See Peru in a way few are privileged to experience. By day, explore the Sacred Valley of the Incas on horses descended from the steeds of the Conquistadors. By night, enjoy the luxury and comfort of the finest hotels in Peru. You will ride on our spirited Peruvian Paso horses, famous for their velvet smooth gait. You will pass through mountain villages where all the residents will watch in awe as you ride by on these beautiful animals, the sounds of their hooves echoing on the cobblestone roads. This exclusive ride is more than an unforgettable riding experience in the Andes. It combines culture, history and adventure with fine Peruvian cuisine and charming hotels.
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 RK of Minneapolis on 16/10/2019
You will be met on arrival at Cusco airport and transferred to your hotel near the centre of this historical city. Today it is important that you rest and relax to help acclimatise to the altitude. There is no riding scheduled for today but you can walk around the city a little and spend your time resting. Lunch and dinner are to your own account today.
After breakfast, at approx. 9:15am, you will be collected from your hotel and transferred approx. 1 hour 30mins to your accommodation in the Sacred Valley. You will spend the next three nights in this hotel which is just a short drive from the stables. After time to unpack and refresh you will be transferred to the ranch to meet the horses.
After a delicious barbecue lunch there is a demonstration of classical Peruvian equitation in which your guides will introduce you to the tack and style of riding. A short riding lesson follows, where you are matched with a horse according to your ability, weight, preference etc. Dinner is either at the ranch or at a local restaurant.
After a hearty breakfast at your hotel you are transferred to the ranch for your first full day of riding. You set off along an old, forgotten path behind the ranch, which leads to a breathtaking spot on the top of the Cordillera Vilcanota. Follow hidden trails through unspoilt landscapes and truly off the beaten track - we keep the route secret so it remains exclusive!
The first part of the ride involves a serious climb following narrow but beautiful mountain trails though lots of vegetation. You can see the rich flora of the Peruvian Andes, such as the Molle tree, or Pepper Tree (the Incas once used the resin to embalm mummies), the Sauco Tree (which produces small and very tasty purplishblack fruits), the Capuli fruit tree (similar to a cherry), the Quena Tree (with a twisted trunk and reddish bark which flakes and peels like paper), the Tamarillo Tree (tree tomato), Cantutas (the flower of the Incas), Aguaymanto (Peruvian cherry or cape gooseberry), Muna (mint-like Peruvian herb) and many other intriguing species.
At the top of the mountain, the horses rest whilst you appreciate the view - there are no words to describe the panorama. After snacks and drinks, you continue your ride downhill along lush and secret trails across privately owned land until reaching a property which belongs to friends of your guide, nestled in a gorgeous valley. Here you stop for a delicious lunch of fresh trout before heading back to the ranch around 4pm.
Dinner will be at a local restaurant or the ranch before returning to your hotel to rest.
Today you will take the train from Urubamba to Machu Picchu. The experience of visiting Machu Picchu is not limited to the ruins themselves as the train journey is one of the most spectacular in the world. Since its discovery by Hiram Bingham in 1911 the site has captivated the hearts and minds of the modern world. Since July 2017, the Peruvian government has established new regulations to preserve this Wonder of the World. There are two entrance times - Morning (06:00-12:00) and Afternoon (12:00-17:30). Capacity at the site is limited to 2,500 visitors, split between both entrance times. Your entry to Machu Picchu has to be booked in advance and your guides will endeavour to book the afternoon session with the most convenient train times, but this is not guaranteed. Depending on availability, you will travel on the luxurious Vistadome train from Ollantaytambo in the morning (30mins drive from your hotel) and will return to the same station at about 7/8pm, where you will be transferred back to your hotel, via the ranch for dinner. (Lunch is to your own account today).
After breakfast you are transferred to the ranch for a full day of riding. After crossing the Urubamba bridge, you pass Pichingote which is an old Andean hamlet built alongside the river. Ride onto Salinas up a narrow track where you will see salt pans from Inca times which are still being used by locals to extract salt from the mountain spring water. The salt pans consist of a series of platforms where the salty water is channelled through an impressive irrigation system and left to evaporate in the sun. Today you will climb nearly 850m on horseback to reach the Andean altiplano - the climb takes about 2 hours and is done slowly so both riders and horses have time to adjust to the altitude. Once at 3,550m you will be surrounded by stunning scenery including the snow capped mountains of Chicon, Veronica and Pitusuray. Continue your ride to Maras, a typical Andean village with a 400yr old colonial church where you stop for a picnic lunch. This church was built just after the conquest and is one of the ten oldest churches in South America. From Maras you visit the ruins of Cheqoq where the Inca's constructed fascinating cold storage areas to preserve their produce. Cooling is achieved by a series of wind tunnels and water channels. Continue riding to the beautiful churchyard of Tiobamba where you stop for the day - the horses remain here and you are transferred back to your hotel. Dinner will be at the ranch or a local restaurant.
