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 AW of Graz on 12/05/2016
Day 1 (Sunday)
You will be 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 carefully restored in order to preserve their original Transylvanian charm and character and accommodation is in these guesthouses. The guesthouses are situated within spacious gardens, with storks nesting on nearby rooftops
Zalánpatak is a small & remote village, around 25 km far from the stables at Korospatak. The night is spent in a lovely farmhouse, restored by the Count for the Prince of Wales, which is situated in a tiny village surrounded by hills with meadows and forests.
Meet your 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. We leave the villages of Kálnok and Zalán to our right below us down in the valley, meet shepherds and their flocks on the pastures and at the end of the day we descend through the forest to reach Malnas Bai (Málnásfürdő, “Raspberry Baths”), where the riders 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 hours.
Day 3 (Tuesday)
We climb back north-westerly into the deep forests of the Hatod region, where 6 villages share the same woods (hatod = “one sixth”). We travel along a quiet forest track, alongside which bear traces are sometimes to be found. After having ridden around the extinct volcano “Murgo”, we descend on gentle grassy slopes to the Batanii villages (“Big Bacon and Little Bacon”) to reach our accommodation in village houses at lovely “Little Bacon” where we shall have common dinner. The villagers here are known to be especially hospitable and friendly, and before dinner will take pride at showing you their still functioning watermill and traditional looms. Riding time: 4 hours.
Day 4 (Wednesday)
We head northwest through forests and hay meadows, to 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. We descend northwest into the Kormos (“Sooty”) valley, where Romania’s ex-Dictator Ceausescu had his private hunting villa. The river is teeming with trout, the wet meadows have beautiful wild flowers. You will be accommodated in a local private villa and have dinner. Riding time: 3 hours.
Day 5 (Thursday)
We turn south down the Kormos Valley on a long ride along the lower slopes of the hills, passing the villages of Filia/Erdőfüle (“Forest’s Ear”) on endless hay meadows towards the town of Barot. We continue on the slopes offering many a chance for cantering, into the valley of the river Olt to reach Miklósvár, and our guesthouses. Riding time: 5 hours.
Day 6 (Friday)
From Miklósvár, we return to the stables at Kőröspatak, riding through forested hills, crossing valleys and streams, picnic at Prince Charles’s property at Zalánpatak. This trip was very common for many a generation of the Counts family who had to ride often between the two villages, where their two manors are. This part of the region is particularly rich in game. Arriving at Kőröspatak, you will be transfered back to Miklósvár by car for your last night at our guesthouse.
Day 7 (Saturday)
Depart after breakfast, or adding on a few days of relaxation and tours based 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 over night. Next day they ride to Korospatak and can participate in the afternoon in different activities, like swimming with the horses in the lake, or 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.
You will arrive at Miklósvár / Miclosoara after being transferred from the airport/station. The village of Miklosvar was part of the Kalnoky family estate and the old hunting manor is on the edge of the village - now The Museum of Transylvanian Life. It is the oldest village of Szeklerland, documented as soon as AD 1211. The area was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire and became Romanian during the 1st World War. A number of the traditional houses in the village have been carefully restored in order to preserve their original Transylvanian charm and character and accommodation is in these guesthouses. The cottages are situated within spacious gardens, with storks nesting on nearby rooftops.
Today you will discover the estate and its craftsmen who will help you create your own Transylvanian crafts item which you can take back home. Then, the cooks will help you make a traditional Szekler 'Chimney Cake' over an open fire. Your own cake will be served for desert or tea. The local blacksmith will show you how he beats hot iron into shape in the old smithy. The rest of the day will be spent at the renaissance manor which has recently been restored. Discover its interiors which reflect lifestyles of past centuries. Have tea on the southern terrace sheltered by the manor's towers and ancient elm trees, discover the english park or relax at the pond or the formal garden. Meet your guide or Countess Anna Kálnoky to discuss about the horses you will be riding during the tour.
