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Where to Go on a Horse Riding Weekend Getaway in Europe

by Octavia Drughi

The go-to resource for planning your horse riding holidays. Find all you need to know about the top destinations and take your riding skills to new heights.
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When you’re short on time or out of vacation days, it doesn’t mean the fun has to stop. In fact, an extended weekend, or even a regular one, can be a great adventure in itself!

There are many advantages to horse riding weekend breaks. Beginner riders can have a taste of what a horse riding holiday is like without committing to many days in the saddle. For experienced riders, it can be a wonderful getaway in between vacations. It can also be a great opportunity to refresh your riding skills before tackling a longer trip.

Europe has a long history of horsemanship and an abundance of natural parks and stables. There are countless riding trails that take anywhere from a couple of hours to several days to complete. And most of the long ones can be broken down into smaller sections.

Now let’s take a look at the best destinations for a horse riding weekend in Europe:

 

Andalusia, Spain

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Image credit: Natural Horsemanship

For a short yet intense adventure in Southern Spain, go on a horse riding weekend getaway in Andalusia, where old traditions and horsemanship are still part of everyday life.

Home of the Andalusian horse and an incredibly varied landscape, this is the premier equine destination in Spain. You’ll find coastal and mountain trails for all riding abilities, as well as ancient Roman and Moorish tracks that are free from traffic and walkers.

Jerez de la Frontera, the birthplace of the Spanish thoroughbred, is the equestrian center of Andalusia and one of the best places in the world to learn to ride and improve your skills. You can embark on short rides in the countryside or take lessons in dressage and jumping. Jerez is also a great base camp for the spectacular beach riding in Cadiz.

mountain-trail-riding-andalusia

Image credit: Sierra Trails

If you have two or three days at your disposal, ride strong and sure-footed Andalusian horses in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the highest in mainland Spain. Witness some of the most impressive scenery in the country, ranging from lush valleys and pine forests to sparkling rivers and alpine meadows. Travel through unspoiled wilderness, reaching remote areas that can only be accessed on horseback.

On the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the culturally and historically rich Alpujarra region has some of the most spectacular horse riding trails in Europe. Tracks of all difficulty levels and old Moorish mule paths pass through traditional whitewashed villages and terraced farmlands, gorges and olive groves.

Want to find out more about this fascinating region. Here’s all you need to know for a horse riding holiday in Andalusia.

 

Lombardy & Tuscany, Italy

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Image credit: Scuderia Castello

It’s easy to see why Italy, the place where romance, history, and culture are inextricably intertwined, is such a popular horse riding destination. The country delivers every kind of riding terrain you could possibly want, from beaches and rolling countryside to lakeshores and alpine trekking.

If you’re looking to spend an adventure-packed horse riding weekend in Italy, you can’t go wrong with Lombardy. Home to the Stelvio National Park, the largest protected territory in the Alps, as well as over 20 regional parks, the area is a paradise for nature lovers.

Most horse riding tours in Lombardy are centered around the gorgeous lakes and ride into the hills and valleys at the foothills of the mighty Alps.

Parco dell’Alto Garda Bresciano (Upper Garda Park) has plenty of short trails of all difficulty levels, with stunning views of Lake Garda and the peaks of the Bergamasque Alps. Ride through lush valleys, vineyards, and picturesque villages against a breathtaking alpine backdrop.

The province of Como has numerous trekking itineraries. You can ride along the shores of the many lakes for a few hours or an entire day. The picturesque Valle d’Intelvi connects Lakes Como and Lugano and has trails on both sides of the valley, suitable for all levels.

Please take note that according to Italian law, children under 14 are not allowed to ride on public roads.

horse-riding-tuscany

Image credit: Rendola Riding Holiday Centre

Hilly Tuscany has something for all levels and tastes. The many stables in the region offer everything you need to explore the region’s unspoiled natural beauty on horseback, either for a couple of hours or a couple of days.

Hop in the saddle and visit castles, vineyards, and an idyllic countryside while discovering the region’s rich history, delicious food, and fine wines. You can combine these tours with visits to the great art treasures of Florence and Siena, or the famous vineyards in the Chianti region.

 

Wales, UK

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The birthplace of pony trekking, Wales is a premier trail riding destination in the UK. Home to three national parks – Snowdonia, Pembrokeshire Coast, and Brecon Beacons – there’s no better way to explore its raw beauty, intricate sandstone peaks, and Celtic ruins than on horseback.

