This is the perfect way to incorporate learning to ride into a general holiday. This programme teaches the new rider the English riding style in a very direct approach. By the end of the course the rider will be able to walk and trot independently, feel secure on and around the horse, tack up their horse and be able to take a slow hack out in the Cretan countryside. Many are able to learn to canter during this week too. The week finishes with some hacks out into the beautiful countryside - use your new-found skills to steer your horse past olive groves, watching the birds soaring above and taking in the peaceful nature of all that is around you. There is no better way to discover these delights than on the back of a horse.

Accommodation is in a lovely hotel next to the stables with an infinity swimming pool and stunning views over the Lagada Valley. There are plenty of other activities acessible from the hotel: golf, mountain climbing or paragliding to name but a few. This active holiday combines all the good things of Cretan life; relax on the beach or swim in the pool, visit an ancient site, meet the friendly locals and enjoy the Greek food.

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 MF of Stockholm on 07/07/2017

Ride Summary

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Day 1
Arrival, welcome and evening dinner in the Panorama Restaurant.

Day 2
Your first experiences on horseback are very important. To really understand the horse's movements and what is going on beneath you your first ever lesson will be bareback on the lunge (there will be a vaulting band for you to hold so that you feel more secure). This 30 minute private lesson concentrates on finding balance, the riding position, and how to ride at sitting trot. Depending on how comfortable you feel a few strides of canter may also be experienced in this lesson. Afterwards you have the remainder of the day free to explore the island or just relax by the pool with a cold drink and a good book.

Day 3
Today you will have another 30 minute private lesson on the lunge, this time with the saddle, learning the body's position with stirrups. You will learn how to sit to the trot without holding the saddle, and also begin to learn rising trot (which is much more comfortable than sitting trot once you get the hang of it!). Today you will also have a lesson at the stable on how to look after your horse; you will be taught how to handle them, groom them and tack them up. There's plenty of help at hand and questions are always welcome. It is especially nice, and also very important,  to learn how to interact with your horse when you are not riding - you will learn a lot more and also build up a bond that you do not necessarily get by just jumping on board!

Day 4
We will all meet at the stables today to prepare our horses ourselves, using the techniques we learned yesterday in our horse management lesson. Help will be at hand for whoever needs it and once our horses are all groomed and tacked up we will have a 1hr group lesson and for the first time you will ride independently - an amazing feeling. Having learnt how to hold the reins you must now learn how to steer your horse in the arena, and also how to stop! You will now be able to practice what you have learnt on the lunge about how to use your legs in the correct way. After the lesson we take the horses back to the stable, untack them and sponge them down. Your legs may be aching but the sense of achievement is huge.

Day 5
Today we prepare our horses more confidently and take part in another 1hr group lesson to reconfirm what we have learnt and to practice both our sitting and rising trot. We will also play some games during this lesson - they are not only fun, but they will improve your skills without you even realising and you will learn a great deal about directing your horse and controlling its speed.

Day 6
Today is an exciting day - we take our first careful steps out into the Cretan countryside for a 1.5hr hack, riding at both walk and trot, and sometimes even a short canter. The terrain is predominantly dirt track and easy going. Children under 12 will continue to ride in the arena, encouraging their new-found skills in a more contained environment, with either a 1hr group lesson or a 30 minute private lesson.  

Day 7
After greeting our horses and preparing them for the ride we'll take another hack out today, this time with some longer trots so we can concentrate on our rising and feel everything we have learnt coming together. Then at walk we have the opportunity to admire the dramatic, unspoilt landscape of rural Crete; look down over the forests of olive trees and watch the birds soaring high over our heads. Again, children under 12 will continue riding in the arena, perhaps having a group lesson with games, or a private lesson if they prefer. When we all return, we say a sad goodbye to our trusty steeds who have taught us so much over the week, and we all reflect on the achievements of the week over a delicious farewell dinner.

Day 8
Departure after breakfast.

