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10 of the best destinations for a horse-riding holiday

Saddle up – these stunning holiday destinations will have you raring to hop on a horse and go.

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Bullet trains cross cities in a blink, aeroplanes soar overhead and cruise liners carve through vast oceans; it’s fair to say humanity has dominion over land, air and sea. Yet all that eye-watering speed and tooth-rattling noise isn’t always conducive to a relaxing holiday. Sometimes, you want to switch off the mind – and the motor.

A horse-riding holiday is just the ticket. It’s a back-to-basics approach for discovering a destination. Permanently perched off the ground, you get an elevated view of your location which unfurls as you wind around trails, through thickets and over trickling streams. The pace can be as slow as you like, and your trusty horse does most of the hard work.

Of course, some places are better for riding than others; you don’t want to be dodging honking tuk tuks and daydreaming pedestrians on a busy street in Bangkok, for example. We highly recommend these 10 destinations for a luxury horse-riding holiday.

South Africa horse-riding holidays

In the land of safari, swap four wheels for four hooves – it’s an entirely different way to spot wildlife. Trot along South Africa’s bushland in a small cavalcade to get within metres of zebra, giraffe and antelope; the absence of a sputtering motor means you’re less likely to spook the local animals. As you wend around the trails of the country’s national parks, you’ll likely be accompanied by an armed ranger who can explain the flora and fauna along the way. Many stables accommodate riders from beginner to advanced level, so it is an especially family-friendly mode of safari.

Discover more inspiring ways to explore South Africa on our dedicated South Africa holidays page.

Argentina horse-riding holidays

Gauchos are icons of Argentinian culture. These folkloric horsemen of South America have retained their traditions into the 21st century, and you will still find authentic cattle ranches – estancias – dotting the rugged plains here. Head to Argentina for a ride around the Pampas, a fertile lowland as flat as the brim of a gaucho’s hat and ideal for trekking by horse. Stay at a ranch and join a ride to round up grazing cattle. After a hard day’s herding, stop by a pulpería – a gaucho drinking den – for some succulent beef washed down with a pingüino or two of local wine. You can round off the experience with a sleep beneath the stars. Deeper south, you’ll find more Patagonian marvels to explore by horse as you pass the glacial peaks of Tierra del Fuego – the ‘Land of Fire’.

For more ideas on what to do during an Argentina holiday, on and off the horse, take a look at our suggested Argentina itineraries.

Hawaii horse-riding holidays

When you think of the American cowboy, you probably picture a Clint Eastwood-esque, red-blooded gunslinger from the arid southern states. But you might be surprised to know that the cowboy has a long history of its own in the far-flung archipelago state of Hawaii. Hawaiian cowboys (paniolo) are descended from the Mexican vaqueros – cattle herders who brought their traditions to North America. Canter in the hoofsteps of these horsemen with a stay at the working ranches and stables dotting Hawaii’s islands. During riding excursions, you can wander trails taking you by waterfalls, volcanoes, streams and bays. It’s a wonderfully immersive way to experience Hawaii’s cinematic landscape.

For more ideas on how to spend your luxury holiday in Hawaii, take a look at our suggested Hawaii itineraries.

Yellowstone horse-riding holidays

Yellowstone National Park in the USA sprawls across almost 9,000 square kilometres of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. All creatures great and small call this melange of mountains, rivers, plains and lakes home, from bear and bison to marmot and marten. Indeed, Yellowstone’s bountiful nature has long proved a draw; Native Americans once galloped in hunting parties here, fur trappers sought prized pelts, prospectors panned for gold, and – in modern times – millions of tourists flock to admire the scenery each year.

Horse riding is surely one of the most romantic ways to explore Yellowstone, and visitors can obtain free permits to access the riding trails. There are even options for camping alongside your steeds overnight – a great opportunity to witness the national park’s crystal-clear, star-spangled sky.

For more inspiring ways to experience the USA’s national parks, visit our dedicated USA holidays page.

Mongolia horse-riding holidays

Since antiquity, Mongols have rarely been depicted out of the saddle. These adept equestrians depended upon their horses to range far and wide across Mongolia’s steppe, desert and foothills. Although much of the population has abandoned nomadism in favour of urban living, around a quarter continue the traditional itinerant lifestyle, and horses remain their vital companions.

