Traverse the rural countryside of Central Panama on horseback on this unique 5 day riding adventure aimed at intermediate to experienced riders. Get off the beaten path and explore the central highlands that make up Panama’s scenic continental divide.

Panama has a rich history and culture. The mountain hamlet where you will be based has been a trading point and stop off for over 400 years. People traveling between the thick jungles that line the Caribbean and the more arid Pacific coastal landscapes have left their mark with examples of pre-Columbian rock carvings and ancient trails.

You’ll be riding on cattle paths, dirt roads and jungle trails. The landscape is varied, with opportunities to gallop and cross rivers on sure-footed Panamanian Creole horses. Surrounding Santa Fe village, the trails we ride weave through the Santa Fe National Park, a jungle with abundant bird and wildlife.

Accommodation is in a small Cambodian owned and operated hotel on the outskirts of the village. The patio views are perfect for your early morning coffee and after ride sun down drinks. The expansive views over the valley with the clouds rolling in from the jungle make for a picturesque background.

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 AR of Calgary on 17/06/2022

Ride Summary
Such an amazing holiday! Situated in a quiet town but still some fun things to do locally after the ride as well. Enjoyed getting to see so much of the area with all the different landscapes.
What was your overall impression of the holiday
Overall impression
Unicorn Trails sales staff

Riding tour leader

Additional Comments
So kind, friendly and personable. Always made you feel comfortable!
Horses and Tack

Additional Comments
Meals

Accommodation

Miscellaneous

Was this trip accurately described to you beforehand?
YES
Please give more details to explain your response:
Was there anything you should have known and were not told? NO
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What could we do to improve this ride?
How would you rate the difficulty of this ride out of 10 where 1 is very easy and 10 is very advanced?
6
Please explain why you scored it as you did:
Some river crossings and steep hills but lots of beautiful scenery and open spaces to ride!
Would you recommend Unicorn Trails to your friends?
YES
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May we use you as a reference for other people wishing to go on this ride?
YES
Any other comments:
Unicorn comments: Thank you for your feedback. Glad you enjoyed the ride! :)

Day 1 - Arrival in Santa Fe

Check in to your accommodations at Hotel Anachoreo and receive a warm welcome to Santa Fe.

Day 2 - Morning Ride in La Herradura Foothills

Riding time - 3+ hours

Early morning pick up at your accommodation with a 30 minute drive to the trail head. Today's ride explores the drier foothills of the Cerro Tute mountain range. Covered in low shrubs, the majority of your ride takes you through open spaces with expansive views and includes several wide river crossings. This is the perfect opportunity to test the speed and agility of your mount as the land is flatter and drier. After a full morning of riding we head back to Santa Fe town for lunch. 

Day 3 - Full-Day Ride from La Herradura to Santa Fe

Riding time - 5+ hours

An early start to make the most of the cooler air before the sun starts to heat things up! We drive 30 minutes out of Santa Fe town to an old cattle corral, from here we ride into Panama's remote interior on horseback. Exploring, on horseback the valleys and hillsides, where, in pre-Columbian times, Chief Urraca and his Ngäbe people once roamed. We ride into Santa Fe town at late afternoon for a well deserved meal and sundown drinks. 

Day 4 - Bermejo Waterfall Ride and Hike

Riding time - 3+ hours

Ride to the trail head of the waterfall hike, hitch the horses and head into the jungle on foot to one of the most beautiful waterfalls in our area. There is a deep, clear water pool to swim in, a hidden cave with pre-columbian carved petroglyph rocks to explore and amazing jungle to get immersed in! Ending with a local lunch and a relaxing afternoon.

Day 5 - Mountain Loop Ride with a visit to an Organic Coffee Farm

Riding time - 4+ hours

An early morning ride through the mountains, exploring the rural farming areas and passing traditional homes following a trail that leads us to a locally owned organic coffee farm. We hitch the horses while we explore the self sustainable gardens and traditional coffee making process. With fantastic, enthusiastic local hosts we gain an insight into gardening and farming in tropical Panama. There is the opportunity for a river swim with the horses after lunch before heading back to town. 