Fun Week for Children
Mounted games, vaulting, riding to music, grooming, bareback riding and water games. This programme is only for children aged 8-12 years of age. Children can join this riding without parents/guardian however, they must be accompanied overnight in the hotel. The progamme includes 6 days riding, each day has either half and hour private lunge lesson or an hour group lesson depending on experience and ability.
Children can help with brushing and feeding the horses. Programme runs in the cool early morning hours. Children over 12 years old can book on adult riding programmes.

 

ACCOMMODATION

The accommodation is in a small hotel with

• 12 large and comfortable rooms
• a restaurant with panoramic view
• a bar with Mediterranean terrace & free wifi
• a large swimming pool, unheated, open all year
• its own equestrian centre

The estate is 3,5 hectare and located in the countryside near of the village Avdou, in the province of Heraklion, on the island of Crete in Greece. Avdou is situated 9 miles from the sea and the lively holiday centre Chersonissos. Here you can find all the modern facilities you might need e.g. banks; a private medical centre, water sports and souvenir shops. In the Bay of Chersonissos there are several small sandy beaches. The wide sandy beach lies on the west side of Chersonissos is reachable by bike, scooter or car. The beaches are child friendly and some have coast guards.

 
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.

Winds of Crete - David MacNeill Doren
The Chania Town News - Douglas Bullis 
Last Temptation and Zorba The Greek - Nikos Kazantzakis
The King Must Die and The Bull From The Sea - Mary Renault

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 horses suitable for complete beginners and novices - schoolmasters that will inspire trust. The stable has two Arabs, one Berber, two Thoroughbreds, four Dutch warm bloods, four Greek warm bloods, and one Hanoverian for the guide. For the children there is a Welsh pony (section B). Their sizes vary from 14hh to 16hh. The riding style is English and the horses are generally ridden with a relaxed, long rein. The pace of the riding is dictated by the terrain, steady on steep mountainous areas, faster on the flat. Due to the small character of the stables, with a maximum of 10 riders a week, your hosts are able to maintain a close and personal contact with their guests. The stables are built with natural stone like the hotel but above all they are designed to be horse friendly to be as close as possible to the physical needs of horses. The facilities include: - 14 stables with connected behind turnout paddocks giving the horses themselves the choice to go inside or outside. - Outdoor arena, 42 x 20m with an all-weather proof floor and a small tribune. - Outdoor arena, 15 x 12m, for lunging. - Tack room - A horse shower - Bathroom/changing-room and toilets for the guests Space, outside air and contact with other horses that is what gives our horses’ joy, health and peace! That is why not only do the horses enjoy a large stable with an open turnout paddock but they also have the possibility for social contact. Most of the horses are stabled in pairs in 1 large stable of 6, 20 x 3, 20 m. The roof all around is open giving the horses a constant flow of fresh air.

Rider requirements

This ride is for complete beginners. Children are also welcome, the minimum riding age is 5 years.

Weight Limit

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

The base hotel is well suited to its surrounding as it is built with real natural stone collected from the land it stands on, giving it a robust and natural look. The hotel has a neo-classic style creating a romantic atmosphere for long summer nights. The main building houses the reception and a cafe with a large balcony where you can enjoy your Greek coffee or Rakí. In the main building you also find the restaurant with its large terrace overlooking the outside menage and the valley. The restaurant serves Cretan cuisine which is famous for being healthy with its use of olive oil. The olive oil is made from olives from the estate. The restaurant serves fresh home cooked food with organically grown vegetables and fruit from its own gardens and makes use of local products from nearby farmers. The 12 hotel rooms are grouped into 2 bungalows each housing 6 rooms. The bungalows lay quietly, separate from the main activities. The rooms are large and comfortable and all have a tremendous view over the valley. Each room has a large bathroom with bathtub. The rooms have central heating and air conditioning (both included in the price), a fridge, a flat screen tv with international channels, a hairdryer, a large glass door of 2m and a private balcony or terrace. Most rooms are equipped with a wood stove (the wood is not included in the price). Next to the main building lies the naturally formed large swimming pool (unheated and open all year) of 100 m2 (130 – 160 m. deep) with a separate, lower situated, children’s pool of 11m2 (40 cm deep). The sun beds are free to use. There is a free WIFI internet connection in the main building and on the terrace. Check-in at the hotel is all day but please be aware that your room will be ready from 14:00. On departure day, guests are required to vacate their room by 10:30, however they are welcome to spend the day at the hotel until their flight home. The price of the holiday includes all meals from dinner on Day 1 to breakfast on Day 8, however meals outside of this time can be purchased on-site from the restaurant. You can expect a continental breakfast with coffee, tea or hot chocolate, fresh bread, butter, jams, cheese, ham and orange juice. Picnic lunches are prepared by your hosts for you to take along in your saddle bags each day. It is recommended you bring a water bottle to take with you. Dinner includes a starter, main dish and a salad. Vegetarians can be catered for with advance notice, any other dietary requirements need to be checked before booking.

