Uruguay is classic gaucho country and also has some of the world's finest unspoiled beaches. This itinerary on this horse riding holiday explores not only working estancias but also tropical palm groves, protected wetlands, beaches, shipwrecks and marine life such as dolphins, whales and seals. Horseback riding is an integral part of the culture as raising cattle is big business and the gauchos still depend heavily on horses to handle the cows. The Criollo horses are reliable and responsive mounts and the traditional saddles very comfortable. The food is excellent, varying from tender organic local beef to fresh sea food. The riding is excellent and Uruguay still offers an authentic South American experience with large unpopulated stretches ideal for riding.
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 JD of Bromma on 13/12/2016
Day 1: Montevideo – Tour of the capital city & Port Market
Today is set aside to relax and explore the coastal city of Montevideo. Guests are met at the Carrasco International Airport and driven along the wonderful coastline called “Rambla” to the downtown hotel. After check-in, your guide will help you discover the charming and quiet city of Montevideo, its museums, street markets, nice restaurants and friendly people. We will enjoy lunch at the lively Port Market before returning to the hotel located in downtown Montevideo. (L)
Day 2: 18th century Fortín de San Miguel
After breakfast we will be driven to the Brazilian border and into Rocha, arguably the most beautiful province in Uruguay with pristine beaches, emerald shores and a great network of lagoons. We will arrive to Estancia “La Rosada” located next to the small town of La Coronilla. After lunch, enjoy a wonderful ride along the estancia in order to get to know our horses. After a typical “merienda”, continue onto Fortin de San Miguel, built in the same stone as the nearby Portuguese fortress. We can admire the views out across an enormous stretch of fresh water - one of the largest fresh water reserves of South America, the "Merín Lagoon"; we are right on the Brazilian border. This area is home to a wide variety of birds and we will see many different native trees and bushes. Dinner and accommodation at “Fortín de San Miguel" Hotel. B, L, D.
Day 3: Barra de Chuy beach – Brazilian border & a ride along a pristine beach.
After breakfast, we will be drive to ‘Chuy’, a very curious town straddling the border where guests can step into Brazil and hear the locals speak a strange language made of a mix of Spanish and Portuguese. Continue onto our horses to start a nice 3-4 hours ride towards the coast! After a special picnic lunch, riders may have a pleasant “siesta” discovering that gauchos’ saddles are so comfortable to ride as to sleep! In the afternoon, we will enjoy a fast-pace ride along the wonderful, isolated ocean beach of ‘Barra Chuy’. Visitors seldom reach this beach so we can enjoy a long, exhilarating canter with no signs of habitation as we ride across the pure white sands alongside the Atlantic Ocean. We arrive 22km (12 miles) further south to "La Coronilla" and stay at small beachside hotel. (B, L, D)
Day 4: Santa Teresa national park, dolphins & shipwrecks.
Today we will ride south alternating beaches, sand dunes, pine forests and coastal hills where we might see dolphins feeding before getting to the immense Santa Teresa National Park. The centre piece of the park is a fort started in 1762 by the Portuguese to defend the edge of their territories then completed by the Spaniards who took it by assault just a year later. This was just the start of a succession of conquering, loosing and reconquering the fort; it was not until 1825 that the newly forming ‘Uruguay’ finally captured and held the fort. The fort is surrounded by 3000 hectares of forest containing over 2 million trees, most from other parts of the world. After a picnic lunch we will enjoy riding along the forest trails and down to the beach and we will pass a shipwreck buried in the sand, one of many along this treacherous coast; indeed, Cabo Polonio (where we ride later) is named after a Spanish galleon that went down just off the point. Luckily ‘Beagle’ with Charles Darwin aboard did not succumb to this fate and Darwin spent quite some time in Uruguay collecting species and most likely starting to formulate his theories of evolution. After a traditional picnic close to the fortress or on the beach, depending on the weather, we will continue along the coast towards the lovely town of Punta del Diablo. (B, L, D)
Day 5: Cabo Polonio – shifting sands & sea lion
The day starts with a drive to the ocean coast. We will meet our horses and ride to the hidden Brioso Lagoon and along the beach of Valizas. After enjoying a picnic lunch, we will ride into the desert! This area has been declared a natural animal reserve and a Biosphere Natural Reserve by UNESCO. We will ride to Cabo Polonio, a charming fishing village which can only be reached by horse or SUV trucks. The fascinating part of the area is the huge area of shifting sand dunes, as we ride through it is possible to imagine that we are right in the middle of the Sahara. Dinner and accommodation at Posada La Perla B, L, D.