Day 6 -  Ride on the borders of the National Park

Riding time - 4+ hours

A loop ride takes you from the village of Santa Fe along the boundaries of the Santa Fe National Park. With over 72,000 Ha of tropical jungle we ride on the fringes, along narrow trails crossing multiple water ways. You will be impressed with your horses sure-footedness and level mind while we cross suspension bridges and pick our way through rocky river beds. We ride back into town for a late lunch. The afternoon can be spent relaxing in the hammocks with a book or down at the river's edge soaking up the sun on the warm boulders. 

Day 7 - Departure

Here we say goodbye and until next time!

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.

Transfers:

There are several transfer options available from Panama City to Santa Fe, Veraguas:

Car Hire - probably the most popular option, cheaper than a group transfer and more convenient than the public bus. Approximately a 5 hour drive each way. 

Public Bus - the cheapest option!

You can do this travelling alone for adventurous travellers or we can offer escorted trips departing from the airport or your hotel near the bus terminal if arriving the evening before. This is a great way to see parts of Panama from lush jungle up into the mountains with some spectacular views. 

The trip takes several hours and requires bus changes:Albrook is the main Panama City bus terminal. This is about 45 mins driving away from the international airport. It's easy to take a taxi or an Uber to the bus terminal. There is a bus every hour to Santiago, the trip is about 4 to 5 hours and costs $14. Its recommended to leave early morning. 

In Santiago you can transfer to a coaster bus to Santa Fe or take a taxi to your hotel. The bus costs $3 and is 1 hour 30mins. The last coaster bus to Santa Fe leaves just after 17h00 from Santiago, the reason to make an early morning start is so that you don't miss this bus! For more information and time table visit: https://www.grantnt.com/index.php/a-donde-quieras-llegar/local/veraguas-2/

We can arrange a registered guide to escort you from your flight/hotel onto the correct bus to Santa Fe. This costs $40 Tocumen Airport - Albrook bus terminal per vehicle for up to 4 pax and includes receiving guests at the arrival gate with a welcome identity sign and guiding them onto the correct bus to arrive in Santiago. $60 from any hotel in Panama city - Albrook bus terminal. Can be paid on the day.

On arrival in Santiago we can organise a private taxi to wait for you at the bus terminal and transfer directly to your hotel in Santa Fe. This service would be around $50 per vehicle for up to 4 pax and can be paid on the day. Or you can take the Coaster bus up the mountain as above for $3.

For larger groups the group would be split between two vehicles and there would be two drivers. 

Private Transfer - for groups of 4  -8  pax, $440 each way per car for 4 pax, each additional person $15 extra, payable on site. Pick up from any location in Panama City (airport, hotel etc.). 4.5 - 5 hours one way.

Charter Flight - an amazing experience flying into a small mountain town. The plane seats up to 8 people and it is approximately 34 to 45 minute flight. Cost approx. $2,9450 per flight each way, payable on site. The local landing strip is about 10mins driving from the accommodation and your hosts would coordinate a taxi service for you.

Speak to a travel advisor for more details.

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

This riding program is suitable for intermediate to advanced riders. You must be comfortable at all paces including gallop and with experience of riding in open countryside. A reasonable level of fitness is required to cope with up to six hours a day in the saddle. The horses use mostly western tack and bridles and are all trained to neck rein. They are Paso Creole horses varying degrees of Paso gait. They are forward moving, surefooted and very level headed. 


Rider requirements

This riding program is suitable for intermediate to advanced riders. You must be comfortable at all paces including gallop and with experience of riding in open countryside. A reasonable level of fitness is required to cope with up to six hours a day in the saddle.

Weight Limit

The weight limit for this ride is 209 lb/95 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.

