This relaxing horse riding holiday in Portugal is based on a ranch, situated in 12 hectares of good rugged riding country in the beautiful Algarve.

Trails pass through scented macchia, trees and shrubland, over hills and dales and along paths that are only accessible on horseback, by mountain bike or walking. You may not see another soul, meaning you are free to enjoy the magnificent views and the peace of the countryside around you, just horse and rider.

All the horses are schooled in Western style using natural horsemanship, where a closeness and trust is developed between horse and rider. They are kept in a large paddock which runs in front of the accommodation, so your day will begin with a view of grazing horses and the smell of freshly brewed coffee coming from the nearby kitchen.

Many other interesting activities are available should you require them, including trips to the nearby beach. The ranch is situated in ideal countryside for Western riding trails, which is the speciality of the hosts. The Wild West is at the back door - you'll explore it daily from the back of your horse and on return to the ranch in the evenings you can sit around the camp fire and enjoy some drinks relaxing under the beautiful Algarve night skies.

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 Northampton on 03/05/2018

Any other comments:

From first seeing Stephan, a tall lean & mean no nonsense cowboy , complete with stetson, wrangler shirt & jeans at Faro arrivals I knew I was at the right place. The one hour drive to the ranch was very comfy as we got the gauge of each other and I was a touch surprised to chat to a German with such a great sense of humor. Stephan speaks excellent English.

The ranch is just off the motorway but in the middle of nowhere but still in sight of the coast. It is surrounded by very green hills (my trip was in May) that I would spend the next week exploring. I arrived at 9pm to a hearty home made meal from Larna (Stephan’s Partner) and 5 other international guests who mostly German, all spoke English to understand. After the intros and a couple of beers we were all as one with Stephan occasionally interpreting.

The horses are part of family. They are treated as royalty & woe betide anyone that doesn’t act towards them accordingly. I am new to riding and these were just the most fabulous gentle horses, just so responsive to gentle touch they were so easy to ride. No kicking -no whips. You can do as much or as little as u want with the horses so i learnt how to tack up and groom etc attempting it twice a day. If you err in any way Stephan is there to put you right and advise.

The family host you in their home as long lost friends. Nothing is to much trouble. The kitchen is open 24 hrs a day with a hearty healthy home made meal every night. No one goes hungry here. International relations are sealed when the shots come out after the meal. Beer wine & Jack Daniels (Stephan’s tipple) etc is all included.

With his family of 3 kids & Nicole the hired hand (she is far more than that!) the place runs like a well oiled military machine. They are open & working 7 days a week and they all work tirelessly to give you the very best riding and ranch experience.
I think I bluffed my way onto the advanced sessions but the experience was awesome. This is no hack round a field or bridal way , this is the real McCoy up mountain tracks so steep at times we had to dismount and walk, across rivers deep enough to get your boots wet and tracks in undergrowth as thick and tall as a jungle. It was all just bloody amazing. Nice little extra's thrown in as well.

The whole day trail ride was a real experience of 6 hours in the saddle. At mid day we stopped for pizza at the most bizarre place again absolutely in the middle of nowhere. I shall say no more to not spoil the surprise. There were several long canters on this day one lasting over 6 minutes. A truly exciting experience in itself when you are a novice. I have been blown away with the difference between my local English riding stable and this place. I am lucky with flights as live near Luton but this is really excellent value for money just for the 22 hrs of top quality riding you get never mind the sun and a holiday thrown in. The advanced riding is not for the feint hearted or fair weather riders but if u want something a little less challenging you only have to ask. .

The accommodation is basic functional & clean, this is a working ranch/stable/farm not a 5 star hotel. . All the rooms have en-suite and the showers are good and hot. If you are Billy no mates the single supplement is very reasonable. The internet is fine for emails browsing and Netflix. There is G3 for your phone which in my case (O2) comes off your normal tariff. There are bug screens to keep the midges out and plug-in debuggers for the odd midge that gets in. Even though this time of year is not the best for midges I put on Avon dry bug spray every day and only had a couple of bites. No biggy in the overall scheme of things. One of the ladies here was on her 11th year and had already booked next year. Every one bar me had been before. Its the sort of place you just want to come back to. You can book in and depart on any day. Its a rolling programme that works very well, as Stephan susses you out on day one and plans accordingly for you.
On the afternoon before the full day treck the horses rest and a visit to the local sea side resort is organised. There is a good boat trip around the caves and kayaking and the usual sea side attractions with a lovely sandy beach. The perfume here is much cheaper than the duty free shop.
There are no extras and no catches. If you don’t go on the trip you will not need any euros.
Not knowing what to expect I packed far to much. If you wear your boots dont use a helmet and pack light you could do a week with cabin luggage.
I was the only Brit here during my week but felt included all the time. I had a fantastic riding experience holiday.
This is a great place where everyone is passionate about horses. If you are thinking of a riding holiday you have got to visit here.

