This riding holiday in Portugal is set in a region still undiscovered. The so called Blue Coast of Portugal extends for 180 km south of Troia, but unlike the Algarve in the south of the country, this area is not yet a crowded tourist destination. It is quite normal to find almost deserted beaches in the summer and the interior is only used by car drivers passing by to the Algarve. It is a region that is ready to be explored by riders who would like to see an unknown part of traditional Portugal. From Setúbal and 60 km south you will find miles of white sand beaches and small fishing lagoons and villages. In the interior you will explore the Mountain of Cercal with its green hills covered by forests of eucalyptus and cork trees. Magnificent horses and above average acommodation make this ride one of the best in Europe, many return time and again.

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 BG of EDMONTON on 10/06/2016

Ride Summary
Pace was controlled and long breaks with walking. Canters and trotting was interspersed but not too challenging. Not an advanced level of challenge or riding. More intermediate. Very enjoyable with a group of very considerate riders.
What was your overall impression of the holiday

Unicorn Trails sales staff
Professionalism     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Friendliness     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Speed of response     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Efficiency     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Knowledge     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Other(please specify)     (   ) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Riding tour leader
Professionalism     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Horsemanship     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Pacing of Ride     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Concern for Safety     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Leadership     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Friendliness/availability     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Knowledge of local Culture     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Knowledge of local Flora/Fauna     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Concern with Environment     (   ) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (X) N/A
Language skills     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Additional Comments
Really enjoyed the ride. BBQ at lunches was great and Rebecca worked especially hard to keep group satisfied. I was satisfied with my horse.

One suggestion is I found the beach ride quite short. I would have loved to have had a longer morning on the beach or at least more riding on the final day.

We rode on established trails so did not rate concern for environment.
Horses and Tack
Condition of Horses     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Condition of Tack     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Performance of Horses     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Additional Comments
These are trail horses who knew their job and performed very well.
We used army tack which was surprisingly comfortable.
Meals
Meal Quantity     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Meal Quality     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Meal Punctuality     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Accommodation
Camping Equipment     (   ) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (X) N/A
Hotels/Lodges/Inns     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Hygiene standards     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Miscellaneous
Transfer arrangements     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Other office staff     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Other ride staff     (   ) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (X) N/A
Weather     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Was this trip accurately described to you beforehand?
    (   ) NO     (X) YES
Please give more details to explain your response:
I thought there would be more beach riding but was probably an assumption I made based on the name of the ride.


Was there anything you should have known and were not told?     (   ) NO     (X) YES
Please give more details to explain your response:
Meeting group was not on departures level, it is actually at arrivals level.
The Meeting Point is not actually to right of MAIN glass exit doors, it is to the left. I called Miquel to clarify and it worked out but I think directions to meeting point may be improved.
What could we do to improve this ride?
Longer beach ride.
How would you rate the difficulty of this ride out of 10 where 1 is very easy and 10 is very advanced?
7
Please explain why you scored it as you did:
What was described as the longest day was very easy for me.
Pace was controlled and long breaks with walking.
Canters and trotting was interspersed but not too challenging.
Not an advanced level of challenge or riding. More intermediate.
Very enjoyable with a group of very considerate riders.
Would you recommend Unicorn Trails to your friends?
    (   ) NO     (X) YES
Please give more details to explain your response:
VERY helpful and responsive staff.
Thanks Sarah and staff!
May we use you as a reference for other people wishing to go on this ride?
    (   ) NO     (X) YES
Any other comments:

Unicorn comments: Thank you for your feedback. Glad you enjoyed! I will check meeting info now but it does say the sign is to your right, not the actual meeting point :)

Day 1
Meeting at Lisbon's airport and departure to the south at 17:30 in the direction of Stº André (150 kms). We arrive towards the end of the afternoon at the Hotel Casas Verdemar (or similar), a beautifully renovated tavern with individual rooms and cottages around the gardens. There is a pool, fruit trees and plenty of places to relax and enjoy the countryside. Take your meals either on the veranda or inside in the dining room. Dinner and the first night of rest.

Day 2
Today for your first day’s ride you explore the mountains of Cercal. You will ride to the chapel of Nossa Senhora das Neves from where you  have a splendid view of the area you have been riding through in the morning. For lunch, a delicious picnic will be prepared with grilled meats or fish with salad accompanied by fresh bread and local wine. After lunch, return to Verdemar.
Dinner and overnight at Casas Verdemar. This place is built where existed an old tavern used to exist and it has been managed since 1989 by Christine Nijhoff, specialist in restoring of antiques and Nuno Vilas Boas Lebreiro, artist and cook. This talent allows us to taste some familiar meals created with natural products of the region during the dinner in the outdoor terrace. In terms of lodging the Verdemar still offers relaxation in peace and quiet. The bar is built where the old taverna used to be, the balcony is still clad in marble, and the dining room, with fireplace and books, hosts games and Nuno's paintings. The ample and pleasant outdoor spaces, with organic garden, swimming pool, fruit trees, olive trees around and pleasant shades offer rest and entertainment for all.