Day 6: Wetlands, Lagoon & Ombu Forest
After breakfast, we will visit the light house, the seals and sea lions that populate the small islands and make up one of the largest populations of seals in the world; very occasionally we spot a migrating whale. Riders can swim in one of the most beautiful beaches of the country. We will then begin our ride towards the wetlands of Rocha. We will ride along the Castillos Lagoon and across an amazing untouched landscape of Palm groves and Ombu Forest. We will enjoy a picnic lunch on the way before reaching the lovely & charming Estancia Guardia del Monte, a traditional working estancia. Accommodation and dinner at Guardia del Monte. B, L, D
Day 7: Cattle and sheep work with the gauchos on the estancia
Morning ride along the estancia´s fields. We will have the chance to work alongside the gauchos and their trusty dogs as they tend to the cattle and sheep on this working ranch. The work varies depending on the time of the year, but the gauchos always welcome a bit of help checking and moving the stock or putting animals in the corrals. Sometimes a lame animal has to be caught and tended to. The wonderful, friendly gauchos with their berets and their knives tucked into their colorful belts all seem to have been born on a horse and it is a delight to be riding with them. We will enjoy lunch at the neighbour estancia Barra Grande where we will enjoy lunch and a typical ¨Uruguayan merienda¨. We will then ride back to Guardia del Monte. Dinner and accommodation. B, L, D.
Day 8: The small town of Castillos
The day starts with a lovely breakfast of homemade bread, jams and cakes, admiring the views of the countryside. We will start our ride towards the small town of Castillos where we will visit a local “gaucho store”. Traditional bridles, typical riding “bombachas” (riding trousers), gaucho hats and colourful ponchos will be available to admire and buy. After a picnic lunch we will head back to Montevideo – to the airport, port, the city, or to start an extension tour. Departure is usually scheduled for 14:00 meaning that you will arrive in Montevideo at around 17:00. Riders departing today must not book their flight to depart earlier than 19:00. (B, L)
Please note: This itinerary is given for your guidance only and it may be altered in accordance with the prevailing conditions by the organising team.
This ride will still be confirmed if there are less than 4 riders booked prior to departure but the itinerary may be modified and a small group supplement will be charged (refunded when a 4th rider books).
Heavier riders can be accommodated by having an extra horse along to enable more frequent changes. There is a supplement for this service.
Non-riders will be driven between stops to meet with riders for lunches and each evening. There will be various activities each day including sight-seeing, hiking, fishing, surfing, biking, trekking, canoeing and bird watching.
Balcon del Abra, rolling hills of Lavalleja Province
A lovely extension tour to the hills of Lavalleja where guests will have the opportunity to keep on riding for another 2 extra days in a completely different landscape. Guests will be driven to the city of Punta del Este from where they will take the bus to the small town of Mariscala and stay at a cozy and charming inn called “El Balcon del Abra” that offers unique landscapes, great comfort and great horses. Guests will discover wonderful trails on horseback and trekking up the hills, along the countryside and across streams including the fantastic Salamanca Grottoes day trip and visits to nearby estancias. After 7 days riding in the east, this extension tour can be the perfect option to ride some extra days combined with some relaxing quality time in a beautiful spot in the middle of the hills.
