This Christmas ride gives you the opportunity to visit and stay in some of the finest Forts and Palaces of Rajasthan over the Christmas and New Year holidays. After a fantastic ride on Christmas Day you 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 horse back gives a privileged view of this quickly evolving country. You will pass through rural farming villages and meet nomadic herders as you ride through the desert areas. This offers you a unique chance to experience rural India and its cultures/people. 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 holiday are second to none, this is a real luxury experience. Many of the hotels are converted palaces and mansions, and even when camping in remote areas you 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 EB of Edinburgh on 09/01/2008
Day 1 - Dec. 21
Arrive in New Delhi and spend the night at the Hotel Vassant Continental or a similar hotel (rooms available from 12 midday). Sightseeing of Delhi if time permits.
Day 2 - Dec. 22
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 now has some modern comforts. It has a large banquet hall and each bedroom is different, with its own charm. The palace is located on the edge of a small village of the same name.
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. The Fort is located on the edge of a small village of the same name.
Overnight Dunlod Fort.
Day 3 - Dec. 23
A.M. Today you will try the horses and ride in and around Dundlod visiting various villages and temples The terrain around this semi-desert area is soft and sandy and is ideal for riding with plenty of opportunities for some good canters.
P.M: Time to relax and visit the Frescoed Havelies of Dundlod.
Overnight Dundlod Fort
Day 4 - Dec. 24
After breakfast, ride to Churi Ajitgarh ( about 20 kms ). The ride to Churi takes you across villages, farmlands and some quaint farmers’ dwellings. The terrain is soft and sandy and ideal for riding.
Arrive Churi and transfer to hotel Vivaana Culture Hotel which at one time used to be a Haveli ( a merchant’s mansion) with beautiful frescoes for which the entire Shekhawati is famous for:
Shekhawati is a region of which Churi Ajitgarh, Mandawa, Mehansar and Alsisar are parts. This region is Rajasthan's open air Art Gallery. No other region in India or perhaps, even in the world, has such a large concentration of high quality frescoes as the region of Shekhawati. In the beginning this semi-arid region had only its blank monochromatic palette to offer. No school of painting thrived till history and circumstances took up this colourless page and made it blossom with art for almost two centuries - from 1750 to 1930. Today this region is commonly called the Open Air Art Gallery of Rajasthan.
Overnight Hotel Vivaana Culture Hotel.
Day 5 - Dec. 25
On Christmas morning you will ride to a luxurious camp, passing through villages and farmlands dotted with Khejri trees. The terrain is quite flat except for the sand dunes which keep coming up now and then. In Thimoli you will stay at a tented camp. Christmas festivities in the evening.
Overnight tented camp..
Day 6 - Dec. 26
Vedaaranya Haveli stands tall and well-preserved in the beautiful heritage town of Ramgarh Shekhawati, home to the only Veda temple in the world and where history comes alive in the form of vibrant colours, art and architecture. Time-travel to the golden era and experience one of our ten unique rooms & suites that exhibit decor, artifacts and vibe of the years gone by. The rooms & suites at Vedaaranya are comfortable, spacious, historic and make you forget everything from the modern world.Ride to Ramgarh, riding over soft sandy tracks, through rural farm lands and Indian villages. There are good chances of seeing some wildlife in the form ofthe Nilgai antelope (which is the biggest antelope in India) and the graceful Chinkara gazelle.
Overnight at Heritage Vedaaranya Heaveli.
Day 7 - Dec. 27
Today, you will ride across a varied terrain, through quaint villages, farmland and over sand dunes to reach a tented camp at Ratanshahar. You will see a lot of chinkara deers and Nilgai antilopes.
Overnight tented camp.
Day 8 - Dec. 28
It is a meticulously restored 1920 Shekhawati Haveli with colonial pillared architecture, Italian art-deco influences, mughal arches and handmade fresco paintings. Malji Ka Kamra is family-run, personalized and authentic to take you back to the era of Marwari traders and live their stories. The ride on this day again is through the desert country – which is still quite devoid of major developments. The pace of the ride is fast like on the previous days and you will enjoy some good canters. You get to ride over a very open and interesting area and Arrive to Churu to leave the horses outside the old town and drive into the Heritage Malji Ka Kamra hotel.
Overnight at Malji Ka Kamra Heritage Hotel.
Day 9 - Dec. 29
Ride to Ghanghu. Today's ride will take you through small villages, across open land and past farmersʼ dwellings. At times you may have to ride over sand dunes and there is a good chance of encountering more of the local wildlife - Chinkara gazelle, the Nilgai antelope and maybe also the endangered Blackbuck antelope.
Overnight tented camp.
Day 10 - Dec. 30
Ride to Alsisar. Today's ride will take you over lovely sand dunes - besides small hamlets and farmlands. Today also there are good chances of seeing the Nilgai and the Chinkara gazelle and if lucky, the endangered Blackbuck Antelope. The distance today is short and you can arrive to Alsisar early with plenty of time to relax at the hotel. The place has been tastefully renovated in order to provide all the comforts to the guests. The hotel has a lovely swimming pool and facilities for massage – this is a nice hotel to relax after a ride.
Day 11 - Dec. 31
You will ride again in the morning hours around the Alsisar village and see the water reservoir created to bring water to the desert area from Punjab. In the evening a sun downer at the dunes before the New Year's Eve celebrations at the Fort .