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 Embassy is at 1 Ploutarchou Street, 106 75 Athens. Tel: (30) 210 727 2600 Email: information.athens@fco.gov.uk.

The Greek Embassy in the U.K is at 1A Holland Park, London W11 3TP. Telephone: (020) 7229 3850. Email: consulategeneral@greekembassy.org.uk.

Climate Summary

Crete has 300 days of sunshine a year and very mild winters and hot summers. Be prepared for cold and snow in the mountains in the winter time although this is unlikely.

Climate Chart

Health

No special health precautions are required for visits to Greece, 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

Health (ride specific)

No specific health requirements - just bring plenty of suncream!

Electricity

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

Good quality film is widely available for purchase as well as batteries (normal, alkaline and lithium). WiFi is available thoughout the main building and there is a computer and printer available for guest use.

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
• Sunglasses
• Fleece - Although the weather is generally very warm, the evenings can be a bit cooler
• 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 light waterproof/ windproof jacket and also light waterproof trousers in the winter!
• 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
• Swimwear

Programmes

This ride takes place weekly throughout the year except when the Guided Lassithi Trail is running and offers 8 days / 7 nights / 6 days riding.

Departure Dates

2019: Available throughout the year except 15 Jan to 15 Feb and when Guided Lasithi Trail is running (High Season: 17 March - 3 November and 15 Dec - 8 January 2020).
2020: Available throughout the year except 13 Jan to 14 Feb and when Guided Lasithi Trail is running (High Season: 22 March - 1 November and 14 December - 10 January 2021).
Hotel and Stables closed 13 Jan - 14 Feb 2020

Pricing
Single supplement must be paid if booking alone.


