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Horseback Riding

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Ecuador, So Much More Than the Galapagos! A Stop at Cotopaxi

Guest Post and Photos by Amy Perry Basseches

On a Saturday morning in late February, my daughter and I set off for a weekend of outdoor fun in Parque Nacional Cotopaxi, home to Ecuador's second-highest peak, about two hours southeast from Quito. This park's namesake, the enormous 19,000-foot stratovolcano Cotopaxi, has, since 1738, erupted more than 50 times, resulting in the creation of numerous valleys. The last eruption lasted from August 2015 to January 2016.
 
Our base for 2 days was the Chilcabamba Mountain Lodge, a recommended rustic hotel described as "cozy, unpretentious and charming." We loved it! Bear in mind, no one at the lodge spoke English, they are all from Cotopaxi and the surrounding area, so Sophie's presence as Spanish translator was vital. The food and views were good, and we really liked our room, equipped with a warming stove, wool ponchos and thick duvets. We didn't get to make S'mores at the outdoor firepit, but we did enjoy the complimentary Canelazo (a warm Ecuadorian drink concocted from sugar cane alcohol, boiled water, cinnamon, sugar, and local citrus fruit or blackberry). Chilcabamba is at 3480 metres (11,400 feet), and I suggest taking altitude sickness-prevention medicine if you visit (you can get from a travel medicine doctor ahead of time). 
 
From Chilcabamba, we enjoyed two main activities, and wished we had had time for two others:
  • Inside the Park, near the Tambopaxi Lodge, we got our horses and rode for a few hours across grassy and rocky terrain, with our guide. Unforgettable!
  • Also inside the Park, we walked around the Laguna Limpiopungo, watching a herd of wild horses, and newborn colt, graze nearby. 
  • Stargazing in Ecuador is purported to be amazing -- not only are you away from light pollution in many of these natural areas, but you are at a high altitude, and, the closer you are to the equator, you can see both Northern and Southern Hemisphere constellations, perfect for the growing field of Astrotourism. It was too cloudy for us.
  • Unfortunately, we did not get to trek to the base camp on Cotopaxi, an outlook at an elevation of 4,864 metres (almost 16,000 feet). Our guide had worked for 7 years at the base camp, the José F. Ribas Refuge, which is a 40 to 80 minute uphill hike from the car park. Here, climbers can spend the night and begin their summit bid. Mountain biking is also available from the Refuge. 
Tomorrow, the Mindo Cloud Forest, a premier destination for birdwatching, hiking, butterflies, chocolate, and adventure activities (tubing, ziplining, rafting, waterfall rappelling), just two hours from Quito. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/14/19 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, January 14, 2019

Top Dream Days of 2018, Horseback Riding at Dahana Ranch on the Big Island

Guest Post and Photo by Amy Perry Basseches 

One of my dream days of travel in 2018 was spent on the Big Island of Hawaii, in May. Although we needed to re-route in the week before our trip to avoid the small area in the southeast affected by the Kilauea volcano, we had a fantastic time!
 
On this particular dream day, my daughter Sophie and I began in Holualoa, an artist and coffee community in the hills above Kailua-Kona. Mamalohoa Highway winds through the heart of the town, past the wonderful Holuakoa Gardens and Café where we had brunch. Then we headed to Hawi, on the northwestern coast. Located on the slopes of the Kohala mountain, Hawi has become a popular tourist destination in recent years due to its artists' shops, delicious restaurants, and beautiful scenery. After checking into our accommodation on a small lush farm just outside of town, we drove the Kohala Mountain Road from Hawi to Waimea, for horseback riding on the Dahana Ranch and hiking in the Pololu Valley. 
 
As you drive north to Hawi from Kailua-Kona, you see mostly black lava fields along the road, then you enter an incredibly green area, full of ranches which date back to 1840s, older than the oldest ranches in the continental United States by more than 30 years! Kohala Mountain Road is stunning. At Dahana Ranch, we grew to understand the paniolo (cowboy) world better: there they breed, raise, and train a variety of horses and ponies, and also manage a 140 head cow/calf operation for beef and rodeo bucking stock. 
 
