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.
After a traditional breakfast in the house of a typical shepherd-family, another riding experience awaits. Borsh´s Castle (known historically as the Castle of Sopot) is located on a hill at 500 meters above sea level and dates from around the IV-III century B.C. Its surface is rocky and the remains of an ancient wall on the southwest side is a length of about 10 meters and a height of 1.33 m. Fragments of black-glazed ceramic (IV century BC) have been found in front of the town, that period marking the biggest development of the city. In the Byzantine Empire, Emperor Justinian put it on the list of fortifications ( 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 developed to a full fortification in the time of Ali Pasha. The mosque was built at the castle by Haxhi Bendo, one of the supporters of Ali Pasha. This is going to be a short day of three hours of riding. You will start from the Borsh seaside and take the old road through olive groves and citrus orchards. Many defence bunkers remain along the seaside of Piqeras, an old fishing village. We stop riding at the village house and drive to the sea for a lunch break on the beach and some hours of rest and swimming before a splendid seafood supper complete with samples of the special local cheese and coastal salad. An evening stroll around the village or to the coast (20 minutes) makes for the sweetest sleep.