Riding through the mountains
Grazing in the alps
Crossing the French alps
Take part in the ancient tradition of transhumance by joining this 6-day trail through the French and Italian alps, moving horses to their summer grazing. Riding from the sea up into the southern Alps, the trail passes through the lush Italian pastures of the riviera dei fiori (riviera of flowers), famous for its azure waters, alpine and medieval towns. Riders will be able to enjoy the remarkable landscapes of this part of the Italian riviera before reaching the steep pastures of the snow-capped alps. Suitable for fit intermediate riders onwards who like long riding days.

Explore one of Frances' last wildernesses; the Alpes-Maritimes region where alpine mountains plunge down to the Mediterranean. On the lower reaches, the valleys remain covered by ancient terraces, with vine and olive plantations, which then give way to pine tree forests on the higher slopes. Peaks rise majestically up to more than 3000m -- although the region is only an hour away from the French Riviera, the Alpes-Maritimes offers exceptional biodiversity. This week-long trail allows fit riders to experience the nature of this region at its very best.

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Day 1
Arrive at Sainte-Agnes and settle into your hotel before getting a good nights sleep in preparation for an early start in the morning.

Day 2
Departing from the village at 9am, you will ride along the coast with wooded mountains to one side and the sea to the other. Climbing to reach open scrubland, riders will be able to see the panorama of the whole Riviera with Monaco and Nice on the horizon as you cross the border from France into Italy. The first night will be spent in Mortola, a small Italian hamlet overlooking the sea. 6 hrs riding.

Day 3
Border crossed, the trail takes you through formerly deserted and now restored medieval villages: Villatella, Torri and Colla Bassa before you cross the first Italian valley near the village of Airoles. This part of the trail offers far-reaching views towards the Cima Longoria and the dramatic Ligurian coastline. A last climb through the woods takes you on to Rocchetta Nervina, where you will spend the evening. 7hrs riding.

Day 4
The trail continues through Liguria using a mixture of military paths, mule and cow tracks. Riders will break for lunch at the village of Baiardo, before arriving into the mountain town of Pigna where guests will be able to enjoy dinner at a restaurant known through the whole of Liguria for its authentic food. 6hrs riding.

Day 5
On the fourth day, the trail returns to France as riders climb towards the Gola di Gouta plateau, overlooking the sea. The trail continues to the Muratone Pass, before descending into the village of Saorge where you will spend the night. 7hrs riding.

Day 6
Riders will have the option of taking the long trail to La-Baisse-de-St Véran, or if everyone is in good shape, following the sheep path through the Ceva valley. During the afternoon you will cross the Gordolasque river to stay the night near the French mountain village of Belvédère. 7hrs riding.

Day 7
Riders will be able to enjoy a relaxed day in the saddle surrounded by the mountains. This final part of the ride, through highland pastures, will allow riders to see the entire route they have just ridden. 7hrs riding.


Extra night
Currently the Itinerary includes a night accommodation before the start of the tour. This can be changed to a night after as the ride finishes in the late afternoon, or an additional night at the end can be booked on request depending on arrival and departure times. The cost for this in 2019 is approximately €42 half board pp.

Riders must carry everything they need in the provided saddlebags. There is no baggage transfer on this trail although they can leave suitcases etc at the base.

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 companions. They are not stabled, nor fenced into small paddocks, but instead, graze and wander free.

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 horses learn from the behaviour of the more experienced horses. The horses are trained and ridden with simple hackamore bitless bridles. Most saddles are Portuguese military types, there are also some English saddles.

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.

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 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 should be confident at walk, trot and canter over open terrain. A good 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 comfortable hotels, guesthouses and agriturismos. Private rooms are available for a supplement when possible. Guests should be prepared to share rooms and bathroom facilities on this ride. Examples of the standard of accommodation on this ride are:



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 and your travel 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.

Documents - Visa and Consulate Info

Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip. If Visa’s are required the 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 on request.

General information:

Visa are not required for U.K. or other European nationals. In the UK the British Foreign Office gives travel advice on travel insurance, passport and visas, health and vaccinations, legal issues and emergency issues. They can be reached on 0207 008 0232/0233 or at www.fco.gov.uk.

The British Consulate in Paris is at 35 rue de Faubourg St Honore, 75383 Paris Cedex 08. Tel + (33) 1 44 51 31 00. Email: webmaster.paris@fco.gov.uk.

The French Embassy in the U.K can be found at 58 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7JT. Telephone: (020) 7073 1000. Email: presse.londres-amba@diplomatie.fr.

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 Sainte-Agnes. 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 months are January and February. November is the wettest month. This month should be avoided if you don't like too much rain. July is the driest month.

Climate Chart


No special health precautions are required for visits to France, for further details please see your local doctor. We do advise taking plenty of sunscreen!

For up to date information on specific health concerns please contact the Medical Advisors For Travellers Abroad. Their website can be found at www.masta.org.


Voltage is the same as in the UK and most appliances such as battery chargers for videos, hair dryers etc. can be plugged in with appropriate adapters. These are available for purchase at most airports and travel shops.

Film and Camera Equipment

Electricity is available at evening accommodation. 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.
Warm night clothes
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


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

Departure Dates

2019: 21 - 27 September

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

For those nights when a single room is available, a supplement will apply, please enquire at the time of booking.

Recommended Reading

Novels - Etoile Errante, JM LE Clezio Press : - https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2010/mar/20/france-provence-horse-riding - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BDdxT09kqyg&ab_channel=VincentPougnaud - https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2009/aug/29/liguria-mountain-food-holiday-italy


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 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):
2019: From Nice Airport or train station, €50 each way. From Menton train station €25 each way.
Flight Guide:
London to Nice from £91
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