Horseback riding in Central, Albania

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- In the Footsteps of Lord Byron Horse Trek
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In the Footsteps of Lord Byron Horse Trek

Itinerary for In the Footsteps of Lord Byron Horse Trek

- subject to change

Day 1: Arrive to Tirana
Your guide pick you up at the airport and transfer you to your hotel in Gjirokastër for a brief check in.
Meals included: Dinner
Overnight at the Hotel in Gjirokastër

Day 2: Horse trek towards Bektashi Monastery and Libohovë
In the morning, you have some free time to visit Gjirokastër, a beautifully preserved Ottoman town, dramatically situated between the Gjerë Mountains and the Drino River, still dominated by its Ottoman citadel, believed to be the second largest in the Balkans. Filled with a lovely collection of charming 17th and 18th century buildings and palatial residences, the old part of the city still reflects something of Gjirokastër’s once favored status amongst the Ottoman elite of the 19th century. The town was captured by the Albanian born Ali Pasha of Tepelenë, a man whose character and power was to have a marked influence on Byron during his journey. It seems fitting therefore that this should be the spot from where we begin our horseback trek through the mountainous Albanian countryside. 
In the afternoon, we will drive south to meet the horses: saddle up and head off on the trail.
During the 19th century, Byron and Hobhouse headed on an incredible journey on horseback across Albania. They started their adventure by making their way to a small monastery on the outskirts of Zitza, where they sought accommodation and a meal of ‘grapes and pleasant warm wine’ from the resident prior. Mirroring their journey to some degree, we will visit the Bektashi Monastery in Melan, close to the road they took across the low lying plains in 1809.
A fascinating order, the Bektashi emerged as a ‘heretical’ Sufi sect that became associated with the imperialist ideals of the Ottoman Empire (in a similar way that Christianity did with Roman Imperialism). A celibate, anti hierarchical and anti dogmatic order, the Bektashi’s played an important military role throughout Ottoman history, as well as being at the forefront of the struggle for Albanian Independence.
The monastic buildings today are set amongst a grove of tall Cyprus trees and, whilst the site can trace its ancestry back to the 5th century, the current buildings were erected at the beginning of the 19th century, dating them to around the time of Byron’s original journey. From here, we will ride on over the high ground, passing shepherds and their flocks, before reaching Libohovë.  Here we will corral the horses in the Ottoman castle and walk down to be picked by our transport vehicle and head to Gjirokastra for dinner (30min drive back to hotel). 
Riding approx.  3 hrs. 

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Overnight at the Hotel in Gjirokastër

Day 3: Ride to ancient site of Antigonea
Today’s ride takes us on towards the site of the ancient site of Antigonea, a city founded by King Pyrrhus of Epirus in 295 BC and one that, before its destruction during the Macedon Wars 150 years later. It was once one of the most important trading centres in southern Albania.
Our meandering route begins by first picking up the horses from the castle and riding out of the village of Libohovë. A pleasant conurbation, lying in the shadow of the Bureto Mountains, beneath the imposing presence of a hilltop fortress, Libohovë was once the home of Albanian nobility. Ali Pasha’s sister, Shanica, married into this noble family and the castle that still dominates the town was the dowry that her brother presented to her on her wedding day. We will take the opportunity of visiting the ruined castle, before continuing our journey north across the valley and back up into the hills to end the day at the spectacularly located ancient settlement of Antigonea.
Here we will have a picnic lunch before continuing the ride for another 2 hours than transport back to hotel for the evening (35min drive back to hotel).
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Overnight at the Hotel in Gjirokastër

Day 4: Ride to the village of Erind
Today we will continue on Byron’s trail to the village of Erind, on the eastern side of the Drinos Valley. Taking lunch on the way, we will ride until mid-afternoon.
Dating back to the 12th or 13th centuries, the Byzantine building is dedicated to Saint Mary and it was once believed to contain a fragment of the true cross, before the relic was stolen during the civil unrest of the early 1990s. Today the building provides us with a classic example of Byzantine architecture, with a high central cupola, cruciform plan nave and aisles and interior walls that are covered in frescoes. This region is also home of some of the more notable personalities to emerge from the region such as businessman and philanthropist, Vangjel Zappas, the man who,  bankrolled the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.
From Erind, we will drive back to Gjirokastër for overnight stay (30-40 min drive).
Riding approx.  5-6 hrs. 
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Overnight at the Hotel in Gjirokastër

