Riding Safaris at Hacienda San Rafael

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Tom is here to help give you the inside track.

'Riding in the hills of Andalucia’ has a rather nice ring to it, and with good reason.

These riding safaris take you into the heart of Andalusian horse country and Doñana, Europe's largest national park, at the mouth of the Guadalquivir River. Quite apart from riding through wonderful landscapes on beautifully schooled Arab crosses, this is also a chance to enjoy delicious regional food and wines and the comforts of the delightful Hacienda San Rafael.

Doñana National Park is criss-crossed with trails and ancient bridleways that make for excellent gallops, but when you're going a little slower there is also a huge amount to see. The diverse terrain is a result of this once being the delta of the Guadalquivir, the 'big river', or Wada-I-Kebir as it was known to the Moors. It is said that in ancient times the area was dotted with islands, one of which was supposedly the capital of the mythical kingdom of Tarshish. Gradually the area silted up, giving way to a landscape of marshes, shifting sand dunes and pine forests shunned by people but ideal for wildlife.

Now, during the winter floods, thousands of birds migrate to the park, including huge flocks of geese from northern Europe and large stands of flamingos. Come springtime the water level drops, leaving rich deposits of silt sandbanks that are ideal for wading birds including grey herons, egrets, spoonbills and storks which then nest here. The lagoons found all over the park are also regularly visited by fallow and red deer as well as wild boar.

Spend your days exploring this beautiful park and enjoying delicious traditional Andalusian picnics. In the evenings stay at the marvellous Hacienda San Rafael, where classic Andalusian style and Eastern touches are fused with élan in the informal drawing room with its roaring fire and lovely hanging paintings. After a delicious supper using local and fresh produce, head back to the stylish, comfortable rooms through the bougainvillea-filled courtyard. All rather perfect, we're sure you would agree.

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Harriet, Kate L and Molly are our 'Riding Safaris at Hacienda San Rafael' experts and as seasoned travellers they have the inside track on the most memorable adventures.

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