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19 Best Vacation Destinations for Horseback Riding

Horseback riding is one of the top ways for tourists and locals alike to feel one with nature, and see firsthand expansive landscapes and beautiful territories. If you’re planning a trip soon and want to take in the view on horseback, you’re in luck: Here are the world’s most amazing vacation destinations for horseback riding.

Maroon Bells - Aspen, Colorado Maroon Bells
Credit: Maroon Bells by bigstock.com

Maroon Bells - Aspen, Colorado

The Maroon Bells, located near Aspen, are the most photographed peaks in Colorado, and some of the most awe-inspiring on earth. This region is beautiful year-round, but especially during the autumn season when it’s blanketed in gold. Maroon Bells Guides and Outfitters offers excursions through the aspen trees, alongside Maroon Creek and through alpine meadows passing beaver ponds – all with the backdrop of the Maroon Bells peaks, of course. Give your thirsty horse a drink in the reflective, glass-like lake that sits just below the aspens and conifers, framing the jagged and often snow-dusted rocky peaks. Adventure seekers can take a two-day ride through the Maroon Bells Wilderness to the top of East Maroon Pass, dropping down into Crested Butte, while families with little ones might want to let the kids hop on a pony ride, or bring everyone on a fun and old-fashioned horse-drawn wagon ride.

Sedona, Arizona Sedona, Arizona
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Sedona, Arizona

In Sedona, you can ride across a dramatically colorful landscape where red rocks soar into the almost always brilliant blue sky. The setting has inspired artists, photographers and other creative types for years. Explore hidden canyons and then come back and relax in a world-class spa, followed by a spectacular night of stargazing in the haze-free and often cloud-free skies. Horsin’ Around Adventures offers rides on trails that are nestled along picturesque Oak Creek with dramatic views of wine country as well as wildlife habitats.

Biltmore Estate - Asheville, North Carolina Asheville, North Carolina
Credit: Asheville, North Carolina by biltmore.com

Biltmore Estate - Asheville, North Carolina

Biltmore Estate is the largest privately-owned home in the nation, often referred to as America’s favorite castle. This former mansion of George Washington Vanderbilt has its own winery along with lovely manicured gardens, especially brilliant in the spring, as well as more than 80 miles of equestrian trails that wind through wooded Appalachian forests that surround the estate. This is an ideal vacation destination for those traveling with companions that don’t want to ride as there is a multitude of other things to do in the area. You might combine a tour of the magnificent French Renaissance-style chateau with a one-hour ride and a trip into downtown Asheville, which offers plenty of its own charms.

Ring of Kerry, Ireland Ring of Kerry, Ireland
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Ring of Kerry, Ireland

The Ring of Kerry is one of the world’s most spectacularly scenic treks, winding through some of Ireland’s most impressive landscapes. It snakes through steep mountains slopes and lush valleys, across rivers and glistening lakes as well as passing picture-postcard beaches and rocky coastlines. While most visitors experience it by tour bus or car, exploring on horseback provides a more in-depth look. Trot right up to those dramatic stretches of sand and soaring mountains, searching for hidden coves and even sacred meeting places for fairies. The O’Sullivan family’s Killarney Riding Stables based in Ballydowney, around for nearly a half-century, offers a variety of rides, from one-hour jaunts to five-day excursions. Dingle Horse Riding on the beautiful Dingle Peninsula is another great option, with everything from one-hour to full-day treks as well as riding holidays from three days to a full week.

Torres del Paine National Park - Patagonia, Chile Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile
Credit: Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile by bigstock.com

Torres del Paine National Park - Patagonia, Chile

The granite pillars of Torres del Paine, which rise more than 6,500-feet above Chile’s Patagonian landscape, dominate the scenery of what’s often called South America’s finest national park. This region offers some of the most spectacular horse riding opportunities with trails that meander through lush forests and colorful meadows, passing brilliant cerulean lakes, roaring rivers, gentle streams and glaciers. Outfitters like Horse Riding Patagonia organize an array of riding experiences from two hours to 10 days. Each includes a horseman or woman as well as a bilingual guide with in-depth knowledge of the region, geology and the flora and fauna. You’ll have the opportunity to see magnificent wildlife, including the ostrich-like rhea, Andean condor, flamingo and guanaco – a relative of the camel.

Cappadocia, Turkey Cappadocia, Turkey
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Cappadocia, Turkey

The Cappadocia region of Turkey is renowned for its mushroom and anthill shaped towers known as fairy chimneys as well as its cave cities that were once home to ancient settlers. As it’s also known as the “Land of Beautiful Horses,” it’s really no surprise that it also makes for a fabulous horseback riding destination. Riders can saddle up on native Barb or Arabian horses, meandering along trails that wind through ancient villages, past old Byzantine churches and underground cities to valleys that are filled with the famous chimney rock formations. Enhance the experience by staying in a cave hotel, getting a glimpse of what it might have been like to live here in ancient times. The Museum Hotel offers 30 converted cave suites, packed with artifacts. If you’re looking for another adventure while you’re here, you might want to soar above the breathtaking landscape in a hot-air balloon.