Riding approx. 4 hours. Altitude 2,800m - 3,550m
After breakfast you are transferred back to the horses at Tiobamba. Set off along primitive trails across the altiplano with spectacular scenery all around you - snowcapped mountains, wild flowers and mountain lakes. You may see local Quechua children with their herds of sheep or cattle, or campesinos ploughing their fields using oxen hitched to a wooden plough.
Stop for a picnic lunch just before Chinchero, where on a clear day the views are tremendous - a vista of rolling altiplano ringed by the snow-capped peaks of the cordilleras Vilcabamba and Urubamba. After lunch, ride a short distance to Lake Piuray and continue in the direction of Cusco to a local family farm where you leave the horses. Time allowing, you'll then take a short car journey to Chinchero to visit a textiles workshop and view a demonstration of local techniques for spinning, dyeing and weaving wool - the beautiful fabrics are available to buy if you wish.
Transfer to the historical city of Cusco - the oldest continuously inhabited city in South America and former capital of the great Inca Empire. For the next two nights you stay in a very comfortable hotel in the heart of Cusco's archaeological centre. Enjoy dinner in Cusco (to your own account) - your guides can recommend a restaurant to you.
Riding approx. 4-5 hours. Altitude 3,550m - 3,800m
Today is a rest day for the horses and a free day for you to explore Cusco with its numerous ruins, cathedrals and museums - or you may prefer to relax in one of the many coffee shops or bars.
According to Inca legend, Cusco was founded around 1200AD by Manco Capac and Mama Occlo. Manco Capac selected the site after the golden staff given to him by his father, the Sun, sank into the earth and disappeared. Each Inca emperor built his own palace during his reign and you can still see the original walls throughout Cusco.
All meals, except breakfast, are to your own account today.
After breakfast you are transferred back to Lake Piuray and your horses. Today is a beautiful riding day with breathtaking scenery (literally!) of impressive snow-capped mountains and the altiplano where herds of alpaca and llama are often seen grazing. You may have to ride along non-existent mountain trails where you have to improvise and find the best way along the side of the mountain - this is a remote area which is not easily accessible. You will be impressed by the skill of your horses and how they are able to handle the difficult terrain and steep climbs. At one point you will reach a pass of 4,350m, from where you can see Lake Quellacocha - this is the highest point of the ride.
Stop for a simple lunch at the lake and then continue riding to Lake Qqoricocha, passing vast potato fields which are all ploughed by hand. The trail starts to descend into the valley of Umasbamba along a zigzag route of about two hours - you may have to dismount and lead your horse for a short while (15mins) to cross some rocky sections. Close to the village of Umasbamba, you leave your horses and are transferred to your hotel by car. Dinner will be at a local restaurant or the ranch.
Riding: approx. 5-6 hours. Altitude: 3,300-4,350m
Another stunningly beautiful day with plenty of breaks for photo opportunities! From the village of Umasbamba you ride to the villages of Cuper Alto and Cuper Bajo, arriving in the early afternoon at an abandoned church near the village of Chinchero, where you stop for lunch.
To reach this place you have to follow a trail which was once a beautiful paved Inca road - parts of the road are still intact with water channels for irrigation and drainage, with paved grades leading to higher levels. This great Inca road system - the Qhapaq Nan - was one of the greatest engineering feats undertaken in the New World, rivalling the Roman road system of the Old World. The 30,000km network linked Cusco, the Inca capital, with the empire’s far-flung domains in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina and Chile. There are four major roads plus many secondary roads.
Continue riding through more stunning scenery to the village of Huaynacolca, high on the mountains that surround the Valley of the Incas. Here you leave the horses and transfer to your hotel in time to freshen up before dinner at the hotel's restaurant (your guides are unable to join you for dinner this evening).
