Transylvania is not only famous as the homeland of Bram Stoker’s fictional character, Count Dracula, but is also inextricably entwined with the dramatic history of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, with it's well preserved Medieval homesteads and excellent Romanian wines. This is a point-to-point equestrian trail, hosted by the 25th generation Count whose estate spans across several villages and preserves, it is still largely unaffected by modern society.
Around 3-5 hours are spent in the saddle daily while horseback riding through a wide variety of terrain. The villages are situated at 450-600m, and the hills reach 700-900m. This whole region is called Erdővidék, or “Woodlands”, and has barely changed for centuries. The horses used are substantial, fit, capable of jumping a reasonable sized obstacle, and are of various local breeds: Lipizzaner, Huzul, Shagya Arabian, Semigreu crosses. Overnight accommodation usually includes the Prince of Wales's guest house at Zalanpatak and the count’s castle at Miklósvár, as well as private villas.
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 JA of Abergavenny on 02/11/2019
Day 1 (Sunday)
Guests are met on arrival and driven either to Miklósvár or Zalánpatak according to availability. The village of Miklosvar was part of the Kalnoky family estate, and the old hunting manor is on the edge of the village. The area was part of the Hungarian empire but became Romanian during the 1st World War. A couple of the traditional houses in the village have been carefully restored in order to preserve their original Transylvanian charm and character. Riders are accommodated in the castle's five rooms on a first come first serve basis, additional accommodation is available in the restored guesthouses situated within spacious gardens that create a tranquil setting for the first evening. Meet the guide or the Countess for a welcome dinner and to discuss the week ahead.
Day 2 (Monday)
Transfer to the riding centre at Valea Crisului (Sepsikőröspatak, “Round Brook”) by car. The ride starts climbing slowly onto a ridge, heading north on high pastures with magnificent views stretching to the high Carpathian Range. Leave the villages of Kálnok and Zalán and ride down to the valley, meeting shepherds and their flocks on the pastures. At the end of the day, descend through the forest to reach Malnas Bai (Málnásfürdő, “Raspberry Baths”), where the group stay for the night as guests of a local hunter’s family (bathrooms might have to be shared). Once a thriving spa with plenty of mineral water springs, this village has typical wooden turn-of-the-century Transylvanian spa architecture, although now in a rather rickety shape. Riding time: 4-5 hours.
Day 3 (Tuesday)
Climb back into the deep forests of the Hatod region where 6 villages share the same woods (hatod = “one sixth”). Ride along a quiet forest track wher traces of bears can sometimes to be found. After having ridden around the extinct volcano “Murgo”, descend on gentle grassy slopes to the Batanii villages (“Big Bacon and Little Bacon”) to reach the accommodation in village houses in “Little Bacon” and enjoy a communal dinner. The villagers here are known to be especially hospitable and friendly. Before dinner they will take pride at showing you the still functioning watermill and traditional looms. Riding time: 5 hours.
Day 4 (Wednesday)
Head northwest through forests and hay meadows and climb up to Szép Arca (“Pretty Face”) hill on the southern slopes of the Hargita Range. Wide views open out on distant Barót and Olt Valley. Descend south and cross a valley to reach the hills south of Barót for a picnic next to a small lake. The lake is the result of a collapsed mine and the old mining settlement 'Köpecbánya' is now mainly populated by gypsies. The group will be accommodated at the castle, or Count Kálnoky's guesthouses. Visit the castle, its museum and park in the afternoon and relax at the Stone Pub for pre-dinner drinks in the evening. Riding time: 6 hours.
Day 5 (Thursday)
Leave Miklósvár and head east along forests and pastures, passing through Szárazajta / Aita Seaca (‘Dry’ Ajta village), to climb up to the ridge above Zalánpatak valley. Wide views open out on the distant Carpathian mountain range. Descend southeast to the village of Zalánpatak / Valea Zalanului, which was part of the Kálnoky family estate as a glass manufacture, and now harbours H.R.H. The Prince of Wales's private retreat. Several traditional houses in the village have been carefully restored, where riders are accommodated for the next 2 nights. Before dinner, enjoy an evening walk on the Prince's estate to watch wildlife venturing out onto the meadows at sundown. Riding time: 4-5 hours.
Day 6 (Friday)
From Zalánpatak, return to Kőröspatak crossing the hills and brooks. This trip was very common for many a generation of the Kálnoky family. It is a medium ride through spectacular surroundings and wonderful views from the high pastures. After crossing the ancient village of Kálnok, the final canter will reach the ruins of the old tower above Kőröspatak. Before reaching the stables, cross the little stream crossing the village. Transfer back to Zalánpatak guesthouse for the evening. Riding time 4 hours.
