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Riding High in Crete – 5 Tips for a Holiday on Horseback

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Riding High in Crete – 5 Tips for a Holiday on Horseback

Translated & edited by
Sarah O'Neill
March 2017

Original by Claudia Göpel

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Keen horse riders will love our riding tips for Crete. Whether cantering along the beach, trekking through mountain villages or multi-day rides, Crete offers the ideal riding holiday to suit everyone.

The Greek Isle of Crete is the perfect place to swing yourself into the saddle for a holiday on horseback. Riding high in Crete, you will discover the beauty of the island at a leisurely pace, experience the thrill of cantering along the beach, and uncover hidden gems you would never have reached with such ease without your four-legged friend.

Horse lovers and keen riders are always sad to bid their beloved companions farewell when they head on holiday. As an island community, it’s highly unlikely you will be able to bring your own horse with you to Crete, but fortunately the island itself offers plenty of opportunities for riding enthusiasts to saddle up and ride out with their favourite equines.

Only a few hundred meters from the Corissia Hotels & Resort, 20 well-loved horses and some little Shetland ponies live together with their handlers at Zoraïda's Horse Riding centre, not far from the Eucalyptus avenue.

Zoraïda's Horse Riding is one of only two riding schools on Crete which offers treks and horse riding for holidaymakers. The only other riding school operator is Horsefarm Melanouri in the village of Pitsidia/Matala in the south of Crete.

Apart from at these riding schools, you will find plenty of horses on the island, which even has its own breed – the “Georgalidika”, a gentle-spirited horse of medium build which can only be found on Crete. One of the breeding centres for these horses is on the Askifou Plateau, at the Lefkoritis Resort country hotel. You can also book guided treks there.

1. Beach Rides around Georgioupolis
Swimming on Horseback

Enjoy beautiful sunsets, fresh sea breezes and gorgeous coastal views as you gently canter along 7 km of the endless sandy beach in Georgioupolis.

As this 2-hour ride is along a public beach, it is important that you are an experienced rider with good control of your horse and are comfortable riding on both sand and gravel. This beach ride is therefore recommended for experienced riders who have had at least 10 hours’ worth of training.

For a real adventure with your horse, you can even book a “sea swim” as an extra activity. Book this experience with a group of other riders for €45 per person. A private beach ride for two costs €145, including a beautiful photographic memento of your experience, which your guide will send you by email.

(Prices may vary. Check the current pricing by contacting Zoraïda's Horse Riding directly)

2. Day Treks for Experienced Riders
Hiking on Horseback

Full-day and half-day treks are offered for confident and experienced riders. These four-hour treks are called “mini safaris”.

Choose between daytrips to Lake Kournas, the island’s largest freshwater lake, or Karidi Monastery with its beautiful arched colonnades. The route takes you across fields, along sandy beaches and winding around gently sloping mountain roads. The village of Mathes offers you a fabulous panoramic view across the magnificent Cretan landscape. Some of these guided mini safari trips include swimming on horseback.

Experienced riders who want to spend the whole day riding can book a full-day trip to the waterfalls in the evergreen village of Argyroupolis with its freshwater springs, returning along the shoreline on the beach.

A “mini-safari” costs between 75 - 85 euros per person. Early risers can take part in morning rides, but the treks also set off in the afternoon if you’d rather enjoy a lie in. The price includes drinks at stopovers along the way or beach bars.

Full-day trips start in the early morning and last until sundown. This full day out costs 149 euros per person and includes a restful lunch break for both horse and rider, as well as food and drink.

(Prices may vary. Check the current pricing by contacting Zoraïda's Horse Riding directly)

3. Multi-day Riding Holidays on Crete
Explore the Island on Horseback

For a real, multi-day holiday on horseback, it’s best to get in contact directly with the riding centre before you arrive on Crete. Multi-day riding holidays are only suitable for experienced riders. You will need to provide the riding centre with some proof of your experience and capability with horses, as you are not only responsible for your own safety, but also the wellbeing of the horse entrusted to you.

The Corissia Hotels are a fantastic starting point from which to embark on your riding holiday. After your comfortable hotel room, you will spend the next few nights in small, cosy lodgings situated en route. The riding centre takes care of booking your accommodation with adjoining stables, ensuring that both you and your horse have an enjoyable time!

All multi-day trips are led by a knowledgeable guide and meals are included in the price. Drinks cost extra.

A 3-day/2-night riding trip with a double room costs approx. 575 euros.

