A six night adventure through the pristine wilderness of Patagonia in Argentina. The base camp is set in a 45000 acre working estancia, embedded in the Andes Mountains. It was founded long ago and was first owned by English pioneers. A special date for this trail has been added for those riders who want to experience the rare solar eclipse taking place in December 2020.
The trails take you over uninhabited land that can only be reached on horseback and the group camp in unspoiled places. There are rivers and lakes here full of trout, valleys and mountains covered by indigenous sub-Antarctic forests and huge monkey puzzle trees which add to the amazing landscape. From the hill tops it's possible to see Chile on the other side of the border.
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Day 1 - Arrival to San Martin de los Andes
Pick-up at San Martín de los Andes airport. Meet your guide and transfer to camp to enjoy a traditional Argentine barbecue dinner.
After breakfast and last minute packing you will meet the horses. Say farewell to the last sights of civilisation at this working Estancia as you start the ride into remote territories. You will head west, to the Andes range. At first the typical dry Patagonian steppe is everywhere but it gradually fades out. You will be heading towards one of the largest giant monkey puzzle tree woods in Patagonia - these trees only grow here and can live to 1000 years old. You will stop for lunch under the first group of them. When you reach Puesto Ignacio, your campsite for the night, you will leave all heavy items behind and go for a ride into the woods. This is the first chance to feel Patagonian vastness and the immense size of these very old trees.
After breakfast you will leave the campsite. Today you will go north and then west. After moving into another valley, there will be plenty of chances for cantering and galloping, for those who like (only if it is an experienced riding group). You will start to see ñires trees, a typical tree of the region. Lunch will be under the shade of huge Monkey puzzle trees on the way to the Relén river where you will camp for the night.
After breakfast you will leave the campsite. The morning of this ride is similar to the previous day with the group enjoying the valleys and landscapes, travelling north and then west. Lunch will be on the way under the shade of huge Monkey puzzle trees. The afternoon ride will take you into higher ground where you might see the condors and visit a Mapuche Indian reservation territory. The night campsite, Mallín de las Lengas, is at the edge of a fairy tale lengas forest, worthy of a Tolkien novel. It is so pristine that the dead giant trees have piled up over the centuries and are all still lying around on the ground… a moving scene. You will ride through this forest and enjoy an energising meal in the evening.
After breakfast you will be heading towards the Picudo Mountain which is the highest riding point of the trail and offers an awesome view. You will climb and descend through the lengas forest, in the half light of this dense wood. The monkey puzzle trees will be your hosts for the night as you will camp close to the Polcahue lake.
During the morning you will ride straight west. This valley has been used over the centuries by the Mapuche Indians to reach the Pacific Ocean crossing the Andes range. You will stop close to the Chilean border, passing by the Pulmarí lake. After a long day, you will arrive at sunset at the Estancia ready to enjoy a few basic privileges of civilisation: electricity and hot water. Farewell dinner.
Transfer back to San Martin de los Andes: After breakfast you will go back to San Martín de los Andes airport for your departure.
Solar Eclipse Trail Date
There is a special departure date for this trail for riders who want to experience the 14 December 2020 total solar eclipse. This is going to be a very rare event because the sun will be close to the zenith. This, combined with the Patagonian wilderness and the horses, makes for an experience to remember.
The program starts on 12 December at San Martin de los Andes, Argentina, and ends on 18 December after 5 riding days. At 1 PM on 14 December, we will make a stop on our way, close to Mount Picudo, for the big event. It is then that the Sun´s narrow path across this southern portion of South America will meet the horse trail. While the total solar eclipse lasts just a few minutes, the whole process of partial solar eclipse takes three hours approximately.
Optional extra days:
Rafting the Aluminé river: raft along the River Aluminé, the region’s best. 8 - 12 miles on the rapids surrounded by awesome scenery. The level of difficulty of this river is OK for everyone, thus combining adventure with safety. Transfer back to San Martín de los Andes.
Buenos Aires: Take some time to visit the city and learn about its icons in a very special way: tango, Plaza de Mayo, Casa Rosada’s balcony, Eva Peron, etc. Lunch not included. In the evening we attend a tango show with dinner and a tango lesson. Night in hotel.
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.
Fit and responsive horses all in good condition, from 15hh to 15.3hh. Horses are ridden in the traditional style, which is similar to Western riding with neck reining and long stirrups. Instruction is given on first day for those not familiar with this style, it is very easy to learn and quite addictive. Terrain varies from mountainous to desert and the speed of the ride reflects the terrain and is mostly at a walk on the slopes of the Andes. There are plenty of opportunities for those who like to canter or even have a good gallop on the more open bits of terrain and the sandy dry river beds. The estancia has 20 horses available for the rides. English speaking guides are first aid trained and carry satelite phones or radio communications equipment and they've been with the company for years.
This ride is suitable for riders who are able to walk, trot and canter on a good horse. There is usually about 5 or 6 hours in the saddle each day, so a good level of riding fitness is recommended.
Due to the length of riding days this ride is not recommended for children under the age of 9 and there is a weight limit of 95kg/15 stone. There is no need to walk next to your horse and assistance can be given when mounting and dismounting.
The weight limit for this ride is 209 lb/95 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.
