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This is a riding holiday designed for those who share Epona's passion for horses, want to get to know this amazing part of Spain on horseback, and are up for a real cross-country adventure as you ride from north to south, from the tranquil Sevillian countryside to the spectacular Atlantic beaches, and crossing Europe’s largest wildlife preserve, the Doñana National Park.
You will be lodged in high-quality establishments. Your base in Carmona is a four-star Hotel. Throughout the Doñana Adventure, you will be staying in hotels and lodges of a similar category. Epona will also take special care in giving you the best gastronomic experience, with all the delicious dishes and wines this area has to offer.
As well as the guests, Epona will also take great concern in providing the horses with comfortable stables and the best care for their overnight too, as their rest and well-being is, obviously, a priority as well.
Your base accommodation is in a four-star hotel is complete with a swimming pool, nestled in the nearby medieval town of Carmona, one of the famous white villages of Andalucia.
Epona's excellent bespoke training facilities include irrigated indoor and outdoor schools and exercise track, which help lessons be dust free and more enjoyable, especially through the heat of a Seville summer. The indoor arena is 20 meters by 60 meters and boasts a top-level competition standard sand and fiber surface to further enhance the quality of your riding experience.
The stabled horses are housed in a purpose-built American barn, with generously sized stables, complemented by a wash down and farrier areas, tie-up stalls, tack, and feed rooms, etc. The barn is surrounded by paddocks accommodating the trail ride and retired horses as well as stallion turnout pens and staff accommodation. Everything is to hand which helps to create a professional and yet very positive environment for both the horses and staff.
Guests enjoy a welcoming and spacious guest lounge and dining area. The adjoining terraces are centrally located, meaning it is possible to watch lessons in both the indoor and outdoor arenas, whilst sitting on the terrace, if you so wish. There are guest lockers and shower rooms which are especially welcome during the warmer months. There is also an outdoor unheated swimming pool and patio area, where you are welcome to spend time relaxing between lessons if you wish.
As the famous saying goes "Mi casa es su casa" ("My home is your home"), and that is how Epona hopes you will view Hacienda Blanca Paloma during your stay with them.
The accommodation for all the Epona programs, and full buffet breakfast, will be included at the Alcazar de la Reina, a beautiful four-star Superior category hotel in the heart of the historic and monumental center of the old part of the city of Carmona, just a few minutes' drive away from the Hacienda.
The hotel is full of history, charm, and elegance while at the same time comfortable and modern, and is located at only 20 minutes' distance from Seville International Airport, with breathtaking views over the fertile valley, the Vega de Carmona, all the way to the great river, Guadalquivir, 30 kilometers distant, and the Sierra Morena mountain range behind.
The name of the hotel comes from the Moorish term "Alcazar", meaning a fortified palace, and the Spanish, "Reina", or queen, therefore, it is the queen’s palace. The building was originally erected by the Moors in the 13th century as a fortress adjunct to the Puerta de Cordoba, in an era when the town was one of the most important caliphates of Andalucia.
After the Moors were pushed back to their last strongholds in Granada and Málaga, in Medieval times, the Christian Kings of Castille also favored Carmona to fix their royal residence in the region. Specifically, King Alfonso XI showed a fondness for the town, and while the royal residence in Andalusia was the Royal Alcazar in Sevilla, he housed his favorite concubine, Leonor de Guzman, in the comfortable and impregnable Alcazar de la Puerta de Cordoba.
When he died of the Black Plague in Gibraltar, his only legitimate child, Pedro I inherited the throne, but due to the constant disputes for the crown that he had to suffer from his nine illegitimate half-brothers, he maintained Leonor prisoner in the palace until her death. He also favored Carmona and built the Alcazar del Rey Don Pedro (now the Parador) as his royal residence.
However, as legend has it, during the 15th century, another King of Castile, Juan II, embarking on another war with the Sultans of Malaga and Granada, sought the safest town in the province to house his beloved queen and his heir and keep them nearby. He chose Carmona as the most impregnable town and the Alcazar de la Puerta de Cordoba as the safest and most comfortable residence for his family. From that time on, it became known as the Alcazar de la Reina.
