Southern Albania boasts a unique horse-riding center in the historical town of Gjirokastra. Caravan Travel started its professional tours 5 years ago; we have five experienced guides with more than 10 years of practice.
Our specialty is long riding tours involving the gamut of paces (mountain ascents, challenging trots in tricky terrains, etc.), our objective being to offer a harmonious sojourn between horses and humankind in memorable settings. We offer our guests a slice of the Albanian way of life, a glimpse of our traditions, an opportunity to share in the village families’ daily doings.
We carry the luggage by car, packing only the most necessary items in the saddle bags: it makes galloping much more comfortable.
Our best and longest trail is that of “the merchants” (Zagoria). This year, we are proud to invite you to “King Skerdilajd´s Army Route”, an excursion that has often been tested across the past 5 years. An additional choice for our first-time visitors, this tour lures satisfied riders to return.
Partly imitating the percorse of the Ilirian King Skerdilajd to conquer Kaonia 2,300 years ago, the ride combines splendid natural panoramas with culture heritage sites, mountain village with seaside town life. The trails offer the possibility of all paces, the landscapes comprising mountain paths with steep ascents and downhills, rivers, woods, seaside, ancient ruins and castles, handsome churches and monasteries.
Traces of Albania’s obscure recent history are visible in the preserved bunkers and military protection infrastructure designed for defense in case of attack from “enemies.”
Our forte is accommodation. Excepting the first and the last nights, our guests enjoy comfortable lodging with hospitable families and agree that the arrangement is ideal. Lively conversations are shared over savoury organic dishes; the fruits, vegetables, and meats are garden-grown and farm-fresh. The special rakis and wines, as well as the famed mountain teas, are all locally produced.
Both mountain delicacies and seafoods are tasty treats along the journey; traditionally extracted olive oil, regional citrus fruits, and fresh fish are in abundance.
From May to the end of September, there are two days to enjoy a dip in the sea.
Flora and Fauna : Among the wide variety of plants and woods, there are 420 species that contain fossils and up to 50 kinds of medicinal and curative herbs; of the 3,250 Albanian species, 13% are native to Gjirokastra´s territory. The most common animals are hares, deer, wild boars, martens, bears, wild cats, etc. Trout, eels and many more marine creatures lurk in the rivers.
Horses: Our mountain horses (133- 153 cm) are an ancient cross of the Tarpan and the Arab breeds and manifest the established characteristics of a safe horse. The rocky landscape of their natural environment has made these horses sure-footed and trustworthy in tense situations and at all paces. Even the stallions are easy to handle and each of them is a natural personality.
This local breed of horse served for centuries to pass the mountains and to transfer the inhabitants’ animals or bees from summer to winter pastures. Used to transport entire families and villages during periods of conflict or war, these horses served the army in medieval times and, according to the ancient writers, continued almost unchanged during the period of King Skerdilajd.
These tours and excursions offer unique and economic opportunities to support and sustain the small local businesses that are working to preserve and protect the Albanian natural treasures by sharing them with caring, respectful visitors.
The final family breakfast precedes an 8-hour ride back to Gjirokastra, packed with adventures and new destinations. The church of Senica, built in the XVII century, was recently reconstructed. In two more riding hours, you will reach the Skerfica mountain neck named after the King Skerdilajd Army Pass where you can enjoy the cold mountain water. On the way to the village of Fushebadha is an old phosphor mine , an ex- labour camp for political prisoners. Steep slopes, an interesting karst ecosystem, and the startling beauty of pine forests fill almost two hours and the downhill from Bushwbardha to the valley of the river of Kardhiq offers impressive views with chances of gallops.
After six hours of riding, we are back at the Monastery of Cepo where we will rest for one hour before riding two more back to Gjirokastra and Viroi Lake. Pine woods, mountain valleys, cool springs, fresh air and flowered landscapes will make up the panorama of this day.
A farewell dinner is offered in the evening before your final, most satisfied snooze in the lovliest part of the town.