Day 7 (Saturday)
Depart after breakfast, or add on a few days of relaxation and tours at the Count's Guesthouses in Miklósvár. Please enquire.
OPTIONAL: - One extra day riding can be attached if requested: in this case Day 6 stops at Zalanpatak, where the riders stay overnight. Next day head to Korospatak in the afternoon to participate in different activities, like swimming with the horses in the lake, or maybe a cultural excursion. This option has to be decided upon at the time of booking for the whole group and will incur a supplement. See prices above.
Please follow this link for a map of the start point of this itinerary: Carpathian Estate Ride
Extensions: The estate offers wildlife and nature tours as well as hiking trips. On most Fridays guests can do the Brasov tour to the Black Church. This is a large 500-year-old Gothic church. There is also the UNESCO Viscri tour on a Tuesday to a beautiful Saxon village. After Viscri riders will visit the town of Sighisoara.
This can be organised in addition to the riding and would incur an extra cost. Please ask for details.
Transfer prices depend on which accommodation is available for your stay.
2023/24 Transfers: Miklosvar/Count Kalnoky’s : Transfers to/from the guesthouses at arrival/departure have to be paid separately. One-way per person valid for 2–3 passengers per ride. Double if alone. Discount for more than 3 passengers (please enquire).
Zalanpatak The Prince of Wales’s: Transfers one way per person valid for 2 – 3 passengers per ride. Double if alone. Discount for more than 3 passengers (please enquire).
Târgu Mureș Airport 85 EUR / person
Bucharest Airport 100 EUR / person
Downtown Bucharest 110 EUR / person
Sibiu Airport 90 EUR / person
Cluj-Napoca Airport 110 EUR / person
Brașov Station 45 EUR / person
Sighișoara Station 60 EUR / person
Sfântu Gheorghe Station 35 EUR / person
Viscri 50 EUR / person
Miklósvár 32 EUR / person
Kőröspatak (Riding centre) 32 EUR / person
Supplement for standby 5 EUR / hour
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 these rides are locally bred ponies characteristic of the area, along with Arab and Lipizzaner crosses. Their breeding includes Huzul, a historic and robust breed unique to the Carpathian mountains, Semigreu (a Lipizzaner-Ardennes cross) and some locally bred Lipizzaners and Arabs. They range from around 14.2hh to 16.2hh. They are keen and spirited, adaptable and well suited to the going, which can get rough and is steep in places. They are also of calm temperament and sensible to handle. English saddles are used and saddle bags are provided. The horses are ridden in snaffle bits.
There is generally between 3 and 5 hours in the saddle daily, with breaks to rest and for lunch. Rides are lead by two guides, one English speaking. The rides are at a moderate pace overall, with routes taking riders through forests and up and down mountain tracks. As much of the riding is across open grassland, there are lots of opportunities for trots and canters each day . There is a little road work each day (some on tar roads) in the vicinity of the villages that we pass through, but roads are generally very quiet with little traffic.
To participate, riders should have a reasonable amount of previous experience. The terrain is varied and covers about 150km during the course of the week. The minimum requirement is that you are comfortable and secure in the saddle at a walk, trot and canter and are used to riding in open country and over different types of terrain. The horses used are sensible and well mannered, so they are well suited to people of intermediate riding ability and above.
The weight limit for this ride is 198 lb/90 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.
Accommodation on the ride is quite varied and riders will experience life as the locals live in the villages, a typical Transylvanian farmhouse belonging the Prince of Wales, as well as private villas. Rural guesthouses in villages are roughly equivalent to British 'B&Bs' and riders stay with a family. They are simple but clean, and well maintained with inside plumbing, bathrooms and loos, hot water and central heating. Bathrooms are often shared and may be along a corridor or through the kitchen. Most bathrooms have showers rather than tubs, but are clean with plenty of hot water.
On Sunday and Wednesday evening there is the opportunity to stay at the Count's Castle. There are 5 rooms available, all ensuite, and these are allocated on a first come first serve basis. Additional accommodation is available in the restored cottages which are full of character.
One night is usually spent at the Prince of Wales's property in Zalánpatak, and two nights at Miklósvár in houses which the host has re-built with great care and attention to detail. Each room is different, with lovely antique furniture and wood burning stoves that are typical of the region, and lit in winter. Rooms are twin-bedded. Single sulliments are available but cannot be guaranteed. When moving accommodation at night on the circuit outings, luggage is transported by back-up vehicle.
