map of the Smugglers route in 2015
Can Sort bedroom
Cosy restaurants
Crossing some amazing bridges
Arriving at the end of a long day
Frisky swimmer
Getting ready to swim
break for horses and riders
Having great fun catering in the rivers!
Pretty view Pyreneans
Hotel La Martana terrace
Hotel La Martana bedroom
Hotel la Martana sitting room
Hotel La Palma bedroom
Hotel La Palma swimming pool
Another rest break to appreciate the surroundings
Historic villages en route in the Pyreneans
posing for a picture at the top
Enjoying the view down Pyrenean valleys with my horse
A rest stop and opportunity to take more pictures
Riding on top of the world
Riding high above the roads
Spring colours in the high Pyreneans
Swimming in one of the many rivers
Riding on top of the world on the Smugglers trail, Catalonia
Many historic villages in the middle parts of the trail
Rest break up high in the Pyreneans
Stopping en route for a drink of water while enjoying the Pyrenean view
Crossing one of the many bridges on the Smugglers Trail

Forget everything you think you know about mountain riding - this is faster and more varied than you would think. Ride along old smuggler's routes on this linear trail through the heartland of Catalonia where the red and yellow flag flies proudly with many opportunities to swim/cross and play in the rivers and lakes along the way.  

Discover three distinct landscapes: the fertile prairies near the river Fluvià, the mighty peaks of the Pyrenees (climbing to an altitude of 2000m) and the warm wooded hills of the Garrotxa, an interesting mixture with plenty of gallops. The lower reaches are inundated with architectural heritage, churches, castles and monuments aplenty. Onwards and upwards to the mountain peaks riding through beech forests and meadows. Gallops galore as you ride past gushing mountain streams with opportunities to swim with your horses. Horses graze, herds of cows doze and eagles circle above. 

This trail is also a gastronomic experience - food in the mountain hotels is of a high culinary standard and many different typically Catalan dishes are served. Comfortable accommodation completes the picture to make up an adventure with comfort.

Please Note: The opinions expressed in these reviews are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Unicorn Trails Ltd. These reviews are "directly from the horses mouth" and unedited. Unicorn Trails may make additional comments for clarification clearly identified in red.

Review received from SS of Kyalami on 05/08/2015

Ride Summary
Unicorn is a one shop professional source for trail riding in the world - care is taken that trail riding companies are selected, horses and tack are in the right condition and that eg insurance is in place
What was your overall impression of the holiday

Unicorn Trails sales staff
Professionalism     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Friendliness     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Speed of response     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Efficiency     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Knowledge     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Other(please specify) dealing with difficult customers     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Riding tour leader
Professionalism     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Horsemanship     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Pacing of Ride     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Concern for Safety     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Leadership     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Friendliness/availability     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Knowledge of local Culture     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Knowledge of local Flora/Fauna     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Concern with Environment     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Language skills     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Additional Comments and created a stunning relaxed riding atmosphere despite pace (fast) and negotiating mountainous areas - felt secure and encouraged all the time
Horses and Tack
Condition of Horses     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Condition of Tack     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Performance of Horses     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Additional Comments Excellent ability of matching horse and rider
Meals
Meal Quantity     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Meal Quality     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Meal Punctuality     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Accommodation
Camping Equipment     (   ) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (X) N/A
Hotels/Lodges/Inns     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Hygiene standards     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Miscellaneous
Transfer arrangements     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Other office staff     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Other ride staff     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Weather     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Was this trip accurately described to you beforehand?     (   ) NO     (X) YES
Please give more details to explain your response Ride was cancelled initially, then reverted back to the ride as the Bon Hommes ride was thought not to have been "tried and tested" before with a client
Was there anything you should have known and were not told?     (X) NO     (   ) YES
Please give more details to explain your response all described on website and day the ride started
What could we do to improve this ride? Catalonia trails very professional so can't really add on improving
How would you rate the difficulty of this ride out of 10 where 1 is very easy and 10 is very advanced? 7
Please explain why you scored it as you did Going was good, pace was fast but controlled and extreme care taken when going down the mountains
Would you recommend Unicorn Trails to your friends?     (   ) NO     (X) YES
Please give more details to explain your response one shop professional data base and source for trail riding in the world - care is taken that trail riding companies are selected, horses and tack are in the right condition and that eg insurance is in place
May we use you as a reference for other people wishing to go on this ride?     (   ) NO     (X) YES
Any other comments A big thank you to the Catalonia Trails team for putting up a ride for two persons and for some of the days only myself as the other rider fell ill.
Unicorn comments Thank you for your feedback! :)

DAY 1: WELCOME
Upon arrival in the evening you will meet your guide. Over dinner we will talk about the week’s programme and learn about the special characteristics of our Spanish and Arab crossbred horses used for this trail.

