3 magical riding holiday destinations

  • Sick of the wet weather and dreaming of a once-in-a-lifetime riding holiday? Or just looking for a wonderful historical escape for later in the year? Here are some ideas to get you planning...

    Sick of the wet weather and dreaming of a once-in-a-lifetime horse riding holidays? Or just looking for a wonderful historical escape for later in the year? Here are some ideas to start your planning…

    1. The land of the thunder dragon

    Where: Bhutan

    The package: If your quest is for the truly remote and you think of yourself as a bit of a pioneer, this package, organized by Wild Frontiers Travel, could be the trip of a lifetime for you.

    Bhutan is a country squashed between Nepal, Tibet and Northeast India. The people are charming and the architecture and landscapes, dotted with dzongs (monasteries), spectacular.

    The trip begins in Delhi, where you will be met by your Wild Frontiers representative and spend half a day before flying to Paro in Bhutan. A day or two is spent looking around Paro, including a visit (on foot) to the famous Tiger’s Nest Monastry, and then on to Bumthang where you are allocated your horse. The horses are on average 14hh and are a mixture of Himalayan ponies and local breeds.

    On the first afternoon you will take a short ride to the nearby village to enable you to get used to your mount and to arrange to swap if necessary. The next morning the five-day trek leaves. During the ride you will spend a night in a Buddhist monastery, explore the old town of Jakar (on foot), ride through mountain passes and tiny villages before returning to the stables and handing back your mounts.

    The trip then goes on to visit Punakha, the old capital city of Bhutan, Punakha dzong (The Palace of Great Happiness), and Thimphu, the new capital.

    You will need to be able to ride to intermediate standard, be fit and in good health. The maximum weight the ponies can carry is 100kg. The treks are largely through mountains, which means they will be quite slow but you can expert to cover 20-25kms a day over five-six hours daily. The departure date is Saturday 8 November 2014, returning on Thursday 20 November.

    Return flights from London Heathrow to Delhi cost around £799 with Jet Airways.

    The cost: £3,895 which includes all meals.

    Contact: www.wildfrontierstravel.com

    Tel: 0207 736 3968

    2. Irish castles and monastic ruins

    Where: Co Clare, IrelandUnknown-2

    The package: If you’re looking for something a little closer to home, this trips gives a real snapshot of the local history of this region. During the four days riding you will visit Portumna Castle, seat of the Earl of Clanricarde, Pallas Castle, one of the best preserved 14th century tower houses, Williamstad House, an 18th century residence and take a boat ride to Holy Island to explore the ruins of this evocative monastic settlement. Flights are to Shannon Airport (Stanstead to Shannon, £100, Ryanair), from where you can transfer to the riding centre (€35p/p, £28.67) or by hire car. Accommodation is in a 300-year-old farmhouse for five nights. Riders should be capable of walk, trot and canter in open countryside. The horses are Irish Hunters, Connemaras and Irish cobs.

    The cost: £726 per person (p/p), £545 for non-riders, single supplement £61 p/p. The price includes all meals, tea, coffee, spring water and riding. (Prices may vary slightly.)

    Contact: www.farandride.com

    Tel: 08450 066552

    3. Ride across the desert

    Namibian desert

    Where: Namibia

    The package: Have you always dreamt about riding across the great expanses of the desert, with ostrich and mountain zebra cantering alongside?

    Wave goodbye to your usual Easter jaunt and sign up for an expedition to the Namibian desert with Ranch Rider.

    This is not a trip for the faint-hearted — riders need to be fit enough to spend long days in the saddle, be able to ride at all paces and cope with uneven and rocky terrain. Feeding and grooming your horse will come before a hot shower, accommodation is camping and there will be patches where the horses have to be led over difficult ground.

    But if you’re up for the challenge, you’ll be rewarded with striking red dunes that change colour at sunrise and sunset, the Tinkas and Tumas plains and the staggering Kuiseb Canyon.

    The cost: Ranch Rider is offering this trip with a £838 discount. The trip now costs £2,512 per person based on two people sharing. Departing 18 April for 10 nights. Return flights from £1,169.

    Contact: www.ranchrider.com

    Tel: 01509 618811

    All air prices quoted are intended as a guideline only.

    For more ideas on magical destinations from Rajasthan to the Ring of Kerry, check out Horse & Hound magazine, 13 February 2014 edition.

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