Heart of Andalusia nature ride: The Doñana Adventure
Heart of Andalusia nature ride:
The Doñana Adventure
This is a 6 night 5 day riding holiday designed for those who share our passion for horses, want to get to know this amazing part of Spain on horseback and are up for a real cross-country adventure as we ride from North to South, from the tranquil Sevillian countryside, to the spectacular Atlantic beaches, and crossing Europe’s largest wildlife preserve, the Doñana National Park.
Andalusia is not only famous for its cultural richness, its environmental diversity and the open and friendly character of its inhabitants, but also for its magnificent Andalusian horses. The Andalusian horse is renowned for its versatility, it’s kind nature and tractability and it’s incomparable beauty.
You will be riding these amazing horses through varied and unforgettable landscapes, from the rolling and peaceful farmland, through pine forests and shrubland, marshlands, cork woods, impressive cliffs, dunes and sandy beaches. The wildlife will always be present, from many birds such as kites, eagles, flamingos and storks to several types of deer, iberian lynx, wild boar and wild horses!
The programme includes 3 full day rides (between 4 and 6 hours a day) and two half day rides (between 2.5 and 3 hours) of unforgettable trails on well-suited, well-trained, fit Andalusian or cross-Andalusian horses. We use Spanish cowboy saddles or English general purpose or trekking saddles, if you prefer. Your main guide is not only a fully qualified riding instructor but also a biologist and is local to the area. There will always be a second guide plus a backup team to ensure the holiday runs smoothly.
Our guides speak english and spanish. We have specifically selected high quality lodging and dining for the evening stops so that this unforgettable adventure does not lack in luxury and ensures the best rest and best experience possible.
The weight limit is 90kg.
Who is this programme for?
This programme is designed for horse lovers and nature lovers alike. You should be a confident rider, able to trot and canter easily and be fit enough to ride between 4 and 6 hours per day (with a resting break over lunch).
This ride is destined mainly for adults, with no upper age restrictions.
Where do you stay?
You will be lodged in high quality establishments. Your base in Carmona is a 4 star Hotel. Throughout the Doñana Adventure, you will be staying in Hotels and lodges of similar category.
We will also take special care in giving you the best gastronomic experience, with all the delicious dishes and wines this area has to offer.
As well as our guests, we will also take great concern in providing our horses with comfortable stables and the best care for their overnight too, as their rest and well-being is, obviously, a priority to us as well.
Daily Itinerary and Cost
Guests usually arrive in the afternoon and settle in to their hotel, a former Palace, once the residence of a Queen, which is nestled in the heart of the breathtakingly beautiful medieval town of Carmona.
We offer a complimentary pick-up from the train station in Seville at 16.30. We can offer transfers at other times (and days) as long as you let us know in advance.
In the evening, you will be joined at the hotel by one of the Epona hosts, for a welcome dinner, where you will meet the rest of the week’s riding members.
After some friendly introductions and conversation, you are free to spend the rest of the evening at your leisure, and to relax before the beginning of what we hope will be an unforgettable week.
Welcome to Epona!
This first day will be an easy one, as some riders may still feel slightly jet-lagged or stiff, from the previous day’s travelling. We will collect you after breakfast and take you, after a very short drive, to the Epona Equestrian Centre just outside Carmona.
Here you can have a chat with our instructors and guides. This is important so we can allocate you the correct horse during your Andalusian adventure. Mount up to go on a morning ride where you will get to meet your guide for the week. This will be an assessment ride and an opportunity for everyone to get to know each other.
The ride takes you through tranquil, slightly rolling farmland, scattered with crops of cereals, olives, citrus and almond trees. It is a charming way to get to know this part of the region, filled with culture and peaceful landscapes. Through the ride, we will be passing several Haciendas (olive oil estates), many of which were built around the 16th Century.
Arrive back to the centre for a delicious fresh, home-cooked lunch. After lunch, we offer you a complimentary transfer to Sevilla for a sightseeing or shopping opportunity. This is a unique city so a visit is highly recommended and really should not be missed.
If you would rather take it easy and would prefer to rest up in preparation for the Doñana Adventure, we will transfer you back to the Hotel for an easy afternoon in town.
Today, after an early breakfast, we drive to the town of Villamanrique. We will arrive at the stables where you will meet the horses that will take you on this unforgettable adventure through Doñana. Mount up and get to know your horse.
We will do a little «test ride» in the centre’s indoor arena and as soon as everyone is feeling comfortable, we will head off into open country and begin the adventure! Today’s ride is loaded with the folklore and tradition of the area, as we will cross the famous Quema river.
This river is where pilgrims are baptized on their first pilgrimage to the village of El Rocío to show their respect and devotion to the Virgin Mary. We will also pass the emblematic Virgen del Rocio monolith. The ride takes us through the famous pine forests of Alznalcollar.
This part of Doñana, with an extension of 30.000 acres is famous for its majestic beauty. The forest is mostly made up of umbrella (stone) pine. This type of pine is native to the Mediterranean and is famous for its delicious pine nuts used to make many dishes, pastries and sweets in this region, since ancient times.
We will also ride through the scrubland filled with Mediterranean shrubs such as rosemary, rockrose, heather and palm hearts. This vegetation provides the perfect habitat for wildlife, with many birds of prey in the area such as different types of Eagles and black Kites, and depending on the time of year, it will be very easy to see dozens of storks nesting in the treetops.
