The Camino de Santiago, or ‘Way of St. James’ is one of the most infamous pilgrimage routes in history, and this holiday offers the chance to cover the most popular route from the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela on horseback. Split into 4 one-week programmes covering the whole route, you can choose to do one stage at a time or combine several weeks as your schedule allows to complete the pilgrimage. With plenty of time in the saddle, each stage follows the traditional route through beautiful countryside, ancient villages and historical sites, beginning and ending at strategically important locations and staying in comfortable hotels and guesthouses along the route.
The first stage travels from Roncesvalles in the Pyrenees, across mountainous terrain and into the fertile plains of Rioja, finishing at Santo Domingo de la Calzada. As well as the stunning scenery, you will also see many examples of masonry and architecture from medieval to Roman times and beyond. Highlights include the gothic “Puente de la Rabia” bridge, Irache monastery on the hillside and Santo Domingo de la Calzada, named for a monk who set up hotels, hospitals and even a bridge to ease the journey of pilgrims passing through.
The second stage leaves the mountains behind as you travel into the plains of Castilla. The landscape opens out, dotted with medieval villages such as Belorado with its lovely 16th and 17th century churches. You will pass ancient battle markers and the picturesque ruins of Convento de San Anton as you ride through fields of wheat, barley and sunflowers to Leon and on to Burgo Ranero.
The third stage joins the famous regions of Castilla and Galicia together, riding from Burgo Ranero to O Cebreiro along open country tracks that are great for long canters and up challenging mountain paths around Irago. The route takes you into Hospital de Orbigo via the restored stone bridge, through Astorga with its Palacio Episcopal, museum of Caminos and Santa Maria Cathedral, and to the beautiful stone village of Castrillo de los Polvazares. The ride finishes riding through mountains and hills with superb views of Galicia to O Cebreiro, 1300m above sea level.
The fourth and final stage passes some of the most significant locations of the Camino de Santiago as all routes start to converge in the approach to the cathedral. You will pass a Benedictine monastery, a pilgrim’s cemetery at Ligonde, and Monte do Gozo where pilgrims cry with happiness for finally seeing towers of Santiago Cathedral. Riding through forests, along country roads and small tracks which display the heart of Galicia you reach Santiago de Compostella, entering Obradoiro square on horseback, and complete the pilgrimage.
The horses are all Pure Spanish (PRE), forward-going and very responsive and ridden in Spanish style saddles. The food is typical of the region, lovingly prepared and freshly cooked. Your host on this route has bred these beautiful horses for many years and is knowledgeable and passionate about the history and culture of this area.
This Spanish horse riding holiday will appeal to riders who are interested in a combination of scenery and culture with comfortable hotels, good company and beautiful horses.
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 DS of sydney on 10/10/2019
Stage 1: Pyrenean Stage
You will be met at Madrid airport and be transferred to Roncesvalles, approximately 5h drive. Settle in to your accommodation and get you know your fellow riders over dinner.
Roncesvalles – Burlada
Today you will start the tour with one of the most beautiful sections of the whole Camino with alpine meadows and picturesque forest. After breakfast you will start this mountainous ride by descending 950m from Roncesvalles and climb up again to Alto de Mezkiritz (922m) and Erro (801m). You will ride over 22 km until we reach Zubiri with its gothic “Puente de la Rabia” bridge over the Arga river where you stop for lunch. After lunch you ride another 15km to the strategically important village of Trinidad de Arre or 2 km more to Burlada where you stop for diner and overnight.
Burlada – Puente la Reina
After breakfast you mount up again and ride to Pamplona – one of five province capitals on Camino de Santiago. You enter the town across a medieval Magdalena bridge and ride past the Cathedral, Portal de Francia and the Citadel. From the fertile basin of Pamplona you climb 13 km to Alto del Perdon at nearly 800m where the unwary pilgrim may be tested by an offer of water in exchange for his faith. Be aware of the local demon! Better to ride down for next 4km to Uterga (500m) where you stop for lunch and a guilt-free drink! After lunch you continue the descent for another 7km to Puente la Reina, an emblematic town where two pathways meet; the Camino from Navarra and the Camino from Aragon. You will stop here for diner and overnight.
