Situated just north of Lisbon in the magnificent Natural Park of Aire and Candeeiros Mountains, we find a professional and friendly riding centre offering diverse equestrian activities in a truly unique region.
Based in a beautifully located 4* guesthouse 10 minutes drive from the riding centre you can choose from daily trails in different directions or lessons in jumping or general tuition. The rides take you through scenic mountainous landscapes of volcanic craters, caves, impressive water-plateau springs and interesting limestone formations. There are many historical visits to enjoy too. The trails meander through the hills merging with the original Roman roads passing traditional stone and timber villages.
There are beaches about an hour away.
Accommodation is in a charming guesthouse with swimming pool in a tiny hamlet with beautiful natural surroundings. The area is perfect for hiking, horse riding, cycling or just for enjoying a peaceful environment. All levels of rider can be accommodated although the trail rides are suited to intermediate riders onwards. An upgrade to a 4* cooking and nature hotel is available on request.
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 AS of on 05/06/2018
Please find a sample itinerary for daily trail rides below. Each week can be tailored to suit your requirements.
Arrival. You will be met at Lisbon airport and transferred to your accommodation.
Distance: 35 Km, riding time: 5 hours
The ride will depart at 10am. The trail passes between dry rocky hillocks and fertile valleys where the man-made stone walls divide the small cultivated fields, arriving at Pia da Ovelha, a natural cave where the ancient shepherds took their sheep to drink water. We will have lunch here. In the afternoon we will ride alongside the Roman road which is located in Alqueidão da Serra. It is one of the most remarkable examples of local cultural heritage in this region. Alqueidão is a word of Arab origin that means passage or road. We will arrive back around 5pm for dinner and overnight.
Distance: 22 Km, riding time: 4 hours
This morning we will head to Fórnea, a natural 500m diameter and 250m high amphitheatre, unique in Portugal, and one of the best preserved in Europe. We will also visit Cova da Velha, a cave in the middle of Fórnea slope, only accessible by foot. Visiting time: 25 minutes (optional). After visiting cave we will ride along Charcoal way where we will stop for lunch. We will visit the ancient Porto de Mós thermo-electrical power station, built in the 1930s. It was fuelled by the charcoal mined in Minas da Bezerra and carried to the station by railway. This trail provides astonishing views over the Porto de Mós village and surrounding hills. Dinner and overnight.
Highlights: Fresh Water Springs, Alviela’s source
Distance 25 Km, riding time: 4 hours
After breakfast we will head towards Alviela river spring which lies between the rocky Estremenho Limestone Massif and the sandy Lower Tagus Basin. Its main source is subterranean, but temporary springs are formed in rainy periods. The most important of these is “Olhos de Água” (“eyes of water”), after which the place is named. This spring was Lisbon’s main water supplier from 1880 until very recently. We will return to our accommodation for lunch. Free afternoon.
Distance - 28 Km, riding time: 5 hours
We will ride towards Castelejo, climbing Alvados slope, formed by a tectonic subsidence. Besides the geomorphology, riding across Santo António’s plateau will provide the opportunity to benefit of the richness and variety of its vegetation. As we approach Chainça and Covões Largos the landscape changes and wilderness gives way to manmade loose stone walls, separating tilled grounds. The descent allows the sight of Castelejo; the most important and one of the largest slopes of the limestone massif. The diversity of the landscape - slopes, bushes, olive trees, oaks and urban areas - are hosts to a variety of birds: falcons, quails, beccaficos, finches are common and easy to spot. Dinner and overnight.
Distance 30 Km, riding time: 5 hours
We will ride towards Pia do Urso, a fully preserved traditional village. Its houses are made of stone and timber. It is located at the heart of the Pia do Urso Sensorial Adventure Eco-Park. Visiting time: 60 minutes. After this unique experience we will have lunch at local restaurant and ride further towards Moedas Grotto, a maze of subterranean galleries (about 350m long and 45m deep), full of limestone formations. Visiting time: 25 minutes, price: 6€. Dinner and overnight.
Distance 28 Km, riding time: 5 hours
We will ride through scenic landscape towards Mira Minde Polje; 4000 meters long, 8 meters deep and 1800 meters wide, Mira Minde Polje is one of the largest springs in the area. In winter it fills with water transforming it into a big lake. In summer time it dries up making it possible to ride though. The poljes occur in limestone geology of areas where erosion over geological time has already considerable "damages". Being a fairly soluble rock, limestone creates networks of underground galleries, caves and grottos in between. During winter, when there are longer periods of rain and higher amount of water flow, the lands are filled with water making a large lake, so it has a very unique biodiversity. Dinner and overnight.
