Take part in one of the most important equestrian festivals in Mexico, a tradition of more than half a century, which gathers approximately 4000 Mexican horseback riders from all parts of the country, who meet each January on Cristo Rey Mountain, considered the Geographical center of Mexico.

After completing the pilgrimage, continue the horseback route as a private group and explore the historical  "Mystery Villages”. Ride through, and camp in the valley of the blue birds, while following ancient springs to the community of Santa Rosa. This is a horseback riding vacation for fit intermediate riders and above due to the long hours in the saddle.  While there are opportunities to canter, much of the ride is at walk due to the mountainous terrain.

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Day 1 Arrival
Arrive at the meeting point in the city of León Guanajuato for 12:30pm. From there, stop at a local saddlery shop with traditional clothing and equipment of the Mexican equestrian culture.  This is the perfect opportunity for those who wish to dress up in the Mexican horseman style clothing to make a few purchases.  Then transfer by car (about 2-hour drive) to a former Jesuit Hacienda located between the mountainous area of Sierra de Lobos, it is currently composed of 2,650 hectares of beautiful landscapes and more than 3 million native oak trees. Here, enjoy a rich welcome dinner and stay for the night.

Day 2 
After a delicious breakfast transfer to the community of "El Salto del Ahogado" where the horses await. Here, join the group of riders coming from “El Torreon” who allow us to join their contingent of pilgrims. Depart on horseback, from this community in the direction of Nuevo Valle de Moreno.  A horseback ride through ancient roads in the mountainous area of Santa Barbara, until we reach the community of Nuevo Valle de Moreno.  Overnight stay with a local family and enjoy some home cooked food before setting up camp for the evening.

Day 3
After an early breakfast at the campsite, (before 5 o´clock am), set off in the saddle by 6am, long before dawn, to ride out together with hundreds of Mexican riders. Ride by starlight until the sun rises, then, with the light of a new day you realise the immense number of riders riding in the same direction as us, moved by their faith. Continue on your pilgramage until reaching “Tuna Mansa” on the slopes of the Cubilete mountain, considered the geographical center of Mexico.  Here, stop for a delicious lunch of typical mexican foods prepared by local cooks and take a rest in the confortable makeshift dining room. In the afternoon set off for an ascent of 657 meters on 7.6 kilometers. Until we reach the Cubilete mountain top, place where the monument to Cristo Rey is located. There at the top of the mountain gather with a melee of hundreds of horseman and horses. We will be received by the hundreds of groups of riders, who travel from different parts of Mexico, to meet us year after year for several decades on the top of the mountain. Witness the hospitality of Mexicans, as we will receive various invitations to each of the different campsites to enjoy food and drinks. Most of local riders will remain there the whole night before the big celebration. Transfer to comfortable accommodation just few kilometers from there.

Day 4
After an exquisite breakfast at the Parador, attend the celebration of Holy Mass with the presence of the Archbishop and with more than 3,500 horses and riders. This is an experience, difficult to describe in words. The possibility of being able to share with “thousands of riders”, riding their horses in the local traditional “Ranchera” way, and participating with great devotion in this unique event. Today we will spend much of the day witnessing and living the equestrian tradition wrapped in their faith and discovering Mexican culture from its deepest bowels, sharing this wonderful experience with hundreds of riders from different parts of Mexico.  At lunch time enjoy delicious typical food of the region, served by one of the most recognized traditional cooks, from the area of “Sangre de Cristo”.  After lunch we will be transferred to Hacienda Jesus Maria, a charming hotel located in a historic place and part of a sustainable tourist complex of the Sangre de Cristo community along with the “Caminos D’vinos” vineyard. The perfect place to relax after long days on horseback.

Day 5
After breakfast on the hacienda, and having concluded the pilgrimage together with thousands of local riders, we now continue on our own, “Our Private Adventure Group”, today we will carry out a round-trip on horseback through what is known as "The Mystery Villages” It is about three old communities where historical aspects such as: 1.- Chichimeca indigenous people, 2.-The Cristero región (The old Cristero War) that has inspired Hollywood. 3.- And Silver mining. At the end of the 19th century, these three villages; Sangre de Cristo and Mineral La Luz, and San Ignacio became ghost towns, however this was one of the most prosperous mining enclaves in the region. Even in the ancestor century, the inhabitants of the Mineral de la Luz were counted by thousands and had, for example, their own bullring, tobacco factory, sugar plantations and profit haciendas. In 1929 this territory was reincorporated to the municipality of Guanajuato and today has only about 300 inhabitants. In the evening head back to the "Hacienda Jesús María" - or similar

Day 6
After breakfast at the hotel, it’s time to continue the journey and ride in the direction of "El Varal", a nature reserve that is located in the north of the state of Guanajuato; adjoins the rural communities of Joya de Lobos, Santa Rosa, La Concepción and Los Mexicans. Today´s horse journey takes us to the valley of the blue birds, where we will set up our camp and enjoy our night camping in this magnificent natural setting.  A true natural paradise where we will have the opportunity to spend the night in a safari style camp, and where we can enjoy a night of barbecue ranchera, campfire and guitars.