The palace, totally restored in the 1990s in the original Mudejar style, and refurbished in 2018, boasts spacious and elegant lounge areas and patios, an outdoor solarium with a salt-water swimming pool, and a total of four different options for wining and dining: The Tabanco Restaurant, the Terrace Bar, the Tabanco Tapas Bar, and the official Guinness Irish Pub.
The rooms are ample, airy, comfortable, and very tastefully furnished and feature:
It is possible to upgrade the room status to a superior or deluxe double room, junior suite, or suite. Please contact Epona for details if this is of interest to you. Please note that a credit card number will be requested by the hotel at check-in, to cover additional expenses.
Epona is sure that guests will feel at home in the comfortable and elegant, relaxed atmosphere of this warm and welcoming hotel, with its friendly and multi-lingual staff, who are available at all times, ready to make your stay within these ancient walls, a truly unforgettable experience.
This luxurious lodge is charmingly cozy. It has been designed and built using the materials and the unique architectural style of the area, most strikingly, the thatched roofs.
You will get the chance to rest in one of the village's best hotels with views to the Marshlands.
A luxurious hotel with ocean views and direct access to the beach. The hotel has a non-heated outdoor and indoor heated pool, sauna, and massage service.
Andalusia is not only famous for its cultural richness, its environmental diversity, and the open and friendly character of its inhabitants, but also for its magnificent Andalusian horses. The Andalusian horse is renowned for its versatility, its kind nature, and tractability, and incomparable beauty.
You will be riding these amazing horses through varied and unforgettable landscapes, from the rolling and peaceful farmland, through pine forests and shrubland, marshlands, cork woods, impressive cliffs, dunes, and sandy beaches. The wildlife will always be present, from many birds such as kites, eagles, flamingos, and storks to several types of deer, Iberian lynx, wild boar, and wild horses!
The program includes 3 full-day rides (between 4 and 6 hours a day) and 2 half-day rides (between 2.5 and 3 hours) of unforgettable trails on well-suited, well-trained, fit Andalusian or cross-Andalusian horses. Epona uses Spanish cowboy saddles or English general-purpose or trekking saddles if you prefer.
Your main guide is not only a fully qualified riding instructor but also a biologist and is local to the area. There will always be a second guide plus a backup team to ensure the holiday runs smoothly. The guides speak English and Spanish. Epona has specifically selected high-quality lodging and dining for the evening stops so that this unforgettable adventure does not lack in luxury and ensures the best rest and best experience possible.
This program is designed for horse lovers and nature lovers alike. You should be a confident rider, able to trot and canter easily and be fit enough to ride between 4 to 6 hours per day (with a resting break over lunch). This ride is destined mainly for adults, with no upper age restrictions.
Guests usually arrive in the afternoon and settle into their hotel, a former palace, once the residence of a queen, which is nestled in the heart of the breathtakingly beautiful medieval town of Carmona. Epona offers a complimentary pick-up from the train station in Seville at 4:30 p.m. They can offer transfers at other times (and days) as long as you let them know in advance.
In the evening, you will be joined at the hotel by one of the Epona hosts for a welcome dinner, where you will meet the rest of the week’s riding members. After some friendly introductions and conversation, you are free to spend the rest of the evening at your leisure and to relax before the beginning of what they hope will be an unforgettable week. Welcome to Epona!
This first day will be an easy one, as some riders may still feel slightly jet-lagged or stiff from the previous day’s traveling. Epona will collect you after breakfast and take you, after a very short drive, to the Epona Equestrian Centre just outside Carmona.
Here you can have a chat with the instructors and guides. This is important so they can allocate you the correct horse during your Andalusian adventure. Mount up to go on a morning ride where you will get to meet your guide for the week. This will be an assessment ride and an opportunity for everyone to get to know each other.
The ride takes you through tranquil, slightly rolling farmland, scattered with crops of cereals, olives, citrus, and almond trees. It is a charming way to get to know this part of the region, filled with culture and peaceful landscapes. Through the ride, you will be passing several haciendas (olive oil estates), many of which were built around the 16th century.
