Almeria, Spain, 2012.
Sarah Ritchie, Far and Ride.
In April 2012 I visited our destination in Almeria, Spain, and stayed in both Hotel Cortijo el Sotillo and Apartementos Turisticos Villa Maltesis. Hotel Cortijo el Sotillo is conveniently located close to the village of San Jose and is right next to the Almeria riding centre. The 18th century converted farmhouse is just a short walk from the village. San Jose offers a wide range of good restaurants, local produce in the shops, internet cafes, a tourist office and a bus service to Almería. The hotel rooms are very spacious with plenty of wardrobe space, a sofa and a desk area as well as an area for hanging coats. The bathrooms are also very spacious with a large walk-in bath/shower and a nice selection of complimentary toiletries. Each room also has its own private terrace. The staff are friendly and helpful and always smiling. There is a lovely swimming pool with plenty of sun loungers for those wishing to soak up some sunshine.
Apartamentos Turisticos Villa Maltes is just a short distance away from the stables and ideally suited to families wishing for their own private accommodation or perhaps a self catering option. There are 1, 2 and 3 bedroom apartments available with a kitchen, living room with sofa bed, individual patio and access to the swimming pool. They are air conditioned/heated and also contain a fridge, TV and possibility of adding extra bed. During my stay the restaurant was not yet open but it soon will be with the added option of requesting breakfast to be brought to you in your apartment.
At the stables Manolo has a selection of over 20 horses suitable for all riding abilities, from the complete beginner to the more established rider. The horses are a mixture of part bred Andalusians, part bred Arabs and some pure Andalusians. They are kept as naturally as possible in herds outdoors unless they need to be stabled for some reason. Manolo informed me that he likes to buy his horses young and train them himself so he knows them all very well and cares for them very much. The riding centre itself boasts a large sand arena where Manolo can teach lessons as well as a lunging area and carriages for those wishing to experience driving, as opposed to or as well as riding in the fabulous surrounding area.
The hotel and stables are set in the Natural Park of Cabo de Gata-Nijar. Here you will find some of the best beaches in Europe, as well as the setting of movie scenes such as ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ 1962; the attack on the train scene. The terrain is varied with steep cliffs, tucked away coves and beautiful beaches. The area is mostly untouched with a wide range of fauna and flora and clear waters superb for snorkelling and scuba diving (additional activities can be arranged). The horses are well adapted to the sometimes steep terrain and make easy work of the rocky paths. Manolo is an attentive guide, constantly checking every rider is OK and comfortable. Whilst I was visiting there was a nervous rider on holiday who was not confident at a faster pace than a walk or a very steady trot. By the end of her stay she was enjoying an exhilarating canter along the beach thanks to Manolo’s encouragement and aid.
With the climate of the area being warm all year round this is an ideal destination for some winter sun. There is rarely rainfall in Almeria and the temperature rarely sinks below 17 degrees. Manolo offers various programmes and is very flexible so guests can choose how much riding they would like to do during their stay. A variety of activities besides horse riding can be arranged as well as visits to local places of interest such as Western film sets. I would certainly recommend car hire to explore the local area and get the most out of your visit. If you like sunshine, beaches, good food and kind horses then this is the holiday for you!
Read more about the ride here: Almeria, Spain.