This Unicorn horse riding holiday in Portugal is set in the most beautiful location. The Costa Azul, also know as the Blue Coast, encompasses the southern stretch of Portugal's west coast. It is remote and unspoilt with deserted beaches and pristine countryside all along the coast, even during the summer months. The area around the mouth of the river Rio Sado is a sanctuary of 57,500 acres. Dolphins play in the mouth of the river. From here go south and you'll find 36 miles of deserted beaches only interrupted by lagoons and little fishing villages. Discover this jewel on the back of a first class Lusitano. Ride from the lush and green coastal mountains of Grandola, overgrown with pine and cork-oak forests, to the inviting beaches of turquoise waters. Simple but comfortable hotels are used and the food is regional.
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 CM of Boston on 19/03/2020
Day 1: Sunday
Arrival at Lisbon Airport. You will be transferred at 17:30 PM to Grândola. Monte das Faias (100 km south) is the local town where you will spend the first night. This rural house integrates several buildings of typical ‘alentejana’ architecture and there you will find a very local ambient where you can enjoy the comfortable rooms to rest from your journey and before the first day on horseback. After dinner you will have your first night of rest in Portugal.
Day 2: Monday
Your trail begins. You will ride through hilly landscapes to your first destination in Santiago do Cacém. After the first few canters, you will notice the Lusitanos' wonderful character and how sure footed they are. A tasty picnic is to follow, your driver usually has something grilled with fresh salads. In the afternoon, rested after the midday break, you will ride through the forests of pines and cork oaks. You will reach the Quinta da Ortiga where the stables for the horses are located, and you will then be transferred to Albergaria D. Nuno, a local hotel with its personal charm and a swimming pool in which you can take your first bathe. Spoil yourself with a delicious dinner in a local restaurant eating typical Portuguese food and sleep in comfortable rooms.
Day 3: Tuesday
There will be a large breakfast to start the day. Today you will cross forests of eucalyptus, and hear the cracking under the shoes of your mounts. Near Morgavel's Water Reservoir you will stop for a picnic and a relaxing Siesta. Afterwards you will have the opportunity for some fast canters on the sandy tracks that cross the Portuguese country. The evening will be as per previous day.
Day 4: Wednesday
After a plentiful breakfast you will start a long ride towards St.Andre. Primarily sandy trails will lead you through fields and forests, allowing several gallops. Surefooted, your horse will take you through the woods of the cork oak forests. In the afternoon, the horses get a rest and you will have the opportunity to visit wild bottlenose dolphins in their natural habitat, in the Sado River near the town of Setubal. You will have a short half an hour transfer to Setubal and after the visit you will return to Moinho Velho, at the edge of the Lagoon of Melides. Tonight you will have dinner at the hotel.
Note: Depending on the weather, the programme can be changed, with the Dolphin visit taken in the morning and the riding programme in the afternoon. If the state of the sea does not allow the use of the boat (very rarely) you will spend the time exploring the region.
Day 5: Thursday
The course of the morning excursion will continue in the direction of the beach. You will enjoy long gallops along the beach, ride through the forests of pines and by the hills of the Atlantic coast, close to the Lagoon of St Andre, on the coast of Alentejo. This place will give you an extraordinary feeling of freedom and rest; quiet water, the flight of the birds above your heads and the green of the pines make it a very special place. In the afternoon you will arrive at the stables of the St. Andre Riding Centre. Tonight you will have dinner at a local restaurant with traditional local food and sleep again in the Hotel Vila Park as the night before.
Day 6: Friday
Today you will ride from St. Andre towards Grândola, with many opportunities for faster riding. Your Lusitano will carry you safely through forests of pines. Red earth paths alternate with those of sand and you will meet herds of cows or sheep. On your arrival and after having watered your horse, you can appreciate a good refreshing shower before dinner in Monte das Faias.
Day 7: Saturday
Today the group will ride by the Sierra of Grândola, through an undulating landscape and picturesque villages, where the noise of your horses shoes will attract the curious inhabitants of the village out of their houses. As usual, you will stop for the last picnic of the trail. Horses and riders will have a rest after lunch before proceeding to forests of cork oaks. Dinner and overnight as on the previous night.