Unicorn comments: Thank you for your feedback. Glad you had a great time! :)

Day 1
Arrive and transfer to the ranch. This is about an hours drive and you may arrive at anytime. There is no riding today.

Days 2-7
See below for a typical day. Rides go out twice a day and you will ride through the beautiful surrounding countryside. For advanced riders there is one full day ride, following trails for 3 hours through forests and scented Macchia trees to a large impressive Dam. Here you will enjoy a well deserved BBQ at a small Portuguese restaurant for lunch. The 3 hour ride back to the ranch takes you via a different route with the impressive coastline always in view. The afternoon before the full day ride there is no riding - you are free to do what you want on that afternoon, be it swim in the pool, relax in the sun or your hosts would be happy to take you to the beach or nearest town and pick you up again for no extra charge.

Day 8
Departure. After a sad goodbye to your lovely hosts and of course your trusty steed you will be transferred back to Faro. Again, your departure flight may be at any time.

A Typical Day;

8am-9am
Breakfast - choose from an array of food including bread, cheeses, a selection of meat, yoghurt, fruit and fresh soft boiled eggs. A feast to start the day!

9:30am
Meet at the stables, catch your horse from the field and tack up, ready for the off at 10am. On the first riding day you will be introduced to Western tack and shown how to tack up, however there is help available everyday and horses are checked prior to mounting. There is plenty of guidance too for those new to western riding and you are encouraged to take the natural horsemanship approach when around your horse.  

10am - 12:30pm
You will explore the wonderful countryside riding in a different direction every day. Encounter large lakes, home to water turtles, ride through wild lavender and under imposing Eucalyptus trees. Everything is relaxing; the pace is gentle, the reins are long and every now and then experience a 'jog' or a rythmical 'lope' along the tracks.

1pm - 2:30pm
Lunchtime - the lunches are also relaxed, help yourself to whatever you can find in the kitchen, from last nights lovely leftovers to bread, cheeses, meats and fruit. And of course help yourself to a cooling can of something from the fridge!
Next it is siesta time...or you may choose to have a dip in the pool, have a walk or simply relax in the sun with a good book.

2:30pm - 4:30pm
Back at the stables you will prepare your beloved mount for the afternoon ride - again exploring the countryside and taking in the wonderful views to the coast and out to sea. It is strange to see the bustling town of Portimao in the distance while you are sat on a horse at perfect peace in the hills above.

5pm
Back at the stables you untack your horse and give him the final groom of the day, before slipping him a few tasty treats to say thank you. Now there is free time to shower and do whatever you like - sit around the large outside dining table, beer in hand, and talk about the days events.

7:30pm
Dinner is served! Expect typical German dishes such as Schnitzel, stews and roast meat and help yourself to some fruit or a yoghurt for dessert. Again, drinks are on tap, be it wine, beer, cider or soft drinks. Your host Stephan also makes an excellent cocktail - Caprihinas; a lethal blend of rum, ice and freshly squeezed limes!

In the summertime the lunch break runs from 1pm-3:30pm and in the wintertime it runs from 1pm-2:30pm due to the weather and daylight hours.

 

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

All the horses are schooled in western riding on the Ranch, where closeness and trust is developed between horse and rider. Safety is of the utmost importance and this can only be offered this if we can trust our horses. The ranch has developed their own method through years of experience based on Natural Horsemanship.



The horses are first trained to recognise body language, the horse is then walked without rider behind the more experienced horses so they are never pressured or made nervous. After this the horse is introduced to saddle and then rider. It is necessary to accustom the horses to everyday noises and distractions e.g. barking dogs, traffic noise and sudden unexpected movements. The horses are schooled daily with regular treks through mountainous countryside and across riverbeds etc. to maintain their sure footedness and excellent condition.