Puente la Reina – Villamayor de Monjardin
After breakfast you start with a short but steep climb and continue through the hills and bridges to Villatuerta (19 km) where you stop for lunch. You continue for another 13km, passing villages that appear to have stopped in time, until you reach the beautiful town of Estella. Your ascent continues slowly up past the monastery of Irache and the only fountain in the world that sometimes flows down with wine! You finish for the day in Villamayor de Monjardin, a lovley village on the top of the hill where you have diner and stay for night.
Villamayor de Monjardin - Viana
Today you ride out through open fields between the provinces of Navarra and Rioja. It is so rural here that you will not pass a village for nearly 20 km until you reach Torres del Rio where one of the most remarkable churches of Santo Sepulco is situated and this is where you stop for lunch. In the afternoon you cross 11km of hills to Viana where you stop for diner and overnight.
Viana – Najera
After breakfast you will ride 10km to Logrono, the capital of Rioja and continue through fertile hills and wine plantations for 13 km to Navarrete famous for its ceramics and vineyards. After having lunch here it is another 17km over the last hill - Alto de San Anton and down to the old capital of Rioja, Najera, where you stop for diner and overnight.
Najera – St, Domingo de Calzada
Today you only ride in the morning, trekking 22 km to Santo Domingo de la Calzada, home of an important figure of the Camino in Rioja who marked the road, took care of pilgrims and constructed churches and hospitals. Here your ride comes to an end, allowing the horses to rest and giving you time to visit this splendid town before diner and overnight here.
St, Domingo de Calzada – Madrid airport
Transfer to Madrid Airport (3h)
Stage 2: The Plains of Castilla
You will be met at Madrid airport and transferred to St. Domingo de la Calzada (approx. 3h) where you can settle in to your accommodation and enjoy dinner with your fellow riders.
St. Domingo de la Calzada – Villafranca Montes de Oca
After breakfast you will start your adventure in the beautiful town of St. Domingo de la Calzada, named after a monk whose devotion to the Camino was enormous. You will ride through the outlying vineyards of Rioja, fertille valleys and hills on your way towards the plains of Castilla. After 23 km you will stop for lunch in Belorado, a medieval village with lovely 16th and 17th century churches. After lunch you ride another 12km to Villafranca Montes de Oca where you stop for diner and overnight.
Villafranca Montes de Oca – Burgos
Today you will start the day with a 24 km trek over the mountains of Orca, from 950m to 1150m at Alto de la Pedraja. You will pass the famous church of San Juan de Ortega and standing stones marking battle of 1054 between the King of Castilla y Leon, Fernando the first and the King of Navarra don Garcia. After stopping for lunch in Cardenuela Rio Pico you will ride on 11km to Burgos. The horses get a rest here while you are driving another 16 km by car to Tardajos where you stop for dinner and overnight.
Rabe de las Calzadas – Castrojeriz
After breakfast the horses will meet you in the nearby village of Rabe de las Calzadas (just next to Tardajos). You enter the huge open space of Castilla y Leon and ride for 18 km through the fields of wheat, barley and sunflowers to Horitamas where you stop for lunch. Another 10 km riding, passing the picturesque ruins of Convento de San Anton along the way, brings you to Castrojeriz where you stop for diner and overnight. It is a beautifully situated village with ruins of a castle on the top of the hill and the 18th century Colegiata de Nuestra Señora del Manzano.
Castrojeriz – Carrion de los Condes
Today you ride for 29 km with an open horizon to Poblaion de Campos. The route includes a climb up Alto de Mostelares and crossing over the 11th century bridge “Puente Fitero” over the river Pisuerga into Palencia municipio. After lunch you ride 15km alongside the national road to Carrion de los Condes (a town with 12 churches and a huge stunning monastery) or Villalcazar de Sirga where you stop for diner and overnight.
