This Christmas horseback vacation gives the guests the opportunity to visit and stay in some of the finest Forts and Palaces in Rajasthan over the Christmas and New Year holidays. After a fantastic horseback ride on Christmas Day, spend the night in a luxury tented camp with a bonfire under the stars while the horses rest nearby. This is a truly magical experience.

Seeing rural India on horseback gives a privileged view of the country. Pass through rural farming villages and meet nomadic herders on a horseback ride through the desert areas, giving the unique chance to experience rural India and its culture. The Marwari horses are bold, fit and fast, making them the perfect companions for your journey. Most of the horses are home-bred by the hosts, and care is taken to match each horse and rider.

Accommodation and service levels throughout this equestrian vacation are excellent. Many of the hotels are converted palaces or mansions, and even when camping in remote areas, horseback riders can be sure of a hot shower and a comfortable bed every night.

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 DF of Mona Vale on 13/01/2024

Ride Summary
What was your overall impression of the holiday
Overall impression
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Additional Comments
Horses and Tack

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Meals

Accommodation

Miscellaneous

Was this trip accurately described to you beforehand?
YES
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There were no surprises.
Was there anything you should have known and were not told? NO
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What could we do to improve this ride?
I was happy with everything
How would you rate the difficulty of this ride out of 10 where 1 is very easy and 10 is very advanced?
7
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YES
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Unicorn comments: Thank you for your feedback. Glad you had a great ride! :)

Day 1 
Arrive in New Delhi and spend the night at the Hotel Vassant Continental (or similar). Rooms available from 12 midday.  Sightseeing around Delhi if time permits. - Overnight Delhi.

Day 2 
Drive to Dundlod from Delhi in the morning (about 6-7 hours), lunch and overnight Dundlod Fort. This is not a regular hotel – but more like a home and the starting point of the rides in Shekhawati. This old building has lots of character and modern comforts. There is a large banquet hall and each bedroom is charmingly decorated. The palace is located on the edge of a small village of the same name.

The Dundlod Fort in the heart of the Shekhawati was built in 1750. This majestic fort surrounded by a moat, is a mix of Mogul and Rajputana architecture. The majestic Diwan Khana (the Audience Hall) is furnished with Louis XIV furniture. This old building has been beautifully maintained and now has all modern comforts. The Fort is located on the edge of a small village of the same name -  Overnight Dunlod Fort.

Day 3 
Riders get to experience the horses on a ride ride in and around Dundlod visiting various villages and temples The terrain around this semi-desert area is soft and sandy and makes for ideal riding with plenty of opportunities for cantering.
Afternoon visit to the Frescoed Havelies of Dundlod  -  Overnight Dundlod Fort

Day 4 
After breakfast take a ride to Churi Ajitgarh (about 20 kms ) across villages, farmlands and some quaint farmers’ dwellings. The terrain is soft and sandy and ideal for riding. Arrive in Churi and transfer to hotel Vivaana Culture Hotel which at one time used to be a Haveli ( a merchant’s mansion) with beautiful frescoes (Shekhawati is famous for its frescoes). The Shekhawati region consists of Churi Ajitgarh, Mandawa, Mehansar and Alsisar provinces. This is Rajasthan's open-air Art Gallery. No other region in India (or perhaps the world) has such a large concentration of high quality frescoes. This monochromatic landscape was transformed over the period of 1750 to 1930 when artists thrived in the area. Overnight Hotel Vivaana Culture Hotel.

Day 5 
On Christmas morning the group will set out to a luxurious camp, passing through villages and farmlands dotted with Khejri trees. The terrain is quite flat except for the occasionally sand dune.The tented camp is in Thimoli, where Christmas festivities will be held.  Overnight tented camp..

Day 6 
Vedaaranya Haveli stands tall and well-preserved in the beautiful heritage town of Ramgarh Shekhawati, home to the only Veda temple in the world. History comes alive here, in the form of vibrant colours, art and architecture. Checking into the luxurious Heritage Vedaaranya Heaveli is like travelling back in time, with exquisite décor and artifacts in each of the 10 spacious rooms. Ride to Ramgarh over soft sandy tracks and through rural farm lands and villages. There is a good chance of seeing some wildlife like Nilgai antelope (which is the biggest antelope in India) and the graceful Chinkara gazelle. Overnight at Heritage Vedaaranya Heaveli.