DAY 2: RACECOURSE - LA PALMA
Up early for a big breakfast, and then it's off to prepare our horses and leave for our first ride of the holiday.
We cross the river Fluviá to reach Báscaras’ hippodrome where we will test our skills with a long canter. Next, we will have a picnic and get to know each other a bit more before riding again through prairies and Mediterranean forests to the hotel Masía La Palma, an ancient farm transformed in a country house.

DAY 3: TO BESALU - CAN JOU - DE LA MARTANA
The peaks of the Alta Garrotxa are all around us today. The air is poignant with the smell of wild herbs and Mediterranean fragrances. Later after some long canters, in the far distance we can make out the medieval village of Besalú where we will enjoy our picnic at lunch time and after coffee we will visit the village - a jewel of a Romanesque city, with its bridge over the two rivers and Jewish past, with its old neighborhood almost intact. The ride is upbeat. The strong Andalusian horses are still full of strength. Their trots are long and rhythmic along the small climbing paths between country cottages until Can Jou, with amazing views of the Pyrenees. We will then sleep at Los Jardines de la Martana, surrounded by beautiful gardens, where an impressive library is located.

DAY 4 : SMUGGLERS TRAIL
Having tacked up we set off down into the valley of the river Fluviá, Girona´s largest river and following a gushing stream we canter across the plains and into the spectacular gorge of Sant Aniol at the junction with Llierca river. This is the beginning of a historic smuggling trail between France and Spain. We stop for our picnic next to a big river pool, underneath an impressive Romanesque bridge. Excellent for a refreshing swim before lunch.
This spectacular scenery is the gateway to the region of the Alta Garrotxa, one of the regions most beautiful natural parks. Up the mountain, in a very big oak forest, we let our horses to pasture and we go to sleep to Besalú. Dinner and overnight at de la Martana again. Afterwards, we will discover this Medieval’s town nightlife.

DAY 5: BEGET
In the morning we leave the gorge with its sculptured rock formations and we ascend higher into the mountains. We ride through Talaxa, a typical lost mountain village. From here we have spectacular views of "La Costa Bona" and our goal for this journey, the Queen of the Pyrenean peaks, can be seen in the far distance.
After a walk down into the next valley we eat a delicious picnic next to a little river. This is an ideal spot to swim with your horse.
In the evening we arrive at Beget, a beautiful mountain village, nestled amidst the gentle mountain scenery. This village maintains all of its original charm, famous for its Romanesque church, original tower and its Black Madonna, a gem of Romanesque architecture. Our hotel for the night is El Forn, it was the village bakery and now it is a well-known restaurant in the region. Famous for the “nouvelle cuisine” of the local Catalan dishes and the local mountain wine is excellent, even Richard Gere got lost here…

DAY 6: UP TO THE HIGHEST PEAKS
Today after the best breakfast you have ever had we continue our journey riding through beech forests and meadows carpeted in wild flowers. The local farmhouses are huge buildings built by the local aristocracy and wealthy Barcelona merchants in the 16th century. Again, Catalonian Romanesque architecture is ever present in the arches, doors, windows and churches of this region, making for wonderful photography.
Our destination is the village of Espinavell, another small smugglers village untouched by the passing of time, just 5 kilometers from the French border. We stay in a family-run mountain hotel with the beautiful presence of "La Costa Bona" in the background. The speciality of this restaurant is its delicious “vadella” with mushroom, wild boar civet and Ratafia, the home made liquor.

DAY 7: WHERE THE EAGLES FLY
Today we will be riding up into the highest mountains of our journey. After an early start we begin to climb a winding track alongside a river.
Soon we leave the track as up here it is only rolling mountain meadows and wild flowers where we enjoy some very nice canters and gallops.
The views are immense and breathtaking, the light is that of the Pyrenees. We pass herds of cows and wild horses grazing up here for the summer. Up here it is very common to see eagles, vultures and herds of wild goats and deer. After days of riding in the countryside it is nice to arrive in Camprodon, a lively market town, favoured by the Catalan aristocracy in the past. A great opportunity to do some shopping and visit the local bars. The hotel is situated right in the centre and the restaurant is famous for its meat and fish dishes.

