This is an exhilarating trail with varying terrain, covering high peaks leading into deep, wild valleys where eagles and vultures soar above in clear blue skies. The final 2 days of the trail are spent riding the beautiful beaches of the Atlantic Ocean. If the weather allows you may swim with your horse.

The first 4 days of the trail is far from civilisation, which often allows riders to approach herds of wild horses of the Basque country (the Pottok). During this adventure riders will discover the history and the culture of the Pays Basque people.

The trail requires riders to be fit, confident, experienced and able to ride in all paces for up to 7 hours a day. Somethimes the horses will have to be walked over more challenging terrain. The accommodation and organisation are not the best, But the locations and riding are top class and is what people come here for. Be prepared to compromise on other things.
 

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 PK of London on 07/06/2019

Ride Summary
Great to be there again and can’t wait to go back next year
What was your overall impression of the holiday
Overall impression
Unicorn Trails sales staff

Riding tour leader

Additional Comments
Horses and Tack

Additional Comments
Meals

Accommodation

Miscellaneous

Was this trip accurately described to you beforehand?
YES
Please give more details to explain your response:
I knew what to expect in terms of the horses; the mountains were beautiful but the weather was unpredictable
Was there anything you should have known and were not told? NO
Please give more details to explain your response:
What could we do to improve this ride?
How would you rate the difficulty of this ride out of 10 where 1 is very easy and 10 is very advanced?
7
Please explain why you scored it as you did:
The pace was easy but the terrain in the mountains was challenging. You need to be physically able to walk some of the more rocky/downhill bits
Would you recommend Unicorn Trails to your friends?
YES
Please give more details to explain your response:
May we use you as a reference for other people wishing to go on this ride?
YES
Any other comments:
Unicorn comments: Thank you for your feedback. Glad you had a great time! :)

Day 1

Meet at Bordeaux Airport and transfer to Mimizan and on to Saint Etienne de Baïgorry. Overnight in a 3 stars Bed and Breakfast. If arriving early enough the guests will have a chance to explore the city before dinner in a local Basque restaurant (not included)

Day 2

Start today's ride from Saint Jean Pied de Port (or Saint Etienne de Baïgorry) to Banca (dependednt on the weather). Breakfast at 08h00 and departure at 10h00. Visit the famous village of Saint Etienne de Baïgorry on horseback. Today's goal is to reach the summit of Monhoa to enjoy the 360° view on the surroundings. Night in mountain Guest House "Gîte Espila" (or similar).

Day 3 

10.00 Departure. ascend to the summit of the nearby mountain to spend 2 hours riding the ridge between France and Spain offering magnificent view from the Lindus pass stretching for hundreds of kilometers. After enjoying a mountain-top lunch, arrive at the village of Urepel in the Aldudes Valley. Overnight at “hotel Erreguina” (or similar)

Day 4 

10h30 departure on horseback to discover the traditional life of the Basque people, and to see the black and white Kintoa pigs that were saved from extinction just 20 years previously. Midday lunch in a local restaurant before ascending into the Spanish side of the Harguibel mountain and it's virgin forest. Reach Banca at around 18:30h and overnight at the Hotel Erreguina (or similar).

Day 5 

Start the ride at 10am by ascending to and crossing the El Elhorrieta pass. View the “Kromlech“ (prehistoric graves from 22 000 BC). Enjoy the 360 ° view of the French valley, Spain and the ocean. Descent towards the pass of Ispéguy to have lunch at a  typical Spanish restaurant. After lunch, descend via a smugglers path toward the village of Erratzu to cross the picturesque countryside. Load the horses into the trucks for the trip to the coast. Riders transfer by mini-bus will meet them.  20h30 Dinner on the way to Mimizan or at the Guest House. Late check-in at The Guest House of Mimizan (or similar) for the next 3 nights.

Days 6 & 7 

This section of the ride is devoted to enjoying long gallops through the largest forest in Europe and one of the most beautiful beaches of the Aquitaine Coast in France. Depending on tides and the weather, there may be a chance for a sunset and moonlight beach rides Dinners at the Guest House.

Day 8
Depart after breakfast with a morning tour of the city centre if time allows. The transfer will leave Mimizan at around 08:30am, arriving at Bordeaux airport at around 11:30am. Riders should therefore book departure flight after 13:00.

Please note: It may be necessary to start the trail on the Atlantic Coast according to the weather forecast in order to take advantage of the best weather in the mountains.

Transfers
The transfer is arranged from Bordeaux Airport at 14h00 to Saint Jean Pied-de-Port. In order to have enough time to explore Saint Jean Pied-de-Port in the evening, guests should arrive at the airport BEFORE 14h00.
The ride finishes on Saturday night and guests are transferred back to Bordeaux the next morning to arrive at Bordeaux Airport (or Railway Station according to their departure) before 13h00. Flights must be booked to depart after 13h00.
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.

The French - Theodore Zeldin
Bonjour Tristesse - Francoise Sagan
A Year in Provence’ and ‘Toujours Provence - Peter Mayle
Travels with a Donkey Louis Stevensons
A Little Town In France - Henry James

 

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

There are 20 horses and 10 ponies available, mostly Anglo-Arabs and all are fit and responsive. Many come from the family stud farm and their wellbeing is very important to the owners. During the trip riders are expected to take care of their own horses. Riding is usually 6 or 7 hours per day over 30 - 40 km. The terrain is varied and sometimes challenging so riders may be asked to walk by the horses at some points. The horses are surefooted and well able to manage this. Every opportunity to ride at faster paces is taken.


Rider requirements

Confident, fit riders from intermediate standards onwards. Confident at all paces and able to ride 6 to 7 hours each day over varied and sometimes challenging terrain. Walking on foot may be required over some of the challenging terrain.