Day 7
Today the route crosses varied terrain, through quaint villages, farmland and over sand dunes to reach a tented camp at Ratanshahar and the chance to see chinkara deers and Nilgai antilopes. Overnight tented camp.

Day 8 
Head to the meticulously restored 1920 Shekhawati Haveli, with its colonial pillared architecture, Italian art-deco influences, mughal arches and handpainted frescoes. The ride is through the desert country, still relatively devoid of major developments. The pace of the ride is fast, as on previous days, and riders will enjoy some good canters. Ride over an open and interesting area to reach Churu. The horses are settled outside the old town while guests drive into the Heritage Malji Ka Kamra hotel, a family-run hotel that takes one back to the era of Marwari traders. Overnight at Malji Ka Kamra Heritage Hotel.

Day 9 
Ride to Ghanghu. Today's ride will pass through small villages, across open land and past farmersʼ dwellings. At times riders may have to ride over sand dunes and there is a good chance of spotting more of the local wildlife - Chinkara gazelle, the Nilgai antelope and maybe also the endangered Blackbuck antelope. Overnight tented camp.

Day 10 
Ride to Alsisar. Today's ride leads over sand dunes and beside small hamlets and farmlands. Look out for the Nilgai and the Chinkara gazelle, and if lucky, the endangered Blackbuck Antelope. It is a short ride. arriving in Alsisar early leaving  plenty of time to relax at the comfortable hotel where riders can take a dip in the pool, or book a massage.

Day 11 
Start with a morning ride around the Alsisar village and see the water reservoir created to bring water to the desert area from the Punjab. In the evening,  a sun-downer in the dunes before the New Year's Eve celebrations at the Fort .

Day 12 
After an early breakfast guests will be driven to Jaipur (4h) and taken to their hotel. Spend the afternoon sightseeing in Jaipur. The "Pink City of India", founded in the 1728, is enclosed by city walls and surrounded by hills crowned with forts. The houses in the city line the street, their rose-pink colour and latticed windows lending an air of enchantment. At sunset the city is breathtakingly lit and a photographers dream. There is a museum in the City Palace containing rare manuscripts, paintings and an armoury. Take the chance to visit the 17th century Jantar Mantar observatory with its 90ft high sundial.. It was built by Jai Singh, a keen astronomer, who built it. The observatory is still equipped with his masonry instruments of remarkable size. If there is time, visit the Ram Niwas Palace Gardens museum, founded in 1876, and home to a large collection of antiques.  Overnight Jaipur.

Day 13 
Jaypee Vasant Continental

This morning, visit the majestic Amber fort Palace which looks out across the lake at the entrance to a rocky mountain grove. Take an elephant ride to the fort. This palace is a fine example of 17th century Rajput architecture. It contains the Jai Mandir (hall of victory), decorated intricately with fine inlay work that seems to glow. Transfer to Jaipur In the afternoon in time for the flight to Delhi and transfer to the hotel. Please note that there is a risk of fog at this time of year and sometimes the flight maybe delayed, or replaced by a vehicle transfer. This is why we include a night in Delhi. Night spent in Delhi or transfer to airport depending on departure times. Overnight Delhi.

Day 14 
Transfer to airport for return flights. Rooms will be available until noon January 3rd.

Please follow this link for a map of the start point of this itinerary: Christmas Ride

Single Supplement Policy
There is no single supplement if we can find you a sharer.

 

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 are mostly Marwari horses with a few Kathiawari and Sindhi horses, all of which are indigenous to India and range from 14hh to 16hh. They are lean but very fit horses which makes them most suitable for desert safaris. Your hosts breed these horses and they are kept in absolutely immaculate condition. Marwari horses are warm blooded and thin skinned not unlike Arabians. They are all very well schooled, responsive, forward going and have no vices. The tack is all made in India from fine leather of Kanpur. The saddles are known as SAWAR (rider) saddles as they are designed for Cavalry - they are not dissimilar to polo or army saddles, see our pictures for more details. They are comfortable for horses and safe for the riders. The saddle covers and martingales are made up of the Dundlod family colours.



