Mountains forested with black conifers, green hills, ancient ruins, herds of goats and donkeys, the scent of wild herbs, timeless monasteries, olive trees and vines, delicious food, sandy beaches, pebble or rocks, good sunshine, few tourists, bright starry skies ... that's Kefalonia. It is also the island where Captain Corelli played his mandolin. If you have read the book or seen the movie you will have some understanding of the beauty of this island on the west coast of Greece. This is a perfect island to explore on horseback…
The starting point is a German/ Greek owned riding centre tucked away in the hills on the east side of the island. Here their horses - mainly Italian Haflingers – are housed in an open-plan stable. Guest accommodation is 200 meters from the stables in a small neat apartment complex, or with the guides in their own house in a village away. Both locations have double rooms with private bathroom and balcony and communal living areas. Lunch is at the tavern near the stables May until mid October, otherwise in a tavern in nearby Sami. Car rental is advised if you want to take advantage of the many tourism sites on the island.
Your guide, Connie, is a long standing resident of the island and extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic. She is also an experienced instructor with a professional German qualifications and fluent in English.
The horses also know their jobs perfectly and are much-loved, many bred and born at the farm. They are reliable, energetic and excellent climbers. They have no trouble with the 1,600 meter altitude difference from sea to mountain. They are sure footed in the mountainous terrain; steady school masters when required, but still enthusiastic to break into a good trot, brisk canter or a dip in the sea.
Various packages are available.
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 KW of Southend on 04/09/2016
Your horse riding holiday starts as you arrive in the late afternoon and enjoy venturing into Sami to dine at one of the friendly tavernas.
We start with a 2-3 hour ride near the stable so you are able to acquaint yourself with the horses and the scenery. In the afternoon you can enjoy a swim in the beautiful Ionian sea, go hiking along the goat trails, or just relax with a good book on the terrace.
We do a half - day trip (4 ½ to 5 hours) today. We leave the stable, going to Drogarati Cave, which you can visit if you like. We continue through a big olive plantation to the villages Haliotata and Poulata. We see the old ruins of Liviatata and Old Karavomylos and reach Mellisani Lake. You can visit it. On our way back we go to the beach. Whoever feels like it can swim together with their horses. After that, we return to the stable.
We do a 3 to 3 ½ hour trail - riding on the mountains. We visit Monastery Fanentes and an old ruined village. The view to the islands Lefkada and Ithaka is fantastic. Listen to the peace of the island - the birdsong, the goat bells and the gentle rustle of the breeze through the olive trees. Return to the stable.
We climb up the mountain through a very steep goat trail and come down the other side to another beautiful old village, Mousakata.
Half - day trip. We go on a big river bed up to the mountain through fruit plantations and olive groves. We pass through two old canyons on a donkey-trail to the village Pirgi. Here we take our coffee. After that we pass a high plateau on the foot of Mount Aenos. We enjoy the view and go back to the stable.
You can choose between a trip in the area of the stables or riding-lessons in jumping and dressage. The horses are beautifully schooled, responsive and forward going.
A sad farewell after breakfast, the end of a lovely week exploring Kefalonia on horseback.
For the two-day trail option days 6-7 are as follows:
Day 6 & 7
We depart on our two - day trip in the mountains riding amongst wild goats. We can explore much further than on the day rides this way. We barbecue on a high plateau enjoying the sea view We sleep in a hunter's lodge in bunk beds, or tents just under the stars depending on the weather.
Please note the 2 and 3 day trail itineraries (with riding most of the day) is only possible in April/May and September/October due to the heat in summer.
Evening meals are taken in Sami in the typical Greek taverna's where it can be a bit difficult for vegetarians to find suitable food, particularly out of season. Sami is around 4 miles away from your accommodation and can be reached by taxi or we recommend car hire to fully explore the many possibilities of the island including the many beaches.
The beginners program is tailored to the riders experience. Generally, you start with a lesson or two and then progress to the trails. The instructor is very experienced and she and the horses will look after you well and improve your riding greatly.
It is possible to rent a luxurious 2 bedroom villa in a spectacular location with a swimming pool 5 km from the stables instead of the above accommodation. This is ideal for groups of riders and non riders or those wishing to do less riding. Please enquire for price and packages.
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.
Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis de Bernieres
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.
The horses are well cared for, much loved Haflingers and Haflinger crosses and are responsive, intelligent mounts. They are between 13-15hh. They are sure-footed, have an excellent work ethic and enjoy their work. They are well schooled, good-natured and obedient. There is a choice of English and Western saddles available, and also a couple of trekking saddles. Some hats and half chaps available if you do not have your own. Children must wear hard hats. The pace is dictated both by rider ability and terrain. There are small hilly paths and open Olive groves, goat tracks and wider ground roads suitable for faster riding. The stunning coastline gives an opportunity to swim your horse. Your guide is a highly qualified German Instructor who will help beginners to start riding and enjoy the week as well as offer experienced riders fun, challenging riding. The beginners program is tailored to the riders experience. Generally, you start with a lesson or two and then progress to the trails. The instructor is very experienced and she and the horses will look after you well and improve your riding greatly.
All levels of rider catered for.
The weight limit for this ride is 16 st/220 lb/100 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.
Your accommodation is in Koulourata, 6 km away from Sami, surrounded by olive groves and fruit trees, overlooking the 1628 metre high Mount Ainos. The simple twin rooms are equipped with shower, toilet and central heating for the winter. There is also a communal kitchen, barbecue area, wide garden and a terrace. The accommodation is approximately 1300m away from the stables - this is a short car drive or a scenic 20 minute walk. Breakfast and lunch are included during your stay. Food is plentiful and delicious. Evening meals are often taken in Sami in the typical Greek taverna's, offering traditional Greek fare. It is possible to rent a small villa with a swimming pool 5 km from the stables instead of the above accommodation.
Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.
As in other Greek island groups, the most temperate time in the Ionians is late spring to early summer and autumn - that's Easter to mid-June and September-October. The winter off-season months (November to early April) also have a pleasant temperature but a little more rainfall is likely. July and August can be hot (30C +).
You can drink the tap water in your room.
There is electricity in your rooms so cameras and batteries can be recharged each night. Good quality film is widely available for purchase as well as batteries (normal, alkaline and lithium).
Jodhpurs/riding trousers, long sleeved shirt and T-shirts, Riding Hat, Boots/walking shoes, ½ leg Chaps, Sun hat, Toiletries, Warm Jacket, rain proof coat, Camera, Binoculars, Sun Cream, Swimming Costume, Beach towel, Shorts, Driving licence.
This programme is available all year round, any day start - 8 days / 7 nights / 6 days riding. Shorter stays on request.
All year round, any day start. Trails in April/May or September/October.
You will need to hire a car or scooter so you can get about the island and visit the beaches to try water skiing and scuba diving. Maybe even take a boat trip or perhaps try mountain biking, the area is particularly suited to walking. In the summer there is a bus that goes twice daily into the nearby port of Sami where you will find a variety of restaurants and cafes to sample the local cuisine.
A lot of places are closed out of season and from April onwards most things are opening up - out of season the caves and many tavernas are closed, but you will experience the real Greek life, and the wild scenery is stunningly beautiful in winter - lush and green with an abundance of wildflowers. You can usually still swim in the sea in mid November.
Here you can experience the exhilarating feeling of swimming with your horse in the warm waters of the sea.
Rides are in the morning, arriving back for a late lunch - your main meal. Afternoon is free to snooze and the evening usually spent in a local taverna in Sami, 6km away, dining on mezes (not included in price)
All the rooms are simple twin rooms
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.