DAY 8 : ADIOS AMIGOS
Breakfast and departure and we hope to see each other again soon (or why not ride one week more on the beach?).

Please note the hotels named in this itinerary are subject to change without notice for another hotel of similar standard 

Please follow this link for a map of the start point of this itinerary: Smugglers Trail

 

We think our hosts in Catalonia are some of the best in the business! They offer a range of rides and in the unusual event of a ride not confirming ie. there are 3 or less riders, an alternative rail or based ride will be offered and the difference in price refunded so you can book your flights with confidence.

On this horse riding holiday, you will need to dismount and walk next to your horse over short distances so good walking boots are required.

Please note: All itineraries are given for your guidance only and it may be altered on the ground and in accordance with the prevailing conditions by the organising team.

Horses & Riding

The horses used for rides are well schooled pure or crossbred Andalusians. They have all been carefully chosen and most are between 14.2hh (150cm) and 16hh (165cm) and are of a medium build. They are sure-footed, fit, forward going, responsive to ride and well adapted to the requirements of the sometimes rough terrain. The horses are all trained using natural horsemanship techniques which helps to create an enthusiastic, good natured horse that is keen to collaborate with its rider, and really enjoys its work. The tack is English and trekking style and most horses are ridden in snaffles. English saddles and trekking saddles are utilised. Saddle bags are provided to carry items required during the day and for picnic lunches. On this horse riding holiday, you will need to dismount and walk next to your horse over short distances so good walking boots are required.

Rider requirements

To participate in this trip you must be a reasonably competent rider (English style). You should be well balanced, comfortable and secure in the saddle and able to control a well-schooled horse outside at all paces. Riders are expected to be able to cope with a variety of different going and different types of terrain. All the rides are aimed at reasonably capable riders, who are also fairly fit and riding regularly.

Participants are expected to ride regularly in the months before they go to ensure they can cope with the hours in the saddle. There are also places on the rides where you will need to dismount and lead your horse - if the ground gets rough or steep, and for a short time to warm the horses up and cool them down each day. Riders are expected to groom and tack up their own horse each day in preparation for rides.

Your guide will go over the week's programme when you first arrive (usually at dinner on the first night), explaining the special characteristics of the Andalusian trail horse and of the tack used, then discussing each rider's ability, experience and their preference as to the kind of horse they would like to ride.

Weight Limit

The weight limit for this ride is 14 st/198 lb/90 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.

This trail has a mix of hotels, starting at Can Sort which is your hosts home and where the horses are stabled. Over the course of the trail you will stay in various country houses which reflect the atmosphere of this special Catalan region; the hosts are ever-welcoming and spirits are high. Gastronomy is an important part of your holiday and the food in the hotels is of a high standard. The meals are plentiful and contain many typically Catalan dishes as well as regular European dishes. Breakfast is substantial, lunches are either saddle-bag picnics (extensive with quiche/salted cakes/chorizo/Catalan cured meat/fruit/cheese/ham/wine/biscuits/chocolate) or sit-down lunches at a table prepared by the back-up team (hot food/mixed salads/cheese/biscuits/fruit). Dinners are 3-4 course and accompanied by good local wines. A bottle of local cava is never far away and the atmosphere is very welcoming. The team always tries to showcase their regional and Catalan products resulting in beautifully prepared meals for all to enjoy!

Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.

Climate Summary

Due to the interaction of Mediterranean and mountain climate in this region, you will find ideal conditions for horse back riding the whole year round. In spring the climate is mild, summer is not too hot, the autumn pleasantly warm and winter with its clear air, not too cold. Especially recommended are February, March and April as well as November!

Climate Chart

Health

We strongly advise you to consult with your General Practitioner before travelling. The best medical advice regarding suitable immunisations and prophylaxis to enable you to travel safely requires knowledge of your medical history and therefore cannot be covered in this advice sheet. Recommendations are also subject to change and it is important to obtain the most up to date information available.

Film and Camera Equipment

Good quality film is widely available for purchase as well as batteries (normal, alkaline and lithium). There is electricity available each night to recharge cameras and batteries. There is good mobile reception in some parts of most days. At the base the mobile reception is variable but there is free wifi.

Packing List

We recommend wearing jodhpurs, as these protect your legs from soreness, and you will find a light-weight, cotton pair, more comfortable during the summer months. You may need two pairs if you are on one of the longer rides.