No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description £
2019 Low Season8d/7n6double pp665
2019 Low Season8d/7n6single supplement159
2019 Low Season8d/7n6non-rider475
2019 Low Season8d/7n6Child 8-12 riding 'Fun Week' (sharing with 2 adults)359
2019 Low Season8d/7n6luxury room upgrade159
2019 Low Season8d/7n6non riding children 4-7 years185
2019 Low Season8d/7n6non riding children 8-11 years225
2019 High Season8d/7n6double pp729
2019 High Season8d/7n6single supplement159
2019 High Season8d/7n6non-rider539
2019 High Season8d/7n6Child 8-12 riding 'Fun Week' (sharing with 2 adults)419
2019 High Season8d/7n6luxury room upgrade159
2019 High Season8d/7n6non riding children 4-7 years249
2019 High Season8d/7n6non riding children 8-11 years285
2020 Low Season8d/7n6double pp705
2020 Low Season8d/7n6single supplement189
2020 Low Season8d/7n6non-rider509
2020 Low Season8d/7n6Child 8-12 riding 'Fun Week' (sharing with 2 adults)389
2020 Low Season8d/7n6luxury room upgrade189
2020 Low Season8d/7n6non riding children 4-7 years225
2020 Low Season8d/7n6non riding children 8-11 years255
2020 High Season8d/7n6double pp769
2020 High Season8d/7n6single supplement189
2020 High Season8d/7n6non-rider569
2020 High Season8d/7n6Child 8-12 riding 'Fun Week' (sharing with 2 adults)455
2020 High Season8d/7n6luxury room upgrade189
2020 High Season8d/7n6non riding children 4-7 years285
2020 High Season8d/7n6non riding children 8-11 years319
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description
2019 Low Season8d/7n6double pp735
2019 Low Season8d/7n6single supplement175
2019 Low Season8d/7n6non-rider525
2019 Low Season8d/7n6Child 8-12 riding 'Fun Week' (sharing with 2 adults)395
2019 Low Season8d/7n6luxury room upgrade175
2019 Low Season8d/7n6non riding children 4-7 years205
2019 Low Season8d/7n6non riding children 8-11 years245
2019 High Season8d/7n6double pp805
2019 High Season8d/7n6single supplement175
2019 High Season8d/7n6non-rider595
2019 High Season8d/7n6Child 8-12 riding 'Fun Week' (sharing with 2 adults)465
2019 High Season8d/7n6luxury room upgrade175
2019 High Season8d/7n6non riding children 4-7 years275
2019 High Season8d/7n6non riding children 8-11 years315
2020 Low Season8d/7n6double pp779
2020 Low Season8d/7n6single supplement209
2020 Low Season8d/7n6non-rider559
2020 Low Season8d/7n6Child 8-12 riding 'Fun Week' (sharing with 2 adults)429
2020 Low Season8d/7n6luxury room upgrade209
2020 Low Season8d/7n6non riding children 4-7 years245
2020 Low Season8d/7n6non riding children 8-11 years279
2020 High Season8d/7n6double pp849
2020 High Season8d/7n6single supplement209
2020 High Season8d/7n6non-rider629
2020 High Season8d/7n6Child 8-12 riding 'Fun Week' (sharing with 2 adults)499
2020 High Season8d/7n6luxury room upgrade209
2020 High Season8d/7n6non riding children 4-7 years315
2020 High Season8d/7n6non riding children 8-11 years349
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description $
2019 Low Season8d/7n6double pp869
2019 Low Season8d/7n6single supplement209
2019 Low Season8d/7n6non-rider619
2019 Low Season8d/7n6Child 8-12 riding 'Fun Week' (sharing with 2 adults)465
2019 Low Season8d/7n6luxury room upgrade209
2019 Low Season8d/7n6non riding children 4-7 years245
2019 Low Season8d/7n6non riding children 8-11 years289
2019 High Season8d/7n6double pp949
2019 High Season8d/7n6single supplement209
2019 High Season8d/7n6non-rider705
2019 High Season8d/7n6Child 8-12 riding 'Fun Week' (sharing with 2 adults)549
2019 High Season8d/7n6luxury room upgrade209
2019 High Season8d/7n6non riding children 4-7 years325
2019 High Season8d/7n6non riding children 8-11 years375
2020 Low Season8d/7n6double pp919
2020 Low Season8d/7n6single supplement249
2020 Low Season8d/7n6non-rider659
2020 Low Season8d/7n6Child 8-12 riding 'Fun Week' (sharing with 2 adults)509
2020 Low Season8d/7n6luxury room upgrade249
2020 Low Season8d/7n6non riding children 4-7 years289
2020 Low Season8d/7n6non riding children 8-11 years329
2020 High Season8d/7n6double pp1,005
2020 High Season8d/7n6single supplement249
2020 High Season8d/7n6non-rider745
2020 High Season8d/7n6Child 8-12 riding 'Fun Week' (sharing with 2 adults)589
2020 High Season8d/7n6luxury room upgrade249
2020 High Season8d/7n6non riding children 4-7 years375
2020 High Season8d/7n6non riding children 8-11 years415
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description SEK
2019 Low Season8d/7n6double pp8,199
2019 Low Season8d/7n6single supplement1,955
2019 Low Season8d/7n6non-rider5,855
2019 Low Season8d/7n6Child 8-12 riding 'Fun Week' (sharing with 2 adults)4,405
2019 Low Season8d/7n6luxury room upgrade1,955
2019 Low Season8d/7n6non riding children 4-7 years2,289
2019 Low Season8d/7n6non riding children 8-11 years2,735
2019 High Season8d/7n6double pp8,979
2019 High Season8d/7n6single supplement1,955
2019 High Season8d/7n6non-rider6,635
2019 High Season8d/7n6Child 8-12 riding 'Fun Week' (sharing with 2 adults)5,185
2019 High Season8d/7n6luxury room upgrade1,955
2019 High Season8d/7n6non riding children 4-7 years3,069
2019 High Season8d/7n6non riding children 8-11 years3,515
2020 Low Season8d/7n6double pp8,699
2020 Low Season8d/7n6single supplement2,345
2020 Low Season8d/7n6non-rider6,245
2020 Low Season8d/7n6Child 8-12 riding 'Fun Week' (sharing with 2 adults)4,795
2020 Low Season8d/7n6luxury room upgrade2,345
2020 Low Season8d/7n6non riding children 4-7 years2,735
2020 Low Season8d/7n6non riding children 8-11 years3,125
2020 High Season8d/7n6double pp9,479
2020 High Season8d/7n6single supplement2,345
2020 High Season8d/7n6non-rider7,025
2020 High Season8d/7n6Child 8-12 riding 'Fun Week' (sharing with 2 adults)5,579
2020 High Season8d/7n6luxury room upgrade2,345
2020 High Season8d/7n6non riding children 4-7 years3,515
2020 High Season8d/7n6non riding children 8-11 years3,905
Recommended Reading