Transfer to the riding centre at Valea Crisului (Sepsikőröspatak, “Round Brook”), 45 min. by car. The ride starts ascending onto a ridge with a good canter, where you are heading west on high pastures with magnificent views stretching to the high Carpathian Range. You will meet shepherds and their flocks on the pastures and at the end of the day you descend into a meandering valley to reach the picturesque village of 'Middle Ajta'. From there, a short journey over the hill will lead you back to Miklósvár. Pre-dinner drinks in the Stone Pub, then dinner in the wine cellar. Riding distance & time: 25km, 6-7 hours.
You leave Miklósvár and head east along forests and pastures, passing through Szárazajta / Aita Seaca (‘Dry’ Ajta village), to ascend the ridge above Zalánpatak valley. Wide views open out on the distant Carpathian mountain range. You descend southeast to the village of Zalánpatak / Valea Zalanului, which was part of the Kálnoky family estate as the region's first 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 you will be accommodated for the next 3 nights. Before dinner, you will have a walk in the evening on the Prince's estate to watch wildlife venturing out onto the meadows at sundown. Riding distance & time: 21km, 4-5+1 hours.
From Zalánpatak, you return to Kőröspatak crossing the hills and brooks. This trip was very common for many a generation of the Kálnoky family who had to ride often between the two villages. It is a medium ride through spectacular surroundings with 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, you will dip the horse's legs in the little stream crossing the village. You will be transferred back to Zalánpatak guesthouse with a stopover at the local spa 'Raspberry Baths' for a refreshing dip in mineral water (bring your swimming kit!). Riding distance & time: 19km, 4 hours.
Relax at the Prince's retreat with the villagers by carving your own walking stick from hazel branches, helping to make hay, discovering the tiny village museum or going to the bear-hide in the evening. It's the perfect place to unwind after 3 days in the saddle!
Departure after breakfast. You can also add a few days of relaxation and discovery based at Count Kálnoky’s Guesthouses in Miklósvár or at the Prince’s retreat. You will experience more about the region by choosing the all inclusive package, with corresponding activities in Miklosvar or Zalanpatak, at the Prince’s retreat.
Please follow this link for a map of the start point of this itinerary: Carpathian Estate Ride
The estate offers wildlife and nature tours as well as hiking trips. 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.
This would be organised in addition to the riding and would incur an extra cost. Please ask for details.
Please note that a single supplement is not charged for single riders, but the ride are unable to guarantee single accommodation and therefore riders must be prepared to share.
Detailed Transfer Information:
Please note that transfers can be to either Miklosvar or Zalanpatak depending on which guesthouses have availability at time of booking.
All transfers are payable locally.
Prices below are per person and valid for 2-3 passengers per transfer, one way. For single transfers (one person in the car) the prices are double/one way. If there are more than 3 persons in the car, there is a 20% discount.
Bucharest Airports 85 Euro per person each way 90 Euro per person each way
Targu Mures Airport 65 Euro per person each way 70 Euro per person each way
Sibiu Airport 75 Euro per person each way 80 Euro per person each way
Brasov Train Station 30 Euro per person each way 35 Euro per person each way
Cluj-Napoka Airport 95 Euro per person each way 100 Euro per person each way
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, 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 you through forest and up and down mountain tracks. There are lots of opportunities for trots and canters each day as much of the riding is across open grassland. There is a little road work each day (some on tar roads) in the vicinity of the villages you pass through, but roads are generally very quiet with little motorised traffic.
To participate in these rides you should have a reasonable amount of previous riding experience. The terrain is varied and you cover 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 to ride so they are well suited to people of intermediate riding ability and above. You should also be reasonably riding fit to take part and we recommend you ride regularly at home before you go to accustom yourself to the hours you will spend in the saddle.
The weight limit for this ride is 14 st/198 lb/90 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.
Accommodation on the ride is quite varied and you will experience life as the locals live in the villages, a typical Transylvanian farmhouse belonging to Prince Charles as well as private villas. Rural guesthouses in villages are roughly equivalent to British 'B&Bs' and you are staying 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.
