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Faial Island Trails

Overview

This comfortable ecolodge is based on the island of Faial in the Azores, a Portuguese archipelago in the North Atlantic Ocean which comprises nine volcanic islands. The islands are known for their fascinating landscapes, mild climate and surrounding deep blue sea which lends itself perfectly to wha…

Highlights

  • Explore black lava beaches and volcanoes
  • Join marine biologists on a whale-watching tour
  • Comfortable ecolodge accommodation with pool and sauna
  • Well-schooled Lusitano and Portuguese Cruzado horses
  • Quality meals from an award-winning chef

Essential Facts

  • 1 itinerary available
  • Max 9 riders per group
  • Average of 4 - 5 hours riding per day
  • Weight limit: 95kg / 210 lbs / 15 st.
    more info Slightly heavier riders may be possible on consultation with horse team - please enquire.

Description

This comfortable ecolodge is based on the island of Faial in the Azores, a Portuguese archipelago in the North Atlantic Ocean which comprises nine volcanic islands. The islands are known for their fascinating landscapes, mild climate and surrounding deep blue sea which lends itself perfectly to whale-watching tours. Faial is named after its beech trees ('faias') but is also known as the 'Blue Island' thanks to its beautiful hydrangeas which bloom in different shades. The ecolodge is home to a herd of Lusitano and Portuguese Cruzado horses, the perfect companions with which to explore the island's lush green meadows, black lava beaches, 'Caldeira' volcano at 1000m above sea level and much more.

Each day you ride a different route and the horses stay out in paddocks along the way, since they are used to living out together as a herd. You are then transferred back to the lodge to enjoy the pool and sauna, have a three-course dinner and a good sleep, before being driven back to the horses in the morning to explore another part of this fascinating island.

For non-riders or those wishing to fit more in, the ecolodge has lots to offer. There is a saltwater pool, sauna and other activities available including yoga, hiking and additional whale or dolphin-watching tours. It's also possible to visit the neighbouring island of Pico with a guide.

Horses & Riding

Tack

The horses are all ridden in purpose-made Prestige trekking saddles, which are incredibly comfortable for long hours of riding. Some of the horses are ridden in bitless bridles and all are accustomed to a loose rein. Saddlebags and Australian raincoats are available for guests to rent.

Horses

The horses are all Lusitanos and Lusitano Crosses (Portuguese Cruzado). The horses are calm, well-mannered, fit for the trails and able to cope with the hilly and varied terrain. They live out together all year long in the meadows or in a large open barn if a shelter is needed during the wettest winter weather.

Riding

There is 1 itinerary:

  • Faial Island Trail is a based ride

Ages

Riders must be 16 or older (please request if you child is younger).

Health

General good health recommended.

Weight

95kg / 210 lbs / 15 st. Slightly heavier riders may be possible on consultation with horse team - please enquire.

Food & Accommodation

Food

The ecolodge has its own bar and restaurant with the catering team led by an award-winning chef. A continental buffet is served and lunches are generally a light meal or a picnic lunch, served with water and juice. Dinners are three courses including fresh fish from the Atlantic, sustainably-sourced meat and organic vegetables. All meals are included in your stay but drinks with dinners or outside of meal times are paid locally.

The bar offers Azorean wines, cocktails, beers and a refreshing selection of soft drinks and the lodge's own spring water.

Accommodation

Accommodation is in an ecolodge, rated 4*, in lodge rooms, apartments or 'Tiny Houses' (you can upgrade). There is a saltwater swimming pool (heated in the winter), a sauna, gardens and free high speed internet. There are great views of the Atlantic Ocean, Pico Volcano and the horse pastures or round pen.

Itineraries

Faial Island Trail Standard accommodation.

Other Activities

There is plenty for non-riders to do here including whale and dolphin-watching and hiking. Yoga is also available at additional cost.

Travel

Faial is located in the central group of the Azores archipelago and the airport is Horta, the island's main city. You can fly via Lisbon to reach Horta or take a connecting flight via Ponta Delgada, one of the larger Azorean islands.