Loire Valley, France Loire Valley, France
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Loire Valley, France

Riding through this valley filled with a wealth of grand castles offers one of the most unforgettable vacation experiences. Trails wind through the picturesque French countryside and forests, providing views of rolling hills and vineyards as well as magnificent chateaus that feel as if you’re riding through the pages of a fairytale. You can bring history to life by staying the night at real castles along the way- even galloping into courtyards over drawbridges just like knights in medieval times. The long, wild ride along the tree-lined banks of the Cher River toward Chenonceau is especially impressive.

Tuscany, Italy Tuscany, Italy
Credit: Tuscany, Italy by Visit Tuscany via Flickr

Tuscany, Italy

There are few more romantic places than Tuscany, and one of the best ways to experience the idyllic Tuscan landscape is by taking a trail ride into the surrounding countryside beneath its cloudless blue skies. Rides wind through meadows with endless rows of massive sunflowers, terraced vineyards, olive groves and cypress avenues with only the sound of horses hooves gently pounding across the earth heard along the way. This area has a wonderful stillness about it, as many of the farms and buildings have been abandoned with the increasing numbers of people migrating to the cities, while fortresses and castles, once so important back in medieval times, now sit partially in ruin, returning the land to nature. You’ll find numerous tours available, from half-day to multi-day excursions, including those based at a renovated castle, Castello di Tocchi, located southwest of Siena.

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah Bryce Canyon National Park
Credit: Bryce Canyon National Park by inkknife_2000 via Flickr

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Bryce Canyon is one of the Southwest’s most awe-inspiring places. It’s actually not a canyon, but the edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau, where intricately carved towers and archways of stone glisten in an impressive array of colors under the intense sun. Riders in this area can explore one of the most unique places on earth, where thousands of Hoodoos dot the landscape, looking like trees of stone. Penetrate the heart of the Bryce Amphitheater, one of a series of “breaks” eroded into the eastern slope of the plateau, and follow the tracks of famous outlaws like Butch Cassidy through scenic Red Canyon. The diversity of opportunity makes the Bryce area a wonderful choice for adventure on horseback, and you’ll find a multitude of outfitters to choose from.

Banff National Park - Alberta, Canada Banff National Park
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Banff National Park - Alberta, Canada

With no vehicles allowed, riding horses is one of the best ways to experience the beauty of the Rocky Mountains in Canada’s oldest national park. Mountainside and riverside trail rides offer jaw-dropping mountain views while winding through lush forest, passing rivers and sulfur hot springs. You may even spot wildlife along the way, including elk and black bears. Trails through dense woods are juxtaposed with openings that often reveal stunning snow-capped peaks and glacier-fed mountain lakes. Banff Trail Riders, providing wilderness rides for over 50 years, offers everything from hourly trips, including a super fun and family-friendly ride to a waterfall, crossing Spray River, to overnights as well as cowboy cookouts and more. Spend the night enjoying the fresh mountain air in tented camps, or in a comfy lodge.

Maasai Mara, Kenya Masai Mara
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Maasai Mara, Kenya

Maasai Mara is perhaps the most outstanding game reserve in the world. For sheer thrill and excitement, a horse riding safari in this area is hard to beat. You’ll gallop on polo ponies through one of Africa’s most prolific wildlife regions, right alongside zebras and wildebeests, passing lions, giraffes, elephants and countless other animals. Masai Mara is also world-famous for its annual migration of wildebeest, a spectacle that typically takes place from July to September. This thrilling experience is one you could never get from inside a Land Rover. Equitours offers this unforgettable trip, sharing camp with the Masai and following a route that avoids busy roads, tourist vans and lodges, allowing you to truly immerse yourself in what feels like a bygone era.

Argentina Argentina
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The horse still plays a vital role in Argentine country life – the nation is known for having one of the world’s great equestrian traditions. And, deep in the Ongamira valley of Crdoba, you’ll find Estancia Dos Lunas, where riding across its 3,000 hectares is as rugged and romantic as you could ever wish for. The ranch is warm and hospitable, serving especially tasty homemade food. Or, at 400-year-old Estancia El Bordo de las Lanzas in Salta, you can join in with ranch activities, going horseback riding with local cowboys or gauchos, as well as dine on amazing asado or Argentinian barbecue.

Golden Circle, Iceland The Golden Circle, Iceland
Credit: The Golden Circle, Iceland by Bigstock.com

Golden Circle, Iceland

The Golden Circle is Iceland’s most popular sightseeing route, including Thingvellir National Park, the geyser and hot spring area around Geysir and Gullfoss Waterfall. Iceland’s distinctive small horses trot through lava fields here, with their unique way of moving known as the tölt, allowing Icelanders to use them as their sole mode of transportation for centuries. Ride atop these small but strong Viking horses – but don’t call them ponies, as these little guys are far too tough for that – through this striking landscape and combine your riding with nights spent on local farms, soaking in hot pools under the stars. Ishestar offers this eight-day or five-day tour that’s been named one of the very best horse riding treks in the world.

