Travel often? You're probably pretty comfortable reaching new places by plane, train, and automobile. Consider for a moment: some of history's greatest travelers never had access to these kinds of technological marvels. If you wanted to see the world in ancient times, your main choice was to saddle up and trek across wild terrain on the back of a trusty horse.
Even though traveling by saddle is old-fashioned, it offers unique benefits that can still be enjoyed today. For example, traveling on horseback lets you unobtrusively observe a region's natural wildlife. It also gives you a much lower carbon footprint than fuel-burning planes and cars can. Perhaps most special is the access horses can give you to landscapes that are just inaccessible by any other form of transportation. A mix of hiking and horseback riding can show you some of the most spectacular views the world has to offer.
In modern times, big trips on horseback are usually organized by companies specializing in equine treks, like Equitours, Hidden Trails, High Pointe Equestrian Tours, and Ride World Wide. These companies make it safe and easy to travel like your ancestors did (and like some nomadic communities still do today).
On the right tour, you can live out your fantasy of galloping over fields like a night in shining armor or a fairy tale royal chasing their fate. They're all ready and waiting for travelers with a thirst for real adventure!
Here are the 21 most awe-inspiring horseback treks in the world right now:
21 21. Loire Valley, France
There's no better way to visit castles in the French countryside than on horseback! This trek is designed to make travelers feel like they're stepping (or trotting) into the 16th century.
On this 3-day, 2-night tour, a guide brings you through courtyards and over drawbridges all while telling you the stories of Joan of Arc and the Bourbon Kings connected to the estates you visit. The trip is broken up by picnics of local delicacies and candle-lit gourmet dinners.
Fun fact: One castle included on the tour, the Château de Chambord, is a favorite riding place of longtime equestrian Kendall Jenner (pictured above).
20 20. Quebec, Canada
It's easy to forget that some of the world's most beautiful natural landscapes are found right here in North America! If you're keen on experiencing equine travel without leaving the comfort and safety of a North American nation, we recommend touring northern Quebec on the Inn to Inn ride.
The stops along the trek are obviously inns, so they're not as glam as the castles mentioned above, but the wildlife and landscape itself is just unmissable - especially in the autumn when the leaves are kaleidoscopic. Experience Quebec's uniquely European vibes as you traverse the Gaspe Peninsula on the Gulf of St. Lawrence, taking your horse through magnificent forests and hidden sandy beaches.
19 19. Malaga, Spain
Andalusian horses are famous worldwide for their flowing manes and mighty presence. Riding them is part of Spanish culture and history, and Spanish locals are proud to raise and train these horses for everything from a quick ride to a four-day trek across the mountains in Malaga.
Depending on your experience level, Los Caballos del Mosquin can offer you a trip tailored to you and your travel buddies. Cross wide sierras in the company of expert trainers and rider, all while wearing some of the company's trusted riding gear. If you find that you love it, invest in your own set and proudly represent the Caballos wherever your horse riding adventures take you!
18 18. Hovsgol Province, Mongolia
The vast grasslands of Mongolia are still home to horse-riding nomads in modern times. They gallop from place to place, over mountains and through valleys, all to make the most of each season as it changes. Their rare lifestyle of wandering and caring for their herds has inspired some tour companies to host horseback treks in their midst.
The best trek is hosted by Nomadic Expeditions around Lake Hovsgol, a Northern Mongolia landmark known as the "dark blue pearl." Embark on horseback to explore its shores and meet the Tsaatan people who raise reindeer there. If you get bored of your horse, they're happy to let travelers take reindeer for a spin! Don't bet on it flying, though.
17 17. South Queensland, Australia
Be on the lookout for wallabies, kangaroos, koalas, and birds of paradise during this one-of-a-kind horseback tour. The Equathon tour of Queensland, Australia takes riders on a journey through the Australian bush, where they can live like true outback cowboys.
The trek is guided by former Olympic equestrian show jumping competitor Alex Watson. You can trust that you're in able hands as you ride his own string of Australian Stock horses across the lush natural landscape of Australia's Sunshine Coast. You can choose an overnight ride or 7-day trip and participate in fun, authentic outback activities like cow herding! Crikey.
16 16. Puerto Natales, Chile
If you want to ride a horse somewhere that looks completely surrealistic, like it was ripped from the pages of a fantasy novel, you need to take Chile's Blue Ice Trail. The jagged icy peaks of the Bernardo O'Higgins National Park contrast wildly with the soft grassland pampas surrounding them, making the place feel strangely magical.