Vineyards and Horse
An unforgettable extension tour to one of the prettiest areas in Uruguay: The province of Maldonado where the famous and renowned Punta del Este and Jose Ignacio are located. We will be staying at a Luxury Wine Lodge in the area of La Barra from where we will enjoy great rides along the vineyards, to local interesting places related to art and gastronomy and to the Beach. You will be able to visit the winery, enjoy a wine tasting combined with a lovely “farm to table” lunch overlooking the vineyards and visit art studios and exhibitions from local artists. This small extension tour is a perfect blend of horse riding, Uruguayan culture, wines and art.
Other extensions, such as those to the coast or for more riding, are available, please enquire 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.
During this ride great care is taken to maintain the same set of horses throughout the whole tour. The intention is that riders can actually build a bond with their horse and enjoy not only the landscape and ride but also the company of their mount. As always one or more spare horses will accompany the group incase a change is needed. The horses are the local Uruguayan Criollo breed and Criollo cross: ideally suited to the terrain. Criollo is the horse breed in Uruguay, Argentina and the south of Brazil. The breed was developed from horses that were brought from Spain in the 17th century and then bred in this region. Criollo is a strong horse with an excellent walk and good character. Local ‘western’ type saddles are used with a sheepskin cover. The horses are trained in neck-reining (western ‘one-hand' riding). Help will be given in adjusting to this tack which is very suitable for long days in the saddle.
Comfortable at walk, trot and canter.
Weight limit is 95kg, an additional supplement will be charged to riders exceeding this weight in order to provide an extra horse.
The weight limit for this ride is 209 lb/95 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.
The accommodations provided in this programme includes hotels, lodges and historic estancias, all with private bathrooms. They are clean, comfortable, individially decorated with character and provide a very good service. You will be able to get a good nights sleep in pleasant surroundings. If you are sharing your room, please let us know in advance if you prefer twin or double beds.
After a full days riding it is comforting to know that you can return to full prepared meals that reflect the local cuisine. All meals are prepared with completely natural and fresh products of the region. Red meat, fish and wine are especially recommended but vegetarians can easily be catered for.
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 visas 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.
British passport holders do not require visas for entry into Uruguay and can usually stay for up to three months. You can apply to extend your stay for a further three months if necessary to the Dirección Nacional de Migración. You may wish to obtain further information from their official website page: www.minterior.gub.uy/webs/migracion/.
The Uruguayan Embassy in the U.K can be found at 2nd Floor, 140 Brompton Road, London, SW3 1HY. Telephone: (020) 7589 8835. Email: email@example.com.
The British Embassy in Uruguay can be found at Calle Marco Bruto 1073, 11300 Montevideo, P O Box 16024. Telephone: (598) (2) 622 3630. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Foreign and commonwealth office gives travel advice on www.fco.gov.uk or on 0207 008 0232/0233.
The climate of Uruguay is similar to that of the Pampas region of Argentina and because of the level nature of the country there is little variation of weather and climate within Uruguay. The table for Montevideo (below) is representative of the coastal districts and there are only slight differences between these and the areas farther inland. You can expect somewhat warm spring and autumn temperatures, although we might also get some cool days (especially early in the morning or at night) and perhaps some rainy days too. The average temperature at this time of year is 65 F, average lows are 54 F, and average highs are 74 F.
Most of Uruguay has a moderate annual rainfall of about 1,000 mm/40 in; this is well distributed throughout the year but the autumn months tend to be slightly wetter. Rain falls on a comparatively small number of days; about one day in five in all seasons. Thus the rainfall when it occurs is often moderate to heavy.
The summers are warm but not as hot as in some other countries in similar latitudes, such as the southern Atlantic coastlands of the USA or parts of southeast Australia. Winters are mild and frost and snow are very rare. Southerly winds can bring occasional spells of colder weather, which may be associated with squally winds or gales in the estuary of the river Plate. However, such outbreaks of colder polar air from Antarctica are much modified after they have crossed some thousands of miles of warmer water in the South Atlantic.