Wadi Rum, Jordan Wadi
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Wadi Rum, Jordan

The Wadi Rum is one of the most impressive landscapes on earth, with its magnificent expanse of fiery-hued sand, craggy mountains and remarkable rock formations. Once difficult to get to, today, thanks to the popularity of Petra, it’s more accessible than ever. A horseback riding adventure offers the chance to discover the spectacular scenery of the authentic “Lawrence of Arabia, from the mountainous Petra region to the vast sand plains. While riding atop a strong Arabian steed, visitors learn about desert survival with nomadic Bedouin tribesmen, allowing visitors to delve deeper into the secrets of the desert, including The Valley of the Moon, more than ever before.

Haleakala National Park - Maui, Hawaii Haleakala National Park, Maui, Hawaii
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Haleakala National Park - Maui, Hawaii

In the very diverse Haleakala National Park, visitors can ride through the lush rain forest one day and be inside the crater of a volcano the next. Riding through the crater is only for the fit, as you’ll descend nearly 2,000 feet from the rim to the crater floor. You’ll also travel through quickly changing conditions and even colors, with the hooves of the horses crunching on volcanic cinders. At various places throughout the trail, you’ll view large cinder cones at the crater floor and dark rivers of lava flows. The rocky trail traverses through the rainforest climbs past bamboo, ferns and mango trees, leading toward Waimoku Falls, the tallest waterfall on Maui at over 393 feet.

Avenue of the Volcanoes, Ecuador Avenue of the Volcanoes, Ecuador
Credit: Avenue of the Volcanoes, Ecuador by Peter Gene via Flickr

Avenue of the Volcanoes, Ecuador

An hour south of Quito, Ecuador, you’ll discover genuine haciendas and working organic farms available for riders on the lower slopes of Corazon Volcano in the heart of the “Avenue of the Volcanoes,” a gorgeous valley which divides the eastern and western ranges of the Andes Mountains, straddling the Pan-American Highway. The country’s largest wildlife refuge, Cotopaxi National Park, can be found here, surrounded by vast haciendas and ranches. The entire area is an outdoor playground with trails for both horseback riding and hiking. You can also learn about the lives of the chagras, pure Ecuadorian cowboys who depend on horses for their livelihood while riding the hardy Criollo horses through farmland, alpine terrain, cloud forests and to four of the 11 volcanoes in the area.

Waitsfield, Vermont Waitsfield, Vermont
Credit: Waitsfield, Vermont by André Carrotflower via Flickr

Waitsfield, Vermont

The historic village of Waitsfield, tucked between two mountain resorts in the Mad River Valley, offers breathtaking scenery for a wide variety of activities, including horseback riding. And, at the Vermont Icelandic Horse Farm, visitors can explore the meadows, forests and mountains on one of the oldest horse breeds on earth, the Icelandic horse. Its tireless, efficient movement is great for riding, as it seems to dance effortlessly over the landscape. The breed is good for beginning riders as its smaller stature makes them less intimidating. Plus, you can ride year-round as the horses have been bred over the centuries to conquer the elements and terrain in Iceland.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming Jackson Hole, Wyoming
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Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Jackson Hole is legendary for skiing, as one of the most popular destinations for extreme skiers, but it’s also renowned for a wealth of other outdoor recreational activities, including horseback riding. As the town is surrounded by wilderness, there is almost an endless array of trails to choose from. Cowboys and horses have played a vital role in Jackson Hole’s history, and their presence is still a major part of its distinct Western culture. A trek throughout this region offers the chance to witness the especially striking natural beauty of the Grand Tetons along with an abundance of wildlife, like foxes, elk, bison and moose. Here, you’ll have your pick of ranches that offer accommodations along with horseback riding excursions as well as a long list of outfitters providing everything from hourly trips to overnights.

Seward, Alaska Seward, Alaska
Credit: Seward, Alaska by KC Dermody

Seward, Alaska

This Alaska harbor town is filled with spectacular sights. Surrounded by breathtaking Alaskan wilderness, you can explore the area on horseback while taking in dramatic views of the shorelines of Turnagain Arm, the towering, craggy peaks of the Chugach Mountains, waterfalls, blue-tinted glaciers and dazzling valley lakes. Watch for moose, bald eagles, the arctic tern and even bears along the way. Bardy’s Trail Rides will take you into an area that’s only accessible via horse where you can get up close to bald eagles, see where they nest and watch them feed. You’ll also ride through part of Seward’s old town which was destroyed by an earthquake in 1964, and hear tales of the people who lived through it. While on the shores of Resurrection Bay, you might spot humpback whales, orcas, harbor seals, porpoises, otters and sea lions.

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