Arrive back to the center for a delicious, fresh, home-cooked lunch. After lunch, Epona offers you a complimentary transfer to Sevilla for a sightseeing or shopping opportunity. This is a unique city so a visit is highly recommended and really should not be missed. If you would rather take it easy and would prefer to rest up in preparation for the Doñana Adventure, they will transfer you back to the hotel for an easy afternoon in town.
Today, after an early breakfast, drive to the town of Villamanrique. You will arrive at the stables where you will meet the horses that will take you on this unforgettable adventure through Doñana. Mount up and get to know your horse. Do a little test ride in the center’s indoor arena and as soon as everyone is feeling comfortable, head off into the open country and begin the adventure! Today’s ride is loaded with the folklore and tradition of the area, as you will cross the famous Quema river.
This river is where pilgrims are baptized on their first pilgrimage to the village of El Rocío to show their respect and devotion to the Virgin Mary. You will also pass the emblematic Virgen del Rocio monolith. The ride takes you through the famous pine forests of Alznalcollar. This part of Doñana, with an extension of 30,000 acres is famous for its majestic beauty.
The forest is mostly made up of umbrella (stone) pines. This type of pine is native to the Mediterranean and is famous for its delicious pine nuts used to make many dishes, pastries, and sweets in this region, since ancient times.
You will also ride through the scrubland filled with Mediterranean shrubs such as rosemary, rockrose, heather, and palm hearts. This vegetation provides the perfect habitat for wildlife, with many birds of prey in the area such as different types of Eagles and Black Kites, and depending on the time of year, it will be very easy to see dozens of storks nesting in the treetops.
Lunch will be at a famous Venta, popularly frequented by the locals. Here, you will have the opportunity to taste the delights of the local cuisine of this Sevillian region. After lunch, ride back to Villamanrique, the oldest town in the Doñana environment.
You will spend the night in the Ardea Purpurea lodge. This luxurious lodge is charmingly cozy. It has been designed and built using the materials and the unique architectural style of the area, most strikingly, the thatched roofs. Rest in your comfortable porched room or stroll through the extensive gardens before meeting the rest of the group for dinner in the lodge’s restaurant, famous for its exquisite dishes, it has been in the Michelin guide for 8 consecutive years.
Today’s ride takes you to discover the northern part of the Heart of Doñana, which the locals call "El Coto" (the Reserve). Ride the same sandy tracks that pilgrims use on their religious journey to the Basilica church and village of El Rocio. They call this cross-country path through the heart of Doñana the "Raya Real" (Royal Strip).
These tracks and the whole area are completely closed off from the general public as it is a wildlife preserve. Brotherhoods of pilgrims get special permission to use them on the week of the pilgrimage which is in May, but no one gets to enter the park the rest of the year except a couple of licensed and selected bird watching companies and some very few and selected horseback adventures like Epona's.
The scenery in this area is stunning. The ride takes you through wooded areas of stone pine and eucalyptus and through scrubland formed by aromatic thickets that impregnate the path with delicious aromas such as rosemary, lavender, rockrose, and heather.
Halfway, arrive at the Royal Palace, an ancient hunting estate that was used by Spanish kings and royalty since it was built in the 13th century. This is the perfect place for a picnic. After a short break, continue your way through grasslands and pastures dotted with cork oaks and mastic trees.
These oak groves are the ideal habitat for many birds. More than 80 species of vertebrates inhabit this area of the reserve and more than half are birds, such as the Imperial Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, or Pito Rea (Woodpecker). If you are lucky, you may be able to spot the Iberian lynx, wild boar, or foxes. It is very common to see several types of deer during this part of the journey.
Towards the end of the route, cross the famous Ajolí bridge that takes you to the gates of the Village of El Rocio. Before the end of the day, visit the marshes loaded with natural life such as flamingos, herons, and other water birds followed by a glass of sherry or wine on horseback in the local style! Rest in one of the village's best hotels with views of the marshlands. Dinner in the hotel restaurant with the rest of the group and the guides to sample the local cuisine and wines.