A 5-day/4-night trip will set you back 1,230 euros and is recommended as part of a 2-week holiday on Crete.

(Prices may vary. Check the current pricing by contacting Zoraïda's Horse Riding directly)

4. Horse Riding for Beginners
Even the greatest riders were beginners once

Zoraïda's Horse Riding centre is delighted to enthuse children and adult beginners with their love of horses, and offers you the opportunity to try your hand at riding for the first time. The riding centre chooses horses with a very mild temperament and plenty of patience for its novice riders, and even provides little Shetland ponies for younger children.

The first time you get on a horse, you will be led by an experienced trainer walking beside you with the horse gently moving at walking pace. Once you’ve found your confidence and are sitting securely in the saddle, the gates are opened and you will be taken for short rides around the riding the centre, again led by the experienced and steady hand of your guide.

All of the necessary tack for the horse, as well as a riding helmet for your own safety, are provided. The riding centre has helmets of varying sizes to suit both young and old. It is also recommended that you wear long trousers or boots to protect your lower legs – the leather saddle can leave bruises! Flip-flops and sandals are not recommended for horse-riding, as you can easily lose them. Choose footwear with a bit of a heel and a low tread, which will help prevent your feet from slipping out of the stirrups.

A guided ride specifically for small children costs 15 euros for half an hour.

Those who want to explore the surroundings on horseback at a leisurely pace can choose a group trek – perfect for school-age children, inexperienced riders and those looking for a gentle introduction to riding. One hour costs 25 euros, or 35 euros for 2 hours.

(Prices may vary. Check the current pricing by contacting Zoraïda's Horse Riding directly)

5. Hill-Country Horses and Hiking in the White Mountains
Ride a Breed of Horses Unique to Crete

Rising up proudly into the skies above Western Crete, the White Mountains of the Askifou Plateau offer some of the most beautiful hiking routes on the island.

Here you can come face to face with a breed of horses unique to the island, the ‘Georgalidika’, bred by the proprietors of the Lefkoritis Resort, a rural hotel. Horse lovers with an interest in breeding, or who simply wish to encounter a brand new race, are sure to stop by here, and who could resist swinging themselves into the saddle once they’ve set eyes on these beautiful, proud, black-coated beasts.

A simple trek here costs only 20 euros per hour. The rural hotel with its stables are on the western side of the Askifou Plateau, only about 40 km from Georgioupolis.

(Prices may vary. Check the current pricing by contacting Lefkoritis Resort directly)

The area is also home to breathtaking gorges, but these are better explored on foot. The dry river beds are covered in scree and uneven terrain, proving an unnecessary hazard for horse and rider.

Kallikratis Gorge is ideal for leisurely hikers and active youngsters. You can cross the gorge in a moderate 2 ½ hours. Be prepared for hot Mediterranean days and dry, dusty roads, and bring plenty of water and sun protection. Temperatures down in the gorge can be significantly higher than on the coast, so avoid the heat of the day and visit during the cooler hours of the morning or towards the late evening. You can also arrange a shuttle from the other end of the gorge.

If you are visiting the area at the end of May or in June, and are prepared to get up early, then take a detour to the Venetian fort on the southern beach close to Frangokastello for an unusual encounter of a spectral nature. The local residents claim to see the ghosts of armed riders here every year, moving in procession across the beach from the church of Agios Charalambos to the old fort of Frangokastello, where they fade into oblivion.

The mysterious mounted warriors are known as “Drosoulites” (dew shadows), because they appear with the first morning dew on a moist, calm day in May or June. During the Second World War, a German patrol is said to have found the ghostly sight so convincing that they opened fire. Mirage or not… find out for yourself!

We’re happy to help make your holiday on horseback unforgettable!

Our staff in Georgioupolis are happy to assist you with contacting Zoraïda's Horse Riding, or to help you plan your route to the riding centre of your choice.

Another Idea: Horse lovers who would rather admire these impressive animals than ride them can also explore the area in a horse-drawn carriage or on a horse and trap: a more gentle way to spend a holiday with horses without the rocking motion of riding. You will rind at least one horse and trap awaiting visitors every day along the beach promenade in Georgioupolis.

Written by Sarah O'Neill

A passionate traveller, linguist and writer, Sarah has visited over 20 countries around the globe. She loves immersing herself in new cultures, learning the language, and getting to know the local people.

Would you like to be an author at Moments of Inspiration?
Do you have an original idea for a guest blog post or interest to write regularly as an author for us? Send us your article or simply contact us at:

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