One night is usually spent at the Prince of Wales's property in Zalánpatak, and two nights at Miklósvár in houses which your host has re-built with great care and attention to detail. Each room is different with lovely antique furniture and woodburning stoves, typical of the region, which are lit in the winter. Rooms are twin bedded and if you would like a single room then this is possible although cannot be guaranteed. When moving accommodation at night on the circuit outings, luggage is transported for you by back up vehicle.
Food in rural Romania is generally organic and full of flavour and you 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 your 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 - so you may want to take your own tea bags. Lunch is generally a very simple picnic out riding - ham or cheese sandwiches with fruit for pudding. Dinner, which is eaten at your guesthouse or hotel, is often soup (a strong point of Romanian cooking!), then a main course which will sometimes include a regional speciality 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 of course be catered for, but please let us know in advance. Dinner includes mineral water, tea or coffee and usually half a bottle of wine or a bottle of beer per person. 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 can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.
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.
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 November, private departures and larger private groups on request. Winter programmes can also be arranged on request.
2018 Intensive: 15, 29 Apr; 13 May; 3, 17 Jun; 1, 15, 29 Jul; 12, 26 Aug; 9, 23 Sept; 7, 21 Oct.
2018 Relaxed: 7, 22 Apr; 6, 20 May; 10, 24 Jun; 8, 22 Jul; 5, 19 Aug; 2, 16 Sept; 30, 14 Oct.
Single rooms cannot be guaranteed and guests must be willing to share. A supplement will be applied when a single room is requested and available.
|Riding days||Product item description||£|
|2018 Relaxed Programme||7d/6n||3||double pp||859|
|2018 Relaxed Programme||7d/6n||3||single supplement per night||35|
|2018 Relaxed Programme||7d/6n||3||non-rider||809|
|2018 Intensive Programme||7d/6n||5||double pp||1,079|
|2018 Intensive Programme||7d/6n||5||extra night||135|
|2018 Intensive Programme||7d/6n||5||non-rider||809|
|2018 Intensive Programme||7d/6n||5||single supplement per night||35|
|Riding days||Product item description||€|
|2018 Relaxed Programme||7d/6n||3||double pp||955|
|2018 Relaxed Programme||7d/6n||3||single supplement per night||38|
|2018 Relaxed Programme||7d/6n||3||non-rider||899|
|2018 Intensive Programme||7d/6n||5||double pp||1,195|
|2018 Intensive Programme||7d/6n||5||extra night||149|
|2018 Intensive Programme||7d/6n||5||non-rider||899|
|2018 Intensive Programme||7d/6n||5||single supplement per night||38|
|Riding days||Product item description||$|
|2018 Relaxed Programme||7d/6n||3||double pp||1,189|
|2018 Relaxed Programme||7d/6n||3||single supplement per night||48|
|2018 Relaxed Programme||7d/6n||3||non-rider||1,119|
|2018 Intensive Programme||7d/6n||5||double pp||1,495|
|2018 Intensive Programme||7d/6n||5||extra night||189|
|2018 Intensive Programme||7d/6n||5||non-rider||1,119|
|2018 Intensive Programme||7d/6n||5||single supplement per night||48|
|Riding days||Product item description||SEK|
|2018 Relaxed Programme||7d/6n||3||double pp||9,549|
|2018 Relaxed Programme||7d/6n||3||single supplement per night||379|
|2018 Relaxed Programme||7d/6n||3||non-rider||8,989|
|2018 Intensive Programme||7d/6n||5||double pp||11,989|
|2018 Intensive Programme||7d/6n||5||extra night||1,499|
|2018 Intensive Programme||7d/6n||5||non-rider||8,989|
|2018 Intensive Programme||7d/6n||5||single supplement per night||379|
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.
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:
- Monday/Malnasfurdo – small indoor spa with mineral water – entrance fee to be paid by the riders on the spot 10 RON/person (around 2-2,5 EUR/person, to be paid in the local currency)
- 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.
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.