Day 3
Today after breakfast you set off into the mountains of Cercal, close to the dam of Campilhas where you have lunch. The scenery is varied and interesting and after some trots and canters you return to Verdemar. Relax and enjoy the quiet of a typical ‘monte alentejano’ after a dip in the pool. Overnight in Casas Verdemar.

Day 4
Today we ride through the mountains of Cercal. We will have our usual picnic near the beautiful dam of Campilhas. The afternoon is free to visit Vila Nova de Milfontes, a fishing village close to the sea, with a very nice beach and spectacular views of the ocean. This is a great destination if you like to swim in the open ocean.
Overnight and dinner at Verdermar.

Day 5
Today we ride inland enjoying many canters through eucalyptus and pine forests. After lunch in a shady place in the woods, we continue towards Quinta da Ortiga where you leave your horses before a short transfer of 30 min to Quinta de Malmedra, a modern, luxury rural hotel in the vicinity of Santiago do Cacém where you will have dinner and overnight.

Day 6
Today we ride in the direction of the ocean and reach Hotel Vila Park. After lunch we pass through rice fields we continue in the direction of Melides, an area of great peace and tranquillity. The beach is about 3km away so if you have enough energy left from the day’s ride, you can enjoy a nice swim before dinner. We will stay in Vila Park, a lovely country hotel.
Dinner in a local restaurant and overnight at the hotel.

Day 7
Today you ride to the beach. Between June 1st and September 15th, this ride is at dawn to avoid the holiday makers on the beach. It’s a beautiful ride at first light as the sun rises over the dunes. There is the possibility of a beach canter before reaching a lovely picnic spot in the pine forest where your horses rest while you may swim in the sea and after lunch. After lunch you ride through the dunes, returning to Vila Park. Farewell dinner and overnight.

Day 8 Unfortunately it is time to return and after the breakfast we will travel back to Lisbon and bid farewell to Portugal. Your return flight must depart after 12:00.

Please follow this link for a map of this itinerary: Blue Coast Trail

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 horses are all pure bred Lusitanos. These horses are about 16hh, light boned, warm blooded and responsive. They have a naturally proud head carriage and are well schooled. They are easy to ride and very responsive.


Military saddles well covered with seat savers and sheepskin are utilised on this ride and make for a comfortable ride. The bridles are English. You cover 200Km during the ride along hills, easy going tracks and beaches.

Rider requirements

• Comfortable spending up to six hours a day in the saddle.
• The riding is at all paces depending on riding ability. There are many opportunities to trot, canter and also to gallop.
• Must be over 12 years of age and be capable of controlling a horse at a walk, trot and canter.
• Riders are expected to look after their horse but help is on hand for those who need it.

Weight limit: 188lb (85 kg).

Weight Limit

The weight limit for this ride is 13 st/188 lb/85 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.

There are a wonderful variety of accommodations and meals on this ride as nights are spent in three different locations. The first four nights are in the same hotel. Your accommodation includes a historic pousada, you then enjoy excellent hotels in the heart of the country and near the coastline by the Lagoon of Santo Andre. Each lodging has a different character. The pousadas are Portugal’s traditional manor houses and as well as offering very comfortable, even luxurious, accommodationand give an insight into the history of Portugal. Here your hosts provide an introduction to Portuguese life and have many interesting tales of the culture and history of the Pousada and region. The hotels are very comfortable and well located. All have en suite bathrooms and on many nights there a swimming pool available.


The food on the ride is above average. Dinners start with an aperitif, followed by at least a three course meal. The cuisine is selected to ensure an introduction to many Portuguese specialties. Your hosts usually join you round the table. Lunches are extensive picnics brought to the lunch area by vehicle and eaten at a table. Vegetarians and special dietary requests can be catered for with prior arrangement.

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:

A valid passport is required for travel to Portugal. Visas are not required for U.K. or other European nationals. In the UK the British Foreign Office gives travel advice on
0207 008 0232/0233 or at www.fco.gov.uk
The British Consulate in Lisbon is at Rua de Sao Bernardo 33, 1249 –082, Lisboa. Tel 351 21 392 4040. email: Consular@Lisbon.mail.fco.gov.uk
website: www.uk-embassy.pt

Climate Summary

The best time to take part in the trek is between March and November. The climate is temperate. The average temperatures and rainfall are indicated on the chart.

Climate Chart

Health

No special health precautions are required for visits to Portugal, for further details please see your local doctor.

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.

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 2 pronged adapters. These are available for purchase at most airports and travel shops.