A smile and a good sense of humour is required! The minimum age for this ride is 18 years.

Weight Limit

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

Accommodation is a variety of 2 and 3 star hotels and the on-site guest house at the riding centre. Lunches are picnics and are relaxed and leisurely, often followed by a short siesta. Lunch and dinner are made from typical food from Pays Basque and prepared by the owners of the accommodation. Please note that during busy periods the rooms may host up to 5 people. Local hotels may be arranged for a supplement if you wish to have a private room - please enquire.


Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.

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.

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/france

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

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

Climate Summary

This area has a more continental climate, which bears some resemblance to that found in west Germany and Switzerland. The high mountain areas have their own distinctive climates with heavier precipitation, much of it snow in winter. Only along the Mediterranean coast and in the adjacent mountain regions is summer generally settles, sunny and warm. Everywhere else in France the weather can be changeable at all times of the year.

Climate Chart

Health

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

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


Please take along sun cream and anti-allergy medicine for possible insect bites.

The emergency phone number in France is 112. If you need to contact other emergency services, call 15 (medical), 17 (police) or 18 (fire).

Health (ride specific)

There are no particular health issues associated with this type of ride.

Electricity

In France 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.

Film and Camera Equipment

There is electricity to charge batteries in the hotels and gites, however we recommend that all necessary equipment is bought with you or purchased upon arrival in France. You should check with your network provider for mobile phone coverage while in France

Packing List

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. Helmets are available at the stables if you do not have your own
• 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
• Sunhat
• Swimwear
• Sunglasses
• Fleece - for cooler weather
• 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 good idea to pack a waterproof/ windproof jacket!
• Personal Items - toiletries, any medicines you require and please be sure to take insect 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

Programmes

This is an 8 day/7 night programme with 6 days riding available on set dates.

Departure Dates

2023: May 7 (FULL); Jun 11, 25*; Sept 3, 17; Oct 1.
(* indicates High Season)

Pricing
No single rooms available (on some or all nights). Riders must be prepared to share with someone of the same sex.

Depending on availability, rooms may be shared by up to 5 guests. If you would like to guarantee a single or double/twin room, supplements apply. Supplements also apply to individual bookings where no other rider is available to share the room.

No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description £
2023 Low season8d/7n6double pp1,495
2023 Low season8d/7n6single supplement205
2023 Low season8d/7n6supplement for group of 3195
2023 Low season8d/7n6supplement for double/twin room68
2023 High Season8d/7n6double pp1,545
2023 High Season8d/7n6single supplement205
2023 High Season8d/7n6supplement for group of 3195
2023 High Season8d/7n6supplement for double/twin room105
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description
2023 Low season8d/7n6double pp1,629
2023 Low season8d/7n6single supplement219
2023 Low season8d/7n6supplement for group of 3209
2023 Low season8d/7n6supplement for double/twin room74
2023 High Season8d/7n6double pp1,679
2023 High Season8d/7n6single supplement219
2023 High Season8d/7n6supplement for group of 3209
2023 High Season8d/7n6supplement for double/twin room109
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description $
2023 Low season8d/7n6double pp1,869
2023 Low season8d/7n6single supplement255
2023 Low season8d/7n6supplement for group of 3245
2023 Low season8d/7n6supplement for double/twin room85
2023 High Season8d/7n6double pp1,929
2023 High Season8d/7n6single supplement255
2023 High Season8d/7n6supplement for group of 3245
2023 High Season8d/7n6supplement for double/twin room129
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description SEK
2023 Low season8d/7n6double pp18,945
2023 Low season8d/7n6single supplement2,569
2023 Low season8d/7n6supplement for group of 32,445
2023 Low season8d/7n6supplement for double/twin room855
2023 High Season8d/7n6double pp19,555
2023 High Season8d/7n6single supplement2,569
2023 High Season8d/7n6supplement for group of 32,445
2023 High Season8d/7n6supplement for double/twin room1,285
Recommended Reading

Theodore Zeldin ‘The French’, Francoise Sagan ‘Bonjour Tristesse’, Peter Mayle ‘A Year in Provence’ and ‘Toujours Provence’, Louis Stevensons ‘Travels with a Donkey’ and Henry James ‘A Little Town In France’. For an excellent selection of equestrian travel and adventure books visit www.horsetravelbooks.com (part of the Long Rider’s Guild).


Other Country Information

The French wrote the book on la vie en rose and gave the world champagne and camembert, de Beauvoir and Debussy, the Tour de France and the Eiffel Tower. It is a country steeped in history. Staggering monasteries and castles dotted all over the country are a reminder of a turbulent and often violent past, especially in the Carcasonne region where the Gnostic Christian organisation the Cathars held fast against a crusade launched in the 11th century by an angry and vengeful Catholic church for over twenty years. Despite their vow of non-violence they had a strong support base, including the Knights Templar, and their name often pops up in the legend of the Holy Grail.

The French character has undoubtedly been influenced by their past, today they are a proud and patriotic people famed for enjoying the finer things in life and displaying a great generosity character in their willingness to share their country with the millions of visitors they receive each year.

Food is very important in French culture, almost puritanical. Families eat dinner together late in the evening and their diet is usually very healthy, packed with home grown fruit and vegetables. You will hardly ever see anyone eating on the street; if you do chances are they're not French!

France is one hour 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 for France is +33.

Travel Summary

Meeting-point (getting there):
Bordeaux Airport at 14:00 Or you can go to Morcenx train station
Transfer:
2023: €100 per person return, payable on-site. The transfer departs Bordeaux airport at 14:00 on the arrival day and arrives back at the airport at around 11:30 on the final day. Riders should make sure their flights arrive with time to clear security before 14:00 and book their flights to depart after 13:00 on the departure day.
Flight Guide:
London to Bordeaux return from around £45 pp
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