The exotic beauty and vigour of the Marwari horse is their lasting heritage. Marwari was bred to lift the heart in battle and please the eye. He is easily recognised by his proud carriage, upright graceful neck and distinctive aquiline head with deep expressive eyes, the crowning glory of which are the unique inward curling or scimitar shaped ears set high on the poll and without exception unique to the noble Indian horse. The intelligence and natural regal bearing of the Marwari is blended with tremendous equipoise, graceful animated gaits and stamina. He displays an alert stillness when in repose and incredible elan vital in action. Hardiness and longevity have enabled the breed to survive wars, famine and droughts. The Marwari agreeably adapts to different life styles and environmental conditions and performs in various sports and formal riding disciplines. Loyal, tireless and competitive, the Marwari has evolved from one of the world ancient breeds to present a new archetype of beauty, brilliance and personality.


Rider requirements

Intermediate riders onwards - riders who are competent and confident at all paces in the open.
The weight limit for this ride is 15 st/209 lb/95 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.

Weight Limit

The weight limit for this ride is 209 lb/95 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.

Many of the Palace hotels are renowned for their unique grandeur and locations. Rooms have private bathrooms. Camps have large, walk-in twin bedded tents. Camp beds, linen, table and chairs or stools are provided. Camps have a shared shower and washing facilities and meals are prepared for the guests.



DUNDLOD : The Dundlod Fort in the heart of the Shekhawati was built in 1750. This majestic fort surrounded by a moat, is a mix of Mogul and Rajputana architecture. The majestic Diwan Khana (the Audience Hall) is furnished with Louis XIV furniture. This old building has been beautifully maintained and now has all modern comforts. It has a huge banquet hall and each bedroom is different with its own charm. The Fort is located on the edge of a small village of the same name.


Vegetarian or other dietary requirements within reason can be accommodated with advance notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests before booking.

Documents - Visa and Consulate Info

Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip.

NB: Be sure to check the COVID status of the country you plan to visit including entry procedures and requirements while travelling.

You’ll need to get a visa before travelling to India. This can be applied for online at the following website, www.indianvisaonline.gov.in

Make sure you get the right visa for your travel and that it’s valid for the purpose and duration of your stay. If you enter India on the wrong visa, you could be detained on arrival and you may be deported and blacklisted, meaning that you cannot enter India again. Make sure you meet entry requirements. You can find further information on the Indian High Commission website or the Indian Immigration Bureau website.

To avoid possible problems at immigration, make sure your passport is valid for a minimum of 180 days at the time of entry into India.

Your passport must be machine readable, with 2 blank pages for your visa and valid for a minimum of 180 days at the time of your visa application.
Always keep a copy of your passport and your Indian visa separate from your passport, in case of loss

Airport tax
User Development Fees (UDF) apply at many airports. The fees are around Rs.1,000 per international passenger and Rs.150 to 260 per domestic passenger. This should already be included in the cost of airline tickets. If for any reason the fee is not included in your ticket it will be collected at the airport check-in counter in Indian rupees.
Passport and Visa requirements can change regularly 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 should you need a visa.

In the UK the British Foreign Office gives advice: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/india

In the USA: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/India.html

In Canada: https://travel.gc.ca/destinations/india

Climate Summary

End of Dec/early Jan is the coldest period in North India. The temperature ( while camping) could go down to about 2 degrees Celsius or even lower at night. Riders should bring some thermal underwears and a good jacket - which would come in handy during the three nights of camping. The days are pleasant and, normally, you ride in your shirt only. A light jacket may be required when you start the ride in the morning - but after a little while you need to take it off.

Climate Chart

Health

COVID: Be sure to check the latest COVID regulations for travelling in any country you visit.

Mosquito-borne diseases like dengue fever occur all year round. There’s been an increase in the number of cases of dengue fever, including in New Delhi.

