Type of horses:
Horses are anglo and purebred Arabian, as well as some Criollo/arab cross; all are hardy and built for the long hours required of this ride.
Nature of horses:
They are very fit, forward going and responsive and many have won championships in Colombia for endurance racing.
Height of horses:
100 kg (dressed) - this means the maximum weight limit must include all your riding gear as well.
Predominantly McLellan saddles, although quality English leather saddles are offered for more advanced riders.
This trail is designed specifically for adventurous and inquisitive riders who want to take part in a challenging and ambitious horseback experience that will leave them feeling fulfilled and satisfied. Discover the extreme landscapes of Colombia as you follow the Royal roads used firstly by the Conquistadors, the traders and later by the revolutionaries and independence fighters against their Spanish king in the early part of the 19th century. The routes will lead you from the historic lands of Boyacá to the commemorative state of Santander. You will explore wild and diverse landscapes, as well as historic villages bustling with a vibrant, colourful culture and a rich, diverse past. You will meet people who have known hardship and adversity in the recent past but who are now emerging into the future with a sense of renewed freedom and energetic independence.
Your host and guide is Julio Pardo, an experienced horseman and Colombian national who has dedicated much of his life to breeding and cultivating equestrian athletes, firstly in the competitive sport of polo, then for the long distance demands of Endurance racing and now for the trail of discovery. Together with a hardworking ground team, he hopes to share with you the unique relationship of horse and rider, the physical demands of the trail and magical realism of Colombia.
Colombia enjoys a tropical climate due to its unique position on the equator and it's combination of influence from the surrounding rainforests, mountains, pacific and caribbean oceans. This results in a regular temperature which remains mild year round, but with the intermittent threat of rainfall during the green season and cooling winds in the dry season. The only differences in temperature will be felt as you climb higher in altitude, in order to explore the higher mountain villages, before then returning to the lowlands and to warmer conditions. This constance in climate also results in a near perfect situation for the cultivating and growing of a large variety of tropical fruit, cocoa and sugarcane crops, as well as being one of the greatest regions for coffee been processing and production.
During this ride you will be accommodated in a combination of comfortable local hotels and fascinating historical farmhouses. The properties have been selected from their location, individual charm and interesting characteristics. All provide a comfortable bed, warm and friendly hosts, as well as delicious home cooked food and an insight into the lives of the people you will encounter during your travels. Rooms are generally given on a shared twin basis, but singles are sometimes available (although a supplement will be charged for this).
Food on these rides is all typical Colombian fare which includes a lot of red meat (beef and pork), as well as chicken, freshwater fish, rice, plantain, avocado, maize, cheese, potato, coconut and a whole variety of fresh tropical fruit. You will also be able to expereince a wide range of typical Colombian snacks, including Arepas (corn cakes), Patacones (fried green plantain), empanadas (corn parcels filled with meat or vegetables). Some days you may bring a saddlebag picnic lunch along with you, whereas others will see you stopping at typical local restaurant on route. Vegetarian and speciality diets can easily be catered for with advance notice.
In terms of drinks, Colombia is most famed for it's fantastic coffee, but also offers a wide range of delicious fruit and herb infusions with hot water. For something a little more refreshing, the Colombians generally opt for a local beer and you will have plenty of chances to stop for one or two of these along the riding route. There are also some wonderful regional wines available to choose from and local fire-water named "Aguadiente" will also play a big part in your Colombian experience! Bottled mineral water will be provided for you each day as the tap water is not generally potable.
This trail is not the best choice for non-riders as the riding days are long. For those taking part in the riding, the programme incorporates visits to local artisanal producers, guided walks and historical talks about the villages you visit, coffee tasting sessions and refreshing dips under giant waterfalls.
It's also worth scheduling a few extra days before or after your trail to visit some of the other magical regions of Colombia, including the Caribbean coast, the ancient monuments of Colombia's past, the jungles of the Amazon, the mountains of the Pacific coast, or the central Coffee Culture landscapes which enjoy year round fine weather. We can make recommendations for tours and hotels in many of these areas, so please just ask for more information.
Languages: Spanish and English.
Health requirements: All riders should be fit, with plenty of physical and mental strength, as well as having a good sense of adventure. These trails are designed to be long, challenging and engaging for strong intermediate and experienced riders. You must be prepared to spend between 4 and 9 hours in the saddle and feel comfortable riding at all speeds on forward going horses.
Age limit: 12-70 (those under 18 must be accompanied by an adult): All riders should be competent and physically fit. Riders over the age of 70 must provide a health certificate from their GP.
Included: Transfers, accommodation (twin/double rooms), meals as described, soft drinks, riding guide, horse and equipment, back-up guide/first aider, support vehicle and team.
Not included: Flights, travel insurance, alcoholic drinks, personal expenses (tips, laundry, etc.)
Travelling from Europe, there are direct flights to Bogota available from London Heathrow, Madrid and Barcelona with Colombian airline Avianca, from Paris with Air France, from Frankfurt with Lufthansa and from Madrid with budget line Air Europa. Many flights from Europe are overnight meaning that you will arrive in the early hours of the morning. It is therefore worth having one day of rest and recuperation in Bogotá in order to adjust to the time difference.
