Travel to the high Mixteca region of Oaxaca on this week-long trail. Riding through fertile valleys, cacti groves and stunning mountain scenery, you'll experience a side of Mexico far from the madding crowd. You'll spend each day riding on ancient trails, exploring hidden forests and crumbling hillsides. In the evenings, you can sample authentic, traditional food and taste some artisan mezcal before bedding down in a local guesthouse. Combining knowledgeable and enthusiastic guides, local culture and quality riding on fit and responsive horses, this destination would suit intrepid travellers who want to visit a lesser-known region of Mexico.
As well as riding, you'll visit ancient churches in forgotten villages, explore a 16th century convent and visit the studio of a local artist. The week even includes wild swimming in a local waterfall, the perfect way to freshen up after a long day in the saddle.
You'll need to be a fit and competent rider. Riding days can mean up to 8 hours in the saddle and you'll be covering around 34 kilometres a day. The best way to experience this region is by horse, with winding tracks, native palms, and dense, oak forests linking up to create the perfect circular itinerary. So pull on those riding boots and escape to one of Mexico's most diverse regions.
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Afternoon arrival at your hosts ranch, settle in to your room and visit the horses. Your Oaxaca experience begins with a sunset ride across the Rio Salado, through strands of wild cane and into the protected communal land to get up close with the rare Palmillo yucca trees. After riding, relax at an evening orientation where you can meet your fellow riders over artisan mezcal and homemade margaritas. Dinner will be served on the terrace before a good nights sleep at the ranch.
An early breakfast is served before horses and riders travel by pickup 100 km. west to the Mixtec region where this circular journey begins. Yanhuitlan was a hub during the heyday of the Dominican order with camino reales radiating in every direction. Ride east along smooth lanes bordered by a checkerboard of winter wheat and oat fields before arriving in the remote village of Tiltepec, You’ll enjoy a traditional lunch in the village before marvelling at the colonial church in the heart of the village, renowed locally for its quirky iconography and skilful stone-carving. The ride back to Yanhuitlan ascends along winding trails before reaching a local inn which will be your base for the evenings dinner and overnight.
The route meanders northwest over a pass where the earth has turned white with so much lyme and streams lined with cypress contrast with the golden winter fields. Riders and horses will enjoy the virtually deserted back roads and the smooth, mostly flat footing is perfect for extended trots and relaxed canters. Lunch will be served in the oak forests where the support vehicle will be waiting with a tailgate feast. In the afternoon, you will ride into Coixtlahuaca where you can look at the fascinating architecture of the 16thc. Dominican convent, remarkable for the indigenous styles and classic Dominican construction. After settling into a comfortable guesthouse, you’ll be able to visit the convent, then finish the day with a delicious mole ( the savoury sauce Oaxacan cuisine is famous for).
This is a non-riding day where there is no need to pack up, as you will return to the same inn for a second night. Today riders can drive east across the altiplano to visit a deep canyon and learn about the Mixtec people of this region. At the edge you'll be able to follow a road that gently descends to Santiago Apoala. You’ll spend several hours here, relaxing by the ancient cypress trees. Follow the stream to a beautiful waterfall where you may want to take a refreshing dip! Lunch will be served in nearby Apoala. The drive back to Coixtlahuaca follows a different route. The forests recede giving way to endless vistas as we drive over the highest parts of the Mixtec mesa.
This is the heart of the Dominican mission region. The missions were built approximately 30 kms. apart – a comfortable day’s ride. From Coixtlahuaca, you will follow camino reales – the Spanish colonial roads – as the route meanders through several sleepy villages surrounded by traditional farmlands, oak forests and pristine streams. The terrain, by Oaxacan standards, is relatively flat and the quiet, narrow backroads are perfect for a touring trot and canter. You will visit Teotongo, once an important village at the centre of the Dominican order in the Mixtec, and home to a living museum. Their colonial church is stuffed with fascinating and quirky works of art. But beyond the interesting church, this village is sweet. You’ll walk over to Graciela’s comedor for a home cooked meal complimented with the unique stone-ground wheat tortillas of the region. Overnight at a guesthouse in the village.