You are now riding entirely in the province of Huelva. This day, the ride takes you south, from the village of El Rocio to the virgin beaches of Doñana. Pass through some of the most popular places in the park, such as the famous Rociana lagoon where the brotherhoods of pilgrims arriving from the western parts of Andalusia are baptized.
This area of great beauty and environmental richness is the perfect habitat for wildlife with species such as roe deer, red deer, and wild horses. Halfway there, make a stop to taste a typical country lunch, accompanied by wines from the Doñana county.
Finally, the path takes you to the Mazagón beaches. Spend the night in its Parador, a luxurious hotel with ocean views and direct access to the beach. The hotel has an non-heated outdoor and indoor heated pool, sauna, and massage service. Dinner at the hotel will be the group together with the guides.
This last ride is a half-day ride. It is quite impressive and of great beauty. Visit the coast of Doñana with its dunes, cliffs, and beaches. From the top of the Asperillo Dune, the highest and most important in Doñana, you will have amazing views of the Atlantic Ocean. The line of fossil and mobile dunes that form the cliffs of Doñana is the most important in Europe.
Make your way down to the immense virgin beaches and then it will be time for a long canter. The sound of the waves and the splashing of horses in the water will lead you to an immense sense of freedom, elevating your senses. This feeling is scarcely matched by any other. The duration of this ride is about three hours more or less. After the ride is the only sad part of the trip, time to say goodbye to the horses and last-minute pictures.
Today, lunch will be partaken in a nearby restaurant in the fishing village of Mazagón, by the sea. After lunch, it is time to return to the base hotel in Carmona. The afternoon and evening in Carmona can be used to rest. The hotel has a massage service (on request), and a salted outdoor pool, or it can be used as an opportunity to visit this beautiful medieval town. Dinner will be at the hotel.
After breakfast, Epona will offer complimentary transfers to the airport or train station at 8 and 11 a.m. If you want to arrange transfers outside these hours or the next day, they can organize a taxi service for you.
Andalusia offers visitors an infinity of interesting things to see and do. It is one of the regions of Spain that most attracts national and international tourists. Its cultural richness, its environmental diversity, and the open and friendly character of its inhabitants are part of the magical elixir that makes Andalusia a preferred tourist destination for people from all corners of the world.
The walled city of Carmona, where you are lodged during your stay is a tourist attraction in itself so it's suggested that you dedicate at least one afternoon to visit its many sights.
From the times of the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Moors, etc, Carmona has been a town of great importance due to its privileged geographical situation, sitting on the top of a hill, and its fortifications. From these ancient times, it's left with many vestiges of tourist and cultural interest such as its amphitheater and Roman necropolis, its fortress of Carthaginian origin, its many Baroque and Gothic churches, its convents and palace, etc. All of this and much more make this beautiful place a gem to discover.
The city of Seville, an incomparable and vibrant destination, is less than 30 minutes away. Its Gothic cathedral, its famous Moorish tower, Reales Alcázares, parks, markets, its river and famous bridges, its museums, and so much more, make this city a destination that no one should miss. Also in the area, it is very interesting to visit an olive oil mill, the Roman city of Itálica, or the Arab baths in Seville. The monumental cities of Córdoba and Ronda are just over an hour away.
If you prefer to play sports in your spare time, there are several golf courses in the area and there are companies that rent mountain bikes and organize routes in the area.
A large number of highly trained horses and well thought out programs, enable to accommodate beginners through to advanced riders.
The qualified instructors bring a wealth of riding and training experience to the lessons.
Personal and close attention from the García family will make you feel like a valued guest and friend.
Top class facilities (including a covered arena) and ancient trail riding routes are complemented by luxury accommodation in the medieval town of Carmona.
The programs combine riding with the historical, cultural, and scenic experiences the unique location offers.
They enjoy an average of 300 days of sunshine.
The only riding holiday center in Spain officially approved by the British Horse Society.