Health authorities have classified India as having a risk of Zika virus transmission.

Cases of Chikungunya Virus have been confirmed in India, including in New Delhi. You should take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

Please refer to your country’s latest health guideline for travel in India and contact your own GP for up to date advice on vaccinations and prophylaxis prior to travel.

You should make sure you have sufficient medical supplies (including prescription medicines) for the duration of your stay and any unforeseen delays, adequate travel insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment and repatriation.


Health (ride specific)

As with all countries where the bacteria present in water and around food are not those to which we are accustomed you are advised to exercise a degree of care. Bottled water is widely available, but check that bottle seals are intact and water levels reach the top. Fruit and raw vegetables which can be peeled are fine. Avoid ice cubes, diluted fruit juices and any unpasturised/unboiled milk.

Electricity

In India the supply voltage is 230V. If the appliance is a single voltage rated appliance, it will need to operate at the same voltage as the supply voltage of the country i.e. 230V. If this is not the case it should be used alongside a voltage transformer or converter to allow the appliance to work safely and properly.

Packing List

Riding:
Jodhpurs / Breeches / Riding Leggings (2 - 3 pairs)
Shirts with long sleeves and collar
T-Shirts, ideally with collar for sun protection
Jumper / fleece
Body warmer (for Dec / Jan rides)
Wind and rain resistant jacket (for Dec / Jan rides)
Wooly hat (for Dec / Jan rides) as camp nights can get very cold
Warm jacket / ski jacket (Dec / Jan rides)
Riding gloves
Riding boots, either long boots or short boots with half-chaps
Hard riding helmet to the appropriate standards and in good condition. There are a limited few at the stables if you do not have one at no charge
Light scarf / bandana, for sun and dust/sand protection
Long riding socks / thick hiking socks with good absorption
Bum bag, to keep easy to reach items such as camera / sun block etc. The backup jeep is never far away and will carry other required items you may need.
Seat saver, if you ride with a seat saver, or prefer to use one on longer rides, then please bring it. Dundlod Stables have a limited few for your use at no charge

Non-Riding:
Comfortable shoes fi=or sightseeing in and to wear around the camps
Casual clothes for sightseeing in
1 - 2 changes of smarter clothes for evenings at the heritage hotels
Flip-flops for use in the camp shower
Swimming costume if you wish to swim at the heritage hotels that have pools
A scarf / pashmina is useful for covering your head when visiting places of worship
A hat for walking around in, wide-brimmed is recommended for sun protection
** As a sign of respect for rural traditions, men and women should wear trousers (or a calf-length skirt). Try to avoid tank-tops and shorts. As a general rule, knees and shoulders should be covered.
** Towels are provided in the hotels and at the camps, no need to bring a towel (unless you wish)

Equipment:
Sunglasses. If you choose to ride with sunglasses, it is advisable to have a neck cord or string to stop them falling off.
Sunblock, and lip-balm with sunblock in it.
Head torch / hand-held torch for use at the camps. A lantern is provided in each tent, but it is useful when eating at the camps
Wash bag with all your necessities. A small bar of soap is provided in each camp tent.
Ear plugs (if you are a light sleeper). The camps can be noisy, as can rural villages.
Personal medications. Due to riding in the desert, some riders encounter allergies from the sand and the dust, so an antihistamine may be advisable.
Rehydration sachets.
Camera and phone chargers and adaptors (and for any other electrical equipment)
A portable charger is advisable as there is no electricity at the camps.

Programmes

This is a 14 days / 13 nights programme with 9 riding days available on a set date each year.

Departure Dates

2024: 21 Dec
2025: 21 Dec

Pricing
No single supplement is charged if the rider is willing to share with someone of the same sex, and a sharer can be found.


