This point to point trail follows the ‘Via Alpine’, an extensive route which stretches from the Mediterranean to the Adriatic Sea, crossing 8 countries along the way and following the curving chain of the Alps. This particular 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 you’ve 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 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 JW of Bristol on 25/08/2022
Please note below is a sample itinerary and should be treated as guidance.
This ride perfectly reflects your host's vision of horseback riding: exploration! 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.
D1 / Transfer
D2 / 7h30 Riding
D3 / 7h30 Riding
D4 / 7h Riding
D5 / 7h Riding
D6 / 7h Riding
D7 / Transfer
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.
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.
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.
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. In the Mountain Lodges genders may be mixed.
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 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.
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
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.
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).
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.
Electricity in available most nights to recharge batteries, as well as Wifi. Mobile phone reception is limited.
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
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.
Warm night clothes
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
This programme is available as a 8 day/7 night programme with 6 days riding, 7 day/6 night programme with 5 days riding or 6 day/5 night programme with 4 riding days on set dates.
2023: 17 June, 9; 16 July, 6 Aug; 16 Sept
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.
|Riding days||Product item description||£|
|2023 - 6 nights||7d/6n||5||double pp||1,269|
|2023 - 6 nights||7d/6n||5||single supplement when available per night||55|
|Riding days||Product item description||€|
|2023 - 6 nights||7d/6n||5||double pp||1,399|
|2023 - 6 nights||7d/6n||5||single supplement when available per night||60|
|Riding days||Product item description||$|
|2023 - 6 nights||7d/6n||5||double pp||1,605|
|2023 - 6 nights||7d/6n||5||single supplement when available per night||67|
|Riding days||Product item description||SEK|
|2023 - 6 nights||7d/6n||5||double pp||16,079|
|2023 - 6 nights||7d/6n||5||single supplement when available per night||689|
Novels - Etoile Errante, JM LE Clezio - Un Sherpa dans le Mercantour https://books.google.fr/books/about/Mercantour.html?id=q4nFPAAACAAJ&redir_esc=y&hl=fr
Jean Sicardi Brumes du Mercantour https://books.google.fr/books/about/Les_Brumes_Du_Mercantour. https://www.amazon.co.uk/brumes-du-Mercantour-Jean-Siccardi/dp/2258076404
Mercantour Patrick Merienne: https://www.amazon.com/Mercantour-Alpes-Sud-G-Rando-French/dp/2841822915
Caroline Audibert : La sente étroite au bout des Alpes: Carnets de voyage dans le Mercantour : https://livre.fnac.com/a3792561/Caroline-Audibert-La-sente-etroite-au-bout-des-Alpes
On some rides there will be access to hot springs which is included in the price.
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
This ride is not suitable for non-riding companions.
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.