This trek is best undertaken by experienced riders. It takes multiple days to complete, and is about 20 kilometers long, so you'll need to know how to pull your weight (and keep your horse in line). If you can make that happen, this hidden paradise is yours to explore.
15 15. Tuscany, Italy
Who could say no to a ride through the Italian countryside? Its idyllic Tuscan landscape spans fields and orchards from Sienna to Florence and beyond. A trek with Equitours gets you on the back of a fine horse and the opportunity to explore medieval hamlets, local estates, and a castle or two.
The tour's home base is the 12th century Castello di Tocchi. There, you and your travel buddies can load up on a carefully selected menu of wine and cheese before heading out on horseback to discover Italian art and history on the land where it all went down. Talk to your guide about enriching your tour with visits to restaurants, art galleries, and certain sites of cultural and political significance.
14 14. Avenue of the Volcanoes, Ecuador
Imagine just you and your horse cantering through a wide valley, so high in the Andes that the clouds wisp and whirl around your feet. The Hacienda treks through Ecuador's Avenue of the Volcanoes are some of the most unique outdoor experiences you could ask for.
It departs just one hour south of Quito, which is accessible by plane. From there you depart on horseback for the lower slopes of Corazon Volcano, a landmark between the eastern and western ranges of the Andes. Meet chagras, the locals who make their livelihoods as cowboys in the Andes, and interact with their families as you trot through fields and cloud forests (!) in the shadows of the region's 11 volcanoes.
13 13. Rajasthan, India
From volcano hoping to palace hopping, we bring you the Princess Trails treks in Rajasthan, India. It's a sunny and exotic palace-to-palace ride following the same trail that wealthy Indians rode for centuries as a way to take in views of the most impressive architecture and pass the time.
These days it's used to guide travelers on what the locals call a "horse safari." But don't think that the horses are treated like some kind of spectacle: the locals come from traditions that consider horses to be divine symbols of strength and wealth. In that way, they fit in perfectly with the regal splendor of Rajasthan's palaces. We'll sure this trip will make you feel like a true Maharaja.
12 12. Wadi Rum, Jordan
Wadi Rum is legendary among Bedouin tribesman who have saddled up there for centuries. It's also known mysteriously as the "Valley of the Moon," and can be found stealing scenes in the Oscar-winning film, Lawrence of Arabia, and the recent Matt Damon blockbuster, The Martian. The famous valley is yours to explore with Equus Journeys.
This trip will have you riding alongside real Bedouin desert survivalists on Arabian thoroughbreds. Stop along the way to float in the Dead Sea, and to admire 2,500-year-old petroglyphs, desert wildlife, and massive sandstone mountain formations. You will never be able to forget spending an Arabian night under the stars in Wadi Rum.
11 11. Cappadocia, Turkey
Cappadocia climbs close to the top of our list for the amazing variety of sights it offers its horse riding visitors. The region is famous for an otherworldly landscape cut by stunning rock formations poking up like fairy chimneys wherever local villagers dwell. You can see it all if you take a horseback tour through Cappadocia with Kirkit Voyages.
Choose tours ranging from 2 hours to 13-days. Let modern Turks guide you through centuries of history, helping you explore churches, monasteries, and underground cities that are Greek, Roman, early Christian, Ottoman, and Byzantine. You'll even make a stop in unmissable Istanbul.
10 10. Okavango Delta, Botswana
Okavango Delta is the largest inland delta in the world, making it an ideal habitat for dozens of different species native to Africa. If you take an Okavango Horse Safari, you'll get to ride one of the area's "home bred warm bloods" through lagoons full of more creatures than you may have ever seen before.
Horseback is the perfect way to visit the wildlife without disturbing their natural habitats. By horse, travelers can get unbelievably close to the delta's elephants, zebras, gazelles, giraffes, and crocodiles. After a day packed with new experiences on the safari tour, you can settle down in a tree house loft or private camp that's located a safe distance away from the more predatory animals. (Phew.)
9 9. The Silk Road, Kyrgyzstan
This is the trek to take if you're interested into stepping into the riding boots of your ancestors. Thousands upon thousands of the world's early merchants and traders traveled along the Silk Road by horseback, and now you can too. With the help of Ishen, Gulmira, and Rash from Shepherd's Way Trekking, you can trek alongside the Tian-Shan and Pamir-Alai mountains that cast their shadows over a truly magnificent alpine lake.