For those outside of Europe, there are also direct flights to Bogotá from Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles and Miami in the US, as well as from Buenos Aires in Argentina, São Paolo in Brazil, Lima in Peru and Santiago in Chile from Latin America. These are generally shorter flights and can arrive at any point in the day. The effects of time difference from these locations is not as great as for those coming from Europe.
Transfer from Bogotá to the start of the trail is included in the cost of the trail, along with a nights accommodation at a selected hotel in Bogotá. This gives travellers the chance to rest up and meet their hosts before embarking on their expedition. You will leave Bogotá in the morning (typically between 9-10am) and set off on the 5 hours trip to the start of the riding trail, stopping for lunch (not included) and to visit interesting sights along the way.
At the end of the riding tour, you will return to Bogotá for a final night before taking a flight home, or on to your next destination the following day. This is to ensure that there is no panic for customers as the traffic in this city is notoriously unpredictable and can become extremely heavy in busy periods.
Barichara and the surrounding region of Santander will often be sung as the birthplace of Colombia's independence from years of Spanish dominance and rule. The region is well known for it's great colonial architecture, royal roads, dense woodland and cascading waterfalls. Here you will be given the chance to discover a quaint and tumultuous countryside, inhabited by a unique people and home to a fascinating culture.
Arrival to Bogotá during the day, where you will be met by host and guide Julio before being transferred to a hotel in the city. Once here you will check-in and possibly have some time free to take a look around the city before you enjoy dinner with your fellow guests and host that evening.
Overnight at the hotel (meals not included on this day).
This morning you will set off for the Colombian countryside. The drive is long but you will be able to enjoy the winding roads and stunning vistas as you pass through the regions of Cundinamarca, Boyacá and finally to Santander. You will stop for lunch at a typical Colombian restaurant along the way and enjoy plenty of time to ask your hosts questions about the trail, hear some interesting stories about the local region and it's history and get to know your fellow adventurers.
You will reach the rural town of Oiba with time to enjoy the pool here and freshen up before dinner.
Transfer time c. 5 hours
After a tasty and filling breakfast your riding guide Julio will talk you through the safety procedures of the trail you will embark on and present each one with a wristband containing a unique number in case of an emergency. Now is your chance to check gear and ask any important questions about the trail.
The horses will be saddled and waiting for you outside the hotel. The morning will see you following dirt tracks through picturesque farmland and beautiful woodland, surrounded by abundant vegetation and crystal clear streams. There are chances to stop at an old foresters camp for a refreshing drink and then onwards through the mountain passes until you stop for a picnic lunch with a spectacular view. Along the way you may stop at an old school, community shop or local traditional basket weaver's house to see how life is lived in this part of the world.
By mid-afternoon you will arrive in the noble town of Charalá, where you will be able to admire the spires of the great central cathedral from miles away. You will stop at a hotel on the outskirts of the town, where you can help to wash down and settle the horses for the night.
At sunset you will also be given the chance to take a guided tour of the historic town of Charalá in order to discover it's pleasant cobbled streets, take in the mild night time temperatures and eventually enjoy a late dinner before retiring to the hotel for a well-deserved nights rest.
Riding c. 5-6 hours
After another delicious breakfast this morning, you will aim to leave the hotel by 10am promptly. Riding along the royal roads which border the majestic Fonce River you will follow the river course as it is joined by the smaller Pineta and Tâquiza, often via a dramatic cascade of water some 30-40 meters high. To your right you will also witness mountainsides planted with a variety of sugarcane, coffee and cocoa crops and see the farmers and local people working on the harvest at specific times of year. The gently undulating tracks with offer plenty of opportunity for long trots and canters as you work to cover the ground on this long day of riding.
At midday you will cross over the fonce river by means of a road bridge then continue a short way before entering the Juan Curi falls reserve. Here you will settle your horses to graze in the grounds before enjoying a replenishing meal, followed by a refreshing dip in the cascading waterfalls (an experience which is both thrilling and life-affirming in equal measure).
Not long to rest before you will need to re-mount your horses in order climb the tracks up above the Juan Curi heading to the remote village of Páramo. The afternoon ride is long and may see you riding after sun-set. You will follow farm tracks and quiet country roads before arriving at the traditional hacienda in a coffee and sugarcane plantation which will be your home for the night.
After a long day in the saddle, you will be thankful for a warm home-cooked meal and a comfortable bed too.
Riding c.8-9 hours.
Today you will continue your ride heading toward the historic town of El Socorro, birthplace of patriots and martyrs of the independence movement toward the end of the 18th century. You will again pass great coffee plantations and begin to move into more wild, mountainous terrain during this section of the ride. The town has been built on the side of a great mountain side and as you pass through the centre you will have the feeling of riding towards the edge of the world itself. Passing amazing typical architecture and exquisite colonial homes, you will eventually join the course of the river Suarez which is famed for its demanding rapids (a favourite among rafting enthusiasts).