Testimonials

Meghan K., July 1, 2022

This riding holiday was amazing! The lodge was beautiful and had everything we needed. The riding itself was incredible. The team managed the riding very well, at points with numerous riders, the guides were very experienced and thoughtful and everything was geared around the safety of both riders and horses. The trails had a good variety of terrain (and always incredible views!) which made each day interesting. Overall I loved my experience and the people I met on the trail as well as all of the staff! My favourite memory was probably either cantering through the fields of Faial or getting to ride up around the volcano craters.


Kate M., Jan. 25, 2019

An incredible experience - beautiful place, lovely people, stunning views, amazing rides and loved the horses! Couldn't fault the horses at all! Equipment was more than adequate - was surprised at how comfortable the saddles were. (Favourite memory?) The canters down these beautiful paths and the bond you build with your horse. The holiday was perfect - nothing to improve.


Malcolm T., Oct. 9, 2015

Horses and tack were perfect. Guides perfect and friendly. (Favourite memory?) The superb scenery.


Itinerary & Pricing

Day 1

Riding: No riding.

Arrival into Horta airport with transfer to the ecolodge. You will meet the horses and have a briefing of your trail week, getting to know the other riders and your guide. Welcome dinner.

Day 2 - History of Whales

Riding: 4 - 5 hours

Today starts by learning about whales and their history on the island of Faial. You are then introduced to your horse and your equipment before setting out on the trail. Start on gently rising meadow paths and after a short time, you begin the first trot and canter. Your destination is a whale watching point, where with a little luck and when the sea is calm, you can see whales and dolphins. Return to the lodge along the steep coast where a delicious lunch is waiting for you.

In the afternoon you ride to two small whaling harbours. If the weather is good, you can swim here. Leave the horses for the night in a small hamlet and transfer back to the lodge for a drink at the bar before dinner.

Day 3 - Lighthouse Trail

Riding: 4 - 5 hours

Today you can learn about the impact of the 1998 earthquake on Faial. You are transferred to the horses early in the morning and start your trail by riding along the coast through and avenue of blue hydrangea hedges. Reach the island's former lighthouse, which was destroyed in the earthquake - the nearby village still has a crumbling church that testifies to the power of the tremors. Around noon you reach the horses' rest area where there is time for a saddlebag picnic.

After your lunch and perhaps a swim or paddle in the sea, your ride continues with wonderful views of the ocean and the neighbouring islands of São Jorge, Graciosa and Pico. You will reach the horse paddock for the night and once the horses are settled you'll be driven back to the ecolodge for relaxation, dinner and overnight.

Day 4 - Caldeira of Faial Trail

Riding: 6 - 7 hours

Another early start today as you head to one of the top highlights of the Azores, Faial’s crater - the Caldeira. It is located at an altitude of over 1,000m in the centre of the island and is a real challenge for rider and horse. Sometimes you will meet farmers along the way with their cows. The heather shrubs along your route look like giant broccoli and the Atlantic Ocean glitters in the sun. You slowly ride up to the crater rim via old rail tracks until eventually reaching the 400m deep and 2,500m wide crater. If you want to extend your trail holiday, you can descend into the depths of the crater with a nature park guide on a different day at extra cost.

After another saddlebag picnic you ride through the lonely and wild landscape of the high mountains. Your trail leads over farm roads and down to a small volcano, the inner crater of which you can reach on foot through a small tunnel. A very special atmosphere awaits you in this tunnel. In the late afternoon you arrive at the 'Jungle Camp' where you leave the horses for the night. The transfer to the lodge is already waiting for you and you return to a well-earned dinner.

Day 5 - Cabeço Verde Trail and Whale Watching

Riding: 3 hours

This morning you will be driven to Horta town to meet a team of marine biologists who will take you out to the ocean in a powerful motorised boat. The ocean around Faial is home to many different species of whales and dolphins and it's a special experience to be so close to the largest mammals in the world. Whale-watching is generally an option from April to October but outside of this season, or if the weather isn't good enough, you will enjoy some time discovering the colourful, cosmopolitan port town of Horta and its sailing harbour.

