Lord Byron's Footsteps

Central Albania: (IT-ALBAN01)
URL: https://www.hiddentrails.com/tour/europe_albania_mountains_horse_trek.aspx

Introduction
Central Albania
‘Land of Albania! Let me bend mine eyes on thee, thou rugged nurse of savage men’.


So wrote Lord Byron in his famous poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, where he chronicled the journey that he and his friend and diarist J.C. Hobhouse took through the mountainous regions of southern Albania in 1809. Along the way he passed through a land that many at the time considered nothing more than an illiterate backwater of the Ottoman Empire, ruled by a despotic vizier and inhabited by savage mountain tribes. What Byron found though was a land of fierce independence and unbowed spirit that appealed to his romantic ideals. This incredible journey follows the path they took through the mountains and the beautiful landscapes of the Vjosë Valley, en route to a rendezvous with Vizier Ali Pasha himself in his castle stronghold at Tepelenë. During the course of the 6 day horse trek we will take in the UNESCO splendour of the Ottoman town of Gjirokastër and the beautiful Byzantine church of Labovë e Kryqit, take lunch at a Bektashi monastery on the outskirts of Melen and ride through the dramatic Këlcyra Gorge. We will stand in Byron’s shadow and gaze down across the flowing waters of the River Vjosë from the citadel of Tepelenë, and journey through the villages of the Vjosë Valley. Byron described himself at the time as ‘the humblest of thy pilgrims passing by’, but the resulting poem that the journey inspired still remains one of English literature’s most eloquent works.

Accomodation

Accommodations
This is a progressive ride so nights are spent in different locations.

Description
Guest house are of the simplest form. These are village homes and guest should expect very basic accommodations and style. There are indoor toilets and shower available every night (private in Gjirokastra and Këlcyrë Gorge but shared in Polican). 

Accommodation Itinerary - subject to changes based on availability
Night 1-4: Hotel in Gjirokastra
Night 5: Guesthouse in Polican
Night 6: Hotel in Këlcyrë Gorge

Hotel Option 1 in Gjirokaster
This elegant hotel was built at the end of the 19th century and was recently renovated (2016).  All rooms have a TV, kettle and a private bathroom with free toiletries. The rooms are decorated in the Albanian style with a lot of wood and touches of colors. Free Wi-Fi is available at this property free of charge. It is possible to do laundry here for an extra fee.
 
Hotel Option 2 II in Gjirokaster
Ideally located in the old city, this hotel provides simple accommodations with a rustic décor mixing stones and wood. All rooms are air-conditioned and have a TV and a private bathroom. The decor features many local notes such as decorated ceilings and local tapestries. Free Wi-Fi is available at this property free of charge. It is possible to do laundry here for an extra fee.

Guesthouse in Polican
The night is spent in village homes and guest should expect very basic accommodations. Hot water, electricity and private rooms are not always guaranteed.

Room Occupancy
Single supplement is mandatory if no one else found to share a room with.


Meals
All meals are included in this trip and wine is included with dinner (BYO is also possible). We also have 2 coffee breaks daily and we provide water.

Breakfasts and dinners are taken at the accommodations and lunches are picnics on the trail.
Meals are simple local village food made with local ingredients.

Dietary Restrictions
We can cater to dietary restrictions with advanced notice.

This trip includes some wine with dinner.

Riding

Fitness Level
Riders should be able to ride to an intermediate standard, be reasonably fit and in a decent state of health. You should also be happy to share facilities and live in a fairly basic style.

Horses
The horses used for this rides are locally bred and ideally suited to the terrain. They are a typical Eurasian breed, strong and sturdy, between 12.2 hands and 14.2 well natured and ‘bomb proof’.  

Pace
The rides are at a moderate pace overall as most of the time we are travelling through mountains, however, there are occasions where the more adventurous among you can have a good canter.

Itinerary

Sample-Itinerary
- 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


Rates and Dates for Lord Byron's Footsteps

Rates include:

Accommodations, All meals (wine included with dinner), Beverages (2 daily coffee breaks + water), Transfers, 5 riding days

Packages and Options



  • SeasonYearDescriptionEUR ~US$
    A
    20207 day trip, AB€1995$2255
    • Small group supplement (2 pax), pp€605$685
      Small group supplement (3-5 pax), pp€400$455
      Group discount (8-9 pax), pp(€400)($445)
      Group discount (10-11 pax), pp(€700)($785)
      Group discount (12-16 pax), pp(€800)($895)
The US Dollar Rate is Based on Exchange Rate of 1.13

* prices are per person based on double/twin occupancy

Transfer and Other Charges:



 Description
2020 Transfer is included from Tirana

Season Seasons  Min / MaxReserve
A 2020 05/01 - 10/31 7d / 6n 7 day trip, AB 6 /13 Reserve

Dates Note:

Rates do not include:

Gratuities

Other Info
Meeting: Gjirokastër
Airport: Tirana International Airport Nënë Tereza (TIA)
Transfer: Tirana hotel or Tirana airport

Climate:
                                            Gjirokaster area


Month

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

Jul

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Average High Temperature (°F)

41

45

52

59

67

75

82

83

76

63

51

42

Average Low Temperature (°F)

24

27

31

36

43

48

54

53

48

39

31

24

Average High Temperature (°C)

5

7

11

15

19

24

28

28

24

17

11

6

Average Low Temperature (°C)

-4

-3

-1

2

6

9

12

11

9

4

0

-4

Source: NOAA

 
Seasons
The best months to visit Albania are from April to October. 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.
The average annual temperature is 15°C (59°F). Winters can be rainy but summers are usually dry and hot, especially on the coastal plain.
Annual precipitation ranges from about 100 cm (40 in) on the coast to more than 250 cm (100 in) in the mountains.

What To Bring:
Please note that Albania is not the best place to buy riding gear (if you can find any at all), so please make sure to bring your own equipment (riding pants, helmet, boot, gloves and sleeping bags etc.)

The Outfitter does provide tents. 


This list is only a guideline for you

 

Hidden Trails Travel Documents and Trip Voucher (contains important local tour contact info.)
Flight tickets
Passport
Visa (check with your consulate)

 

RIDING GEAR
Riding pants or Jodhpurs
Riding boots (short) + Minichaps
Riding helmet  (not provided, please bring your own!)
Riding gloves
Hat (with chin strip) for sun protection
Lightweight Rain coat

 

PERSONAL CLOTHING
Jacket or sweater for cool evenings
Comfortable T-Shirts/Shirts
Jeans
Shorts
Underwear and socks
Pyjamas
Bag for dirty clothes
Trekking boots/ comfortable shoes
Swimsuit
 
 
ADDITIONAL THINGS TO BRING
Personal Toiletries
Insect protection
Personal medications
Sore cream (for an emergency)
Sewing kit
Torch/ Flashlight
Adapter for electric appliances
Camera and extra film or batteries
Belt pack
Address book and pen (for postcards!)
Sun glasses with strap
Sun protection lotion and lip balm