Oaxaca (pronounced wa-hah-kah), a city located about 300 miles south of Mexico City, is the capital of the state of the same name. This area is the cultural, geographical and political centre of the state, filled with pre-Hispanic ruins such as Monte Alban, Baroque churches and monasteries, indigenous markets and villages devoted to various crafts. It is well known for its indigenous peoples and cultures, the most numerous and best known of which are the Zapotecs and the Mixtecs, but there are sixteen that are officially recognised. These cultures have survived better than most others in Mexico due to the state's rugged and isolating terrain and they are at the heart of the vibrant culture and craft culture. You needn't be concerned about safety here; Oaxaca is one of the safest Mexican tourist destinations you could choose.
Based at a small farm in the central valley we offer two itineraries to explore the area. Choose from a based stay discovering the foothills and fascinating Oaxacan culture or an exciting point to point into the surrounding villages and valleys - canter through protected biospheres, ride right up to archeological sites, dismount from your horse for craft and culinary demonstrations, the opportunities are endless. Or, choose The Mixteca Trail. Whichever itinerary you choose you can be sure that a freshly made lime Margarita and personal attention from your experienced hosts will never be far away.
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 ES of Montrose on 21/04/2018
Discover Oaxaca - based stay
Arrive at the ranch in the late afternoon to early evening by pre-arranged transport from the airport or a hotel. It’s a short drive to the ranch located 10 miles (15 km) from the city centre or 14 miles from the Oaxaca’s airport. The ranch is nestled on the edge of the charming cheese-making village of Rojas de Cuauhtemoc. Settle into one of the three individually decorated guest rooms, have a cool drink and soak up the vistas of the cacti-studded rock face that paints a backdrop to the ranch. Meet Mary Jane, Bobby, Jayson and Gabriel, your guides and the owners of the ranch. If your arrival is late afternoon there’s time for a horse trek into the rare biosphere that borders the ranch. Enjoy a fresh made Margarita, then savour Oaxaca’s world famous cuisine for dinner.
After a freshly prepared breakfast and a short demo on the style of riding, mount your horse and head out from the ranch and onto trails lined with towering organ cacti & weathered mesquites. Within minutes the ride ascends to a hidden ecosystem rich in massive columnar cacti and old growth Elephant-foot yucas. From a high lookout point, take a break in the shade and enjoy the big-sky views north to the Sierra Juarez. As the ride progresses westward micro-ecosystems come and go, home to rare agaves, ferns and cacti that live side by side. This ride exemplifies the amazing biodiversity Oaxaca is world-famous for.
For lunch we ride into the town of El Tule, home of a 2,000 year old cypress tree, one of the largest and oldest trees on earth. El Tule is famous for its local eateries and while the horses doze in the shade, riders sample local delicacies. After lunch, stroll the quaint plaza, shop at the craft stores and, of course, see the tree. To finish this day’s ride enjoy a brisk canter along quiet farm lanes as the ride turns south and back towards the ranch. Sunset cocktails on the terrace before the ranch’s local cook prepares a dinner of local specialties.
Today’s ride goes from the valley into the foothills of the Sierra Juarez, following old trails around the Zapotec village of Teotitlan dle Valle. Riders and horses take a short drive to the home of village weavers where they mount up and ride out. Ride past a fascinating ceremonial site before ascending a mountain pass, its trails lined with live agave fencing. Pass pack donkeys laden with firewood, grazing goats or locals washing their weaving yarn in the streams. Ride into the foothills where the higher altitude makes way for a well-preserved oak forest rich in tree bromeliads and ferns. Ancient terraces texture the hillsides and low fieldstone walls ring adobe homes that dot the slopes.
The ride ends with a freshly prepared lunch at the home of talented Zapotec rug weavers, followed by a weaving and yarn dyeing demonstration and time to shop for a beautiful hand-woven wool rug. Return to the ranch to relax or have a massage. Sample the special mezcal cocktail we invented at the ranch followed by dinner featuring local specialties.
Take a break from the saddle on this non-riding day. Spend the day in Oaxaca, a UNESCO world heritage city or relax at the ranch, indulge in a massage or take a cooking class with excellent local cooks. All meals are served at the ranch but optional.
This ride makes a sweeping loop far out into the hidden worlds of the valley. From the ranch we ride past pecan orchards, fields of flowers and a complex system of irrigation canals that make this area the valley’s most productive farmland. Neat garlic and onion fields line tranquil back roads that lead to the quiet native village of Tlacochahuaya. Dismount your horse to visit its famous 16th century Dominican church. Recently-evangelized Indians painted the delightful walls and ceiling, and the cheerful style reflects their naturalistic approach to religion.