Ride out from the village and into the austere beauty of the high plain. Pirul trees line the small lanes and herds of goats, the graze along the hillsides. By lunch you will reach a river valley. The cobbled streets signal our arrival in San Pedro and San Pablo Teposcolula. Overnight at a very comfy little hotel just a couple of hundred metres from the church. Dine on delicious and authentic Mixtec cuisine.
Before riding, you can enjoy walking the pleasant streets of this town, visit the simple but well-preserved home of the last indigenous royalty and the Dominican mission, renowned for the architecture of its singular open-air chapel. Back on the horses you will ride east through oak forests and pine trees, following a well-trodden trail over a mountain pass at 2,500 metres altitude. You will arrive back in Yanhuitlan for lunch at the same inn as on Day two. After a siesta, visit the studio of local ceramic artist Manuel Reyes. Dinner will be at his home where you can enjoy his family’s excellent traditional cooking.
A relaxed breakfast is serrved before a guided tour of Yanhuitlan’s Dominican convent; delight in its quirky over-the-top uniquely Mexican baroque decoration. Pre-arranged transfers to the airport or hotel in the city of Oaxaca. Please book your departure flight to depart after 4pm.
NOTE: This itinerary is subject to change and may be ridden in the reverse order described.
Technical notes: The elevation of this ride is between 1,450 mt. – 2,500 mt.
IMPORTANT TRAVEL NOTE: On the departure day on Day 8 no outbound flights from the city of Oaxaca should be booked before 4 p.m. There is a guided visit to the mission convent in Yanhuitlan on the morning of Day 8, followed by brunch and 2 hour return drive to the city of Oaxaca.
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.
The horses used for this trail are Arabian endurance horses, Arabian crosses and the Mexican Criollo breed. All are well-suited and experienced at tackling the mountainous terrain, with most of the horses taking part in endurance rides between 40km and 100km. The terrain on this ride varies between quiet, dirt roads and narrow single-track trails and is suitable for fit, confident riders comfortable with rising trot. The average distance covered is 34 kms. per day so riding fitness is important.
With a range of horses available whether you are looking for a more relaxed ride or a spirited canter in open countryside your hosts will have the right horse for you. The horses are mostly ridden with snaffle mouths and have comfortable endurance saddles, although there are a few English saddles available. Both types of saddle come with sheepskin pads and shock-absorbing, padded stirrups. All of the horses are calm and trustworthy and live in open-style paddocks within a herd or next to a friend when not out on the trails.
You should be able to walk, trot and canter on a fit, responsive horse. The pace of this trail is a relaxed, moderate pace with a nice mix of walk, extended rising trot and canters. It is essential to be comfortable at rising trot. The elevation of this ride is between 1,450 metres and 2,500 metres. On this trail you do need to be of at least intermediate level, happy and balanced at a trot and canter and fit for up to 8 hours per day in the saddle. A sense of adventure is also a must! Experience of mountain riding is an advantage although not a necessity but you must be able to trust their horses on the narrow mountain paths. Riders are invited to help groom their own horses but the hosts will oversee the saddling until they are happy that it is being done correctly. A final girth check is always done by your host/trail leader.
The weight limit for this ride is 220 lb/100 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.
Your first nights accommodation will be at your hosts' base; a small, traditional, Mexican ranch centrally located in the valley of Tlacolula, the eastern arm of the great valley of Oaxaca yet only 30 minutes from downtown Oaxaca. The ranch concentrates on outdoor living; so relax in a Yucatan hammock chair on the old-fashioned veranda and gaze up to the cacti-studded mountains due west. Or meander up to the ranches’ spacious open-style kitchen & dining room, settle on to the terrace and sip a freshly made margarita and admire the views stretching up to the Sierra Juarez.
The three spacious bedrooms in the guest lodge contain traditional Mexican architecture with wooden beams, wild cane and hand-painted tiles. Your host once owned an art and craft gallery in Oaxaca and rooms are tastefully and individually decorated. The beds can be made up as king-size or two twins and are large enough to add another bed. Each suite also contains a small kitchenette, private en-suite shower/toilet and a sitting area.
Once out on the trail you will be staying at various different lodgings, mainly guesthouses and small hotels are used. This accommodation is simple and comfortable and includes private en-suite bathrooms and hot showers. Beds are either double beds or twin beds.