Inland the summer temperatures are a little higher than those found on the coast. Sunshine hours are high in Uruguay, ranging from five to six hours a day in winter to as much as nine to ten in summer. The climate of Uruguay is rarely uncomfortable or unpleasant and can be described as healthy for most of the year.
There are no specific health requirements in place for visitors to Uruguay. Ask your GP for advice before travelling.
For up to date information on specific health concerns please contact the Medical Advisors For Travellers Abroad. Their website is www.masta.org. You can also check the Department of Healths website at www.dh.gov.uk.
In case of accident, our guides will always carry a mobile phone which they will use to contact local assistance. All of the towns along our route count on a medical emergency service.
In general, public sanitation and health care in Uruguay are very good. In the event of illness or accident during your stay, you should be prepared to pay for assistance. Upon return home you can submit a claim for reimbursement according to the specifications of your insurance policy. Visa and Master card are credit cards commonly accepted.
The places we will be visiting in the countryside are completely safe.
The voltage in Uruguay runs at 220V (the U.K is 230V) and 50Hz frequency. 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.
You will have access to electricity to rehcharge camera and battery equipment on every night. We suggest you purchase any special film or batteries before leaving home as outside Montevideo there will be limited opportunities to do so.
Clothes and equipment should be light to accommodate for riding. You will also need: sun block, insects repellent, a warm coat, jacket or sweater, hat (sun/rain), footwear (boots or trainers) bathing suit and wet weather gear for the eventuality of rainy days. Don’t forget to bring your camera and binoculars. Remember that as your bags will be transfer from accommodation to accommodation by car, you can pack as much clothes as you want to feel comfortable.
This is an 8 day/7 night programme with 7 days riding available on set dates. Other dates can be arranged for groups of 4 or more.
2020: 29 Feb; 21 Mar; 7, 28 Nov;
Other dates on request for groups of 4 or more (February to April and October to December).
A single room can be booked when paying the single supplement below.
|Riding days||Product item description||£|
|2019||8d/7n||7||small group supplement up to 3 riders||669|
|2019||8d/7n||7||rider exceeding 95kg||305|
|Riding days||Product item description||€|
|2019||8d/7n||7||small group supplement up to 3 riders||779|
|2019||8d/7n||7||rider exceeding 95kg||355|
|Riding days||Product item description||$|
|2019||8d/7n||7||small group supplement up to 3 riders||879|
|2019||8d/7n||7||rider exceeding 95kg||399|
|Riding days||Product item description||SEK|
|2019||8d/7n||7||small group supplement up to 3 riders||8,379|
|2019||8d/7n||7||rider exceeding 95kg||3,795|
Non-riding options - Sight-seeing; hiking; fishing; surfing; biking; trekking; canoeing; bird watching.
Variety of birds - hummingbirds, flamingos, kingfishers, flycatchers, rheas (similar to ostriches)
Uruguay is a little smaller than the United Kingdom and about the same size as the state of Washington. It lies on the east coast of South America between 30° and 35°S. It is bordered on the north by Brazil and on the west by the river Uruguay, which forms the border with Argentina. Most of the country is low-lying and rather flat, with the highest hills rising to about 450 m/1,500 ft.
Uruguay's original inhabitants were the Charrúa Indians, a hunter-gatherer people. They killed the explorer Juan Diaz de Solís and most of his party when the Spaniards encountered them in 1516. But by the 17th century, the Charrúas had prospered, abandoned hostilities, and begun trading with the Spanish. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the territory changed hands between the Spanish and Portuguese several times. By 1832 virtually all Charrúas had been killed or forced to leave, leaving Uruguay with no indigenous people (the only such country in Latin America). Uruguayans are virtually all of European descent, mostly of Spanish and Italian stock. Uruguay gained independance in 1928.
The second smallest country in South America, Uruguay borders two giants, Brazil and Argentina. Just under half the population lives in Greater Montevideo, one of South America's most interesting capitals, charming colonial towns, the hilly interior (true gaucho country) and a cluster of internationally renowned beach resorts.
Uruguay is three 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 +598.