Day 8: Sunday
You will be transferred back to Lisbon after breakfast. Departure flights must be booked no earlier than 12:00.
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. If you need to arrive/depart at different times we can arrange a private transfer on request (additional cost)
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 all pure bred Lusitanos. These horses are about 16hh, light boned and warm blooded. 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 - there is no steep or challenging terrain.
• 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).
The weight limit for this ride is 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. The accommodation is comfortable and traditional, giving an insight into the history of Portugal. Your hosts can provide an introduction to Portuguese life and have many interesting tales of the culture and history of the region. The food on the ride is very good. Dinners start with an aperitif, followed by at least a three course meal. The cuisine features Portuguese specialties. Lunches are extensive picnics brought to the lunch area by vehicle.
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. 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.
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
The best time to take part in the trek is between February and November. The climate is temperate. The average temperatures and rainfall are indicated on the chart.
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.
We do advise taking plenty of sunscreen!
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.
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), although not on the route itself.
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
• 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
This is an 8 day/7 night programme with 6 days riding on set departures from February to November. Please enquire for private departures for groups of 6 or more.
2022: 26* (FULL) Jun; 10* (FULL) Jul; 21* (FULL), 28* (FULL) Aug; 2 (FULL) Oct; 13 Nov.
2023: 12, 26 Feb; 25* Jun; 9* Jul; 20*, 27* Aug; 1, Oct; 12 Nov.
(* denotes High Season)
|Riding days||Product item description||£|
|2022 Low season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,109|
|2022 Low season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||265|
|2022 Low season||8d/7n||6||non-rider sharing||699|
|2022 Low season||8d/7n||6||small group supplement for 3 riders||279|
|2022 Low season||8d/7n||6||small group supplement for 4 riders||115|
|2022 High season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,215|
|2022 High season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||345|
|2022 High season||8d/7n||6||non-rider sharing||745|
|2022 High season||8d/7n||6||small group supplement for 3 riders||305|
|2022 High season||8d/7n||6||small group supplement for 4 riders||125|
|Riding days||Product item description||€|
|2022 Low season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,269|
|2022 Low season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||299|
|2022 Low season||8d/7n||6||non-rider sharing||799|
|2022 Low season||8d/7n||6||small group supplement for 3 riders||319|
|2022 Low season||8d/7n||6||small group supplement for 4 riders||129|
|2022 High season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,389|
|2022 High season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||389|
|2022 High season||8d/7n||6||non-rider sharing||849|
|2022 High season||8d/7n||6||small group supplement for 3 riders||349|
|2022 High season||8d/7n||6||small group supplement for 4 riders||139|
|Riding days||Product item description||$|
|2022 Low season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,419|
|2022 Low season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||335|
|2022 Low season||8d/7n||6||non-rider sharing||895|
|2022 Low season||8d/7n||6||small group supplement for 3 riders||355|
|2022 Low season||8d/7n||6||small group supplement for 4 riders||145|
|2022 High season||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,555|
|2022 High season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||435|
|2022 High season||8d/7n||6||non-rider sharing||949|
|2022 High season||8d/7n||6||small group supplement for 3 riders||389|
|2022 High season||8d/7n||6||small group supplement for 4 riders||155|
|Riding days||Product item description||SEK|
|2022 Low season||8d/7n||6||double pp||13,859|
|2022 Low season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||3,275|
|2022 Low season||8d/7n||6||non-rider sharing||8,729|
|2022 Low season||8d/7n||6||small group supplement for 3 riders||3,465|
|2022 Low season||8d/7n||6||small group supplement for 4 riders||1,385|
|2022 High season||8d/7n||6||double pp||15,165|
|2022 High season||8d/7n||6||single supplement||4,255|
|2022 High season||8d/7n||6||non-rider sharing||9,275|
|2022 High season||8d/7n||6||small group supplement for 3 riders||3,795|
|2022 High season||8d/7n||6||small group supplement for 4 riders||1,519|
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
Cultural, walking and hiking.
It is possible to see wild pigs and foxes. Flora includes forests of Cork and Pine trees, eucalyptus and an abundance of wild flowers.
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