Have a snack and cold drink before mounting up for the second half of the journey that explores ancient trails that wind past hills richly forested with old-growth candelabra and nopal cacti. Ride across 19th century stone bridges that connect ancient cart trails in a hidden wetland, home to great blue herons and Cara-Cara falcons. Trails lined with wild cane lead to the village of Santa Cruz Papalutla where artisans work the split cane into sturdy baskets. The flat smooth footing is idea for trots or canters as the ride curves north. Turning into the ranch ice cold beer & limeade are waiting at the stables. Time to relax before sunset cocktails. Option to join an informal cooking class and learn how to make a traditional mole, the main course for this night’s dinner.
After a hot breakfast at the ranch, horses and riders load up for a 30 minute drive east to the ex-hacienda of San Jose Soriano. Take a look at the restoration of its chapel before riding out with the imposing mesa of Yagul to the south and the majestic Sierra Juarez to the north. Ancient farm lanes, great for extended trots and canters, turn into trails leading into true backcountry rich in rare palmillosand candelabra cacti hundreds of years old. Ride among goat herds and grazing Zebu cattle. Your experienced trekking horse deftly ascends the rocky trails that open onto other worldly plateaus surrounded by sweeping views of the broad valley and up into the Sierra Juarez.
Relax over a picnic lunch on the edge of a shady meadow. It was in this area that civilization emerged in the Americas about 10,000 years ago. Ride past rare agaves, fresh water springs and old, old terraced farmlands. Smooth farming lanes lend themselves for a long easy canter back to the hacienda where ice cold refreshments are waiting. On the drive back to the ranch we’ll stop to a see the artisan production of mescal and to sample this distilled liquor Oaxaca is famous for.
This ride is rich in history. Follow pre-Hispanic trading trails, ride though a ancient Zapotec village with more turkeys and donkeys than people, and finish the ride at the ex-hacienda of San Antonio Buenavista. Explore this once-working hacienda now undergoing extensive restoration. Follow an ancient trading trail into oak forests and tree bromeliads. At the top of the pass, views open to the west into the Ocotlan valley and across to Monte Alban. Cross wide-open plains, follow a lush streambed to a high pass where the gaze travels east 50 kms. to the distinctive Nueve Puntos mountain. Criss-cross arroyos, let the horses drink from crystalline springs and picnic by the banks of the hacienda’s old dam. As the ride ends pass placid Zebu cattle and herds of goats that graze among massive candelabra cacti and aromatic copal trees.
Transport and cool refreshments will be waiting at the hacienda before the picturesque drive north to Rancho Pitaya. Take a siesta in a hammock, enjoy your last sunset margaritas before a special farewell dinner.
After a freshly prepared breakfast depart with pre-arranged transport for the city or airport.
We're avid readers here at Unicorn Trails and have selected several books connected to this ride. If you're interested in reading more about the area before you travel, or want to get into the cultural background, here are some suggestions that may inspire you. Click on the links for more information.
The Mango Orchard: The extraordinary true story of a family lost and found A young Englishman who travelled in Columbia, Guatemala and Mexico, in part to trace the fascinating story of his great grandfather's adventures in Central America a century ago. There is a great twist at the end, which we won't spoil.
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 is a mix of horses on the ranch, ranging from pure Arab endurance horses to Arab X, Criollo, Paints and Quarterhorses. There are three mares, six geldings and two stallions as well as four foals. There is even a Miniature Filly called Velvita who they plan to use for the Equine Therapy sessions that are also run from the ranch.
Most of the horses partake in endurance rides between 40kn and 100km. Whether you are looking for a novice ride or a spirited canter in open countryside your hosts will have the right horse for you. The horses are mostly ridden with snaffle mouths and have comfortbale endurance saddles, although there are a few English saddles available. All of the horses are calm with flexible minds and they are grazed in open paddocks around the ranch.
For the based ride riders should be able to walk and trot on a good horse although more experienced riders can be catered for. The pace of the rides can be adjusted accordingly, from relaxed trail riding to spirited gallops. Rides are at an altitude of 1,500m to 1,600m. No experience of mountain riding is necessary for the based ride but riders need to be able to trust their horse on narrow mountain trails. Riding tuition is available in the arena but as your hosts are endurance riders their preferred place to ride is in open countryside so tuition will also take place along the trails too.
On the trail riders do need to be of at least intermediate level, happy and balanced at a trot and canter and fit for up to 6 hours per day in the saddle. A sense of adventure is also a must! Experience of mountain riding is an advantage although not a necessity but riders must be able to trust their horses on the narrow mountain paths. Riding on the trails is at an altitude of 1,500m - 3,000m. These rides would not be suitable for riders who suffer from vertigo.