Your riding boots should have a sole with tread and be comfortable for walking, as you are certain to lead your horse on some occasions. Jodhpur boots and half-chaps are a more flexible combination for comfort and leg protection than long riding boots.

A long-sleeved shirt is recommended for protection against the sun and against scratches when riding through undergrowth.

Lightweight riding gloves are useful, as is a "bum bag" to contain your camera and any other items you may need during your ride.

We strongly recommend taking a water-bottle, especially on trail rides, which can be refilled en-route; these can be carried in the saddle-bags provided.

A light cotton scarf can help to avoid breathing in too much dust in dry areas.

Bring sunglasses, also to protect your eyes from dust.

Suncream and lip balm are also recommended.

It is essential that you bring good wet weather gear. Although it rains very little, when it does it is normally a heavy downpour, consequently a jacket or cape and waterproof trousers are a good idea.

Please bring a photocopy of your travel insurance certificate with you.

Last, but not least: do not forget your bathing suit!

Programmes

This ride has set dates which can be confirmed online. Please let us know if you wish to book another date, we can confirm new dates on request for 4 or more riders between February and November.

Departure Dates

2017: 9, 23, 30 Jul; 27 Aug.
Other dates on request

Pricing
No single supplement payable if willing to share with someone of same sex. Should you wish to book a single room, please see supplement price below.


No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description £
20178d/7n6double pp1,249
20178d/7n6single supplement179
20178d/7n6non rider815
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description
20178d/7n6double pp1,405
20178d/7n6single supplement199
20178d/7n6non rider915
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description $
20178d/7n6double pp1,609
20178d/7n6single supplement229
20178d/7n6non rider1,049
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description SEK
20178d/7n6double pp13,965
20178d/7n6single supplement1,995
20178d/7n6non rider9,095
Wildlife

The flora and fauna in this region is plentiful and varied. On the plains you'll come across plenty of livestock such as herds of sheep and cattle as well as wild boar, deer and many species of birds. As you climb higher into the mountains you may be lucky to see mountain goats and eagles soaring. The flora is really special. Meadows of sweet smelling and colourful wild flowers such as, lavender, thyme and sunflowers. Walnut groves, beech and oak forests make for cool riding and provide perfect shade for a relaxing picnic.

Other Information

It is possible for non-riders to join this trail and meet up with their riding companions every evening. Depending on where the chosen lunch spot is, they may also be able to join riders for lunch (if it is a 'saddlebag picnic' lunch that day then it will not be possible due to the riders being in an inaccessible location.)
Car-hire is recommended although there is also the option to travel with the back-up team. Please be aware however that the back-up team may take different routes due to logistical and geographical reasons and althought they love to have non-riders travelling with them, they will be busy setting up lunches/picking up luggage etc.
Please note that non-rider lunches are not included in the non-rider price.

Other Country Information

Spain is a beautiful and diverse country, the second largest in Europe. The official language is Castilian Spanish but Catalan, Galician and Basque are also spoken. Territory includes two island archipelagos – the Balearics and the Canaries – and two enclaves on the North African coast, bordering Morocco – Ceuta and Melilla. The African influence can be found throughout Spain but especially in the south, for example the guitar was invented by the Spanish when they added a sixth string to the Arab lute. Music and art permeates Spanish culture, most obviously displayed in the fire and passion of the Flamenco and the stunning modern architecture found in the cities.

The famous siesta is still enjoyed by the majority of Spaniards, most shops close at lunchtime for two or three hours so everyone can escape the often scorching afternoon sun. Evening meals are served late into the evening with plenty of wine or sangria. Often meals can last two or three hours, especially if your host is serving Tapas, small and varied dishes of meats, bread, vegetables. Paella is also a delight and very popular across the country.

Spain is one hour ahead of GMT and they use the metric weights and measures system, so kilometres and kilograms instead of miles and pounds. There is approximately 1.6 kilometres in a mile and 2.2 pounds in a kilogram. The international dialling code for Spain is +34.

Travel Summary

Meeting-point (getting there):
Barcelona (BCN) or Girona (GRO) Airports
Transfer:
2017: payable locally - €80 return from Barcelona (18:00 pick-up, 12:00 drop-off, 2hrs) or Girona (19:30 pick-up, 10:30 drop-off, 45min).
Flight Guide:
London - Girona or Barcelona from £50 return. Please see "getting there" for flight information
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