Lunch will be at a famous Venta, popularly frequented by the locals. Here we will have the opportunity to taste the delights of the local cuisine of this Sevillian region. After lunch, we will ride back to Villamanrique, the oldest town in the Doñana environment.
You will spend the night in the Ardea Purpurea lodge. This luxurious lodge is charmingly cosy. It has been designed and built using the materials and the unique architectural style of the area, most strikingly, the thatched roofs.
Rest in your comfortable porched room or stroll through the extensive gardens before meeting the rest of the group for dinner in the lodge’s restaurant, famous for its exquisite dishes, it has been in the Michelin guide for eight consecutive years.
Today’s ride takes us to discover the northern part of the Heart of Doñana, which the locals call «El Coto»(the Reserve). We will ride the same sandy tracks that pilgrims use on their religious journey to the Basilica church and village of El Rocio. They call this cross-country path through the heart of Doñana the Raya Real (Royal Strip).
These tracks and the whole area are completely closed off from the general public as it is wildlife preserve. Brotherhoods of pilgrims get a special permission to use them on the week of the pilgrimage which is in May , but no one gets to enter the park the rest of the year except a couple of licensed and selected bird watching companies and some very few and selected horseback adventures like ours.
The scenery in this area is stunning. The ride takes us through wooded areas of stone pine and eucalyptus, and through scrubland formed by aromatic thickets that impregnate our path with delicious aromas such as rosemary, lavender, rockrose and heather. Halfway we will arrive at the Royal Palace, an ancient hunting estate that was used by spanish Kings and royalty since it was built in the 13th century.This is the perfect place for a picnic. After a short break we will continue our way through grasslands and pastures dotted with cork oaks and mastic trees.
These oak groves are the ideal habitat for many birds. More than 80 species of vertebrates inhabit this area of the reserve and more than half are birds, such as the Imperial Eagle, Short-toed Eagle or Pito Rea (Woodpecker) . If we are lucky we may be able to spot the Iberian lynx, wild boar or foxes. It is very common to see several types of deer during this part of our journey. Towards the end of our route, we will cross the famous Ajolí bridge that takes us to the gates of the Village of El Rocio. Before the end of the day we will visit the marshes loaded with natural life such as flamingos, herons and other water birds followed by a glass of sherry or wine on horseback in the local style! We will rest in one of the villages best Hotels with views to the Marshlands.
Dinner in the hotel restaurant with the rest of the group and the guides to sample the local cuisine and wines.
We are now riding entirely in the province of Huelva. This day, our ride takes us south, from the village of El Rocio to the virgin beaches of Doñana. We will pass through some of the most popular places in the park, such as the famous Rociana lagoon where the brotherhoods of pilgrims arriving from the western parts of Andalusia are baptized.
This area of great beauty and environmental richness is the perfect habitat for wildlife with species such as roe deer, red deer, and wild horses. Halfway there, we will make a stop to taste a typical country lunch, accompanied by wines from the Doñana county.
Finally, our path takes us to the Mazagón beaches. We will spend the night in its Parador, a luxurious Hotel with ocean views and direct access to the beach. The Hotel has an non-heated outdoor and indoor heated pool, sauna and massage service.
Dinner at the Hotel will be the group together with the guides.
This last ride is a half day ride. It is quite impressive and of great beauty. We will visit the coast of Doñana, with its dunes, cliffs and beaches.
From the top of the Asperillo Dune, the highest and most important in Doñana, we will have amazing views of the Atlantic Ocean. The line of fossil and mobile dunes that form the cliffs of Doñana is the most important in Europe.
We will make our way down to the immense virgin beaches,and then it will be time for a long canter. The sound of the waves, and the splashing of our horses in the water will lead us to an immense sense of freedom, elevating our senses. This feeling is scarcely matched by any other.The duration of this ride is about 3 hours more or less. After the ride is the only sad part of the trip, time to say goodbye to our horses and last minute pictures.
Today, lunch will be partaken in a nearby restaurant in the fishing village of Mazagón, by the sea. After lunch it is time to return to our base Hotel in Carmona. The afternoon and evening in Carmona can be used to rest. The Hotel has a massage service (on request), and a salted outdoor pool. Or it can be used as an opportunity to visit this beautiful medieval town. Dinner will be at the hotel.
After breakfast, we will offer complimentary transfers to the airport or train station at 8.00 and 11.00. If you want to arrange transfers outside these hours or the next day, we can organise a taxi service for you.
Why choose Epona
Horses for all levels
Our large number of highly trained horses and well thought out programmes, enable us to accommodate beginners through to advanced riders.
Our qualified instructors bring a wealth of riding and training experience to the lessons.
Personal and close attention from the García family, will make you feel like a valued guest and friend.
World class facilities
Top class facilities (including covered arena) and ancient trail riding routes, are complemented by luxury accommodation in the medieval town of Carmona.
Our programmes combine riding with the historical, cultural and scenic experiences our unique location offers.
Ideal riding holiday climate
We enjoy an average of 300 days of sunshine.
Unique in Spain
The only riding holiday centre in Spain officially approved by the British horse society.
We offer 35 years of uninterrupted experience in hosting and training riding holiday guests from around the world.
Came back from our 10th visit in March, and plan to go back next year. Need I say more, it´s just the most amazing place.
Dressage Clinic with Rafael Soto
Fernando, Jane, Caty, Vivi, this has been the best trip I have ever taken, everything was perfect, the horses, the land and the hospitality.
Classical dressage and High School training
Could it get any better? Great horses, fantastic instructor, wonderful meals and a real family feel. A gem to be treasured.
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