Day 7
After breakfast in the camp, accompanied by the singing of the birds and with spectacular views of this magnificent natural setting, we will continue on our last day on horseback, to the rural community of Santa Rosa. Ride along the springs ancient path, that borders a mountainous area and passes through a cavern that houses a spring of crystalline water that filters through the Santa Rosa mountains. We continue ascending and descending through natural landscapes, interned in the forest, home to hundreds of animal species, such as the puma, the coyote, raccoons, armadillos and many others. Until we reach Santa Rosa, where we will enjoy Lunch, and end our adventure on horseback.  Tonight stay in the Hotel Posada – Guanajuato

Day 8
After breakfast at the hotel we will take a walking tour to discover the unique city of Guanajuato, you are sure to be AMAZED!!  The first known inhabitants of the area were the prehispanic indigenous groups Otomi, who were then displaced by the Chichimeca. Mining had been done in this area long before the Spanish arrived. Late in the pre-Hispanic period the Aztecs had a presence here, specifically to look for metals to make ornamental objects for their political and religious elite. Some stories from this time state that the area was so rich in minerals that nuggets of gold could be picked up from the ground. Currently, the city of Guanajuato is a colonial city with beautiful buildings, that contain the elements from the two main cultures that created the city, ~ indigenous and Hispanic~, and marking the source of our Mexican nation, conserves its architectural features and environment. Protected by its inhabitants and government, state and municipal, Guanajuato was declared by UNESCO as the “Historic Town of Guanajuato and Adjacent Mines” in December 1988 and is today considered the most beautiful colonial city of Mexico”. In the evening, enjoy a farewell Dinner in the traditional thematic restaurant cantina, where the joy of music will make you enjoy an authentic Mexican party

Day 9 
After breakfast at the hotel depart for the airport and start your journey home.
        
 

Reading List
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.

Sons of the Shaking Earth - Eric Wolf. A wonderfully readable introduction to Mexican history.
The Maya (Ancient Peoples and Places) - Michael D Coe
Aztecs: An Interpretation - Inga Clendinnen. A fascinating, thought-provoking and vividly dramatic look into the heart of Aztec society.
Distant Neighbors: A Portrait of the Mexicans - Alan Riding, is an excellent guide to understanding modern Mexico and its love-hate relationship with the United States.
So Far So God: A Journey to Central America - Patrick Marnham. A vivid account of a trip from California, through Mexico to the badlands of Central America. The title comes from the saying 'Poor Mexico! So far from God, so close to the United States.' 
Like Water For Chocolate - Laura Esquivel. This book created a huge interest in things Mexican when it was published in 1989. Set in rural Mexico at the time of the revolution, the novel manages to combine fantasy with recipes. 
All the Pretty Horses - Cormac McCarthy. A poetic tale of three young latter-day cowboys riding south of the border.
European novelists have long been attracted by Mexico. Graham Greene's 1930s travelogue The Lawless Roads and his great novel The Power and the Glory; Aldous Huxley's Beyond the Mexique Bay and DH Lawrence's burdensome The Plumed Serpent, which is intent on asking all the big questions about Mexican life.
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.

Of course a mandatory copy of Lonely Plant Guide is invaluable.

 

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

The horses used on this trail are mainly Quarter horses and Mexican Criollo, they are fit, responsive and willing, ranging from 15hh - 16.2hh. The tack utilised is Mexican or Western as standard, although 2 English saddles are available on request.


Rider requirements

This trail requires a confident rider secure with all three paces. (walk, trot and canter), riders will be covering 25-35km/day over 5-7 hours so a reasonable fitness level is necessary.

Depending on the group, gallops in open spaces may be proposed by the guide. There will be some narrow paths to navigate both descending and climbing.

Riders can, if they want, saddle and unsaddle their horse but this is optional and the guide is happy to do this.
The minimum age for this ride is 14 years. Riders aged 14-18 must be accompanied by an adult and a signed letter of consent from the parent/guardian must be submitted.

Weight Limit

The weight limit for this ride is 242 lb/110 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.

Accommodation includes a mix of guesthouses, hotels and camping



Meals are based on regional Mexican food and include: beef, pork, chicken, eggs, fruits, vegetables, cereals, rice, milk, coffee, natural fruit juices, purified bottled water.



During the trail, most of the food is prepared by the rural communities we visit, made with fresh ingredients and hygienically prepared. In many cases with pre-hispanic ancestral recipes, showcasing some unique flavours and textures.


Vegetarian or other dietary requirements within reason can be accommodated with advance notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests before booking.

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:

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: mexuk@easynet.co.uk.

Climate Summary

In January the area experiences cooler weather. Mornings feel fresh, average temperatures in the day: 17 to 23 ° C - night: 8 to 12 ° C), Rain (unlikely).


Climate Chart

Health

COVID: Be sure to check the latest COVID regulations for travelling in any country you visit.

Health authorities have classified Mexico as having a risk of Zika virus transmission.

On arrival in Mexico City and other high altitude areas, you may feel a lack of energy, shortness of breath or headaches.