You'll be staying in a Cambodian owned local hotel with fantastic valley views and a quiet ambiance. The hotel has 4 simple rooms with private bathrooms and home cooked, garden-fresh Cambodian food. Free WiFi is available in public spaces throughout the property.



Breakfasts are served on the terrace and include local fruits, coffee, tea, eggs and jams.



Lunch is eaten at local Panamanian restaurants or a locally owned organic coffee farm. We hitch the horses outside and sit down with a cool beverage to enjoy a hearty local lunch. Most lunches are served with rice and beans, a salad and your choice of meat. A drink is included with lunch (juice, wine, beer, coffee, or water).



Dinner is eaten back at the hotel where you will have your choice from the Cambodian themed restaurant menu.


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 visas are required the conditions for these 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. If you are visiting Panama, your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of exit from Panama. Your passport must also have an unused page.

General information: British nationals don’t need a visa to visit Panama except if arriving by sea in 2022. You must have a return or onward ticket and the equivalent of USD 500 or a credit card. F
rom 1 October 2021, British nationals entering Panama now have a 90 day (3 month) tourist visa stamped in their passport to mark entry to Panama.

A USD 40 airport tax is charged on departure. This is usually included in the airline ticket fare. Check with your carrier.

The British Embassy in Panama can be found at British Embassy, Humboldt Tower, 4th Floor, Calle 53, Marbella, Panama City. Telephone: (507) 297 6550 / +44 1908 51 6666.

Panamanian representation in the UK can be found at 40 Hertford Street, London, W1J 7SH. Telephone: +44 (0) 207 493 4646. Email: panama1@btconnect.com.

The Foreign and Commonwealth office also provides travel advice on their website at www.fco.gov.uk.

Climate Summary

Santa Fé's climate is classified as tropical, with a rainy season from May to January and a short dry season from January to May.

At an average temperature of 22.7 °C, May is the hottest month of the year. The lowest average temperatures in the year occur in January, when it is around 21.5 °C.

Precipitation is the lowest in February, with an average of 129 mm. The greatest amount of precipitation occurs in November, with an average of 479 mm.
In Santa Fé, the wet season is overcast, the dry season is partly cloudy, and it is warm and oppressive year round.

Climate Chart

Health

Travellers are advised to arrange an appointment with their health professional at least four to six weeks before travel to seek up-to-date advise on vaccinations and other precaution measures before travelling.

Most travellers are recommended to vaccinate against Hepatitis A. Other vaccinations to consider are those against: Diphtheria; Rabies; Tetanus; Typhoid; Yellow Fever and Hepatitis B for individuals at higher risk.
Malaria and dengue fever are common throughout the year in parts of Panama, including some outlying areas of Panama City. UK health authorities have classified Panama as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. Cases of Chikungunya virus have been confirmed in Panama and the number of reported cases in the region is increasing. Awareness of the risk and bite avoidance is recommended.
UNAIDS figures estimate that around 21,000 adults aged 15 or over in Panama were living with HIV in 2016. The prevalence percentage was estimated at around 0.8% of the adult population. You should exercise normal precautions to avoid exposure to HIV/AIDS.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 911 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.

This country has either areas with high altitude (2400m or more) or/and areas with very high altitude (3,658m or more). Travellers who may go into areas of high altitude should take care to avoid ill effects of being at altitude including Acute Mountain Sickness, a potentially life-threatening condition.

Panama City has some good private hospitals and clinics, but medical facilities outside the capital are limited. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

For further guidance you can visit www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk.

Electricity

In Panama the standard voltage is 110 V and the frequency is 60 Hz. There are two associated plug types, types A and B. Plug type A is the plug which has two flat parallel pins and plug type B is the plug which has two flat parallel pins and a grounding pin.