Meals will be made up of ranch favourites include rustic guacamole, roasted tomatillo salsa, black beans, traditional mole and drinks such as seasonal fruit coolers. Fresh salads and homemade baking will supplement local specialities to ensure tasty and varied meals. Each day, you will stop for lunch for around one hour. Freshly prepared food, cold beverages and comfy chairs will be provided at lunchtimes except on the last ride day when lunch is carried in the saddle bags as the ride goes over an mountain range inaccessible to vehicles. Beer is the only alcoholic beverage served at lunch; wine, beer, mezcal and margaritas are offered once the ride day is over. As always there’ll be lots of freshly-brewed Oaxaca coffee in the mornings and artesan mezcal, cold beer and good wine as the sun gets low.
Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.
Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip. If Visa’s are required the requirements can change from year to year depending on diplomatic relations. Please request information from the appropriate Consulate in your home country. Unicorn Trails will assist with any questions you have or supply any necessary supporting documents as required by the consulate on request.
At the time of going to print visas are not required for UK passport holders, check www.fco.gov.uk or call on 0207 008 0232/0233 for up to date travel advice.
In Mexico City the UK high commission is at Rio Lerma 71, Col Cuauhtemoc, 06500 Mexico City, Rio Lerma 71,Col Cuauhtémoc ,06500 México City. Tel: (52) (55) 5242 8500 Fax: (52) (55) 5242 8517.
The Mexican Embassy in the U.K is at 16 St George Street, Mayfair, London, W1S 1LX. Tel: 020 7499 8586 Fax: 020 7495 4035 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
October and November herald the beautiful wild flower season with everything green and lush from the rains the month before. From November/December to April there is very little rain (if at all) and bright blue skies with a dry heat throughout the day. The cacti bloom during this time too. From May/June to September the countryside is lush and green once more with possible rain later in the day, although usually only at an hour at a time.
At Unicorn Trails, the health and safety of our customers is of paramount importance. While cases of the Zika Virus remain predominantly in Brazil and Ecuador, there have been reports of cases in Mexico, Barbados, Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Cape Verde.
Whilst the symptoms of the Zika Virus are usually mild, customers are recommended to take the strict insect bite avoidance measures. This is particularly relevant if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, suffer from a severe, chronic medical condition, or have a medical condition that weakens your immune system.
Customers due to travel to the affected areas should monitor the World Health Organisation website for further updates and advice.
Customers planning to become pregnant should discuss travel plans with a healthcare provider to assess the risk of infection and receive advice on mosquito bite avoidance measures.
Customers who are already pregnant should inform their obstetrician or midwife if they have recently travelled to a country where Zika is known to occur.
Although there are no compulsory vaccinations it is recommended you see your local doctor for up to date information. Air pollution in Mexico City is extremely high between November and February. Water must be purified or boiled.
For up to date information on specific health concerns please contact the Medical Advisors For Travellers Abroad. Their website can be found at www.masta.org. You can also check the Department of Healths website at www.dh.gov.uk.
The trail guide carries a basic first aid kit and there is always a local guide who acts as a back-up on the trails. He carries a high frequency walkie talkie that communicates with the eco-tourism offices in the surrounding villages. Although you can be riding in untouched wilderness you will never be more than 10km away from a village.
110V, 60Hz as in the USA, appliances may require an adaptor before being pugged in as well as an international adapter. Check the voltage inout of the appliance.
There is electricty available every night to charge phones/cameras/batteries. There is internet/WiFi signal at the ranch on the first night and also, usually, mobile phone coverage. On the trails there are two nights where WiFi will not be available.
Riding helmet with brim
Riding boots suitable for walking in
Half leg chaps
Some cool long sleeved shirts with a collar to keep the sun off
Clothes to layer including warm pyjamas
Light jacket or sweater for evenings
Comfortable clothes for the evening
Comfortable shoes for the evening
Eye-cover and ear plugs if you are a sensitive sleeper
A light rain poncho is always good to travel with
Sun screen and bug repellent.
Any personal medication
There are lots of snack bars to pack in the saddlebags but if you have energy bars to you really like and do the trick bring your own. Even electrolytes if you are prone to dehydration. There are a selection of helmets and old half chaps if you don’t want to pack these items.