They offer 35 years of uninterrupted experience in hosting and training riding holiday guests from around the world.
Epona is world-renowned for its depth and quality of classically trained, yet kind and generous, Spanish horses. Epona owns a large number of horses to offer to guests. They have around 30+ horses presently in work with guests, this number contrasts with the small groups they host at Epona, which normally, on average, are of six to eight riders.
They find that this large number is necessary not only to cover the needs of the variety of riders that come to Epona, from beginners to advanced dressage riders but also that this large number will ensure the horses are well-rested and never overworked. This, they find, is key in keeping them happy in their work and consequently, willing and light.
In addition to these 30+ horses working in the programs, they always keep a small number of younger horses in training who will join the team in the future. At Epona, they retire all horses once their working days are over. As a part of the family, to them, they must live their last years in an environment they know feeling safe, cared for, and valued. It is the least they can do after a life service.
Carmona is the oldest continually inhabited town in Europe and as you stroll through the narrow streets of the old town, you will feel and breathe the spirits of ancient cultures (Iberians, Visigoths, Phoenicians, Romans, Moors), in the innumerable examples of their architectural influence in the churches, towers, palaces, and mansions, as well as in the inherited customs.
Carmona is one of Europe’s hidden gems and is a destination in its own right. You will never tire of wandering the streets and will discover that its timeless beauty changes from sunrise to sunset, and then at night. Carmona takes on a magical glow that will leave you spellbound. With at least 56 small cafes and bars, you will be spoiled for choice when it comes to a bite to eat or a refreshing drink.
All breakfasts and lunches are included in the price of your Epona program. They also will be offering a welcome dinner on the first evening (Sunday), so the only meals not included are dinners from Monday to Friday (and Saturday if you are participating in the Rafael Soto clinic).
Lunches will be served at Epona and will consist of freshly prepared homecooked, combining mainly traditional Spanish, dishes, which give you a taste of the renowned Mediterranean diet, with some international dishes and a selection of delicious homemade desserts. In addition, a variety of fresh salad ingredients and fruit are always available.
Epona can cater to most diets including vegetarian and gluten and lactose-free, etc. The evening meals from Monday to Friday are not included in the price. From Monday to Thursday, you will find innumerable dining options in the immediate vicinity of the hotel, from elegant restaurants to tapas bars with tables in the street.
In the hotel alone, there are five possibilities, including room service, if you just feel like a quiet night resting. About two blocks walk away from the hotel, you can find the city’s hub of socializing where families meet in the evening for coffee, tapas, or ice cream. This is the Plaza San Fernando, popularly known as the Plaza de Arriba (the Upper Square) or la Plaza Redonda (the Round Square).
Yes, the wonderful cook can cater for the normal diets of vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, lactose-free, low sodium, etc. However, they do not cater to special diets like Halal or Kosher.
Flamenco dancing lessons with a professional dancer
Flamenco guitar lessons
Flamenco singing lessons
Epona is located between the beautiful cities of Seville, with many tourist attractions and spectacular monuments, and Carmona with its rustic charm and ancient pedigree. The cities of Cordoba (one hour away), Ronda, and Granada (two hours away) are ideal for day trips.
Epona can arrange grammar or conversation lessons with a qualified teacher.
A professional masseur will help with your back and bones after a hard day of riding. You must book in advance.
Around Seville, there are five golf clubs where you can practice your favorite sport all year round. Epona can arrange reservations and transport, if you have your own car, they can provide directions.
There are several cycling companies that hire bikes and organize bike tours in the area.
Transfer not provided
Epona offers complimentary transfers to and from the Seville train station at pre-set times.
If you prefer to travel straight to your hotel from the airport, please let Epona know and they can organize a taxi for you. You will pay the driver in person and the transfer time is usually less than 20 minutes.
8 a.m. first transfer and 11 a.m. last transfer. If you require a different departure time or day from the hotel to the airport or train station, please let Epona know and they can organize a taxi for you. You will pay the driver in person and the transfer time is usually less than 25 minutes to both the airport and the station.
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