There's another saddlebag picnic, eaten at the Nature Park of Capelo, before you prepare your horses and mount up for a ride up the green hill, 'Cabeço Verde'. From the top you have spectacular views of Praia do Norte, Cabeço do Fogo, Morro do Castelo Branco and the volcano Vulcão dos Capelinhos. The route of descent shows you some of the vineyards which are unique to Faial - this wine-growing area is unique due to the ashes of the last volcanic eruption and a special way of growing the grapes. After a ride you will enjoy another meal at the ecolodge, a true taste of the Azores.

Day 6 - Capelinhos Volcano Trail

Riding: 4 - 5 hours

Today the trail leads you through a mystical jungle landscape where you can enjoy fantastic canters close to the coastline. Extensive vineyards, but also small 'adegas' (wineries) line your way as you follow narrow tracks close to the shore. Eventually you reach another top highlight of the Azores, the volcano of Capelinhos which erupted in 1957. Desert-like solitude awaits you with an old whaling village covered with the ash from the volcano. Hidden under the buried lighthouse is the modern interpretation centre that reports on the volcanism of the Azores and the eruption of the volcano. You combine your saddlebag picnic with a visit to this attraction.

After lunch you ride over parts of the volcano to reach the Jungle Camp again in the late afternoon. The transfer back to the lodge is already waiting there.

Day 7 - Fajã Bay and Canyon Trail

Riding: 4 - 5 hours

Today is the last day of the trail. Fajã Bay is a hidden bay where the islanders have grown wine and fruit for 500 years and on your way there you pass more small adegas (wineries). Riding through dense jungle you reach the black lava beach of Fajã Bay - a magical, romantic world of its own. Small lava stone houses, well-tended gardens and a wild sea await you .

You cross the island from the dry south to the green north with magnificent views over terraced pastures down to the blue ocean. Extended canters lead to the highest village on the island, Ribeira Funda. A typical Azorean picnic is waiting for you directly above the 300m deep canyon. Let the sun warm you, listen to the wind and the wild cries of the buzzards circling over the deep gorge.

In the afternoon the route takes you along yam fields and through a small, wild and romantic valley to return to the lodge. A farewell dinner brings your fascinating week of trail riding to a close.

Day 8 - Departure

Riding: No riding.

After breakfast you will be transferred to the airport for your flight or to the ferry port. With the early flight from Faial back to Lisbon you should be able to connect with an afternoon flight home. Alternatively, you may wish to extend your stay on the island to explore further - please ask for details.

Accommodation

Every night is spent at the ecolodge.

Experience Intermediate / Experienced

Intermediate onwards, capable of riding at all paces over a variety of different terrain.

Minimum group size 1
Maximum group size 9
Departure windows

At any time during: Jan. 1, 2024 - Dec. 31, 2024  (Flexible arrivals/departures)

Pricing

2024
Sharing, High Season (1 Jun - 30 Sept)
£1880 $2385 €2195
2024
Sharing, Mid Season (1 Apr - 31 May, 1-31 October)
£1705 $2165 €1995
2024
Sharing, Low Season (1 Jan - 31 Mar, 1 Nov - 31 Dec)
£1620 $2060 €1895
Included 7 nights accommodation (different options available), airport transfers, all meals from dinner on arrival day to breakfast on departure day, water and juice with picnic lunches, 6 days riding with an experienced trail guide, entry ticket to Capelinhos Interpretation Center, whale-watching tour with marine biologists (mid and high season only) OR visit to Horta city and the whaling museum (low season), unlimited use of the sauna and swimming pool, WiFi.
Not included Flights, travel insurance, other drinks, extra activities, tips and personal expenses.

Extras

2024 - Single Supplement; High Season (1 Jun - 30 Sept) £340 $430 €400
Paid to Far and Ride
2024 - Single Supplement; Low Season (1 Jan - 31 Mar, 1 Nov - 31 Dec) £255 $325 €300
Paid to Far and Ride
2024 - Single Supplement; Mid Season (1 Apr - 31 May, 1-31 October) £255 $325 €300
Paid to Far and Ride
Note: All programmes and itineraries are weather dependent; in the face of adverse, or unexpected, weather conditions reasonable attempts will be made to provide equivalent riding. All programmes are accurate at the time of writing. However, the team may adapt or modify details, whilst aiming to provide a similar experience.