This is a point-to-point trail over 8 days/7 nights with 6 days of riding on set dates.
2019: 16-23 November
2020: 14-21 March
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|Extra night at Ranch Pitaya, bed and breakfast||per night||double pp||92|
|Extra night at Ranch Pitaya, bed and breakfast||per night||single||139|
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|Extra night at Ranch Pitaya, bed and breakfast||per night||double pp||105|
|Extra night at Ranch Pitaya, bed and breakfast||per night||single||159|
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|Extra night at Ranch Pitaya, bed and breakfast||per night||double pp||115|
|Extra night at Ranch Pitaya, bed and breakfast||per night||single||175|
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|Extra night at Ranch Pitaya, bed and breakfast||per night||double pp||1,085|
|Extra night at Ranch Pitaya, bed and breakfast||per night||single||1,679|
- The Mixtecs of Oaxaca: Ancient Times to the Present by Ronald Spores and Andrew Balkansky. In this ambitious book, the authors examine the Mixtec region of Oaxaca, Mexico, across hundreds of years.
- Oaxaca Stories in Cloth by Eric Mindling is a quick, informative read about the textiles and traditional clothing in Oaxaca’s villages.
- The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver highlights the connection between art and politics that infuses Mexico. A wonderful read.
You can add on additional nights at your hosts' ranch either before or after the trail. Besides horse riding there are endless, safe, self-guided hiking available in the communal lands just west of the ranch; a biosphere rich in rare, old growth native flora. Or jump on a complimentary mountain bike and explore the many sites of interest along the quiet backroads stretching east from the ranch.
Relax on the guest patio with a book from the well-stocked library or take a cooking class to learn authentic local dishes. Your hosts can also organise a trusted local taxi driver to take you to see many sites in the greater Valle de Tlacolula region.
Although it is only the fifth-largest state in Mexico, Oaxaco has the most biodiversity. There are more than 8,400 registered plant species, 738 bird species and 1,431 vertebrate species, accounting for 50% of all species in Mexico. It is also among the five highest-ranking areas in the world for endangered species. Wildlife includes a wide variety of birds, small to medium sized mammals and some larger ones such as deer and wildcats, reptiles and amphibians. The state is a prolific place for reptiles such as turtles, lizards, snakes and crocodiles.
From the ranch and out on the trails you will soon find that the birdlife is prolific and the birds and butterflies are more in abundance than other wildlife. You can expect to see Cara Cara (from the hawk/eagle family ), vermillion flycatchers, hummingbirds, yellow-bellied kiskidies and red-tailed hawks.
Your hosts, Mary Jane, and her son, Gabriel, combine over 50 years of living in the valley and exploring the far reaches of the state of Oaxaca. They are active guides as well as your hosts at the ranch. The experiences you’ll have and the people you’ll meet reflect their own 'favourites', and that’s what separates the ranch's insider tours from the generic offerings hired guides provide. Mary Jane and Gabriel enjoy guiding rides, teaching riding lessons & facilitating equine therapy sessions. They are Red Cross certified in Basic First Aid and are top endurance riders in Mexico.
Mexico is a vast country. The Sierra Madre and Rocky Mountains run south from the border with the US. The interior consists of an elevated plateau. Northern Mexico is dry and desert-like, while the south is mountainous jungle containing the ruins of ancient Mayan and Aztec city complexes. These indigenous civilizations are credited with many inventions including: building pyramid-temples, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, highly-accurate calendars, fine arts, intensive agriculture, engineering, an abacus calculation, a complex theology, and the wheel. Without any draft animals the wheel was used only as a toy. The only metals they apparently knew how to use were native copper and gold.
The people of Mexico today are a mixture of descendants from Spanish and other immigrants, mainly Europeans, who settled in Mexico from the sixteenth century onwards, and mestizos - mixed European and indigenous ancestry, as well as the many indigenous groups. It is a nation where affluence, poverty, natural splendour and urban blight rub shoulders. It is also one of the worlds most bio-diverse countries with an incredible and colourful array of fauna and fauna.
Mexico is six to eight hours behind 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 is +52.