Horse riding holiday France
Horseback vacation France
Riding through Mercantour National Park
Riding the Via Alpina
Horse riding holiday near Nice
Horseback vacation near Nice
Trail riding in France
Adventurous horse riding holiday in France
Horse riding in the French Alps
Horse riding in Mercantour
Horseback vacation in French Alps
Horse riding holiday Mercantour
Horse riding in remote France
Horse riding in French mountains
Horseback vacation in /french mountains
Horse riding along the Via Alpina
Mercantour
Horseback vacation in wild France
Mountain horseback trail in France
Riding through the Alps
Horse riding in France

This point-to-point equestrian trail follows the ‘Via Alpine’, an extensive horseback route which stretches from the Mediterranean to the Adriatic Sea, crossing eight regions along the way and following the curving chain of the Alps. This particular horseback trail travels along the section through the Mercantour National Park, from Saint Dalmas le Selvage to Estenc. Pass through traditional villages and hamlets that have stood for centuries in this wild place as you ride up to the reaches of the High Alps. It feels like one has stepped back in time as you discover the heritage of ancient pastoral farming on the mountain slopes, and the scenery is simply stunning.

Accommodation is in a variety of hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs. This horseback ride operates in reverse on alternate dates.

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 II of Ellon on 06/08/2023

Ride Summary
What was your overall impression of the holiday
Phenomenal! Stunning mountains, incredible horses, fantastic host and fabulous company! Loved how our guide progressed the trip each day, each daily route more challenging than the one before but always still achievable! Simply incredible in all ways.
Overall impression
Unicorn Trails sales staff

Riding tour leader

Additional Comments
Our host is a fabulous host and horseman. It was inspiring to watch him with his horses and how they interact with him. He is a fantastic judge of character and matched us perfectly with the horse we needed.
Horses and Tack

Additional Comments
I rode Vasy and loved her; she was kind, considerate and her knowledge of the mountains was immense, absolutely nothing phased her.
Meals

Accommodation

Miscellaneous

Was this trip accurately described to you beforehand?
YES
Please give more details to explain your response:
Accurate description but nothing can prepare you for the terrain the horses can tackle!
Was there anything you should have known and were not told? YES
Please give more details to explain your response:
I travelled with hand luggage but it would have been great to know I could leave my bag at the start to collect on the way back.
What could we do to improve this ride?
Absolutely nothing; it was incredible.
How would you rate the difficulty of this ride out of 10 where 1 is very easy and 10 is very advanced?
5
Please explain why you scored it as you did:
You have to be adventurous and have a head for heights but you also need to be comfortable letting your horse find its own route. Be prepared to mount and dismount on either side as the terrain dictates.
Would you recommend Unicorn Trails to your friends?
YES
Please give more details to explain your response:
Jo was really helpful finding the right holiday for me.
May we use you as a reference for other people wishing to go on this ride?
YES
Any other comments:
You only get an 18 litre banana bag to carry your belongings so I’d recommend only taking flip flops/sliders as evening footwear.
Unicorn comments: Thank you for you comments and so glad you enjoyed your incredible ride :)

Please note below is a sample itinerary and should be treated as guidance.

You will discover the magnificent landscapes of the high mountains of the Southern Alps The route follows the "via Alpina" between the Adriatic and the Mediterranean, linking the 8 countries of the Alpine arc, from Slovenia to the Principality of Monaco.

From the Roya valley to the Ubaye via the Tinée, the Vésubie, the high valley of the Var, alternating high-mountain mineral landscapes, generous mountain pastures, larch forests and high-altitude villages, this combination of wilderness and traditional mountain habitats offers a journey through space - impressive landscapes - and time - heritage and authentic pastoralism.

This itinerarary is not a loop, the departure point is different from the arrival point;  the itinerary can run in both directions. Transfers will be organized for riders. Below itinerary is given as an example, the final itinerary will be sent before departure. 

Day 1 / Transfer
Meeting at 4pm at NICE AIRPORT TERMINAL 2, DEPARTURE LEVEL, GATE A3
Overnight at La bonne Auberge in St Martin Vésubie (or similar)

Day 2 / 6h30 Riding
After breakfast head to the riding center for 9am to meet the horses and start your adventure.  Today, ride to Valdeblore.  Ride through forested valleys, ascend to Col de Barn and follow a ridge trail to Rimpas cowsheds before dismounting for a beautiful descent, 1000m in elevation. During the day stop for a picnic lunch and stay overnight at the Murès Inn in St Dalmas Valdeblore (or similar)
Pace : Walk on the mountain paths, faster paces on the tracks

Day 3 / 7h Riding

After breakfast set of on horseback riding over the mountain paths, crossing the Tinee Valley. Reach the villahe of Roure by noon.  After a picnic lunch enjoy a gentle afternoon ride through the forests to beatiful views of the sea. Arrive in Longon Vally. Overnight 1/2 board at the Robur de Roure hotel (or similar)
Pace : Crossing of the Tinée by steep paths, possibly some canters in the morning.

