is located on a hill in Borsh´s village at 500 meters above sea level and dates about IV-III century B.C. Its surface is rocky. Waste of ancient wall on the southwest side has a length of about 10 meters and a height of 1.33 m. In the face of the town, fragments of black-glazed dish were found, fourth century BC (first period). Mid IV century BC, marks the biggest development of the city. In the Byzantine Empire, Emperor Justinian puts it on the list of fortifications in the years 527-565. Sopot is mentioned in 1192 in memory of Anna Komnenes, daughter of the Byzantine Emperor Alexis I Komnenai. In 1266, Sopot lies in the French power of Charles I of Azhuin and then in German hands, and later on, for a long time 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. The whole day´s landscape offers images of Wild, untouched nature. Flowers, old trees, streams of water shepherds, hundreds of goats, sheeps and cows will be part of this riding experience. We will be joining the family house late in the afternoon and enjoying the traditional food rich in olive oil. Wine, raki and mountain tea will accompany your meal.
Day 4: After a traditional breakfast at the house of a typical family of shepherds, you will start another riding exerince. This is going to be a short day of three hours of riding. You will start from Borsh seaside and take the old road along the seaside. Olive trees, agrums such as oranges, lemons, citrus and grapefruits are planted everywhere on the upper part of your road. You can enjoy riding inside the water and visit the new communism time small villages. Many defence bunkers remains lay along the seaside of Piqeras, an old fisherman village. Lunch break will be near the sea on the beach of Piqeras. You have some hours of rest and swimm before climbing the village of Piqeras. You will spend the night in a family house tasting sea food, the special cheese of this area and the special salad of the cost. Home made raki and wine will be offered with the meal. Before going to sleep, you can go for a walk along the coast or around the village.
Day 5: You will have breakfast at the house terrace with the beautiful view of the Jonian Sea. You can enjoy traditional coast byrek (cheese pie) and cookies, butter, fresh milk and honey. This riding day will start with the visit of the Monastery of Santa Maria of Piqeras after 30 minutes of ride. This day will offer a hills, mountains and valleys full of chances of gallops and trotting. `The church of Maria of Krimanove Piqeras rises on a hill dominating the village Piqeras, about 1 km to the east of it and it is built in the middle of the monastery. The group is part of the Dome of the basilicas. Inside, there are six columns of stone scrolling with mortar and plastered. The inner environment is separated from the central nave altar with a wooden iconostasis. The church was built in 1672. Naos is the basilica type dome with dimensions 8.30 x 4.60 m.
Later on, we will proceed to go up the mountain and later during the day through the valley of the river Kalasa, an old populated area. Kalasa Valley coincides with the river of the same name that runs down the neck of Skërfica and the bottom of the mountains Akrokeraune. Hilly heights on both sides keep this valley. Old bridges along the river represent elemnets of connections through centuries. Thorugh this village passed the ancient and mediavel roads of exchange and commerce with the valley of Drino. Kalasa is going to be our picninc lunch point of stop. Later on, we will continue to the village of Borsh. On our way, before join our accommodation place, we will visit the castle of Bardha, an antique fortification used even during mediavel and communist time. The same host family in Borsh meantime will prepare a traditional dinner to enjoy in the garden of their house. You can go for a walk around the village or enjoy the sunset at the coast.
Day 6: After a traditional breakfast at the house, you will ride back to King Skerdilajd Army´s route. Today you have to ride for more than 8 hours to a hilly mountain and valleys landscape.The trail use to return includes the same atractions of the third day of this trail with the addition of a visit to the up mountain ruins of an old town dated some centuries BC. The ruins, recently discovered, has not been yet studied by the archeologists but the villagers found there among the dense vegetation, the ruins of big buildings, houses and temples. The extended area covered by ruins is propably connected with the existence of an old city. We will walk round 20 minutes to reach the ruins. The waterfalls of Zhulat will be another natural destination to visit before returning to the village of Zhulat, to the same family house.The owners of this house will be pleased to show you the ruins of the old village of Zhulat abandoned some decades ago and they will also share with you old stories from this area. Dinner at the garden of the house will let you enjoy the home made food and the fresh air of the mountains.
Day 7: After a traditional breakfast you will start your ride to the starting point, the town of Gjirokastra. This final day is going to be a long day full of adventure and new destinations to visit. We will continue riding next to Pixies Canyon. This monument of nature is situated near the village Fushëbardhë, along the river valley Homonym. The canyon is about 100 m long, 60 m deep and about 2-3 m wide. There are steep slopes and at the same time is an interesting karst ecosystem and startling beauty. At the same time, the canyon is known for the variety of rich plants (plants that cling to steep slopes) and animals (especially distinguished among them will be the wild goat and wild pigeons).
The monastery of Cepo, an important orthodox cult object is another stop and a nice place to visit. Cepos Monastery ��" is also known as the Pillar Rock. The monastery is located on a historical scale cutting down a rocky slope north side of the “Wide Mountain”, in one of the most strategic views of Drinos Valley. From former historical complex of the monastery, remain today only two objects, basilica-type church with a dome and many dozens of former guest houses that, according to locals, served as a host place for travelers during the centuries. Riding hours will be around 9 and you will be in Gjirokastra for a farwell dinner late in the afternoon. Your accommodation place will be a traditional hotel in the historical area.
Day 8: After breakfast at the hotel you will be transfered to Tirana airport.
Small group supplement: 2 riders 166 Euro /each ( 3 riders is considered a normal group)
Group Number: 2-8 riders
Transfer cost : (from Tirana Airport and back) 70 Euro
Accommodation: We recommend to share rooms.
Single room supplement is 112 Euro
2015 dates: From the first Sunday of March to the last Sunday of October every week
November ,December, January and February are not riding months.
Saddles: English Saddles
Things to bring: Helmet, riding chaps, raincoat, gloves, sun cream, mountain shoes, small personal saddle bag.
|Albanian Cultural Horse Riding Trails|
Gjirokastra / Albania / Europe, Abbeville, Albania