The Painted Birds Tour

Ride the Eastern Coast & Vineyards of Punta Del Este

About the tour

“Uruguay” means “River of the painted birds” in the traditional Guaraní local language; this tour will take you to traditional estancias, the biosphere reserve of the eastern wetlands and the oceanic coast!

Highlights: We start our tour in the capital city of Montevideo. The next day we drive to the amazing coastal province of ‘Rocha’ – protected area and declared world biosphere reserve – where we arrive to a small hotel built in the same style as the nearby 17th century fort; we are right on the border with Brazil. We ride along isolated beaches, over shifting sand dunes, through palm groves and shady woodlands, in National Parks and on along the shores of the wetlands. The variety of birds – hummingbirds, flamingos, kingfishers, flycatchers, rheas (similar to ostriches) – that we see in these habitats is incredible. The pace will be quite fast (with lots of canters) – the grassy pastures and firm beaches allow this on strong and well-trained criollo and criollo cross horses. We will stay at charming seaside inns and working ranches – estancias – where we ride with and help the gauchos with cattle drives. You will be able to feel connected with the traditions of this unexplored country and skirt the most diverse landscapes, surprising wines, excellent food and experience the hidden treasures found on the paths less travelled.

 

Itinerary

Day 1: Montevideo – Tour of the capital city & Port Market

Today is set aside to relax and explore the coastal city of Montevideo. Transfer along the wonderful coastline called Rambla to the downtown hotel. Enjoy lunch at the lively Port Market and a short walking tour of the Old City of Montevideo.  Accommodation at Don Boutique Hotel. L.

Day 2: 18th century Fortín de San Miguel

After breakfast, we will be driven to the Brazilian border and into Rocha, arguably the most beautiful province in Uruguay with pristine beaches, emerald shores and a great network of lagoons. We will arrive to Estancia La Rosada located next to the small town of La Coronilla. After lunch, enjoy a wonderful ride along the estancia in order to get to know our horses. After a typical merienda, continue onto Fortin de San Miguel, built in the same stone as the nearby Portuguese fortress. We can admire the views out across an enormous stretch of fresh water – one of the largest fresh water reserves of South America, the Merín Lagoon; we are right on the Brazilian border. This area is home to a wide variety of birds and we will see many different native trees and bushes. Dinner and accommodation at Fortín de San Miguel Hotel. AB, L, D.

 Day 3: Barra de Chuy beach – Brazilian border & a ride along a pristine beach.

After breakfast, we will be driven to Chuy, a very curious town straddling the border where you can step into Brazil and hear the locals speak portuñol, a language made of a mix of Spanish and Portuguese.  Continue onto our horses to start a nice 3-4 hours ride towards the coast!

After a special picnic lunch, riders may have a pleasant siesta discovering that gaucho saddles are so comfortable to ride on as to sleep on! In the afternoon, we will enjoy a fast-paced ride along the wonderful, isolated ocean beach of Barra Chuy. Visitors seldom reach this beach so we can enjoy a long, exhilarating canter with no signs of inhabitation as we ride across the pure white sands alongside the Atlantic Ocean. We arrive 22km (12 miles) further south to La Coronilla and stay at small beachside hotel. AB, L, D.

Day 4: Santa Teresa national park, dolphins & shipwrecks.

Today we will ride south alternating beaches, sand dunes, pine forests and coastal hills where we might see dolphins feeding before getting to the immense Santa Teresa National Park. The center piece of the park is a fortress built in 1762 by the Portuguese to defend the edge of their territories then followed by the Spaniards who took it by assault just a year later. This was just the start of a succession of conquering, losing and reconquering the fort; it was not until 1825 that the newly forming Uruguay finally captured and held the fort.  The fort is surrounded by 3000 hectares of forest containing over 2 million trees, most from other parts of the world. After a picnic lunch we will enjoy riding along the forest trails and down to the beach where we will see a shipwreck buried in the sand, one of many along this treacherous coast. Cabo Polonio (where we ride later) is named after a Spanish galleon that went down just off the point. Luckily “Beagle” with Charles Darwin aboard did not succumb to this fate. Darwin spent quite some time in Uruguay collecting specimens and most likely started to formulate his theories of evolution. After a traditional picnic close to the fortress or on the beach, depending on the weather, we will continue along the coast towards the lovely town of Punta del Diablo. Dinner and accommodation at Posada Terrazas de la Viuda. AB, L, D.