There are a total of 23 horses and 14-16 horses are available for the guests to ride at any time. The Western style saddle gives the utmost comfort and safety to horse and rider alike on long day treks. Depending on the condition of the ground riders will walk, jog (which is a very slow seated trot) and canter. You will always be accompanied by an experienced guides on all trails. For advanced riders: there are 2 hours riding in the morning, 2 hours in the afternoon, and one whole day (6 hours), (we do not ride in the afternoon before the dayride) altogether 24 hours per week. For beginners: 1 and a half hours the morning, 1 and a half hours in the afternoon, altogether 18 hours per week. If required you can have lessons in the outside training paddock. There is no riding on arrival or departure days.

Rider requirements

For the beginners programme you do not have to have any riding ability. You learn by handling the horse on-site. According to the principle ‘Learning by Doing’ we are soon able to do our first rides in the countryside. There is a minimum age limit of 18 for this ranch.

Guests who book the programme for advanced riders (longer hours, faster pace) must be confident in walk, trot, and canter and open to Western style riding. Your guide will give you directions in western style: neck reining, jogging and seated canter. All the horses are trained in real western style and ridden this way. Your guide is passionate about Western Horsemanship and likes things done according to ranch protocol. He has a strong personality and is lots of fun.

Riders for the advanced programme should be used to riding in the countryside and must be fit enough to ride between 2 and 6 hours a day. There are lots of hills and rough terrain in the Algarve, some of the very steep hills we have to lead our horses down. So riders should be able to mount and dismount by themselves and should be sure footed also. Riders who are less experienced can ride in a separate group, this way all abilities can be catered for.

Guests are encouraged to catch, groom and tack up their horse by themselves however there is always someone who can lend a hand! Either a keen interest in Western riding and natural horsemanship or a willingness to learn is preferable for this ranch.

Weight limit: 14st/90kg

Weight Limit

The weight limit for this ride is 14 st/198 lb/90 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.

The Ranch is situated in 12 hectares of good rugged riding country, 3 km north of the little village of Mexilhoeira Grande (near Portimão) in the beautiful Algarve. It is a very quiet place and is an ideal destination for a relaxing holiday.


The accommodation consists of basic 4 apartments, each with 2 beds, a shower and toilet. They were built in 2000 and are comfortably but simply furnished and decorated to offer a private seating area to relax in. The beds come equipped with heated under blankets for the cold/damp mornings and evenings you may experience in the winter.


In the separate kitchen and covered area a plentiful breakfast is served, with coffee, tea and a choice of fruit juices. Lunch is either taken outside on the trails or at the ranch you can help yourself to food. There are usually leftovers from dinner the evening before or you can help yourself to bread, cheese, cold meats, yoghurts and the like from the fridge. A freshly cooked hot meal or BBQ is served for dinner, often with invited guests and friends. The evening meal is just one main course followed by coffee or tea. Again, guests can help themselves to fruit or yoghurt from the fridge for dessert. The kitchen is always open and is for the use of guests at any time so you can help yourself whenever you need, the fridges are always fully stocked.


Between the paddocks you can find the sun-heated above ground pool, ideal for a refreshing dip in summertime between the rides, while watching the horses.

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 pronounced Atlantic climate brings at the Algarve coast not to hot temperatures in the summer and moderates winters, never under the freezing point. Most precipitation we have from November to February. The water temperature of the Atlantic is in the midsummer about 21 degrees. The most beautiful travel months are April/May or September/October, if the temperatures are not too high and in April/May the Cistus and wild Lavender bloomall over the hills. In addition, in the summer it is always relatively green in the countryside. The average temperature amounts to 17°C, the average air humidity is between 50% and 75%. In the winter (December, January, February) the temperature can drop below 10°C, and in the dry and hot summers the high temperatures (the hottest month is August reaching over 30 degrees during the day) are made comfortable by a constant light wind off the sea.
The whole year around the climate is perfect for horseback riding in the countryside.

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.

Health (ride specific)

It is recommended that you bring anti-histamine cream/tablets in case of insect bites

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

The next town is about 20 minutes to drive by car. There you can get any accepted film and camera equipment.

At the ranch there is mobile phone reception and they also have WiFi.

Packing List

In the apartment you can find linen as well as a selection of towels.
For your holiday at the ranch it would be helpful if you bring along the following things:
- everyone has an obligation to take care and safety of their well being: riding helmet, if you want otherwise a hat to protect you from sun (or rain)
- jeans or jodhpurs, maybe chaps if you have some
- boots, but no rubber boots in case of the high temperatures, best would be boots up to the ankle with a heel
- long-sleeved t-shirts or blouses to protect against the sun
- sunglasses
- sunscreen
- mosquito repellant
- swimsuit
- travel medicine
- casual dress
- warm jumper beacuase its getting chilly in the evening, even in summertime
- jacket against wind and/or rain
- torch (there are very occasional powercuts at the ranch)

Riding hats are not provided and children under 18 must wear a riding hat. Mosquito plugs and electic underblankets for the beds are also provided.

