Saddle up and head for the hills of Europe on 10 of the most popular horseback riding trails. With its varied landscape and long tradition of horsemanship, Europe is ideal for a horseback-riding holiday. Every country has its own distinctive history and natural wonders to be explored and horse riding offers a completely different perspective on popular European destinations. From the chateaus of France to the glaciers of Scandinavian, get ready for a ride of a lifetime.
With their centuries-old tradition of horseback riding, Renaissance chateaus from the 16th century, and vineyards of Bordeaux, France is an excellent place to experience the country by horseback. Like an aristocrat from the Victorian era, saddle up, English style, for an adventure into the ancient woodlands and castles of the Loire Valley. Another popular riding spot is Provence, an area known for its fine food and glorious landscapes that inspired Cezanne. Riders can also discover the rugged, remote Pyrenees of Pays Basque, the region that borders Spain, for a ride through the mountains and rolling hills. Get ready to gallop across sandy beaches of Landes and witness the castles and famous wine cellars of Bordeaux. Following the French riding tradition of Natural Horsemanship, riding experts encourage a non-violent approach to training, which is a horse whispering riding style that has been passed down through generations.
With its natural diversity and pleasant weather, Portugal has excellent terrain for horseback riding. On a riding holiday of a lifetime, get ready for gallops on deserted sandy beaches, trail rides through mountain ranges, and breathtaking trails along windswept coastlines. In Lisbon and Porto, saddle up and discover the historic architecture of the medieval quarters. For more remote landscapes of the Portugal countryside, head to a romantic pousada, monastery, or manor house for an overnight stay in between trail rides. There are also beautiful rides in Alto Alentjo along the southwest coast and the farmlands and rolling hills of upper Alentjo. Portugal has a long dressage tradition, which is cultivated at the world-class training facility of Lusitano Riding Center. If you’re a novice rider, they offer beginner lessons on the Lusitano horse, a breed considered the best riding horse for its calm temperament and sturdiness.
After a pint of Guinness and a hearty traditional Irish meal, saddle up on a Connemara pony and head out into the Irish countryside. Like most of Europe, Ireland has a rich history of horsemanship, making it easy to horseback ride across Emerald Isle. Horseback is a great way to explore the highlands of Kerry County or the dramatic coastal cliffs of the Atlantic coast. Ireland is also filled with vast grasslands and meadows, the perfect spot for an epic gallop. It’s also a chance for Americans to reconnect with their distant Irish heritage. Along the trails, you’ll find a rich Celtic heritage in the remote islands off the Atlantic with old stone ruins dotting the landscape. The countryside is also full of medieval castles, ancient monasteries, and famous landmarks. In between trail rides, pop in a historic pub that seems to be at the end of every path.
Situated on the edge of the Arctic Circle is one of the most rugged and remote landscapes on earth. With its glaciers, dramatic fjords, waterfalls, and volcanoes, Iceland has some of the most scenic horseback riding trails. The region of the North Atlantic is so rough that extra horses are often brought along to prevent exhaustion along the trail. But the extra effort is worth it for an up close look at the country’s stunning natural wonders. But with the Icelandic horse leading the way, you can rely on the sturdy, even-tempered beast of burden to take you safely through the terrain. Often passing through the backcountry, the riding trails typically lead to rustic mountain huts amongst wild mountain backdrops. The landscape might be unyielding, but on horseback, it’s a thrilling ride through the world’s most dramatic natural scenery.
Known as Aphrodite’s Isle, Cyprus is full of romantic notions, particularly the legend of the goddess of love rising out of the waves. With its sandy beaches, hillsides, and mountain ranges, the ancient isle has a variety of trails that are ideal for horseback riding. Along the way, you’ll get to explore relics of the ancient world, medieval castles, and Byzantine churches. In a landscape filled with historic wonders and romantic legends, it’s no surprise that Cyprus is a popular honeymoon destination and a vacation on horseback ups the ante in the art of romance. Another horse riding trail is in the countryside of Mesogi in the Paphos region where the Eagle Mountain Ranch offers
In the Cradle of the Ancient World, explore the backdrop to Greek mythology by horseback just like the early pioneers. Starting in Crete, saddle up for a ride through traditional farmlands, rolling hills, ancient olive groves along the rugged coast of the Mediterranean. Back on the mainland, the country is full of major archeological sites, including the ancient city of Athens and the ruins of the Partheneon and Acropolis, among others. The mild Mediterranean weather is also ideal for horseback riding year-round and a cool gallop down the coast at sunset is a favorite activity for Greek riders. From the ancient city of Athens to the rugged coast, Greece is full of unforgettable trail rides for the novice or the expert rider.
With its dramatic fjords, rugged mountain ranges, and ancient woodlands, Norway is full of horseback riding trails. Saddle up on a sturdy, sure-footed Icelandic horse and head out into the Scandinavian countryside for an unforgettable horseback-riding holiday. In the southwest, riders can explore the fjords under the midnight sun, a place where the sun never rises in the winter or sets in midsummer. Norway also contains Justedalsbreen, Europe’s largest glacier, which can be explored by horseback on a guided tour. Along the way, you’ll get the chance to see the Sognefjord and Nordfjord, which cut through each side of the glacier. Deep in the rural area, riders often stop off at rustic mountain cottages before heading out for another day of trailblazing against the backdrop of the Scandinavian heartland.
Deep in the heart of vampire country is the mysterious and ancient Transylvania, the jewel of Romania. Get ready to gallop through green fields, past steep snow-capped mountains, and old monasteries left by monks of antiquity. As the setting for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Romania is an land of intrigue, legends of the Old World, and natural wonders. Follow the trail through quaint folk villages that haven’t felt the passage of time and still plow the fields with horses. The region is also known for the mountains that were featured in the movie Cold Mountain and the medieval villages in the nearby Carpathian Mountains. For an unforgettable experience that will take you back to the 18th century, take a horse and carriage ride to Borgo Pass for a spooky overnight stay in Hotel Castle Dracula.
In a world of stunning natural landscapes, historic landmarks, and medieval villages, Spain is a great place for horseback riding adventures. Starting in Catalonia, head out to the trails leading to volcanoes and pristine sandy beaches. Spain also contains part of the Pyrenees Mountain Range, a rugged landscape ideal for cross-country horse riding. Outside Madrid, a popular trail takes riders to medieval villages that dot the countryside and finally to the Kingdom of Castile in the Gredos Mountains, an area known for its red-roofed Romanesque architecture that was popular in antiquity. The Spanish horse, known as the Andalusian, is the most ancient horse breed in the world. Although their exact origin is unknown, they are believed to be a distant relative of the mustang and quarter horse breeds that are popular in the US.
At the crossroads of the East and West, Turkey has been a major center of trade and culture throughout the centuries, dating back to the ancient world. For horseback riders, the country has some unique trails the pass through ancient ruins scattered throughout Anatolia, the eastern part of Turkey. Further south on the coast of the Mediterranean, you’ll find a different landscape of dramatic coastal cliffs and sandy beaches for a spirited seaside gallop. Other trails will take you through the Anatolian Plateau, which is considered the heartland of Turkey with its tranquil countryside surround by woodlands. Further along the coast is the Turkish Riviera, also known as the Turquoise Coast. Here you’ll find deserted beaches, mountain scenery, and the famous Lycian tombs carved out of rocks jutting out from precarious cliffs, making the carvings a natural wonder of the ancient world.