Carrion de los Condes - Sahagun
After breakfast you ride for 17 km along an old Roman road to the tiny village of Calzadilla de la Cueza. After lunch, you cross the municipal border into Leon and ride a further 22km to Sahagun, a town with strong Arab influences where you stop for diner and overnight.
Sahagun – Burgo Ranero
Today you only ride in the morning, from Sahagun for 18 km to witness “The poor Roman” architectural style where the buildings were made of cheap mud bricks instead of red expensive bricks. You arrive at the cozy El Burgo Ranero where the ride ends with a glass of homemade chupito. You will have some time to explore the town before a final dinner and overnight.
Burgo Ranero – Madrid airport
Transfer to Madrid Airport (3h)
Stage 3: Castillo to Galicia
You will be met at Madrid airport and transferred to El Burgo Ranero (approximately 3h) where you can settle in to your accommodation and enjoy dinner with your fellow riders.
El Burgo Ranero – Arcahueja (Leon)
After breakfast your adventure starts with a 19km ride from El Burgo Ranero, through the dry open landscape of Leon to Mansilla de las Mulas where you stop for lunch. A further 11km riding brings you to Arcahueja, where to avoid a long stretch of concrete road the horses are boxed up and you travel by car to Virgen del Camino for diner and overnight.
Virgen del Camino – Hospital de Orbigo
Today’s ride sets out across 14 km of open fields that provide a good opportunity for some lovely canters to Villar de Mazarife. After lunch here you ride on for another 15km until you reach a stone bridge over the River Orbigo leading to Hospital de Orbigo where you stop for dinner and overnight.
Hospital de Orbigo – Castrillo de los Polvazares
After breakfast you start out from Hospital de Orbigo and ride 17 km through small villages to the large town of Astorga with its Palacio Episcopal, museum of Caminos and Santa Maria Cathedral where you stop for lunch. After lunch you ride 6.5km to the beautiful stone village of Castrillo de los Polvazares, great example of the local malagateria architectural style with characteristic round, heavy doors and ornamented locks. You stop here for diner and overnight.
Castrillo de los Polvazares – Foncebadon
Today you ride out from the big plains towards the mountains of Leon. You can enjoy the view of Picos de Europa for 16 km all the way to Rabanal de Camino. After lunch you ride another 6km to Foncebadon, the highest village on Irago mountain, where you stop for diner and overnight.
Foncebadon - Molinaseca
Today you only ride in the morning. After breakfast you pass the emblematic Cruz de Fierro where it is traditional for pilgrims to place a stone to symbolize their intention to walk the Camino and to ask for protection along the way. After the cross you descend 19km through picturesque hills to the lovley Molinaseca where you stop for lunch. After lunch you drive 30 km to Villafranca del Bierzo where you stay for diner and overnight.
Villafranca del Bierzo – O Cebreiro
After breakfast you cross the Galician border and ride alongside the River Valcarce for 17 km to Vega de Valcacel where we stop for lunch. In the afternoon you have some serious climbing to do for another 12 km to O Cebreiro (1300m), a stone Galician village with stunning views to finish the ride. Dinner and overnight.
O Cebreiro – Madrid airport
Transfer to Madrid Airport (4h)
Stage 4: Santiago De Compostella Finale
You will be met at Madrid airport and transferred to O Cebreiro (approx. 4h) where you can settle in to your accommodation and enjoy dinner with your fellow guests.
O Cebreiro – Samos
After breakfast you start the ride from the tiny but spectacular stone village of O Cebreiro at an altitude of 1300m. The first leg of your journey takes you 21 km through lush green Galician hills with oak and chestnut trees, down to Tricastela where you stop for lunch. After lunch you continue for 9 km along the beautiful path through a forest, enjoying the genuine Galicia and its variety of tracks and country roads. You follow the Camino to Samos, a village is famous for its 6th century Benedictine monastery, where you stop for diner and overnight.