Your guide Julio will describe the detailed passage fo the Suarez river which has flowed through this valley for many years, shaping it into existence with unyielding force and eventually finishing in the canyons of Chicamocha (which you will appreciate further on).
In the afternoon you will reach the beautiful town of El Palmar, home to a very famous and historic Ceiba tree in the main town square. In local legend the town is said to have built up around this great tree which measures roughly 10 meters in diameter around it's trunk. You will again spend the night in a beautiful local hacienda.
Riding c.7-8 hours
Crossing back over the Suárez river by way of the road bridge, you will start to ride today by picking up the track to the small rural village of Cabrera. This little settlement is well regarded locally for it's exceptionally well preserved Colonial architecture. From here you will follow the ancient royal roads of the Colombian independence as they lead you down to the Plateau and the historic town of Barichara. The town is recognised as the emblematic jewel of Colombian history, independence fighting and colonial architecture.
Entering the town by way of the royal bridge, you will have some time to appreciate Barichara's quaint cobbled streets, observe its numerous ceremonial parks and magnificent old churches. Later in the afternoon you will make your way to a spectacular country house on the outskirts of town. Here you will enjoy a delicious home cooked meal and a restful nights sleep.
Riding c. 5-6 hours.
This morning will see you enjoying a pleasant ride through the rural tobacco plantations of the Barichara plateau, heading toward the great canyon of Chicamocha. This grand natural valley has been nominated amongst a very strong group of contenders for the honour of being titled as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Here you will experience what can only be described as a "not-to-be-missed" visual spectacle, offering vast and uninterrupted views over the mountainous terrain of this region and down along the cursive path of the great river below.
Following either a light picnic lunch or a typical santanderean meal (with dishes originating from this area of Santander) at a local family's house close to the canyon's brim, you will mount up and begin to head back toward Barichara for the night.
Riding c. 6 hours.
Today you will be able to enjoy a free day of rest and relaxation in the heart of Barichara.
Often described in literature as the "prettiest town in Colombia", Barichara has a lot to offer visitors in such a small and unassuming place. The peace and tranquility offered in this little town is quite unparalleled, a real treasure of a national monument with its roots deeply ingrained in the time of the Spanish Conquests. Here you will discover perfectly pretty whitewashed houses with red-tiled roofs, surrounded by quiet stone streets. Occasionally you'll stumble across an artesanal craft shop, or perhaps the odd lovely little bar or restaurant too, as well as the great many churches.
Beginning in the main square, you can find the "Templo de la Inmaculada Concepción y San Lorenzo" (the temple of the immaculate conception and Saint Laurence); originally hand built from local stone by the village's artesanal craftsmen. Then, the "Capilla de San Juan de Dios" (the chapel of Saint John of God); a gorgeous church with an intriguing cemetery. The "Capilla de San Antonio" (the chapel of Saint Anthony) with it's attractive shaded courtyard, or the "Capilla Santa Bárbaba" (the chapel of Saint Barbara) whihc is now used most regularly for cultural events. Of particular note should also be the museum now present at the once-home of Aquileo Parra, former Colombian president between 1876-78
Today will mark the very last day of your trip through the independence routes of Colombia. You will return to the capital city of Bogota where you will be accommodated in a comfortable hotel in the city. (meals not included).
Transfer time c.6 hours.
Transfer to the airport in time for your flight home or onward travel plans.
**Please note that the itinerary may vary due to local conditions such as weather or other unforeseen circumstances, but always with your best interests at heart.
|Minimum group size:||6|
|Maximum group size:||12|
|Ability description:||Strong intermediate to Advanced riders only. You must be comfortable in the saddle for long hours and through some very challenging landscapes. You will need to be happy riding a fit and forward going horse and have a great sense of adventure for this ride. At the end of the day, the horses will be seen to before guests and you may help out with the un-tacking and washing down as you please.|
|Type of ride:||Trail ride.|
|Total riding time:||5 days riding (5-9 hours in the saddle each day).|
|Departure dates:||2017: 25th March - 3rd April, 10th - 19th June, 12th - 21st August, 28th October - 6th November.|
8-12 rider: £2025 per person
6-7 rider: £2363 per person
Single room supplement: £30 per night, payable if you are unwilling to share a twin room with another single traveller of the same gender. * Single rooms can be limited, so please check with us at time of booking.
Price includes 2 nights of accommodation in a Hotel in Bogotá (twin/double rooms), transfer from Bogotá to the start point of the ride (round trip), professional bilingual guide, horse and equipment, saddle bags, all meals from dinner on arrival in Oiba to breakfast on departure from Barichara and soft drinks during the riding program (lunch box and dinner in restaurants), 7 nights of accommodations in hotels during the riding expedition (twin/double rooms), transport of luggage in private vehicles (1 suitcase per person), First Aid Kit, satellite tracker monitored by a security expert, city tour in Barichara.
Not included: flights, personal equipment and expenses, meals not specified in the program (1st and 9th day), travel insurance or medical care.