Day 5 : Ride through Zagoria Valley
For the next two days, we will head northeast, high up over the mountains on a different route to that taken by both Byron and the intrepid pioneers of this ride in 2011. By staying high, rather than following the valley, we will be able to avoid all asphalt roads and remain out in the wilderness, sharing our path only with the shepherds. On a trail known only to the drovers and ancient pilgrims we will explore local monasteries and churches. We will be passing through the small villages of Nderan, Sheper and Polican, offering Southern Albania’s most dramatic landscapes. 
Riding approx.  5-6 hrs. 
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch & Special Dinner “muhabet’
Overnight at a
Guest House in Polican

Day 6:  Ride into the Polican Gorge
Landscapes of the Polican region are undeniable breathtaking, with mountain ranges and surrounding high ridges. This is a characteristic of a tract of land without homogeneous character or boundaries. Travelling through a small gorge will provide us with a natural refreshment during the ride. At the end of the Gorge, we will be picked up by our transport and taken to our accommodation for evening dinner and relaxation.
Riding approx.  6 hrs.  
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Overnight in Kelcyra Gorge Hotel

Day 7: Travel to Tirana for Departure
After an early breakfast, we will drive back to Tirana (about 3.5 hours), Albania’s largest city and its capital since the 1920s. Tirana was founded by Sulejman Pasha during the early years of the 17th century. Established under Ottoman rule, its position along the caravan routes saw Tirana’s rise in importance culminate in its choice as the capital of the newly independent Albania.
A mix of grandiose 1930s design and Communist inspired urbanization, the city is an interesting architectural mix of ideologies. We will enjoy lunch along the way and transfer directly to airport for departure. (B, L)
Meals included: Breakfast & Lunch

* Time permitting we can make stops along the way to see points of interest
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In the Footsteps of Lord Byron Horse Trek
Tour Code: IT-ALBAN01
7 days / 6 nights ~$2,255.00
Dates : March

Trip Rating :
Difficulty : Riding Level
Riding Level Explained
Beginner A rider who has limited experience, is unable to post the trot and does not canter.
Novice A rider who is capable of mounting and dismounting unassisted, capable of applying basic aids, comfortable and in control at the walk, moderate length posting trots, and short canters.
Intermediate A rider who has a firm seat, is confident and in control at all paces (including posting trots, two point canters and gallops), but does not ride regularly.
D Strong Intermediate
Strong Intermediate An intermediate rider who is currently riding regularly and is comfortable in the saddle for at least 6 hours per day.
All of the above, plus an independent seat, soft hands, and capable of handlinga spirited horse in open country.
Lodging: Basic
Lodging Level Explained
= Facilities in lodges, estancias, haciendas, resorts, etc.
Basic lodging - some with shared bathroom facilities, usually no AC or room service.
Regular standard room - usually with private bath.
 Accommodations with superior comforts.
 = Trips with nights in tent camps. Sometimes the first and last night are in hotels.
Basic tent camping - everyone helps out with camp chores.
Regular standard with some camp amenities and camp cook.
Camping facilities with superior comforts like camp shower, bathroom facility..
 = Trips that combine nights in hotels and camping.
Basic accommodation and basic camping facilities can be expected.
Regular standard with some nicer amenities.
Only assigned to hotel and camping facilities with superior comforts.

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Season Seasons  Min / MaxReserve
A 2020 05/01 - 10/31 7d / 6n 7 day trip, AB 6 /13 Reserve
Day to Day Itinerary
Rates | Dates
Tack: English Trekking
Horses: Local Albanian breeds
Pace: Slow to moderate trekking with some tr...
Walk, Trot,
Airport: Tirana International Airport Nënë Tereza (TIA)
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