Take in views of ibex and mountain goats, or take it one step further and have a taste of the fermented mare's milk that locals enjoy. If the ride tires you out, you can even stop to rest in a yurt. Let the friendly locals welcome you into their world!
8 8. Banff, Alberta
Canada makes the list again! Banff National Park is too beautiful to pass by. Thankfully, you can ride through it on horseback with the guidance of the Banff Trail Riders. They're a company that has been offering guided trail treks through the Rocky Mountains since 1962, and those mountains will never go out of style.
Rocky Mountain trail rides might be the best way to see this spectacular mountain range up close. You can explore rushing rivers and glacial lakes atop the rocky peaks, all without disturbing the natural habitats of the wildlife that lives there. Brown bears, deer, and elk won't mind a few hooves trotting past them as they graze peacefully alongside the paths. So cool!
7 7. Fukuoka, Japan
Japan's history with horses goes way back! They've embraced it with a Samurai Ride that takes brave travelers from Aso-Kuju National park to Mount Aso and beyond. Mount Aso is actually Japan's largest active volcano, adding an element of danger to your trek! Get inspired by the samurais and don't sweat it.
This tour's itinerary includes stops in the region's natural hot springs and rides on the beach. The trip lasts one week, and involves delicious and authentic Japanese meals along the way. Riders also get to shack up in small traditional ryokans (local inns). Why not go for it the next time you're traveling east?
6 6. Riverton, Wyoming
We couldn't have a list about horseback riding without including at least one fantastic destination in the Old West. Wyoming is the United States' cowboy capital, and it offers just as many horseback tours as you would expect (lots). From horseback yoga to wilderness treks, our favorite Wyoming horse-cations are offered by Equitours.
Fly into rural Riverton and saddle up at one of the many Wyoming ranches affiliated with Equitours. Canter over fields that will have you singing Southern bluegrass tunes before you know it, no matter where you're from. With a cowboy hat, the right boots, and optional yoga pants, Wyoming can give you America's best horseback treks.
5 5. San Jose, Costa Rica
A ride through beachy waves turns into a trek through lush rainforest in an instant with Equitours in Costa Rica. Find your place with your horse among the howler monkeys, birds of paradise, cute tree frogs, and all the rest of the rich biodiversity that the world's remaining rainforests have to offer.
All this occurs within looking distance of the huge, ancient, and ACTIVE Arenal Volcano. You can ride through the farmland around its base and marvel at the massive coughs of ash and smoke it produces. You might even notice some blazing red lava breaking through the top. Bonus: look out for horseback block parties called cabalgata while you're there!
4 4. Borgarfjordur Valleys, Iceland
Iceland's beauty is no secret. But the best way to explore it might be! Even though great tour companies like EldHestar offer horseback tours just a short distance from bustling Reykjavik, not many travelers know to seek them out. The truth is, true Icelanders have navigated the country's ruggedly beautiful landscape on horseback for centuries.
Local lore dictates that the Icelandic wilderness is full of fairies and trolls, and after riding through the Valleys of Borgarfjordur you might believe it, too. Your riding companion will be a unique Icelandic breed of horse from the Viking days, a small sturdy steed with a unique way of walking called a "tölt." Everything is too charming to miss.
3 3. Rainbow Mountain, Peru
Vinicunca, Peru's "rainbow mountain," is only a day's trek from the major Peruvian city of Cusco. As if the mountain weren't beautiful enough, taking this route lets you admire the stunning views of glaciers around Ausangate. It takes some grit to scale 500 meters of mountain on a horse, but if you go with Kondor Path Tours, you'll be in good hands.
There's also the option of trekking it alone, like travel blogger Peter Peresini. "When I finally get to the top I am quite amazed," he shares. "The famous view of Vinicunca just makes you wonder if you are suddenly seeing Saturn rings."
2 2. Masai Mara, Kenya
If you're reading this because you love horses, we're willing to bet that you're fond of other wild animals, too. Horseback tours in Masai Mara Kenya are so high on our list because they give you unprecedented access to the most diverse and impressive array of wild animals we can imagine.
The terrain in Masai Mara is appropriate for flat-out gallops, so you can literally RUN WILD with zebras, giraffes, wildebeests, and even tame lions. This is an experience you'd never have at a zoo, unless you were willing to get arrested and/or eaten (we don't know your life!). Meeting with authentic Masai warriors makes this trek even more remarkable. Add it to your bucket list, ASAP.