Food in rural Romania is generally organic and full of flavour. Guests will have the chance to sample some traditional dishes, although the choice can be limited by what vegetables, etc are in season. Breakfast is eaten at the guesthouse or inn, and is typically a selection of eggs, cheese or cold meats, bread or toast and butter and jam, with perhaps a choice of tea or coffee to drink and milk (which is often straight from the cow!). Tea (chai) in Romania is not often the black, PG Tips style - but more commonly green or herbal; riders may want to take their own tea bags. Lunch is generally a very simple picnic out-riding - ham or cheese sandwiches with fruit for pudding. Dinner is eaten at the guesthouse or hotel, and is often a soup (a strong point of Romanian cooking!), then a main course which will sometimes include a regional specialty such as wild boar or venison stew, peppers stuffed with meat or vegetables, different types of sausage, seasoned minced-meat wrapped in cabbage or vine leaves or perhaps spicy meatballs, followed by a cold pudding or fruit. Food is locally grown and fresh, however usually only one menu is prepared at the guesthouses and there is limited choice. Vegetarians can be catered for with advanced notice. Dinner includes mineral water. Drinks at bars are not included. Mineral water is carried in saddle bags while riding and for lunch (soft drinks and alcohol are not usually available). You will also be offered 'Köményes', the local caraway seed brandy quite regularly - be warned that it can be very strong! (It is perfectly acceptable to decline!)
Vegetarian or other dietary requirements within reason can be accommodated with advance notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests before booking.
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
Passport and Visa 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 should you need a visa.
In the UK the British Foreign Office gives advice: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/romania
In the US: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Romania.html
In Canada: https://travel.gc.ca/destinations/romania
In spring and early summer the ground is scattered with wild flowers; in August and September the hay fields are harvested and the countryside is busy with horse drawn carts; later in September and in October the forests are full of colour with the changing leaves. Average daytime temperatures between April and October are roughly as follows - April 11°C; May 16°C; June 19°C; July 21°C; August 21°C; September 18°C; October 13°C - though it may be about 5 degrees hotter at midday and about 5 degrees colder at nightfall. Rain is possible at any time so you need to be prepared for this.
COVID: Be sure to check the latest COVID regulations for travelling in any country you visit.
You should always bring any regular prescription drugs you may need with you.
Rabies is endemic in Romania as in many Eastern European countries, so do not approach any strange animals, especially stray dogs. See your doctor for advice.
If you need to contact the emergency services in Romania call 112
Please refer to your country’s latest health guideline for travel in Romania and contact your own GP for up to date advice on vaccinations and prophylaxis prior to travel.
In Romania the supply voltage is 230V. If the appliance or its power supply are not dual voltage rated, the single voltage appliance will have to be used alongside a voltage transformer or converter to allow the appliance to work safely and properly (unless the appliance operates at 230V).
Recharge facilities for digital cameras are available at the guest houses en route. There is mobile telephone reception in and around most villages.
We have put together a suggested packing list for your trip. This should be used as a guideline as requirements may very according to your programme and preferences.
• Riding Helmet - we strongly recommend that you wear a properly fitted riding helmet of the current standard which is PAS015 or BSEN1384.
• Jodhpurs - jodhpurs, breeches or other comfortable trousers (jeans may rub and can also be quite hot)
• Riding Boots - it is important to have correct shoes or boots for horse riding. Jodhpur or ankle boots with a rubber sole are recommended but sturdy shoes with a definite heel are acceptable (such as walking boots)
• Half Chaps - these are great when worn with ankle boots and help prevent the stirrup leathers rubbing against your legs
• T-shirts and long-sleeved shirts
• Warm layers - At times the evening temperature drops significantly
• Casual Clothes - for when out of the saddle
• Water Bottle - it's very important to drink a lot of water when it's hot, especially when doing physical activities
• Raincoat - it is always a wise idea to pack a waterproof/ windproof jacket!
• Personal Items - toiletries, any medicines you require and please be sure to take inset repellent and plenty of sun cream
• Camera and Spare Batteries/Charger - an absolute must! It is also a good idea to take a camera case you can strap around your waist or onto a belt for whilst you are riding
• A copy of your passport
• Bathing suit and towel (see Further Details for swimming info)
Set dates available between April and October. Private departures and larger private groups on request. Winter programmes can also be arranged on request.
2024: 7, 21 Apr; 5*, 19* May; 2*(FULL), 16*, 30* June; 14, 28 Jul; 11, 25 Aug; 8, 22 (FULL)Sept; 6, 20 Oct.