Programmes

There are two programmes offered at the ranch: A programme for beginners which includes 18 hours of horseback riding over a 6 days period. You learn to handle the horse informally. With the varied training “on” and “off” the horses you quickly obtain a ‘relationship’ together. According to the principle ‘Learning by Doing’ we are soon able to do our first rides in the countryside.

The programme for advanced riders includes 22 hours of horseback riding within 6 days. We ride through the Macchia, through trees and shrubland, over hills and dales on small paths. On our dayride we will go to the largest artificial lake in the Algarve called ‘Barragem de Bravura’, with beautiful views of the coastline.

Departure Dates

2018: Any day start and finish from 1 March to 2 June; 5 June to 4 August and 25 August to 4 November.

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 £
2017 per night/2018 early booking per night1double pp94
2018 Per Nightper night1double pp - advanced programme99
2018 Per Nightper night1double pp - beginners programme90
2018 Per Nightper night1single supplement12
2018 Weekly8d/7n6double pp - advanced programme689
2018 Weekly8d/7n6double pp - beginners programme625
2018 Weekly8d/7n6single supplement84
2018 Weekly8d/7n6non-rider325
2018 Weekly8d/7n62nd week - advanced programme615
2018 Weekly8d/7n62nd week - beginner programme559
2018 Weekly8d/7n6El Rocio779
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description
2017 per night/2018 early booking per night1double pp105
2018 Per Nightper night1double pp - advanced programme109
2018 Per Nightper night1double pp - beginners programme99
2018 Per Nightper night1single supplement14
2018 Weekly8d/7n6double pp - advanced programme739
2018 Weekly8d/7n6double pp - beginners programme669
2018 Weekly8d/7n6single supplement90
2018 Weekly8d/7n6non-rider345
2018 Weekly8d/7n62nd week - advanced programme659
2018 Weekly8d/7n62nd week - beginner programme599
2018 Weekly8d/7n6El Rocio835
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description $
2017 per night/2018 early booking per night1double pp129
2018 Per Nightper night1double pp - advanced programme135
2018 Per Nightper night1double pp - beginners programme119
2018 Per Nightper night1single supplement17
2018 Weekly8d/7n6double pp - advanced programme935
2018 Weekly8d/7n6double pp - beginners programme845
2018 Weekly8d/7n6single supplement115
2018 Weekly8d/7n6non-rider435
2018 Weekly8d/7n62nd week - advanced programme835
2018 Weekly8d/7n62nd week - beginner programme759
2018 Weekly8d/7n6El Rocio1,055
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description SEK
2017 per night/2018 early booking per night1double pp1,109
2018 Per Nightper night1double pp - advanced programme1,175
2018 Per Nightper night1double pp - beginners programme1,065
2018 Per Nightper night1single supplement145
2018 Weekly8d/7n6double pp - advanced programme8,219
2018 Weekly8d/7n6double pp - beginners programme7,439
2018 Weekly8d/7n6single supplement999
2018 Weekly8d/7n6non-rider3,835
2018 Weekly8d/7n62nd week - advanced programme7,329
2018 Weekly8d/7n62nd week - beginner programme6,665
2018 Weekly8d/7n6El Rocio9,275
Wildlife

During our rides we occasionally see a shepherd with his flock of goats, sheep or cows wandering the hills. There is abundant wildlife in the Algarve and many different and unusual species can be seen on the rides such as water turtles, eagle eared owls and even golden eagles have been spotted!

On the ranch there are lemon, clementine, orange and sweet pepper trees and out on the rides you will discover cork, eucalyptus, oak, pine and olive trees.

Other Activities

Although the holiday is specifically tailored for horse riding there are many other activities available locally for non riders including golf, places of historical interest, waterparks, etc. Some of the most fantastic golden sandy beaches are close by offering various watersports, with beachbars and restaurants with mouthwatering local cuisine. Independent transport will be required by non-riders and the hire vehicles can be obtained at Faro airport through companies such as Avis and Europcar.

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):
Faro Airport (FAO)
Transfer:
2018: approx. £93pp round trip from Faro Airport, approx. 1 hour. Transfers payable upon booking.
Flight Guide:
London to Faro with easyJet from £70 return
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