Experience roaming this beautiful, sparsely populated landscape as the locals do – by horse. Canter along wildflower-speckled grasslands, with the Altai mountains looming on the horizon. Should you time your visit to coincide with the Golden Eagle Festival, you can see how the experts do it; this event held each October is a showcase of traditional Mongol pursuits, including horse racing and bushkashi – tug-of-war on horseback.

Visit our Mongolia luxury holidays page for more ways to experience this fascinating East-Asian nation.

Peru horse-riding holidays

Some historians believe it was the horse to which the Spanish crown owed its victory over the Incas. Conquistadors established horse riding in this corner of South America in the 1500s, and it is now a beloved pursuit of Peruvians from all backgrounds. The country’s wildernesses are a playground for riders. Picture yourself atop a superbly trained Peruvian paso, with the vertiginous expanse of the Sacred Valley before you. You could be trotting along grassy trails and clattering across shallow streams when suddenly, from behind a hill, some centuries-old relic of the Incan Empire emerges. The country is one of the least densely populated in the world, meaning – beyond must-see sights such as Machu Picchu – you can easily escape the crowds to enjoy the great outdoors on horseback.

Find more inspirational ideas for a luxury Peru holiday on our dedicated Peru page.

New Zealand horse-riding holidays

Temperate year-round and renowned for its natural beauty, New Zealand was made for horse riding. You needn’t venture far outside the country’s modern cities to find scenic trails, either. Glenorchy’s spectacular lakes, mountains and forests earnt the area a starring role in the Lord of the Rings and Narnia films, and it’s just a 45-minute drive from Queenstown. A few hours driving up from Auckland and you’re in Northland, famed for its coastal beauty and where you can ride along white-sand beaches. Then there is the snow-capped, volcanic Mount Ruapehu – quite the backdrop for a trek.

Whether it’s a high-octane adventure or soothing sojourn, a New Zealand holiday delivers. Visit our New Zealand page for more inspiration.

Iceland horse-riding holidays

The ‘Land of Fire and Ice’ is one of the few places on Earth where you can ride across black-sand beaches, over lava fields and past spurting geysers. Horses arrived in Iceland via Scandinavian settlers, and the famous Icelandic breed traces its lineage back to the Viking age. Today, it is the only breed permitted here. These stout, hardy horses provide an excellent excuse to eschew the 4x4; tour the country’s geothermal wonders while testing out the breed’s distinctive fourth gait, the tölt. Ride around a livestock farm alongside herders, tackle the highland moors and trot through mountain passes. Horse riding in Iceland is a must for the adventurous.

Discover more ways to experience the ‘Land of Fire and Ice’ on our Iceland luxury holidays page.

France horse-riding holidays

France is home to the world’s oldest known depictions of horses – 17,000-year-old paintings daubed on the Lascaux cave walls in Dordogne. Today, you’re unlikely to spot a herd of wild horses “sweeping majestically across the plain” anywhere other than these caves, but you can certainly revel in Dordogne’s pastoral splendour atop your own trusty steed. To Dordogne’s west lies the Bordeaux region, whose wine trail takes riders through ancient vineyards, over rolling hills and past medieval villages. If fairy-tale castles are your thing, pair châteaux with chevaux on a riding visit to the Loire Valley, a few hours southwest of Paris. Or, if it’s mountain scenery that sends your heart aflutter, consider horse riding in the Alps, the Pyrenees or Cévennes.

Arguably the best time for a horse-riding holiday in France is spring (printemps), especially between May and June. At this time of year, the nip of winter has given way to warm, comfortable weather, sunshine hours are plentiful, and flowers are blooming.

We recommend combining your horse-riding holiday with a villa stay. Our sister site A&K Villas offers a range of luxury villas in southwest France, including villas in Bordeaux and Dordogne.

Ireland horse-riding holidays

If there is one animal synonymous with Ireland, it is the horse. Equestrianism has a long and rich history on the ‘Emerald Isle’ – especially horse racing, where Irish breeds, stables and jockeys prove formidable. Much of Ireland’s landscape is bucolic – ideal for gentle, meandering rides – though rugged coastal trails, pristine beaches and towering mountains offer diverting alternatives. There are plenty of excellent equestrian centres, stables and riding schools across the country, from Antrim to Wicklow. Whether you’re commanding the reins of a draught horse, cob or Kerry bog pony, riding in the Republic of Ireland is a time-honoured tradition worth savouring.

You’ll find more ways to experience the ‘Emerald Isle’ on our UK and Ireland luxury holidays page.