Spain on horseback
Horse tourism activities in the Sierra de Guara mountains. Huesca.
Petra Eckerl . Fotolia
Young person horse-riding on the beach. Andalusia.
Eric Isselée . Fotolia
A good way of enjoying the wide variety of landscapes in Spain from a different point of view is on horseback. This is an experience for riding enthusiasts, horse lovers, or anybody who wants to discover nature in a calm and leisurely way. You can do everything from taking your first riding lesson, to going on treks and staying overnight in equestrian inns. You can also enjoy rides in horse-drawn carriages through the countryside, visit the magnificent stud farms where the famous Spanish and Arab horses are bred, and marvel at the "doma vaquero" horse-breaking technique.
You can book your horse-riding tourism experiences on this page. You'll find information on prices, the dates when you can do the activity, how long it takes, what language options are available and its target public.
Because of the famous purebred Spanish or Andalusian horses that have been around since Roman times, and have served as the lineage for a number of breeds around the world, particularly in America. You can ride through the countryside where this breed first originated, and enjoy the tourism services at inns and traditional farmhouses specially adapted for riders. Spain offers a wide variety of excursions on horseback in unique natural settings. It has a very diverse relief, meaning that many of the landscapes are only accessible on foot or on horseback. What's more it has routes that are adapted to all levels –from experts, to people for whom this is their first experience in the world of horses. Spain's wide variety of regions offers a range of very different and attractive horse-riding routes, some on routes which form part of the largest system of cattle trails in Europe, where you can still admire the sight of bulls, cows and sheep being driven by their herders to seasonal pastures while you follow them on horseback. Other routes follow historic itineraries such as the Silver Route.
Equestrian tourism experiences
Spain has companies specialising in equestrian tourism that provide assistance if you want to follow the great routes, and stay in a selection of traditional farmhouses and estates converted into small hotels and rural houses, offering specially-adapted services (stables for the horses), a whole range of conveniences, and a wide array of leisure options to ensure riders enjoy themselves after each day of their excursion. Spain has 36 certified equestrian itineraries, each with its corresponding signposting, regulations, indications of how to follow the route, equestrian services and sites of tourist interest. These tend to be traditional trails in a rural setting, and their certification indicates that they comply with safety and quality requirements. You'll find them at the Official Guide to Equestrian Itineraries in Spain. The Spanish Equestrian Federation distinguishes two types of rooms, and they tend to be signposted in orange: Long-distance horse-riding routes (GRH): these pass through two or more Autonomous Regions or areas. Short horse-riding routes (PRH): these take place in a single Autonomous Region or area. Some of these itineraries are: Don Quixote on horseback through Campo de Montiel in Albacete, visiting the Ruidera Lakes-Ossa de Montiel (Albacete); the Turia Route (Valencia); the mountains of Sierra de Albarracín and Montes Universales (Teruel), and the Way of Saint James in Levante. Remember that the minimum time for an excursion is about two hours, but this may vary depending on each rider's needs and wants: Excursions lasting one hour, a half day or a full day. Treks of two days or a weekend. Treks lasting one week. The routes accompanying the cattle herders during the cattle migration offer an unforgettable experience, and a way of learning about the time-honoured work of a cattle herder. Anyone who wants to learn how to ride can do so in numerous riding schools and equestrian centres. Many companies in the countryside or in coastal destinations offer simple activities for the whole family. If you're a horse lover, you can visit the displays of traditional horse-breaking known as "doma clásica", the Caballerizas Reales (Royal Stables) in Cordoba, and a number of stud farms featuring boutique hotels and everything you need for riding. Specialists can enjoy events such as the International Horse Fair (SICAB) and visit the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art, with its outstanding purebred Spanish horses. There are also numerous festivities and pilgrimages revolving around horses, such as El Rocío in Huelva, the Horse Fair in Jerez de la Frontera, and the horse races in Sanlúcar de Barrameda in Cadiz.
Best times of the year
You can explore Spain on horseback all year round, but the best times of year are spring and autumn, when you'll find lush green vegetation on either side of the trail, or trees tinged in a variety of vibrant hues.
Equestrian tourism destinations
There are routes specially designed for horseback riding and areas that are well-known as destinations for equestrian tourism, including particularly: Andalusia has a wide variety of destinations with places where horses are ever-present, from Doñana, where you'll ride through dunes and pine forests to the mountains of the Sierra Nevada, the location of a route along the highest summits on the Iberian peninsula where a horse is an essential way of moving around. Minorca and its Camí de Cavalls: a route of 185 kilometres that runs all the way round the island, with spectacular views of the coastline. The Pyrenees , where you can enjoy yourself while you learn all about the cattle migration tradition in lush green pastures in summer. Sierra de Gredos , a route around the mountains of the Sistema Central and the valley of the Tormes river. Ebro Delta on horseback amid fields of rice and with a wide variety of birdlife. Cordillera Cantábrica mountains and the Picos de Europa : routes around the high pastures where you'll see bucolic scenes of sheep and cattle herding.
Make sure to wear suitable and comfortable clothing, preferably long trousers. If you don't have riding boots, hiking boots or similar will do perfectly well. You don't need to be federated to enjoy horseback riding in Spain. And don't worry either if it's the first time you've ridden, because your guides will give you some basic instruction about horse-riding, and be with you at all times. You don't need to be particularly fit; all you need to do is follow your guide's instructions. Don't forget to take sunscreen and a jacket in case of cooler weather. We recommend you take a raincoat if there's a chance of rain. For more information on horseback touring, visit the tourist offices in each area or contact the respective horse-riding federations and schools. You can also visit the website of the Spanish Royal Equestrian Federation. We recommend you read our practical health and safety tips. Given that the recommendations and regulations provided may change, we advise you always to check the requirements before starting out on your journey.