Samos – Portomarin
This morning you will ride 15 km, past the town of Sarria to Barbadelo. After stopping for lunch you will pass the significant “100km” point of the Camino where many people start their walk, and continue 18km to new Portomarin. Unfortunately the old original medieval village was flooded by the waters of an artificial lake in 1960. You stay here for dinner and overnight.
Portomarin – Palas de Rei
After breakfast you ride up the hill for 16.5 km to Ligonde where you stop for lunch. Here you can see how tough a four-week pilgrimage was for medieval people at the well-preserved pilgrim cemetery that was linked to a nearby pilgrim hospital. After lunch you ride another 8.5km to Palas de Rei where you stop for diner and overnight.
Palas de Rei - Arzuga
Today you start the ride from Palas de Rei, covering 16 km crossing to muncipio A-Coruña and arriving to the modern village of Melide, famous for its octopus dish, where you lunch in the famous local Pulperia Ezequiel. After lunch you ride across the hills for 14 km to Arzua where you stop for diner and overnight.
Arzua – Monte do Gozo
After breakfast you ride 20 km through forests and villages from Arzua to O Pino Pedrouzo where you stop for lunch. After lunch you ride the last 15 km before reaching Santiago de Compostella, crossing the River Amenal and arriving to Monte do Gozo where pilgrims cry with happiness for finally seeing towers of Santiago Cathedral. You stay for diner and overnight in a nearby hotel.
Santiago de Compostella
On the last day you will enter the Obradoiro square, the monumental centre of Santiago de Compostela. You must start early to be able to enter the Plaza Obradoiro on horse before the crowds of pilgrims appear. You will ride through the city centre and through the cathedral square. After the ride the horses get loaded into the trucks and return home while enjoy the rest of the day looking around Santiago de Compostella.
Santiago de Compostella – Madrid airport
Transfer to Madrid Airport (6h)
Please note: If you wish to fly back from Santiago de Compostella please search for suitable flights that may be scheduled a day or two after the last day of the programme. Transfers are not available to Santiago airport.
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 owner breeds and competes Pure Spanish horses (PRE). The horses are Spanish, Arab X and some Andalusian X, and there are 35 excellent riding horses to choose from. They range in height from 15hh-16.2hh with some ponies available. They are all in well rounded condition and beautifully polished on a daily basis with traditional flowing manes, mainly kept stabled, shod all round and very well mannered. They are ridden in traditional deep seated Spanish saddles with soft sheepskin covers and traditional big stirrups. The bridles are mainly curb bits and the horses are ridden loose reined and respond easily to weight shifts and subtle signals. This is a very easy and relaxing style of riding similar to Western, some instruction will be given if wanted. The horses are all experienced and sure footed trail horses with temperaments that vary from quiet and reliable through responsive to fiery and showy. With 35 horses to choose from you are sure to find your ideal partner for the week. The riding is mainly at a walk due to varying terrain, but there are plenty of opportunities (4-6) for long and fast canters every day. Jose Manuel, your guide, is not too keen on trotting although this is possible if requested! The riding starts late morning, after 2-3 hours a break is made for lunch followed by a siesta and a similar length afternoon session to arrive late afternoon at your destination. All saddling and grooming is done for you although you are welcome to assist with your own horse.
Riders need to be able to walk, trot and canter. These horses are trained in the Spanish style and are used to being ridden with a loose rein when at walk and a light contact at canter. There are some large and strong horses, so there is a higher than usual weight limit of 105kg. Due to the long rides this ride is not suitable for children under 12 and all children should be competent riders. There is no need to saddle or clean your own horse on this ride unless you wish to. Assistance is available for mounting and dismounting and minimal walking next to your horses is required.
The weight limit for this ride is 231 lb/105 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.