Riders are invited to help groom their own horses but the hosts will oversee the saddling until they are happy that it is being done correctly. A final girth check is always done by your host/trail leader.
The weight limit for this ride is 220 lb/100 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.
Your base is a small traditional Mexican ranch centrally located in the valle of Tlacolula, the eastern arm of the great valley of Oaxaca yet only 30 minutes from downtown Oaxaca. The ranch, nestled at the foothills of the protected lands, offers the perfect balance between scenery, exotic flora and fascinating cultural and historical destinations. It is an ideal base for horse riding and cycling, the use of bikes is included during your stay.
The ranch concentrates on outdoor living; so relax in a Yucatan hammock chair on the old-fashioned veranda and gaze up to the cacti studded mountains due west. Or meander up to the ranches’ spacious open-style kitchen & dining room, settle on to the terrace and sip a freshly made Margarita as the evening sunlight warms views stretching up to the Sierra Juarez.
The three spacious bedroooms within the adobe guest lodge contain traditional Mexican architecture with wooden beams, wild cane and hand-painted tiles. Your host once owned an art and craft gallery in Oaxaca which is evident when you see how tastefully and individually decorated the rooms are. The beds can be made up as kingsize or two twins and are large enough to add another bed or cots. Each suite also contains a small kitchenette, private en-suite shower/toilet and a sitting area.
The meals at the ranch are made up of good, honest food. Ranch favourites include rustic guacamole, roasted tomatillo salsa, Eloisa’s excellent mashed black beans, traditional mole and drinks such as seasonal fruit coolers and of course the Famous Fresh Lime Margarita! Chocolate plays an important part of Oaxaca's heritage making it more important than the coffee which is also produced and exported from Oaxaca. Chocolate is used in drinks as well as an ingredient in meals, often combined with various spices. Vegetarians will eat well too!
Out on the trails you will have the chance to stay at various different lodgings, mainly eco-tourism cabins which are run by the local villages are used. These comprise of adobe lodges with private en-suite bathrooms and hot showers. Beds are either double beds or bunkbeds. In addition your hosts will take along comfy pillows and mattress pads. If you have booked a trail, the ranch cook, Eloisa, supplies freshly prepared meals along the rides and collaborates with local cooks to ensure tasty and safe meals. As always there’ll be lots of fresh brewed Oaxaca coffee in the mornings and lots of fresh lime Margaritas at sunset.
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, check www.fco.gov.uk or call on 0207 008 0232/0233 for up to date travel advice.
In Mexico City the UK high commission is at Rio Lerma 71, Col Cuauhtemoc, 06500 Mexico City, Rio Lerma 71,Col Cuauhtémoc ,06500 México City. Tel: (52) (55) 5242 8500 Fax: (52) (55) 5242 8517.
The Mexican Embassy in the U.K is at 16 St George Street, Mayfair, London, W1S 1LX. Tel: 020 7499 8586 Fax: 020 7495 4035 Email: email@example.com.
October and November herald the beautiful wild flower season with everything green and lush from the rains the month before. From November/December to April there is very little rain (if at all) and bright blue skies with a dry heat throughout the day. The cacti bloom during this time too. From May/June to September the countryside is lush and green once more with possible rain later in the day, although usually only at an hour at a time.
At Unicorn Trails, the health and safety of our customers is of paramount importance.
Although there are no compulsory vaccinations it is recommended you see your local doctor for up to date information. Air pollution in Mexico City is extremely high between November and February. Water must be purified or boiled.
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. You can also check the Department of Healths website at www.dh.gov.uk.
The trail guide carries a basic first aid kit and there is always a local guide who acts as a back-up on the trails. He carries a high frequency walkie talkie that communicates with the eco-tourism offices in the surrounding villages. Although you can be riding in untouched wilderness you will never be more than 10km away from a village.
110V, 60Hz as in the USA, appliances may require an adaptor before being pugged in as well as an international adapter. Check the voltage inout of the appliance.
There is electricty available every night to charge phones/cameras/batteries. There is internet/WiFi signal at the ranch and also, usually, mobile phone coverage. On the trails it is a little more hit and miss and more limited - on some nights there is no signal at all and on some there is free WiFi on offer as well as mobile phone coverage.
Riding boots suitable for walking in
Half leg chaps
Some cool long sleeved shirts with a collar to keep the sun off
Clothes to layer including warm pyjamas
Light jacket or sweater for evenings
Riding helmet with brim
Comfortable clothes for the evening
Comfortable shoes for the evening
Eye-cover and ear plugs if you are a sensitive sleeper. You need to get your rest.
A light rain poncho is always good to travel with
Sun screen and bug repellent.
Any personal medication
There are lots of snack bars to pack in the saddlebags but if you have energy bars to you really like and do the trick bring your own. Even electrolytes if you are prone to dehydration.