Day 4 / 8h Riding
After breakfast enjoy a gentle morning riding through the Larch forests, then on through Longon valley which lends itself to trots and canters. Homemade picnic on the trail for lunch then on to mountain trails and then cantering trails to finish the day. Overnight at Domaine de la Pierre in Beuil (or similar)
Pace :Riding at all paces dependant on terrain. 

Day 5 / 7h Riding 
A day of riding mountain paths, a quick detour around the Valner Ski resort before desending towards the beautiful village of Peone. Enjoy a homemade picnic on the trail and overnight stay just outside the village of Peone in a restored farm (or similar)
Pace :Riding at all paces dependant on terrain. 

Day 6 / 7h30 Riding
A day of riding along enchanted forests paths, crossing the rarely used trails of the hamlets of Bouchanieres and Barels. Enjoy a picnic on the trail.  This is a day of changing landscape before arriving at Chez Guislaines aux Tourres. Overnight stay Tourrès at Guislaine's house (or similar).

Day 7 / 6h30 Riding
Today ride the high plateaus of Upper Var, ride across the sheep pastures, several possible routes.  You may get to see the highly trained sheep dogs hard at work.  Enjoy another homemade picnic on the trail and another overnight stay at Tourrès at Guislaine's house (or similar).

Day 8 / Transfer 
Breakfast at Guislaine before transferring to Nice Airport. (included in the price)

NB : The itinerary may be done in reverse.

 

 

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 focus here has always been to allow the horses to live the most natural life possible. The horses are raised in open pasture and they mature in the wild with their compatriots. They are not stabled, nor fenced into small paddocks, but instead, graze and wander free at one with nature.



The horses are a mix of breeds, temperaments and ages, including Merens, Spanish, Portuguese, Arab and Pottoks. There are natural leaders among the group of course, and the young learn from the behaviour of their elders. The horses are trained with simple hackamore bitless bridles. Most saddles are Portuguese military types, there are also some English saddles. During your ride, you will very much ride in a natural way, allowing the horses to follow their own path and pace and with the pack horses loose amongst the ride.



As this is a point to point trail, the horses will be carrying your belongings. A  'banana'  saddle pack of about 18 litres is provided (located at the back of the saddle) for personal belongings (toiletries, change of clothes for the night, etc.).



Please bring a 'Sheet bag' (a kind of single duvet cover -  www.decathlon.fr/browse/_/N-cxmp77/c0-tous-les-sports/c1-camping-bivouac/_/N-cxmp77 ) and not sleeping bags because they won't fit in the 'banana bag', a towel will be useful. Keep your daytime clothes (sunscreen, telephone, etc.) in the horses' saddlebags. Riding hats and half chaps are also available to borrow.



There is between 5 and 8 hours per day of riding/walking. The rides are on rolling country and high alpine terrain. On steep ground, riders will need to dismount and lead their horses, so walking boots are essential as they are more practical than flat soled riding boots. Half chaps and riding hats are provided. A decent weight of jeans or jodphur is recommended. Riders should bring a waterproof coat, as the weather can change very quickly in the mountains. All of the guides are well qualified, speak French, English, Italian and sometimes Spanish and Portuguese. Safety briefings will be given where appropriate.


Rider requirements

Riders of all levels are welcome. A reasonable level of fitness is required, as the rides are full days with 7/8 hours either riding or leading your mount, and with significant ascents/descents (around 2 hours/day walking during descents only). Riders must be able to mount and dismount unaided.

Help to catch, groom and saddle are welcome but not compulsory.

Weight Limit

The weight limit for this ride is 198 lb/90 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.

Accommodation is in hotels, guesthouses, mountain lodges, refuges, hostels, and B&Bs, depending on the route. Private rooms are available for a supplement when possible (hotel or B&B). Guests should be prepared to share rooms and bathroom facilities on this ride. All rooms are gender neutral.



