Riding over the dunes to the beach along the Dolphin Coast

This beach horse riding holiday in Portugal is located on the Costa Azul, also know as the Blue Coast, and it encompasses the southern stretch of Portugal's west coast. It is as long and beautiful as the Algarve (Portugal's south coast), but while the Algarve is overcrowded with tourists, one finds deserted beaches and pristine countryside all along the west 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 on south 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. Your accommodation for three nights will be in an historic Puosada, then enjoy 2 nights in the heart of the country and a further 2 nights near the coastline by the Lagoon of Santo Andre. Unicorn Trails is delighted to offer this excellent riding holiday in Portugal.

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 KB of Rocky view on 09/11/2021

Ride Summary
What was your overall impression of the holiday
Overall impression
Unicorn Trails sales staff

Riding tour leader

Additional Comments
Horses and Tack

Additional Comments



Was this trip accurately described to you beforehand?
Please give more details to explain your response:
I only say no because I did believe, based on photos of this ride from the unicorn website, that there would be more beach riding.
The itinerary was exact, and I have learned now to base my future rides on that more so than the photos.
Was there anything you should have known and were not told? NO
Please give more details to explain your response:
What could we do to improve this ride?
How would you rate the difficulty of this ride out of 10 where 1 is very easy and 10 is very advanced?
Please explain why you scored it as you did:
I didn't find the ride difficult at all, but there was a rider who only rode two days and then quit because it was too difficult for him.
It is lovely long days in the saddle at walk, trot and canter.
Would you recommend Unicorn Trails to your friends?
Please give more details to explain your response:
May we use you as a reference for other people wishing to go on this ride?
Any other comments:
Thank you for asking for my input
Unicorn comments: Thank you for your feedback. Glad you had a great time! :)

Day 1
Sunday: Arrival in Lisbon and transfer at 17:30 to Herdade das Barradas da Serra (100 km south). This rural house integrates a building of typical ‘alentejana’ architecture and is located in the region of Grândola. It is in a very accessible environment with charming personnel and equipped as a modern hotel. Here you find an elegant atmosphere where you can swim in the pool or relax in the comfortable rooms before the first day on horseback. After dinner you will have your first night in Portugal.

Day 2
Monday: We ride through hilly landscapes to our 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, as our driver usually has something grilled and fresh salads. In the afternoon, rested after the midday pause, we ride through the forests of pines and cork oaks. We reach Quinta de Malmedra with its personal charm and a swimming pool in which you can take your first swim. Spoil yourselves with delicacies during the evening and sleep in very comfortable rooms. 

Day 3
Tuesday: There is a large breakfast to start the day. Today we cross forests of eucalyptus, and hear the cracking under the shoes of your mounts. Near Morgavel's Water Reservoir we stop for a picnic and a relaxing Siesta. Afterwards we have the opportunity for some fast canters on the sandy tracks that cross the Portuguese country. Whilst dinner is being prepared riders can take advantage of the swimming pool. Evening and overnight as the day before.

Day 4
Wednesday: After a plentiful breakfast we start a long ride towards St.Andre. Primarily sandy trails lead us through fields and forests, allowing several fast canters. Your sure-footed horse takes you through the woods of the cork oak forests.We pass the Lagoon of Sto. André and rice fields. In the afternoon, the horses get a rest and we have the opportunity to visit wild dolphins in their natural habitat, in the Sado River near the town of Setubal. We will have a small half an hour transfer to Setubal and after the visit you will return to Moinho Velho, at the edge of the Lagoon of Stº André. Tonight we stay in this beautiful and charming farm house.
Note: Depending on the weather, the program can be changed, being the visit to the Dolphins done in the morning and the riding program in the afternoon. If the sea do not allow the use of the boat (very rarely) we will spend the time visiting the region.

Day 5
Thursday: The course of the morning excursion continues in direction of the beach. We will have long gallops along the beach. Ride through the forests of pines and by the hills of the Atlantic coast. This place gives one 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 sensation of tranquillity. In the afternoon we arrive to Moinho Velho where we can profit a quite space waiting for dinner. Tonight we rest in Moinho Velho.