Drink only boiled or bottled water and avoid ice in drinks.

Please refer to your country’s latest health guideline for travel in Mexico and contact your own GP for up to date advice on vaccinations and prophylaxis prior to travel.

Please take along sun cream and anti-allergy medicine for possible insect bites.

Health (ride specific)

There are no specific health requirements in the area of the ride although do remember sun block - the ride takes place at some altitude and the sun is always stringer the higher you are. Please see your doctor for the most up to date information.
At the time of going to print visas are not required for most European and US/Canadaian citizens but do check with the Mexican embassy before travelling.

Electricity

In Mexico the supply voltage is 127V. If the appliance or its power supply are not dual voltage rated, the single voltage appliance will have to be used alongside a voltage transformer or converter to allow the appliance to work safely and properly (unless the appliance operates at 127V).

Mobile, WiFi and charging

Digital camera's and phones can be charged at the hotels overnight with suitable adaptors (US style). Recommend taking battery charging packs for camp nights. Wifi/internet charges are not included and may apply.

Packing List

Riding Hat recommended
Hat or cap
Sunglasses, Sun block
Handkerchief or bandana (for neck)
Boots and comfortable shoes for after riding
Summer shirts (2)
Long-sleeved shirt (2)
Pants/trousers comfortable to ride (2)
Waterproof jacket in case of rain (0.26 cm prec. prom)
Light jacket for warm weather (average temperatures / / Day 25 degrees/ / night 8 degrees)
Sweater
Chaps
Gloves
Canteen/reusable water bottle
Camera and / or video camcorder with sufficient batteries.
Torch
Personal Medication
Toiletries
Sleeping bag

Items provided by the host include Saddlebags, Picnic Mat, Camping equipment (Except sleeping bag, personal flashlight and canteen), Luggage Support Vehicle.

Programmes

This is a 9 day /8 night program with 6 days riding on one set date.

Departure Dates

2024: 3 - 11 January (FULL)
2025: 3 - 11 January

Pricing
No single rooms available (on some or all nights). Riders must be prepared to share with someone of the same sex.
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description £
20259d/8n6double pp3,705
20259d/8n6Double pp 10% Early booking discount available until 1st March 2024-369
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description
20259d/8n6double pp4,389
20259d/8n6Double pp 10% Early booking discount available until 1st March 2024-435
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description US $
20259d/8n6double pp4,935
20259d/8n6Double pp 10% Early booking discount available until 1st March 2024-489
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description SEK
20259d/8n6double pp50,335
20259d/8n6Double pp 10% Early booking discount available until 1st March 2024-5,029
Recommended Reading

Sons of the Shaking Earth, by Eric Wolf, is a wonderfully readable introduction to Mexican history. Mexico and The Maya, by Michael D Coe, Aztecs, by Inga Clendinnen, is a fascinating, thought-provoking and vividly dramatic look into the heart of Aztec society. Distant Neighbors: A Portrait of the Mexicans, by Alan Riding, is an excellent guide to understanding modern Mexico and its love-hate relationship with the United States. So Far from God: A Journey to Central America, by Patrick Marnham, is a vivid account of a trip from California, through Mexico to the badlands of Central America. The title comes from the saying 'Poor Mexico! So far from God, so close to the United States.' Laura Esquivel's Like Water for Chocolate created a huge interest in things Mexican when it was published in 1989. Set in rural Mexico at the time of the revolution, the novel manages to combine fantasy with recipes. Cormac McCarthy's marvelous All the Pretty Horses is a poetic tale of three young latter-day cowboys riding south of the border. European novelists have long been attracted by Mexico Graham Greene's 1930s travelogue Lawless Roads and his great novel The Power and the Glory; Aldous Huxley's Beyond the Mexique Bay; and DH Lawrence's burdensome The Plumed Serpent, which is intent on asking all the big questions about Mexican life. Of course a mandatory copy of Lonely Planet guide is invaluable. For the equestrian traveller who would like to see what is possible on horseback visit


Other Activities

Reading, playing cards, listening to Mexican music.

Wildlife

The predominant type of vegetation is the Encino Forest, combined with native species such as Madroño and Pinguica.  It is also natural habitat for mammalian species such as the white-tailed deer, wildcat, cacomixtle (ring tailed cat),  listed skunk and long-nosed bat, also reporting more than 170 species of birds, pointing to Cooper's hawk, the peregrine falcon and the cuckold owl, among many more. Type of vegetation you can observe: Semi-desertic area, Valles of cactus, oak and madrone, forest, wetlands.

Other animals you may observe on your journey: Cougars, coyotes, bobcats, raccoons, foxes, ringtails, Hare, Armadillos, opossums, deer, snakes, pumas and more than 100 bird species.

Other Country Information

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.




Travel Summary

Meeting-point (getting there):
In the lobby of Hotsson Hotel Blvd, city of León Guanajuato.
Transfer:
2024: group transfers can be arranged for US$180 (subject to change)
Flight Guide:
London - Guanajuato International Airport (BJX) return from £750pp
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