‘Winds of Crete’ by David MacNeill Doren ,Douglas Bullis' The Chania Town News’ , Nikos Kazantzakis, ‘The Last Temptation’ and ‘Zorba the Greek’ and Mary Renault's ‘The King Must Die’ and ‘The Bull from the Sea’. For a broad selection of equestrian travel books, many previously unavailable visit www.HorseTravelBooks.com - inspiring adventure!

Other Activities

In the area are sandy beaches, water sports, an 18 hole golf course, para-gliding, shops and caving; all within 10 miles. From the hotel and stables, there is mountain biking and hiking.

Avdou is situated 9 miles from the sea and the lively holiday centre Chersonissos. Here you can find all the modern facilities you might need e.g. banks; a private medical centre, water sports and souvenir shops. In the Bay of Chersonissos there are several small sandy beaches. The wide sandy beach lies on the west side of Chersonissos reachable by bike, scooter or car. The beaches are child friendly and some have coast guards.

Wildlife

The moment you arrive on the hillside of the country hotel you immediately experience the serene quietness and the tremendous panoramic view. Under you stretches the Lagada Valley with the Apposelemis River crossing through, and above you the red coloured peaks rise out of the Dikti Mountains. Birds of prey, like the Griffon Vulture, glide along these peaks.

The estate is surrounded by a protected Kerm Oak forest and olive groves stretching down to the valley. Various wild life and many birds can be found on the estate along with protected trees, mushrooms and flowers such as the different types of beautiful orchids.

Other Country Information

Greece is located in south-eastern Europe bordering the Aegean Sea, Ionian Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea. Greece shares borders to the east with Turkey and to the north with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Bulgaria and Albania. The climate is temperate, with mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers.

Modern Greece, as an independent national entity, came into being in 1829 after a protracted independence struggle against the Ottoman Empire. Greece has been fighting for territory with Turkey ever since, continuing in their battle over the split island of Cyprus.

Ancient Greece has given the world democracy, the Olympic Games, theatre and a high literary culture through great works by Homer and some of the greatest philosophers such as Aristotle and Plato. However this was not just a world of sobriety and high academia. The Greek god of wine for example, Dionysus, was a hell raiser who encouraged the local townswomen to dance naked through the street in his honour. Hugely debauched festivals were held in his honour and some of that spirit has definitely been passed down through the generations and has found itself still celebrated in the tavernas across the country.

Greece 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 for Greece is +30.


Travel Summary

Meeting-point (getting there):
Heraklion (HER)
Transfer:
Payable on site, available any time. €50 from Heraklion Airport or €55 from Heraklion centre each way per car (1-4pax). Transfer time is approximately 45 minutes.
Flight Guide:
London - Heraklion return from £175 with Easyjet. Please see "getting there" for flight information
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