After riding, we wanted to stretch our own legs. From Waimea to Honokaa, our destination was the Pololu Valley, on the way back to Hawi. Down a steep trail for about ½ hour, we soaked in the dramatic northeastern Big Island coastline. At the bottom, we were rewarded by a fairly isolated black sand beach, a lone woman practicing yoga, and a few brave souls camping overnight. Spectacular!
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/14/19 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, February 24, 2017

Five Favorite Spring Break Adventures for Families, Horseback Riding in Puerto Vallarta

This day trip started with a fast zodiac boat ride with the family across glorious Banderas Bay. Led by the outfitter Vallarta Adventures, we landed on the docks of the seaside village of Quimixto. We walked on cobblestone streets past the sleeping chihuahas and soon made our way to a pack of horses that were waiting to take us up the mountainous hillside. We got out of the saddle, only to find a hidden waterfall where we swam in the cool waters. After horseback riding, we snorkeled with a slew of angelfish and then had a delicious lunch on a quiet beach farther south in Pizotita. Our guide, Poncho, made a helluva margarita for the adults, while the kids were served coconut juice. Life was bliss and we laughed when Poncho said “Where are all the bandits in their big sombreros and guns blazing?” It was so peaceful here that my daughter wandered over to hammock and took a nap. 

 
I’ll be in Miami all next week, back the week of March 6 with fresh content. Stay active, my friend. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/24/17 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, January 08, 2016

Top 5 Travel Days of 2015, Hiking and Horseback Riding in the Colorado Rockies

In mid-October, I caught up with Dan Austin, owner of Austin Adventures, and his daughter, Kasey, as they were designing a new itinerary that took in all the mountain splendor and adventure found on the outskirts of Colorado Springs. Their primary focus was to introduce guests to “The Broadmoor Wilderness Experience,” two historic sporting camps high up in the mountains that have been recently renovated by the legendary Broadmoor resort. Standing 9100 feet atop Cheyenne Mountain is the former private retreat of Broadmoor founder, Spencer Penrose, and, as of last summer, home to a mountain lodge called Cloud Camp. In 1923, Penrose acquired a bucolic slice of heaven, ringed by 11,000-foot peaks, which this summer has been transformed into The Ranch of Emerald Valley.

 
One glorious day on this trip, I rose with the sun at Cloud Camp and walked up to the two-story Fire Tower Suite, built with the honeymooner in mind, replete with hot tub and bedroom with 360-degree views. No one was staying in the suite so I grabbed a rocking chair on the deck and watched Pikes Peak bathe in the morning light. After breakfast, Dan and Kasey led us on the 5.5-mile McNeil Trail descending into a forest of ponderosa pine, spruce, fir, and birch trees. Past midpoint, we connect with an old stage road that went straight to The Ranch at Emerald Valley.
 
At lunch, the GM at Emerald Valley mentioned to me that the mayor of Colorado Springs spent a week here with his wife after retiring and did very little but read books on their cabin front porch. Indeed, it’s hard to tear yourself away from the vista of pasture, trout ponds, and towering peaks. Only a 30-minute drive outside of Colorado Springs, you feel lost in the Western wilderness. That afternoon, we took full advantage of the majestic scenery to take a horseback ride on a ridge close to the jagged peak of Mount Vigel. Then I soaked my weary body into a cedar-lined hot tub while snacking on a favorite dessert at the ranch, peach-filled donut holes. This is what I call a dream day. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/08/16 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Back at the Track

It was great to spend the weekend with my high school buddies in Saratoga. One of them has a summer home on the shores of Saratoga Lake, less than a 10-minute drive to town and the legendary Saratoga Race Track. There’s no better place to watch horse racing in America. Buy a copy of the Schenectady Gazette and a tip sheet or two on the way in, grab a seat, and start placing your bets. You’ll no doubt be standing with the rest of the crowd, cheering on your horse to cross the finish line first. Afterwards, many people head to Siro’s and Horseshoe to listen to live music. On Saturday night, we checked out the downtown Saratoga bar scene, which on a weekend in August feels like the French Quarter in New Orleans. All five floors, including the roof was packed at Saratoga City Tavern on popular Caroline Street. Druthers on Broadway Street also has live music and a good crowd on their outdoor patio. The next morning, work off your hangover with blueberry or lemon ricotta pancakes at Sweet Mimi’s, served with real maple syrup. It’s been voted the best breakfast joint in town the past 2 years, since it opened. It’s also owned by the wife of another high school buddy so I have to give it a plug.  