5 nights are spent camping and 1 night is spent at an estancia with electricity and hot water. Breakfasts and tea at the camp: tea, coffee or mate tea, home made bread with jam, dulce de leche or cheese. Lunch on the trail: picnic style. Chicken, roast beef, ham, cheese sandwiches. Antipasti. Salami and cheese etc. Fruits for dessert. Drinking water. Dinner at camp: local traditional meals like barbecue, stew or 'empanadas'. Boef strogonoff, pasta or pizza. Fruits for dessert. Wine and water. No spirits available. You are welcome to bring your own.
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.
At the time of going to print visas are not required for UK passport holders staying under 90 days, but please check before you depart.
In Argentina the high commissioner is Dr Luis Agote, 2412/52, 1425 Buenos Aires. Tel: +54 11 4576 2222, and is usually open 12.45 –17.00, hours extended during the Summer months (Jan –March).
In the UK the British Foreign Office gives travel advice on 020 7008 0232/0233 or see www.fco.gov.uk
San Martín de los Andes has a cool ocean-influenced climate, on the boundary between Mediterranean, oceanic and subpolar oceanic. Being shielded somewhat by the Andes in Chile, it is much less wet and more sunny than Chilean Patagonia, but still is very susceptible to heavy storms during the winter which tend to produce a mixture of rain and snow when they manage to retain some moisture over the Andean divide. However, when it is not raining or snowing heavily, the weather can be extremely sunny and beautiful, though the nights under these conditions are chilly and frost has occurred even during the summer.
There are no specific health requirements although do remember sun block.
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 vaccine is mandatory in this region but as for any outdoors activity we recommend tetanus vaccine.
Need to advise blood group and emergency phone number at time of booking.
Sunscreen and insect repellent are recommended. Remember it is easy to burn at high altitudes even in weather which is not sunny.
Electricity: 220V, 50Hz as in the UK so electrical appliances can be plugged in with appropriate adaptors. These are widely available for purchase, including at departure airports throughout the UK.
It is not possible to recharge batteries during the ride.
We recommend you take spare batteries with you.
Sleeping bag (comfortable at minus 10ºC).
Two changes of clothes: loose pants, long sleeve shirts which protect better from the sun than t-shirts. For the cold weather it is better to carry along a few thin warm clothes (t-shirts, undershirts etc) than only one thick garment. Polar sweaters do well both in summer and winter.
Warm undershirt and underpants.
Waterproof jacket and/or poncho.
Hat (not a cap) and riding helmet.
Trekking shoes or riding boots.
Sneakers (the ones that can get wet)
Personal hygiene items such as soap, shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste etc in small packaging.
Larger towel to leave at the base camp
Prescription glasses or contact lenses
Small flaslight and batteries
Camera and/or filming machine.
(saddlebags and air mattresses are provided)
Departures are arranged on request between 1st November and 1st May for groups of 4 or more. Please enquire for confirmed dates.
2021: Dates on requests for group bookings
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The Rough Guide to Argentina - 2nd Edition by Danny Aeberhard (Paperback - 25 Nov 2004)
On a Hoof and a Prayer: Around Argentina at a Gallop by Polly Evans (Paperback - 1 Mar 2007
Argentina (Footprint Argentina Handbook) by Christabelle Dilks (Paperback - 1 Dec 2006)
There are plenty of other activities available in this beautiful area. We can arrange for white water rafting, rappel, trekking in the Andes or Four Trax (2 hrs).
Buenos Aires: pre or post tour
Day 1 – Buenos Aires: Arrive Buenos Aires. Pick up at International Airport
with Transfer Express cab company. Transfer to hotel. Lunch (not included).
We will take some time to visit the city and learn about its icons in a very
special way: tango, Plaza de Mayo, Casa Rosada’s balcony, Eva Peron, etc.
Dinner at Novecento Restaurante. It is located in the fashionable
neighborhood of Las Cañitas. Night at hotel of your choice (not included).
Day 2 – Buenos Aires: In the morning we will visit Evita’s grave and then
the Museum. With a special invitation from the Argentine Polo Association,
we will visit the Palermo polo fields, known as the “Cathedral of Polo”.
Then we will stop at Talabartería Aynié, the renowned saddle maker. We will
have the chance to learn how saddles are made in Argentina. Lunch (not
included). The evening is reserved for tango. We will attend a tango show
w/dinner and a tango lesson at Complejo Tango. Night at hotel of your choice
Day 3 – Buenos Aires: Time off to have a closer look at any specifics you
might be interested in. Buenos Aires is a metropolis where almost anything
can be found. We will be ready to help point you in the right direction.
Condors are regularly seen on the trail as well as the typical wild and tame llama and alpacas.
No dangerous wildlife in the area. Foxes, pumas live in the area but are more difficult to spot as they move around at night.
Argentina is the second largest country in Latin America after Brazil (almost all the countries of Western Europe and Scandinavia could fit inside Argentina's land mass). The country is diverse and includes rain forest in the north, vast areas of fertile farming land in the centre, the Andean mountain range to the west and the desolate plains of Patagonia in the south, leading down to glaciers at the southern tip. Argentina has the world's southernmost city (Ushaia).
Despite Argentina's recent economic woes, its pleasures - stunning natural wonders, an elegant capital and a passionate culture - are still as tempting as ever. Argentina has a distinctly European feel, Argentinians are much more European in temperament that their South American neighbours but their Latin spirit is still evident such as in their love of football and in the tempestuous dance of the Tango.
Argentina is three hours behind GMT. Remember in the summer the UK is one hour ahead of GMT and daylight savings is not in use in Argentina. 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 +54.