Day 12 - Jan. 1
After an early breakfast, you will be driven to Jaipur (c. 4h drive) where you will be taken to your hotel. You will 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, lend an air of enchantment to the scene - and at sunset the city is breathtakingly lit. In the City Palace, you will find a museum containing rare manuscripts, paintings and an armory. You will also have the occasion to see the Jantar Mantar observatory with a sundial 90ft high - built in the 17th century by Jai Singh, a keen astronomer, he built the observatory and it is still equipped with his quaint masonry instruments of remarkable size. You may also visit the Ram Niwas Palace Gardens museum founded in 1876 and home to a large collection of antiques. You will also see the palace of winds, a uniquely designed Jaipur landmark made of pink sandstone.
Day 13 - Jan. 2
Jaypee Vasant Continental
This morning, you will go to see the majestic ancient Amber fort cum Palace which looks out across the lake at the entrance to a rocky mountain grove. This includes an elephant ride to the fort. This palace is a fine example of Rajput architecture built in the 17th century. Within its walls, you will find the Jai Mandir (hall of victory) decorated intricately with fine inlay work – giving the impression that this delicate work glows. You will also spot Jaigarh fort, crowning the summit of a peak, and you can enjoy its amazing beauty and grandeur. In the afternoon, you will be transferred to Jaipur in time for your flight to Delhi and transfer to your hotel. Please note that there is a risk of fog at this time of year and sometimes the flight is 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 of your departure time.
Day 14 - Jan 3
Transfer to airport for return flights. Rooms will be available until noon today, 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.
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
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 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 alll 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.
Intermediate riders onwards - riders who are competant 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.
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 setting and wonderful grandeur. Rooms have private bathrooms. When a camp is set up, large, walk in twin bedded tents are used with camp beds and bed linen and a table and chairs or stools provided. Camps have a shared shower and washing facilities and meals are prepared for you.
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 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.
General information, correct as of 3rd February 2014:
You must obtain a visa before travelling to India. If you arrive without a visa, you will be refused entry. Visas can be obtained online via the Indian government agency, VFS Global - http://in.vfsglobal.co.uk/ On this website you will find a step by step guide outlining the forms you need to fill in. You will also be required to send your passport and 2 approved photographs so factor in enough time for this to be done and for your passport and visas to be returned to you. There are a number of companies who will charge a fee to check your information for you before it is submitted, so you could take advantage of these if you are not confident that you have filled out the forms correctly. There are also Visa collection centres in London and Leicester, however these do not guarantee a same-day visa and can entail hours of queuing.
Always keep a copy of your passport and your Indian visa separate from your passport, in case of loss. Passports must be valid for at least 6 months. For further information on entry requirements, visitors are advised to check with the Indian representation in the UK at India House, Aldwych, London, WC2B 4NA. Telephone: (020) 7836 8484.
The British High Commission in India can be found at Shantipath, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi - 110021. Telephone: +(91-11) 26872161. Email: postmaster.nedel@ fco.gov.uk.
The Foreign and Commonwealth office also provides travel advice on their website at www.fco.gov.uk
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.
Anti-malaria precautions are advised as necessary to some areas at certain times of year. If you have recently visited a place known for yellow fever you will need a vaccination certificate. Your G.P. will advise on necessary vaccinations and precautions.
For up to date information on health matters please contact the Medical Advisors For Travellers Abroad. Their website can be found at www.masta.org or visit the departmwetn of health's web site on www.dh.gov.uk
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.
Voltage is the same as in the UK and most appliances such as battery chargers for videos, hair dryers etc. can be plugged in with appropriate adapters. These are available for purchase at most airports and travel shops
Riding clothes, half chaps are recommended, riding gloves, riding boots, walking shoes, fleece, warm jacket, sweatshirt, long sleeved shirts, windcheater/raincoat, plenty of socks, light flip flops/sandals, sunblock, sunglasses with string, insect repellent, torch, camera on a shoulder strap with a pouch which can be secured to your belt, plenty of film and batteries, binoculars, water bottle. It will be very cold at night/in the morning so bring some good thermal wear and good jackets, a woollen hat and gloves.
It is recommended that a riding hat is worn, if not you will be grateful for a light scarf to keep dust and grime out of your hair. This will also be useful if visiting any Sikh shrines when the head must be covered. Out of respect to local custom women should avoid bare shoulders, legs and low neck lines. Many hotels have no heating so make sure that you have warm socks, trousers etc.
This is a 14 days / 13 nights programme with 9 riding days available on a set date each year.
2022: 21 December.
|Riding days||Product item description||£|
|Riding days||Product item description||€|
|Riding days||Product item description||$|
|Riding days||Product item description||SEK|
Lonely Planet Guide/ NEOS Guide to Rajasthan/Delhi & Agra. ‘The City of Djinns’-William Dalrymple, ‘The Great Railway Bazaar’-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’-Matheson S.& Beny R., ‘The Royal Palaces of India’ –Michell G. & Martinelli A., ‘Arts and Crafts in Rajasthan’-Nath A. & Wacziarg F.,‘Plain Tales From The Raj’-Charles Allen, The Bagahvaad Gita and of course many others have been written about this huge, diverse land and its 847 million inhabitants. For the equestrian traveller who would like to see what is possible on horseback visit www.thelongridersguild.com also a fantastic place to acquire your equestrian travel books is www.horsetravelbooks.com
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.
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.
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.
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.