There are a selection of helmets and old half chaps if you don’t want to pack these items.
Both itineraries are 8 days/7 nights with 6 days riding. The based ride takes place all year round with arrivals and departures on Saturdays. Village to Village rides are available on set dates.
2019: 18 May; 15 Jun; 6 Jul; 17 Aug; 21 Sept; 9 Oct.
2020: 13 Jun
|Riding days||Product item description||£|
|2019 Discover Oaxaca||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,539|
|2019 Discover Oaxaca||8d/7n||6||single supplement||159|
|2019 Discover Oaxaca||8d/7n||6||Supplement for group 2-3 pp||159|
|2019 Discover Oaxaca||8d/7n||6||Supplement for 1 rider||629|
|Riding days||Product item description||€|
|2019 Discover Oaxaca||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,785|
|2019 Discover Oaxaca||8d/7n||6||single supplement||185|
|2019 Discover Oaxaca||8d/7n||6||Supplement for group 2-3 pp||185|
|2019 Discover Oaxaca||8d/7n||6||Supplement for 1 rider||735|
|Riding days||Product item description||$|
|2019 Discover Oaxaca||8d/7n||6||double pp||2,009|
|2019 Discover Oaxaca||8d/7n||6||single supplement||209|
|2019 Discover Oaxaca||8d/7n||6||Supplement for group 2-3 pp||209|
|2019 Discover Oaxaca||8d/7n||6||Supplement for 1 rider||825|
|Riding days||Product item description||SEK|
|2019 Discover Oaxaca||8d/7n||6||double pp||19,219|
|2019 Discover Oaxaca||8d/7n||6||single supplement||1,969|
|2019 Discover Oaxaca||8d/7n||6||Supplement for group 2-3 pp||1,969|
|2019 Discover Oaxaca||8d/7n||6||Supplement for 1 rider||7,885|
There are many reasons to stay at this ranch besides horse riding. Enjoy endless safe self-guided hiking in the communal lands just west of the ranch, a biosphere rich in rare, old growth native flora. Or jump on a complimentary mountain bike and explore the many sites of interest along the quiet backroads stretching east from the ranch.
Relax on the guest patio with a book from the well-stocked library or take a cooking class to learn authentic local dishes. Your hosts can also organise a trusted local taxi driver to take you to see many sites in the greater Valle de Tlacolula.
Although it is only the fifth-largest state in Mexico, Oaxaco has the most biodiversity. There are more than 8,400 registered plant species, 738 bird species and 1,431 vertebrate species, accounting for 50% of all species in Mexico. It is also among the five highest-ranking areas in the world for endangered species. Wildlife includes a wide variety of birds, small to medium sized mammals and some larger ones such as deer and wildcats, reptiles and amphibians. The state is a prolific place for reptiles such as turtles, lizards, snakes and crocodiles.
From the ranch and out on the trails you will soon find that the birdlife is prolific and the birds and butterflies are more in abundance than the wildlife. You can expect to see Cara Cara (from the hawk/eagle family ), vermillion flycatchers, hummingbirds, yellow-bellied kiskidies and red-tailed hawks to name but a few. There are plenty of bird-watching books available for guest use.
Your hosts, Mary Jane, and her son, Gabriel, combine over 50 years of living in the valley and exploring the far reaches of the state of Oaxaca. They are active guides and your hosts at the ranch. The experiences you’ll have and the people you’ll meet reflect their “favourites”, and that’s what separates the ranches insider tours from the generic offerings hired guides provide.
Mary Jane and Gabriel enjoy guiding rides, teaching riding lessons & facilitating equine therapy sessions. They are Red Cross certified in Basic First Aid and are top endurance riders in Mexico.
Mexico is a vast country. The Sierra Madre and Rocky Mountains run south from the border with the US. The interior consists of an elevated plateau. Northern Mexico is dry and desert-like, while the south is mountainous jungle containing the ruins of ancient Mayan and Aztec city complexes. These indigenous civilizations are credited with many inventions including: building pyramid-temples, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, highly-accurate calendars, fine arts, intensive agriculture, engineering, an abacus calculation, a complex theology, and the wheel. Without any draft animals the wheel was used only as a toy. The only metals they apparently knew how to use were native copper and gold.
The people of Mexico today are a mixture of descendants from Spanish and other immigrants, mainly Europeans, who settled in Mexico from the sixteenth century onwards, and mestizos - mixed European and indigenous ancestry, as well as the many indigenous groups. It is a nation where affluence, poverty, natural splendour and urban blight rub shoulders. It is also one of the worlds most bio-diverse countries with an incredible and colourful array of fauna and fauna.
Mexico is six to eight hours behind 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 is +52.