Riding approx. 5-6 hours. Altitude 3,800 - 3,550m
Today is your last riding day, but before you meet the horses at Huaynacolca, you stop at a pottery shop of the renowned artist and ceramicist Pablo Seminario. Pablo is a local legend and integrates abstract modern styles with traditional Incan and preIncan ceramic techniques and designs. After your visit, you transfer to the horses and continue riding along the old Inca roads high above the Sacred Valley. Ride past farmland and the small village of Santana before returning to the village of Maras. Continue inland to the beautiful courtyard of an old house, which according to locals is bewitched, where you stop for lunch.
After lunch follow a trail with great views of the Urquillos Valley and continue your descent into the Sacred Valley, passing the salt mines again and arriving back at the ranch around 4pm in time for a celebratory Pisco Sour. Dinner will be at the ranch or in a local restaurant.
Riding approx. 4 hours. Altitude 3,550m - 2,800m
Early morning transfer to Cusco airport for your flight to Lima. The driving time is around 1 hour 15 minutes. The earliest your flight can depart from Lima is 5pm.
The itinerary is flexible. Changes may occur due to weather and other unforeseen circumstances.
Please Note: Due to the popularity of Machu Picchu and the restricted access, late bookings cannot be guaranteed a ticket. We recommend booking this ride at least 3 months before departure for the best chance of getting tickets.
It rains through the winter until March and the roads are too dangerous to ride on. In April there is still a chance of some rain but it is shorter and more refreshing. From then until June the mountains are all green and the weather is mild and not too cold at nightmaking it the perfect time for your riding holiday in the mountains. Starting in July but especially in August, it gets colder at night. The mountains turn to beautiful beige, brown and red autumn colours June to September is peak season noticeable mostly by the number of tourists in Cusco. October and November are also perfect for riding and dry. This is a wonderful opportunity to learn about the Peruvian culture, but may not be right for those needing a great deal of privacy and time alone. Please note that many parts of South America are not smoke free. Laundry services are available in Cusco and Urubamba. A four-wheel-drive jeep will act as a back up vehicle to the tour.
Please note we can arrange international flights with an overnight in Lima and internal flight to Cusco on request.
**A 7 night itinerary is available - please ask for 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.
The horses are locally bred Peruvian Pasos. This breed dates back to the colonial era of Peru and originates from the Spanish Andalusians. A symbol of their historic and noble past, Peruvian Paso horses are bred for their grace, spirit, and intelligence. These horses like to amble, moving fore and hind limbs on the same side at the same time, unlike other equine races that typically move diagonal limbs at the same time.
During the ride you will experience travelling on horseback at the Paso Llano gait (4-beat lateral gait, between 8 to 10 Km. per hour). The horses are well cared for, strong, and even-tempered. The tack utilised is very traditional and demonstrates refined Peruvian craftsmanship. The hardwood hex stirrup and the guarnicion, or tailpiece, are unique elements of the Peruvian tack. The saddle is a box saddle and has a deep seat.
Due to the very high altitude and rough, rocky terrain, this is not a fast-paced ride. The horses are asked to work at altitudes of between 2,800m and 4,350m, and we should remember that with the altitude and reduced oxygen this high up makes their job of carrying us much more difficult!! On this ride you will experiene the fabulous 'Paso Llano' where the terrain allows, but this is not a fast paced ride by definition.
Be comfortable in the saddle for five to six hours
Be comfortable at the walk, trot and short canters
Be able to ride up and down steep hills
Be physically able to hike at high altitudes (9,000 - 13,000 ft)
Age limit - 16 years old.
To ensure the welfare of the horses there is a strict rider weight limit of 85 kgs / 13.5st / 190 pounds (including riding gear). There are scales at the stables and the ride reserves the right to weigh riders prior to the ride setting off. Riders exceeding the weight limit may be excluded from the ride and no refund will be made.
The weight limit for this ride is 187 lb/85 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.
Depending on availability at the time the final reservations are made for the group, the following hotels are used:
SACRED VALLEY: Hotel Sonesta Posada del Inca Hotel Sonesta Posada del Inca, Plaza Manco II de Yucay 123 Urubamba, Cusco.
The Hotel Sonesta Posada del Inca in Yucay is only 5 miles from the stables, has comfortable heated rooms with private bathrooms and plenty of 'local colour'. The Sonesta Yucay Posada is a former 18th century colonial-style monastery and is surrounded by beautiful gardens. The 69-room hotel is like a little village with plazas, gardens and a small chapel. The rooms, with tile floors, wood ceilings, and hand-carved headboards, have balconies that overlook the gardens or the terraced hillsides.