Film and Camera Equipment

There will be an opportunity to recharge digital cameras and video equipment in the evenings with appropriate adaptors.
Good quality film is widely available for purchase as well as batteries (normal, alkaline and lithium).

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.
• 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 waterproof/ windproof jacket!
• 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
• A bum bag or saddlebags (these are not provided)

Programmes

This is an 8 days/7 nights programme with 6 days riding on set dates.

Departure Dates

2018: 9, 16 September
2019: 26 May; 27 June; 8, 15 September

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.
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description £
20188d/7n6double pp1,329
20188d/7n6single supplement305
20188d/7n6third person (child up to 12 yrs) in room1,145
20188d/7n6non-rider sharing809
20188d/7n6small group supplement for group of three335
20188d/7n6small group supplement for group of four135
20198d/7n6double pp1,345
20198d/7n6single supplement489
20198d/7n6third person (child up to 12 yrs) in room1,159
20198d/7n6non-rider sharing799
20198d/7n6small group supplement for group of three335
20198d/7n6small group supplement for group of four135
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description
20188d/7n6double pp1,445
20188d/7n6single supplement329
20188d/7n6third person (child up to 12 yrs) in room1,245
20188d/7n6non-rider sharing879
20188d/7n6small group supplement for group of three359
20188d/7n6small group supplement for group of four145
20198d/7n6double pp1,459
20198d/7n6single supplement529
20198d/7n6third person (child up to 12 yrs) in room1,259
20198d/7n6non-rider sharing869
20198d/7n6small group supplement for group of three365
20198d/7n6small group supplement for group of four149
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description $
20188d/7n6double pp1,679
20188d/7n6single supplement385
20188d/7n6third person (child up to 12 yrs) in room1,449
20188d/7n6non-rider sharing1,025
20188d/7n6small group supplement for group of three419
20188d/7n6small group supplement for group of four169
20198d/7n6double pp1,699
20198d/7n6single supplement619
20198d/7n6third person (child up to 12 yrs) in room1,469
20198d/7n6non-rider sharing1,015
20198d/7n6small group supplement for group of three425
20198d/7n6small group supplement for group of four169
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description SEK
20188d/7n6double pp15,215
20188d/7n6single supplement3,489
20188d/7n6third person (child up to 12 yrs) in room13,129
20188d/7n6non-rider sharing9,275
20188d/7n6small group supplement for group of three3,805
20188d/7n6small group supplement for group of four1,525
20198d/7n6double pp15,405
20198d/7n6single supplement5,595
20198d/7n6third person (child up to 12 yrs) in room13,295
20198d/7n6non-rider sharing9,179
20198d/7n6small group supplement for group of three3,855
20198d/7n6small group supplement for group of four1,539
Recommended Reading

The Portuguese: The Land and its People by Marion Kaplan.

Rose Macaulay's ‘They Went to Portugal’

You could also pack the Landscapes of Portugal series by Brian & Eileen Andersen, which features both car tours and treks in various regions, and the more detailed Walking in Portugal by Bethan Davies and Ben Cole.

For the equestrian traveller who would like to see what is possible on horseback visit www.thelongridersguild.com also a fantastic place to acquire your equestrian travel books is www.horsetravelbooks.com

Other Activities

Cultural, walking and hiking.

Wildlife

It is possible to see wild pigs and foxes. Flora includes forests of Cork and Pine trees, eucalyptus and an abundance of wild flowers.

Other Country Information

The Portuguese have historically been the intrepid explorers of the world. In the 15th Century they discovered the sea route to India, via the Cape of Good Hope. Vasco da Gama reached India in 1498 and Pedro Cabral, trying to reach India, discovered Brazil two years later (1500). Other Portuguese explorers reached the Far East, China and Japan. The first circumnavigation of the globe was led by Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan.

Portugal has a rich seafaring past, superb beach resorts, wistful towns and a landscape wreathed in olive groves, vineyards and wheat fields. Littered with UNESCO World Heritage sites and graced by one of Europe's most relaxed and attractive capitals.

Savouring life slowly is a Portuguese passion, and much of the best is humble - traditional folk festivals; simple, honest food drowning in olive oil; music that pulls at the heart strings, recalling past love and glories; and markets overflowing with fish, fruit and flowers.

Portugal is in the GMT time zone 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 is +351

If you are hiring a car, you will need to know about how to pay any toll fees as these are done automatically and not on the road. This is a new system from January 2012 and the method for how to pay this will change throughout the year. Please check this website for current information: http://www.amoita.com/node/1414

Travel Summary

Meeting-point (getting there):
Lisbon Airport (LIS)
Transfer:
Included from meeting point. Set transfer time on Day 1 is 17:30 (arrival up to 17:00) and flights must be booked to depart no earlier than 12:00 on Day 8. Transfer time is approximately 2 hours
Flight Guide:
London - Lisbon return from £95. Please see "getting there" for flight information
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