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/11/15 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, January 27, 2014

Celebrate the Year of the Horse in England

With the Chinese New Year quickly approaching, England is promoting the Year of the Horse by focusing on locales where horseback riding is available. Bath’s Relais & Chateaux property, Lucknam Park, is one of the many excellent riding hotels in England. With trained horses and staff on hand to help beginners and assist experienced riders, Lucknam Park’s Equestrian Centre offers classes that cater to every level. Out of the saddle, the property also has a highly prestigious cookery school and a first class spa. Horses are also allowed on a number of beaches in the country. With permits available from The National Trust, you can gallop, trot or canter to your heart’s content across the four-mile stretch of golden sand at Dorset’s Studland Beach. Studland Stables will even bring the bubbly, so you can pop the cork over views of Old Harry Rocks and make this trip even more special. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/27/14 at 11:00 AM
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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Mongolia’s Golden Eagle Festival

Each fall, a fascinating event takes flight in the rugged wilds of northwestern Mongolia. It’s the Golden Eagle Festival, a celebration of the heritage and traditions of the native Kazakhs who use Golden Eagles to hunt small prey, not for sport but for survival. For the 13th anniversary Golden Eagle Festival, Nomadic Expeditions, the pioneer of authentic Mongolian adventure travel and one of the most respected outfitters in the business, are offering a unique a nine-day journey through the Altai Mountains. Highlights include visiting local families in their traditional gers, eagle racing with up to 60 Kazakh hunters, and equestrian competitions where you have the chance for a Golden Eagle to perch on your arm. The Golden Eagle Festival will be held October 2-October 10, 2012. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/18/12 at 12:00 PM
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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Costa Rica Highlights, El Silencio and Bajos del Toro

Once travelers touch down in San Jose, they’re often in a rush to drive to Arenal Volcano or Monteverde and the Cloud Forest. That’s unfortunate, because you’re missing one of my favorite parts of the country, the farmland on the backside of Poas Volcano, only an hour’s drive from the airport. 5,000 feet high, also considered part of the Cloud Forest, this is as green and cool as the country gets. The verdant terrain features some of the best waterfalls in the country, plummeting down to rarely seen lakes. At Peace Lodge and El Silencio, we walked by ourselves to a series of waterfalls, all more dramatic than the next. El Silencio is located in the farming community of Bajos del Toro. One afternoon, we went horseback riding up the hillside, stopped to milk cows and meet the locals, then wandered back through town to our room. The view from our deck was a stunning flank of the volcano, surrounded by the lush foliage. Adding to the allure are the multitude of hummingbirds found in this part of the country. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/14/12 at 12:00 PM
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Friday, December 17, 2010

Horseback Riding in Arizona’s Superstition Mountains

A mere hour east of Phoenix, suburban sprawl fades and you reach the rugged terrain of the Superstition Mountains. With elevations ranging from 2,000 feet to more than 6,000 feet in the eastern uplands, the Superstitions are ringed with steep-walled cliffs, thorny cacti, and deeply eroded canyons. The best way to pierce this harsh interior is in the saddle of a strong quarterhorse. Numerous trails weave through large stretches of ponderosa pines and tall saguaros, some as high as sixty feet. Then there are the stump-like barrel cacti, which grows a whopping 10-12 inches a century and the most commonly consumed cacti, the prickly pear.  Keep your eyes glued and you might see the javenlina, a three-foot long desert pig with a long snout and husks. You should also be on the lookout for the usual desert crew of rattlers, gila monsters, and scorpions. Don Donnelly Horseback Stables, located in the foothills of the Superstitions, will take you on a 7-hour day ride or an overnight. Horses, camping equipment and a hearty steak dinner are included in the price. 
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/17/10 at 02:00 PM
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Monday, September 20, 2010

100-Kilometer Horseback Ride for Women in Montana

Calling all cowgirls. Triple Creek Ranch, a Relais and Chateaux property nestled in the towering pines at the base of majestic 10,135-foot Trappers Peak, will feature its first “100 Klicks for Chicks” horseback ride. Held from Thursday, October 28th to November 1st, the event will feature 3 ½ days of riding, fireside roasts, and an awards presentation. But the best part for ladies is that after your day of being in the saddle, you can return to this stellar property for a soak in the hot tub, gourmet meals, and nights under the stars around a crackling fire. Husbands are invited as guests, though they can’t ride with the women. They can go out with a guide horseback riding and hiking or try their luck fly-fishing. Cost is $650 per night, per couple.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/20/10 at 01:00 PM
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photo of Steve Jermanok
Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk.

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