CUSCO: Hotel Costa del Sol Hotel Costa del Sol, Santa Teresa 344, Cusco.
The Hotel Costa del Sol (former Hotel Picoaga, was originally the old mansion of the Spanish noble, the Marquis of Picoaga (century XVII). It has now been converted into a comfortable hotel. The intimate and public areas are beautifully decorated in colonial style, framed by fine stone archways on two levels and the beautiful columns and Spanish patio complete an authentic sample of 17th Century architecture.
While on the Sacred Valley of the Incas Ride, guests are treated to wonderful meals representing tasty regional cuisine. Dishes are made from fresh vegetables, dairy products, and fresh trout. Most meals are included in the trip price but not all, please see the itinerary for more details or ask your sales consultant for clarification.
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.
Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip. 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, your passport must have at least six months left to run. The FCO give travel advice on 0870 606 0290 or visit www.fco.gov.co.uk for up to date travel advice .
In Peru the British Embassy can be found at Torre Parque Mar (Piso 22), Aviendo Jose Larco Bol, Miraflores, Lima Tel: (51) (1) 617 3050/3000.
The Peruvian Embassy in the U.K can be found at 52 Sloane Street, London SW1X 9SP. Tel: (0) 20 7235 1917. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Peru's climate varies widely, ranging from tropical in the montaña to arctic in the highest mountains of the Andes. In the Sierra area of Cusco and Machu Picchu the temperature ranges seasonally from about 40 to 70 ºF. Rainfall is usually scanty, but in the mountains and in the jungle heavy rains last from December to April. In Cusco, in the south-eastern Sierra, annual rainfall averages about 81.5 mm (32 in).
Altitude sickness is a potential problem and rabies is endemic. A yellow fever vaccination is essential if you plan to visit the eastern slopes of the Andes or the Amazonian Basin. Your G.P. will advise on necessary vaccinations.
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.
As with all countries where the bacteria present in water and around food are not those to which we are accustomed you are advised to exercise a degree of care. Avoid all tap water. Bottled water is widely available, but check that bottle seals are intact and water levels reach the top. Fruit and raw vegetables which can be peeled are fine. Avoid ice cubes, diluted fruit juices and any unpasturised/unboiled milk.
For peace of mind it is recommended that should you require any tampons/sanitary items you take this with you. A toilet roll with inner cardboard tube removed will take up little space and may be an invaluable item
Voltage is 220V, 60 Hz.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.
Take along plenty of film and batteries for the magnificent photo opportunities! Cameras can be charged at the hotels every night.
Since you will be riding at elevations between 2,600 and 4,350 metres (8,530 and 14,275 feet), lightweight, warm clothing worn in layers is highly recommended. Dinners are very casual; there is no need to bring special attire.
Comfortable riding trousers (two pairs)
Long sleeved cotton shirts. These are without doubt the best things to ride in. Sleeves can be rolled up or down for protection from the sun and the collar helps to protect your neck too.
Wind-bloc Fleece or warm jacket - for cold evenings especially at the high altitudes.
Waterproofs - Ideally a Gore-Tex or similar wind and rain proof jacket. Waterproof leggings are also a good idea. You will be provided with woollen and waterproof ponchos, but it is often useful to have another waterproof jacket underneath your waterproof poncho for added protection. It may not rain, but better to be prepared.
Riding boots with rubber sole, also suitable for walking (around Inca ruins etc) - the best would be a pair of the dual purpose Ariat or Mountain Horse riding/leisure boots.
Protection for the lower leg - either full or half-chaps.
Hat. We recommend a hard hat for riding and something with a wide brim is advisable as protection against the sun (baseball caps work well). Your hard hat must be secure on your head.
Light pair of shoes - for après-riding.
Set of Thermal Underwear - a light way of carrying extra warmth.
Good sunglasses - with a neck cord. Your eyes will become bloodshot if you do not wear sunglasses.
Sunscreen and Lip Balm - essential because of the altitude and dry air. We suggest at least factor 30, if not total block.
Insect repellent (Machu Picchu and the surrounding area can be prone to mosquitoes).
Casual clothes - for when you are not riding.
Small medical kit with antiseptic cream, good supply of ibuprofen, aspirin and plasters (Compeed blister plasters work well on sore patches – acting as a second skin), antihistamine tablets, any medication you regularly take.
Scarf/bandana – useful for protection against the sun.
Additional passport photos
Copy of passport/visa and debit cards
Wash bag – a supply of baby wipes will be invaluable. We also recommend biodegradable personal washing products. Ziploc bags/supply of plastic carrier bags - always useful for wet/dry kit.