Departure after breakfast.
You might be also interested in the National Golega Equestrian Fair held nearby (25 min drive) over 10 days in November. During this time, the usually quiet village with sandy streets transforms into a lively horsey hub, with the best Lusitanos parading in the streets and exhibitions and events everywhere. Every possible space has a horse crammed into it. It is a spectacle like no other in the world and we recommend that every horse lover puts this visit on their bucket list.
Golegã is home to some of Portugal’s most famous stud farms; it is often referred to as the “Capital of Horses”. In the middle of the town, a large riding arena can be found. Every Portuguese person, who has the opportunity, brings his or her horse and t he arena tends to be filled with ridden and driven horses day and night.
Throughout the fair, the town is packed with horses – they are everywhere! The narrow streets of Golegã are also filled with stands, perfect for shopping. Visiting Golegã also gives you a great opportunity to experience Portuguese culture and traditional cuisine. You can also meet many Lusitano breeders in their ‘casettas’ (small cottages), and see them exhibit their horses in the stalls outside. Don’t forget to try out the local drinks which are sold at every corner: Ginga, Agua-Pé and Abafado.
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.
There are 12 riding horses on-site. The horses are mostly Lusitano and Portuguese Sport Horses ranging from around 150-170cm in height. They are well schooled and sure-footed. The tack used is English.
There are indoor and outdoor arenas at the riding centre as well as arena jumps for those who would to take advantage of these facilities.
For the trails riders must have a secure seat at walk, trot and canter. There is a maximum weight limit of 90kg and the minimum age limit is 12 years.
Basic experience over steep/rough terrain is also required. Riders should be prepared for 3 to 5 hours in saddle daily. Riders are encouraged to assist with the care of their horse although this is not essential.
Beginners can be accommodated on this ride with fewer hours riding and lessons.
The weight limit for this ride is 14 st/198 lb/90 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.
You stay in a small, relaxed and intimate 4* B&B with beautiful natural surroundings. The area is perfect for hiking, horse riding, cycling, or for just enjoying a peaceful environment. The rooms are elegant and simple. They are all decorated in different colours and all have a private bathroom, TV and an extra sofa bed. Meals are served in the dining room where a blazing log fire adds warmth on winter evenings. Outside, a terrace overlooks the garden and swimming pool and offers lovely views over the nearby limestone hills. Bicycles can be rented at the hotel, which also has an ATM on-site. An upgrade to a 4* cooking and nature hotel is available on request.
Surprises start first thing in the morning with a wonderful breakfast of fresh chicken eggs, bread homemade in a traditional oven, farm milk and homemade jams.
Lunches are either taken as a picnic on longer riders or will be served back at the accommodation.
Dinners are typical Portuguese style and are often served at the nearby hotel for variation. With contemporary cooking based on Portuguese roots, the cuisine of the chef prides itself on using the best national products, seasonal and organic ingredients from small local suppliers and on promoting sustainability and fair trade.
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
In northern and central regions of Portugal the summers are very warm or hot and the winters are chilly. From autumn to spring there can be quite a bit of rain which, after all, is what makes it so beautiful and green.
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.
No specific requirements. A general good level of fitness is advised.
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.
You will be able to charge your camera/batteries each night at the hotel.
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 - it is a requirement 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
• Swimming costume
• Fleece - Although the weather is generally very warm, the evenings can be a bit cooler especially in winter
• 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 - always a good idea to pack a waterproof/ windproof jacket
• Personal Items - toiletries, any medicines you require and please be sure to take insect 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
Available all year round. Stays are generally Saturday to Saturday but shorter stays can be arranged.
2019: Saturday departures available all year round
Other activities in the area include paragliding, mountain climbing, speleology (the study of caves), mountain biking, paintballing and fishing. At certain times of the year it is possible to join in the mushroom picking or olive oil making. Cooking lessons are available at the nearby "Cooking and Emotional Hotel".
You will be situated right in the heart of the Serras de Aire e Candeeiros Natural Park, in the rural hamlet of Alvados, with its dry stone walls and old oak and olive trees. In autumn it is possible to see the flight of the Golden Eagle, pick delicious mushrooms and hear the call of the Eurasian Eagle Owl. In springtime, you may see some rare orchids or the splendid Broteroi Peony. There is a diversity of fauna, in a total of 204 different species, which 136 are birds, 38 mammals, 17 reptiles and 13 amphibians. These species include wild cat, civet cats, foxes, weasels, badgers, the Bedriagai skink, etc.. Birds are the group that are best represented in this protected area, with more than one hundred species being known to nest there.
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