Single rooms cannot be guaranteed and guests must be willing to share. A supplement will be applied to single room when available, payable on site (€30 per room per night). This also applies if no sharer is available for a room.
|Riding days||Product item description||£|
|2023 Intensive Programme||7d/6n||5||double pp||1,215|
|2023 Intensive Programme||7d/6n||5||non-rider||809|
|2023 May & June Intensive Programme||7d/6n||5||double pp||1,455|
|2023 May & June Intensive Programme||7d/6n||5||non-rider||809|
|2024 Low Season||7d/6n||5||double pp||1,325|
|Riding days||Product item description||€|
|2023 Intensive Programme||7d/6n||5||double pp||1,379|
|2023 Intensive Programme||7d/6n||5||non-rider||919|
|2023 May & June Intensive Programme||7d/6n||5||double pp||1,649|
|2023 May & June Intensive Programme||7d/6n||5||non-rider||919|
|2024 Low Season||7d/6n||5||double pp||1,499|
|Riding days||Product item description||US $|
|2023 Intensive Programme||7d/6n||5||double pp||1,605|
|2023 Intensive Programme||7d/6n||5||non-rider||1,029|
|2023 May & June Intensive Programme||7d/6n||5||double pp||1,919|
|2023 May & June Intensive Programme||7d/6n||5||non-rider||1,029|
|2024 Low Season||7d/6n||5||double pp||1,745|
|Riding days||Product item description||SEK|
|2023 Intensive Programme||7d/6n||5||double pp||16,169|
|2023 Intensive Programme||7d/6n||5||non-rider||10,645|
|2023 May & June Intensive Programme||7d/6n||5||double pp||19,109|
|2023 May & June Intensive Programme||7d/6n||5||non-rider||10,645|
|2024 Low Season||7d/6n||5||double pp||17,825|
There are many excellent books on the rich, colourful and often turbulent nature of Romanian history. Outside Romania, Eugène Ionesco and Emil Cioran represented the national spirit at the highest level. (Eugène Ionesco is one of the foremost playwrights of the Theatre of the Absurd. Beyond ridiculing the most banal situations, Ionesco's plays depict in a tangible way the solitude of humans and the insignificance of one's existence, while Cioran was a brilliant writer and philosopher)
For an excellent selection of equestrian travel and adventure books visit www.horsetravelbooks.com (part of the Long Rider’s Guild)
The estate offers wildlife and nature tours as well as hiking trips. This would be organised in addition to the riding and would incur an extra cost.
On a Friday, usually you can do the Brasov tour to the Black Church. This is a large 500 year old important Gothic church. There is also the UNESCO Viscri tour on a Tuesday. This is a beautiful Saxon village and it is the longest tour as after Viscri you visit the town of Sighisoara.
Please ask for details.
There are some bathing opportunities during the trail riders can take advantage of:
- Sunday & Wednesday - enjoy muscle soak in wood-fired salt water hot tubs.
- Tuesday/Kisbacon – small outdoor public pool with cold water
- Thursday/at the picnic place there is a public lake where you can swim
- Friday/at Zalanpatak where the daily picnic takes place – small outdoor public pool with cold water
The outdoor swimming possibility is valid only from May till September when the weather is warm. The Malnas Spa (which is indoor) can be used in autumn & spring time too).
Please take swimming suits with you and a towel too. Let us know in advance if you want to use the bath on Monday, as at Malnasfurdo the spa opens especially for you and they need a minimum number to do so.
There are more bears, wolves and lynx in Romania than anywhere else in Europe west of Russia! Almost 60% of Europe’s bear population (6000 animals) can be found just in Romania. In addition there are around 3500 wolves and 1500 lynx, as well as greater numbers of deer, stag, wild boar, wildcats, stoats, badgers and foxes. There is a huge variety of bird and reptile life too.
For those of you who like to pick up a few words of the local language please note that Hungarian is more widely spoken due to the fact this area was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire until it was dissolved in 1918.
Romania lies in SE Europe. The Danube flows along the southern border, the Carpathian Mountains and Transylvanian Alps divide the country into three historical regions: Wallachia to the South, Moldavia to the North-East and Transylvania to the North-West. Several large rivers, such as the Mures and the Siret, rise in these mountains whose highest point is Mt Moldoveanu, 2544m above sea level.
From 1946 to 1989 Romania was ruled by the Communist Party, led after 1965 by Nicolae Ceausescu. Ceausescu's regime was known for totalitarian excess and oppression. Ceausescu and his wife Elena were executed on 25th December 1989, as a result of the December Revolution, a revolt against the Communist Dictatorship.
Horse-drawn carts jostle for space against fast cars whose drivers are talking money on mobile phones; farm workers watch Baywatch on satellite in their medieval farmhouses. Romania is clawing itself forward, slowly and surely sloughing off the remnants of the Ceausescu era.
Romania is two hours 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 is +40.