Day 5: Cabo Polonio – Shifting Sands & Sea Lions

The day starts with a drive to the ocean coast. We will meet our horses and ride into the desert! We ride through the area which has been declared a natural animal reserve and a Biosphere Natural Reserve by UNESCO. We will ride to Cabo Polonio, a charming fishing village which can only be reached by horse or by 4×4 vehicles. The fascinating shifting sand dunes as we ride through them make it possible to imagine that we are right in the middle of the Sahara desert. After lunch at a typical restaurant on the beach we will see seals and sea lions that populate the small islands and make up one of the largest populations of sea lions in the world; very occasionally we spot a migrating whale. Riders can swim in one of the most beautiful beaches of the country. Continue riding onto the town of Valizas. We will have dinner at Masa Madre Restaurant, a typical rancho valicero where the chef will cook specially for the group. Accommodation at Posada Valizas AB, L, D.

Day 6: Cattle and Sheep Work with the Gauchos at the Estancia

After breakfast, we will start our amazing ride along the wetlands towards the countryside. We will ride along Castillos and across an amazing untouched landscape of palm groves, ombú forests and wetlands. We will enjoy a picnic lunch on the way before reaching the lovely and charming estancia Guardia del Monte, a traditional working estancia. Accommodation and dinner at Guardia del Monte. B, L, D.

Day 7: Cattle and Sheep Work with the Gauchos at the Estancia

The day starts with a lovely breakfast with homemade bread, jams and cakes, admiring the views of the countryside. A wonderful day awaits you working alongside the gauchos and their trusty dogs as they tend to the cattle and sheep on this working ranch. The work varies depending on the time of the year, but the gauchos always welcome a bit of help checking and moving the stock or putting animals in the corrals. Sometimes a lame animal has to be caught and tended to. The wonderful, friendly gauchos with their berets, bombachas (riding trousers) and with their knives tucked into their colorful belts all seem to have been born on a horse and it is a delight to be riding with them. Their dogs are very much work animals and it is an amazing sight to see four dogs working in unison moving a herd of cattle. The dogs unfortunately cannot count and that gets very tricky for us, especially with the sheep, a recount often being required! A game of armadillo jumping often inadvertently gets underway as the little armor-plated animals make a dash for their holes as the horses approach. After lunch we will ride to the nearby wetland area hoping to see some herons or other migrating birds. In the evening, we will enjoy a typical cordero asado, specially cooked for us by one of the gauchos! B, L, D

Day 8: Return

Depending on the return flights, we will be able to enjoy our last morning ride to say goodbye to our lovely horses and after a quick lunch, we will head back to Montevideo – to the airport, port, the city, or to start an extension tour. AB, L.

Depending on the return flights, we will be able to enjoy our last morning ride to say goodbye to our lovely horses and after a quick lunch, we will head back to Montevideo – to the airport, port, the city, or to start an extension tour. AB, L.

SUGGESTED EXTENSIONS:

EXTENSION 1: BALCON DEL ABRA, ROLLING HILLS OF LAVALLEJA DEPARTMENT

A lovely extension tour to the rolling hills of Lavalleja Province, where guests will be able to ride for an extra two more days surrounded by a completely different landscape. Located in the small town of Mariscala, the cozy and charming countryside inn of El Balcon del Abra offers great comfort and great horses. Guests will discover wonderful trails to ride around the hills, along the countryside and across streams including the fantastic Salamanca Grottoes and lovely rides to nearby estancias. After 7 days riding in the east, this extension tour can be the perfect option to ride some extra days combined with some relaxing quality time in a beautiful spot in the middle of the hills.

EXTENSION 2: THE WETLANDS AREA AND PALM FORESTS OF ROCHA

An unforgettable extension tour to one of the prettiest areas in the Province of Rocha with outstanding landscape beauty, important ecosystems and a great variety of birds and native scrublands; this area has been declared Natural Animal Reserve since 1996. We will have the opportunity to visit the forest of Ombúes. The Ombú curiously rarely grows in groups of more than 2 or 3 and the forest we will visit is possibly the only one in the world. Each tree has its own wonderful shape with thick, twisting roots spreading out over the ground some of which are over 500 years and a diameter of 2 meters (6 feet). We will ride into the Castillos Lagoon, along the estancia fields and to the nearby unique palm groves; despite a number of stories, no one knows how the 300 year old palm trees got here. They are not native but they give the landscape a very exotic look.