Generous picnics and meals use local and/or organic products. Special dietary needs can also be catered for. Please note that accommodation is not included the night of Day 7, after the ride has finished. This has to be booked separately, although your sales consultant will be able to help you with this.


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.

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

Due to the different altitudes and landscapes covered on this ride the climate can vary quite a lot. Temperatures will be cooler in the mountains and there will be a higher chance of rainfall. The following is based on climate data for Saint-Dalmas-le-Selvage. During the months June, July, August, September and October you will experience pleasant weather with a nice average temperature. Most rainfall (rainy season / monsoon) is seen in October and November. On average, the warmest month is July. On average, the coolest month is January. October is the wettest month. This month should be avoided if you don't like too much rain. July is the driest month.

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).

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.

Mobile, WiFi and charging

Electricity in available most nights to recharge batteries, as well as Wifi. Mobile phone reception is limited.

Packing List

As this is a point to point trail, your horses will be carrying your belongings. You will be provided with a 'banana'  saddle pack (located at the back of the saddle) of about 18 litres where all your personal belongings have to fit (toiletries, change of clothes for the night, etc.). Please bring a 'Sheet bag' (a kind of single duvet cover - https://www.decathlon.fr/drap-de-sac-polyester-gris-id_8382711.html) and not sleeping bags because they won't fit in the 'banana bag', a towel will be useful. You can put your daytime clothes (sunscreen, telephone, etc.) in the horses' saddlebags. Riding hats and half chaps are also available to borrow.

Good quality walking boots with a deep heel - due to the terrain and the need to walk leading the horse at times it is recommended you choose walking boots over riding boots. There is a range of boots available to borrow on site.
Riding helmet - there are a range of sizes available to borrow on site
Jodhpurs, comfortable jeans or thick cloth trousers.
Waterproof clothing - jacket and trousers or slicker
Long-sleeved shirts
Warm jumper/fleece
Sports bra for women
Comfortable clothes for the evenings
Comfortable shoes for the evenings
Swimsuit - a swimming cap is also obligatory for the thermal baths if you visit them. The ride can provide one for you if desired.
Toiletries
Warm night clothes
Towel
Sun cream
Insect repellent
Camera and spare batteries/charger
A knife is not mandatory but useful to cut the bread and cheese during picnics.
A sheet bag (https://www.amazon.com/Cocoon-COCO-01-Cotton-TravelSheet/dp/B001DX803W)
Earplugs are useful for people who need silence to sleep as some night we might sleep in the same rooms

Programmes

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

Departure Dates

2024: 2 - 9 August (FULL), 10 - 17 August (FULL)

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.

Single rooms may not be available on some or all nights. For those nights when a single room is available, supplements will apply. Please enquire for availability at the time of booking if you prefer a single room.

No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description £
2024 8d/7n6double pp1,379
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description
2024 8d/7n6double pp1,599
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description US $
2024 8d/7n6double pp1,835
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description SEK
2024 8d/7n6double pp18,725
Recommended Reading

 Un Sherpa dans le Mercantour - Malou Ravella



Brumes du Mercantour Jean Sicardi



Mercantour Patrick Merienne



La sente étroite au bout des Alpes: Carnets de voyage dans le Mercantour - Caroline Audibert



Dans les brummes du Mercantour - Dominique Marie Rousseau



Theodore Zeldin ‘The French’,



Francoise Sagan ‘Bonjour Tristesse’,



Peter Mayle ‘A Year in Provence’ and ‘Toujours Provence’,



Louis Stevensons ‘Travels with a Donkey’ and



For the equestrian traveller who would like to see what is possible on horseback, visit www.thelongridersguild.com. An excellent source of equestrian travel books is www.horsetravelbooks.com  


Other Activities

On some rides there will be access to hot springs which is included in the price.

Wildlife

There are several species of mountainous goat and antelope including chamois, ibex and mouflon as well as red deer and roe deer that can be spotted in the undergrowth lower down. Marmots, ermine, hares and wild boars, partridges, golden eagles and buzzards, numerous species of butterflies and even Italian wolves can also be found within the National Park

Other Information

This ride is not suitable for non-riding companions.

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 a passion. 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):
Ranch near Saint-Martin Vésubie
Transfer:
2024: Included from Nice Airport or train station. Group transfer pick up on Day 1 is at 4pm and drop off on Day 7 by noon. Private transfer is available for €250 each way. Car hire is also an option.
Flight Guide:
London to Nice(NCE) from £95 pp return
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