Packing List

ON THE TRAILS:
• Long pants or jodhpurs you’ll be comfortable in for long periods.
• Riding shoes that are also suitable to walk/hike in.
• Long sleeved, collared shirt or similar for sun protection.
• Light weight rain jacket especially in the rainy season - May to November.
• A hard hat, cap or wide brim hat for the sun - note there are some helmets available at the stables to rent but your personal helmet will always fit better.
• Bum bag or similar for easy access to your phone, camera, lip balm, sunglasses etc.
• Sunblock, water bottle (your hosts provide a large water dispenser to refill each day).
DOWNTIME:
• Lightweight pants for the cooler night air and possible bugs.
• Lightweight sweater
• Swim suit
• Towel
• Sunblock
• Bug spray
There is the option to do laundry at your accommodation - line dry only.

Programmes

This is a 7 days/ 6 nights programme with 5 days riding available on set dates.

Departure Dates

2022: 25 Jun; 25 Jul; 22 Aug; 24 Oct; 7, 21 Nov; 5, 16*, 27* Dec.
2023: 9, 23 Jan; 6, 20 Feb; 6, 20 Mar; 10, 24 Apr.
(* denotes High Season)

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 £
2022/20237d/6n5double pp1,619
2022/2023 - High Season7d/6n5double pp1,939
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description
2022/20237d/6n5double pp1,909
2022/2023 - High Season7d/6n5double pp2,289
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description $
2022/20237d/6n5double pp1,919
2022/2023 - High Season7d/6n5double pp2,305
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description SEK
2022/20237d/6n5double pp19,905
2022/2023 - High Season7d/6n5double pp23,885
Other Activities

We recommend adding a day or two onto your trip to explore the city of Panama, the Panama Canal and Casco Viejo (old quarter). With its rich history, beautiful French Architecture and location along the sea, it is clear to see why the Casco Viejo - which now hosts a variety of bars, cafes and artisanal shops - is a UNESCO heritage site.

Wildlife

Santa Fe National Park is located in Panama’s Veraguas mountain range. It encompasses the northern stretch of the Santa María River. This park is known for its incredible diversity of birds, with more than 300 species. These include tanagers, antbirds, pygmy owls, crested owls, hummingbirds, hawks, finches, and oropendola, parrots, macaws, doves, and many more tropical species. You should also keep an eye out for monkeys, salamanders, boa constrictors and frogs. Although very rarely seen, Santa Fe National Park also provides a habitat for a few jaguars. You can plan hikes to some of the area’s most interesting landmarks. Waterfalls punctuate the trails through this park, and Bermejo Falls is one of the most well known.

Other Country Information

Panama, officially the Republic of Panama, is a country in Central America on the Isthmus of Panama, the land bridge between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean that connects North and South America.
Panama is bordered by Colombia and Costa Rica.

The country is best known for the Panama Canal, a man-made waterway, opened in 1914. The canal cuts through the country, linking the Caribbean Sea (Atlantic) with the Pacific Ocean. The canal is owned and administered by the Republic of Panama, it is one of the two most-strategic artificial waterways in the world (the other is the Suez Canal in Egypt). Until 1999 the Panama Canal was controlled by the United States.

Panama occupies an area of 74,177 km², making it slightly larger than the Republic of Ireland or slightly smaller than the U.S. state of South Carolina.

Panama's landscape is mostly mountainous, covered by rainforest and jungle and the Continental divide runs through the middle. The highest point in Panama is Volcán Barú, an active stratovolcano with an elevation of 3,475 m (11,460 feet) is located in west, close to the border with Costa Rica.

It is worth noting that Panama is the only country in the world in which you can see the sun rise in in the Pacific Ocean and set on the Atlantic Ocean from the top of Volcan Baru.

Panama has a population of about 4 million people (in 2017); capital and largest city is Panama City; official language is Spanish.

Travel Summary

Meeting-point (getting there):
Panama City
Transfer:
2022: Transfer time about 5 hrs. See under itinerary for details. Options are: car rental; public air-conditioned bus; private group transfer (4 pax $440 each way per car); charter flight. All payable on site.
Flight Guide:
London - Panama City return approx £550 - £1,000
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