Hair-dryers are available at all hotels on the trail.
Leather saddle bags are provided for you. Each person has a set of saddlebags and carries what they need for the day. Jackets and ponchos can be tied behind the saddle so it is easy to put them on and take them off. To keep your saddlebag contents clean, a good idea is to put all your things in a plastic carrier bag/Ziploc bag first and then into the saddlebags. Each rider is provided with a warm Alpaca poncho and rain poncho during the ride.
This is a 11 day/10 night programme with 7 days riding available on set dates throughout the year. A 7 day programme is also available on request.
2021: April 4, 20; May 2, 23; July 18; August 15; September 5, 19; October 10.
|Riding days||Product item description||£|
|2021||11d/10n||7||supplement for group of 2-3||189|
|Riding days||Product item description||€|
|2021||11d/10n||7||supplement for group of 2-3||215|
|Riding days||Product item description||$|
|2021||11d/10n||7||supplement for group of 2-3||259|
|Riding days||Product item description||SEK|
|2021||11d/10n||7||supplement for group of 2-3||2,159|
Lonely Planet Guide to Peru, Edward P Lanning's Peru Before the Incas, James Lockhart's The Men of Cajamarca, Inca-kola: a traveller's tale of Peru by Matthew Parris and John Hemming's (out-of-print) Conquest of the Incas. 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
Optional trip extension - extra day in Lima
One-day sightseeing tour of Lima. Includes private transport during the day, English-speaking guide, lunch, entrance fees to the Museo de Oro and one more museum, 1 night hotel accommodation at the Hotel Ariosto in Miraflores.
Please contact Unicorn Trails for further information.
The fauna includes a great variety of animals such as deer, the Vizcacha or Viscacha, a rodent of the chinchilla family (Lagidum peruanum, Lagidium viscacia ) similar to a rabbit, the Raposa Andina or Andean slender mouse opossum (Marmosops impavidus), minks, skunks, Andean foxes, llamas and alpacas, pumas (rare).
Snakes are rare. The mountain lakes are rich in salmon trout and rainbow fish.
There is a huge variety of birdlife and flora too!
For the outfitter to be able to make the hotel reservations, we will need your passport number, your name as it appears on the passport and your nationality.
Riding takes place between 2600 and 4350 metres (8,530 and 14,275 feet). Riders may need to take advantage of the time to adjust to the altitude, which can adversely affect blood pressure, digestion, and energy levels. Please consult your health care provider before undertaking this high altitude trip. If you have heart or lung problems you could develop serious health complications at high altitudes.
Peru is located in Western South America. The whole of the western coast is desert with little rain. From this coastal shelf, the Andes rise steeply to a high Sierra, which is studded with groups of mountains and deep canyons. East of these mountains lies the vast jungle of the Amazon basin. The capital, Lima, to the west is the sprawling hub of the country.
At the time of the first Spanish landings in 1531, an advanced indigenous Inca civilisation flourished. With its capital in Cuzco, the Inca Empire stretched from northern Ecuador to central Chile. Led by gold-hungry explorer Francisco Pizarro, the Spanish captured Cuzco in 1533. Pizarro founded the capital city of Lima in 1535 and by 1542 consolidated control throughout the country. Gold and silver from Peru became the foundation of colonial Spanish wealth and power in South America.
It's these multiple layers of great civilisations that make Peru so intriguing, colonial cities that have preserved the legacy of the Spanish conquistadors and the ancient Inca capital of Cuzco, the lost city of Machu Picchu, only discovered in 1911, and the enigma of the Nazca Lines.
It also has some of the most spectacular and varied scenery in South America. The Peruvian Andes are arguably the most beautiful on the continent and the mountains are home to millions of highland Indians, who still speak the ancient tongue of Quechua and maintain a traditional way of life.
Peru is five 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 +51.
All visitors to Peru have to fill in a form (registro de immigration) at customs to enter the country as a tourist. Each tourist receives a small part of this form, stamped, which they have to keep in their passport until they leave the country. It has been known to be very easy to lose this important piece of paper! All hotels in Peru need to make a copy of each passport and the paper in order to apply for certain tax reductions so Mrs Soledad, the host at Hotel Ariosto on Day 1 will make extra copies of client’s passport and immigration paper upon arrival in Lima.
Please check that you have been given your part of the immigration form and that it is kept inside your passport.