In the northeast of Wales, you can embark on a trail riding weekend in the remote and barely-touched Berwyn Mountains, parts of which are enclosed by the Snowdonia National Park. These trails are recommended for intermediate and advanced riders.

Brecon Beacons National Park offers some of the most impressive horse riding trails on the planet. Hay-on-Wye is a preferred base camp for exploring the 600mi+ (960km+) of tracks and bridleways for all levels. By far the most spectacular are those that pass through the remote Black Mountains.

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Image credit: Nolton Stables

And let us not forget the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, which runs for 186mi (300km) along Britain’s most spectacular coastline, covering almost every type of maritime landscape. The entire trail sums up 35,000 (10,670m) feet of ascent and descent. But you can only take on certain sections of the route, some more challenging than others. 

 

Alentejo and Ribatejo, Portugal

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Image credit: Melides Almargem, LDA

Home of the famed Lusitano horse, a varied terrain, and warm, sunny climate, Portugal is an excellent destination for equine lovers. And what better way to explore the charming countryside in the Centro Region on a horse riding weekend in Portugal?

If you’re looking for a city break beyond the ordinary, there are many equestrian facilities offering horse riding near Lisbon. Just north of the capital, ride native Lusitano horses in the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, with trails that are suitable for beginners and intermediate riders. Or enjoy fantastic beach rides on the Setúbal Peninsula.

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Image credit: Herdade do Pessegueiro

In Ribatejo, one of the six historical provinces of Portugal, the Silver Coast is a stretch of coastal towns, including famous surfing destination Peniche. There are numerous coastal trails and you can ride on the beach, passing by sand dunes and lagoons, feeling the power of the Atlantic right beneath your feet. Visit traditional Portuguese villages and taste the incredible cuisine and wines of the region.

Have a truly authentic experience in Alentejo as you ride through the enchanting forests of Serra de Grândola (Grândola Mountain), with their famous cork, eucalyptus, and pine trees. This is one of the last untouched environments in Portugal, with trails for all levels.

 

Bundoran, Ireland

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Image credit: Donegal Equestrian Centre

The wild Atlantic Way is the most famous horse riding trail in Ireland, running the entire length of the country’s west coast. Luckily, it is comprised of many short and picturesque sections that you can take on if you’re short on time.

Donegal is the wildest and most remote county in Ireland. It has hundreds of kilometers of beach and woodland tracks for all levels, which will take you through heather-covered moorland, bogs, mountains, and along rugged coastal cliffs.

Bundoran is an excellent base camp if you wish to explore the many Atlantic Way beach trails that run along Donegal’s coast. 

On a horse riding weekend in Bundoran, you’ll get the chance to canter along Tullan Strand, Trawalud Strand, and Rossnowlagh Strand, all part of the Atlantic Way. You can also combine beach riding with gentle trots in the surrounding countryside.

For more exciting destinations, read our guide to the best horse riding trails in Ireland.

 

Reykjavik, Iceland

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Image credit: Hesta Sport

Home to the sturdy and reliable Icelandic horse, fjords and glaciers, lagoons and volcanoes, the Northern Lights and the Midnight Sun, Iceland is on any horse lover’s bucket list.

If you don’t have enough time to explore a larger chunk of the country on horseback, there are numerous tours that last from a couple of hours to a couple of days. For weekend horse riding in Iceland, the most accessible trips start at the outskirts of Reykjavik and will take you across the lava fields, and are suitable for all levels. Some tours even add a stop at the famous Blue Lagoon, where you can relax and rejuvenate in the mineral-rich water.

If you’re looking to spend two or three days in the saddle, then you can embark on certain sections of the Golden Circle and visit the most famous attractions it has to offer. These include the Geysir Geothermal Area, Þingvellir National Park, and Gullfoss Waterfall.

Want to see more of the Land of Fire and Ice? Read our guide to the best horse riding destinations in Iceland.

 

Rila National Park, Bulgaria

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Image credit: Rusaliite

If you’re looking for an affordable horse riding destination that also offers pristine nature and colorful and unspoiled landscapes, Bulgaria might be the answer.

Hop in the saddle and discover the unique terrain of the Rila Mountains, the tallest in Bulgaria and the Balkan Peninsula. Riding trails will take you through serene pastoral scenery, pristine nature, and virtually untouched forests. Stop on the shores of glacial lakes and ride high into the mountains for the freshest air and the best views.

The popular ski resort of Bansko is close by if you’d like to combine some exciting days on the slopes with a short horse riding getaway.

*Cover image credit: Melides Almargem, LDA


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