Day 6
Friday: Today we ride from Melides towards Grândola. Many opportunities for faster riding arise today. Our Lusitanos will carry us safely through forests of pines. Red earth paths alternate with those of sand, you meet herds of cows or sheep. On our return and after having watered our horses, we appreciate a good refreshing swim before the dinner in a local restaurant. Stay at Herdade das Barradas da Serra.

Day 7
Saturday: Today the group rides by the Sierra of Grândola through an undulating landscape and picturesque villages, where the noise of your horses shoes attract the curious inhabitants of the village out of their houses. As usual, we make a pause for the last picnic of the trail. The horses and the riders take a nap after lunch and then we proceed to forests of cork oaks. Dinner and overnight as on the previous night.

Day 8
Sunday: Transfer back to Lisbon after breakfast. Departure flights must be booked no earlier than 12:00.

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 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. 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, accommodation, give an insight into the history of Portugal. Here your hosts can 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 nights 2,3,4 and 5 there is 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.

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.

NB: Be sure to check the COVID status of the country you plan to visit including entry procedures

Passport and Visa 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 should you need a visa.

In the UK the British Foreign Office gives advice: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/portugal

In the US: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Portugal.html

In Canada: https://travel.gc.ca/destinations/portugal

Climate Summary

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

Climate Chart


COVID: Be sure to check the latest COVID regulations for travelling in any country you visit.

You should always bring any regular prescription drugs you may need with you.

If you need to contact the emergency services in Portugal call 112.

Please refer to your country’s latest health guideline for travel in Portugal and contact your own GP for up to date advice on vaccinations and prophylaxis prior to travel.

Health (ride specific)

We do advise taking plenty of sunscreen!


In Portugal the supply voltage is 230V. If the appliance is a single voltage rated appliance, it will need to operate at the same voltage as the supply voltage of the country i.e. 230V. If this is not the case it should be used alongside a voltage transformer or converter to allow the appliance to work safely and properly.

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


This is an 8 night/7 day programme with 6 days riding on set departures from March through to November. Please enquire for private group departures.

Departure Dates

2023: 5 (FULL) Mar; 18 (FULL) Jun; 8 (FULL), 22, 29 Oct.

Single supplement must be paid if booking alone.

No of   
Riding days Product item description £
20228d/7n6double pp1,389
20228d/7n6single supplement459
20228d/7n6non-rider sharing859
20238d/7n6double pp1,429
20238d/7n6single supplement465
20238d/7n6non-rider sharing889
20238d/7n6small group supplement for 3 riders359
20238d/7n6small group supplement for 4 riders145
No of   
Riding days Product item description
20228d/7n6double pp1,579
20228d/7n6single supplement519
20228d/7n6non-rider sharing979
20238d/7n6double pp1,629
20238d/7n6single supplement529
20238d/7n6non-rider sharing1,009
20238d/7n6small group supplement for 3 riders409
20238d/7n6small group supplement for 4 riders165
No of   
Riding days Product item description $
20228d/7n6double pp1,745
20228d/7n6single supplement575
20228d/7n6non-rider sharing1,085
20238d/7n6double pp1,799
20238d/7n6single supplement585
20238d/7n6non-rider sharing1,115
20238d/7n6small group supplement for 3 riders449
20238d/7n6small group supplement for 4 riders179
No of   
Riding days Product item description SEK
20228d/7n6double pp17,469
20228d/7n6single supplement5,749
20228d/7n6non-rider sharing10,839
20238d/7n6double pp18,025
20238d/7n6single supplement5,859
20238d/7n6non-rider sharing11,169
20238d/7n6small group supplement for 3 riders4,505
20238d/7n6small group supplement for 4 riders1,805
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 activities, 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.

Other Country Information

Historically, the Portuguese have 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, quaint towns and a landscape wreathed in olive groves, vineyards and wheat fields. Portugal is dotted 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)
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 1 hour on day 1.
Flight Guide:
London - Lisbon return from £95. Please see "getting there" for flight information
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