No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description £
202314d/13n9double pp3,419
202314d/13n9single supplement969
202414d/13n9double pp3,465
202414d/13n9single supplement979
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description
202314d/13n9double pp4,045
202314d/13n9single supplement1,145
202414d/13n9double pp4,045
202414d/13n9single supplement1,145
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description US $
202314d/13n9double pp4,455
202314d/13n9single supplement1,259
202414d/13n9double pp4,455
202414d/13n9single supplement1,259
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description SEK
202314d/13n9double pp47,189
202314d/13n9single supplement13,345
202414d/13n9double pp47,189
202414d/13n9single supplement13,345
Recommended Reading

Reading List

We're avid readers here at Unicorn Trails and have selected several books connected to this ride. If you're interested in reading more about the area before you travel, or want to get into the cultural background, here are some suggestions that may inspire you. Click on the links for more information.



India (Lonely Planet Country Guides) - Sarina Singh

City of Djinns - William Dalrymple

The Great Railway Bazaar: By Train Through Asia - Paul Theroux

An Indian Summer - James Cameron

Into India - John Keay

No Full Stops in India - Mark Tully

Rajasthan; India's Enchanted Land- Raghubir Singh

Rajasthan; Land of Kings - S. Matheson & R. Beny

The Royal Palaces of India – G. Michell & A. Martinelli

Arts and Crafts of Rajasthan - A. Nath & F. Wacziarg

Plain Tales from the Raj - Charles Allen


Other Activities

Sightseeing in Jaipur: The City Palace which now houses a museum containing rare manuscripts, painting and an armoury; the Jantar Mantar observatory- built in the 17th century by Jai Singh- with a sundial 90ft.high; the Museum amidst the Ram Niwas Palace Gardens founded in 1876 with a large collection of antiques; the palace of Winds, a landmark of Jaipur made of pink sandstone and of unique design.

AMBER FORT : 12 Kms. from Jaipur. lies the city of Amber with an ancient imposing fort cum Palace overlooking the lake at the entrance to a rocky mountain grove. Built in the 17th century, the palace is a distinguished specimen of of Rajput architecture. The Jai Mandir (hall of victory) is so delicately ornamented with fine inlay work that it glows. The fort of Jaigarh, crowning the summit of a peak is of amazing beauty and grandeur.

At some of the hotels during the ride there will be some entertainment in the form of folk dances/music etc.

Wildlife

Riders are likely to come across the Nilgai Antelope (the biggest antelope of India), hare and maybe jackal. As far as birds are concerned - they should get to see several....Parakeets, Bee eaters, Babblers, Green Pigeons, Indian Roller, Black Drongo, Egrets, some raptors, Warblers, Maynas, Chats, Indian Robin, Blue Rock Pigeon and Red Wattled Lapwing.

Other Information

BEGGARS - You will not visit India without coming into contact with many distressing facets of this unfortunate community. Without appearing harsh it is strongly advised by the Indian Authorities and charity workers in the country not to give to these people. Should you wish to do something extra to help these communities a donation to an established charity will go much further and give you a relatively hassle free visit.

TAXIS/RICKSHAWS – In major cities these should be metered and have a tariff rate. If in doubt agree a fare before departing and check that the meter is used. Do not be persuaded to go where the drivers get commission.

Other Country Information

India forms a natural sub-continent with the Himalayas to the north. The Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, which are sections of the Indian Ocean, lie to the west and east respectively.

The official language of India is Hindi written in the Devanagari script and spoken by some 30% of the population as a first language. Since 1965 English has been recognised as an 'associated language'. In addition there are 18 main and regional languages recognised for adoption as official state languages. There are another 24 languages, 720 dialects and 23 tribal languages.

India will sideswipe you with its size, clamour and diversity - especially if you enjoy delving into convoluted cosmologies and thrive on sensual overload. Nothing in the country is ever quite predictable; the only thing to expect is the unexpected, which comes in many forms and will always want to sit next to you.

The time difference for India is GMT/UTC +5.5hrs and the dialling code is +91. India has adopted metric weights and measures.

Travel Summary

Meeting-point (getting there):
Delhi Airport (DEL)
Transfer:
2023: All road transfers from meeting point are included. Internal airfare Jaipur/Delhi is not included - return from £50 pp
Transfer time is approximately 45 minutes at peak times and 25 minutes for early morning/late night arrivals.
Flight Guide:
London - Delhi from return £460 pp
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