The hotels used en-route are all very comfortable with twin or double rooms and en-suite shower, toilet, bidet and basin in the bathrooms. They are always located in spots of particular interest and have a local character all of their own. The meals cover a range of local dishes and are always freshly prepared. Continental breakfasts, extensive lunches and 3 course dinners are the norm.
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.
Visa are not required for U.K. or other European nationals. In the UK the British Foreign Office gives travel advice on travel insurance, passport and visas, health and vaccinations, legal issues and emergency issues. They can be reached on 0207 008 0232/0233 or at www.fco.gov.uk
The British Consulate in Madrid is at the Calle de Fernando el Santo 16, 28010 Madrid. Tel: +34 91 7008200. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.ukinspain.com.
The Spanish Embassy in the U.K can be found at 39 Chesham Place, London SW1X 8SB. Tel: (020) 7235 5555.
July is the hottest month in Galicia with an average temperature of 18°C (64°F) and the coldest is January at 7°C (45°F) with the most daily sunshine hours at 8 in August. The wettest month is December with an average of 135mm of rain. Due to its exposed north-westerly location, the climate is still very cool by Spanish standards.
No special health precautions are required for visits to Spain, for further details please see your local doctor. We do advise taking plenty of sunscreen!
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
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 adapters. These are available for purchase at most airports and travel shops.
230V 50HZ with a two pronged round pin plug
There is electricity in the hotel rooms and camera equipment can be recharged each night. Most towns and villages will sell some batteries and film.
It is recommended to take a riding helmet or broad rimmed hat which must stay on firmly and sunglasses with string. There is a good range of riding helmets on site if you wish to borrow one. 2 pairs of riding trousers, half chaps are recommended, riding gloves, jersey/fleece, warm jacket (depending on time of year), shorts, long trousers (evenings) long sleeve shirts, T-shirts, sarong or wrap, swimsuit, 8 pairs of socks, waterproofs, sun block, camera, binoculars, a pair of short riding/walking boots and trainers. On a practical level a bottle of water for refilling and the all essential loo paper (for outdoor emergencies only!) are handy.
8 days / 7 nights and 6 days riding per stage on set dates for this programme. Other dates may be arranged for groups of 6 or more.
2022 Pyrenean Stage: not running
2022 Plains of Castilla: not running
2022 Castillo to Galicia: not running
2022 Santiago De Compostella Finale: not running
Please enquire for 2023
`The New Spaniards’ –John Hooper, ‘Driving over Lemons’- Chris Stewart, ‘The Story of Spain’- Mark Williams, ‘South of Granada’ – Gerald Brenan, ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’ – Ernest Hemmingway, ‘As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning’- Laurie Lee and ‘Don Quijote de la Mancha’ – Miguel de Cervantes. 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
Non-riders are welcome to accompany the ride in the luggage transfer vehicle. Each night is spent in interesting local villages and hotels and there is plenty to do and see. The main cultural items are visited with your guide en route and non riders can join in here.
Spain is a beautiful and diverse country, the second largest in Europe. The official language is Castilian Spanish but Catalan, Galician and Basque are also spoken. Territory includes two island archipelagos – the Balearics and the Canaries – and two enclaves on the North African coast, bordering Morocco – Ceuta and Melilla. The African influence can be found throughout Spain but especially in the south, for example the guitar was invented by the Spanish when they added a sixth string to the Arab lute. Music and art permeates Spanish culture, most obviously displayed in the fire and passion of the Flamenco and the stunning modern architecture found in the cities.
The famous siesta is still enjoyed by the majority of Spaniards, most shops close at lunchtime for two or three hours so everyone can escape the often scorching afternoon sun. Evening meals are served late into the evening with plenty of wine or sangria. Often meals can last two or three hours, especially if your host is serving Tapas, small and varied dishes of meats, bread, vegetables. Paella is also a delight and very popular across the country.
Spain is one hour ahead of GMT 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 for Spain is +34.