FAQ

Horses & tack: there will normally be three changes of horses during the ride. As always one or more spare horses will accompany us. The horses are the local Uruguayan Criollo breed and criollo cross: ideally suited to the terrain. Criollo is the horse breed of Uruguay, Argentina and the south of Brazil. The breed was developed from horses that were brought from Spain in the 17th century and then bred in this region. Criollo is a strong horse with an excellent walk and good character. We use local, western type saddle with a sheep skin. Neck reining (western one-hand riding). Help will be given in adjusting to this tack which is very suitable for long days in the saddle.

Accommodation: The accommodations provided in this program include charming seaside hotels and ranches available in the areas we visit, all of which include private bathroom. They are clean, comfortable and provide a very good service. You will be able to get good night’s sleep in pleasant surroundings. If you are sharing your room, please let us know in advance if you prefer twin or double beds.

Meals: After a full day riding, it is comforting to know that you can return to fully prepared meals that reflect the local cuisine. All meals are prepared with completely natural and fresh products of the region. Red meat, fish and wine are specially recommended, but we can easily cater for vegetarians.

Climate: The weather in Uruguay is variable, but you can expect somewhat warm spring and autumn temperatures, although we might also get some cool days (especially early in the morning or at night) and perhaps some rainy days too. The average temperature at this time of year is 65 F, average lows are 54 F, and average highs are 74 F.

Clothes and Equipment: Clothes and equipment should be light to accommodate for riding. You will also need: Sun block, insects repellent, a warm coat, jacket or sweater, hat (sun/rain), footwear (boots or sneakers) bathing suit and wet weather gear for the eventuality of rainy days. Don’t forget to bring your camera and binoculars. Remember that as your bags will be transferred from accommodation to accommodation by car, you can pack as much clothes as you want to feel comfortable.

Emergencies: In case of accident, our guides will always carry a mobile phone which they will use to contact local assistance. All of the towns along our route count on a medical emergency service.

Health services: In general, public sanitation and health care in Uruguay are very good. In the event of illness or accident during your stay, you should be prepared to pay for assistance. Upon return home you can submit a claim for reimbursement according to the specifications of your insurance policy. Visa and Master card are credit cards commonly accepted.

Safety: The places we will be visiting in the countryside are completely safe.

Departure Dates

Departure Dates 2015

Arrival Depart
Mar 05 Mar 13
Apr 09 Apr 17
Nov 05 Nov 13
Nov 26 Dec 04

The tours are confirmed once there is a minimum of 4 travelers. Please contact us to inquire.

ASK FOR OTHER AVAILABLE DATES FOR CLOSED GROUPS – We ride from October to December and from late February to April

About the tour

Eat, Drink & Ride is the proposal of this amazing 4 day-Day riding tour that will take you to the hilly landscape of Colinas de Garzon, the amazing coast of the Atlantic Ocean, unforgettable sunsets blended with some of the best fine wines, art galleries, amazing countryside routes and the company of some of the best horses you will ever meet!

Highlights: Uruguay is a small friendly country of experiences, a country to enjoy the simple things of life (which sometimes turn out to be the greatest!)… You can relax and enjoy things like good fresh food cultivated by locals, a cooking class with a worldwide famous local chef who will received you at his home to share with you,  fine good wines made by passionate owners, virgin beaches visited by everyone (which really means “not many”), music from the heart like Tango and Candombe…  In the native traditions that existed in our lands before the arrival of the Spaniards, the horse was a symbol of power, endurance and freedom. In those cultures, the horse signified loyalty, love and the unwavering faith of the warrior spirit that understands the power achieved through true cooperation. We invite you to get to know our horses, learn how to bond with them through communication and enjoy a wonderful trip! The horse is an integral part of nature, and its passage doesn’t disturb the environment around us, enabling us to enter natural reserves, forests and beaches without disturbing the animals living in these areas.

 

Itinerary

Day 1: Eastern Vineyards

Arrival and transfer to “Aguaverde Vineyards”. Start your horseback riding adventure by choosing your horse! Ride along the vineyards and through internal trails towards Finca Narona to enjoy lunch overlooking the vineyards of this vintage special winery. Ride back to Aguaverde Wine lodge for a typical “Uruguayan Mate Tasting”.  Dinner and accommodation at “La Rosita” bed & breakfast. D.

Day 2: Ride to the Atchugarry Foundation

After breakfast, we will drive to our horses and ride to the Atchugarry Foundation founded by Pablo Atchugarry, renowned Uruguayan artist. We will ride along private trails, bordering local estancias and studs until we get to the “Sculpture Park” and exhibition Centre. Enjoy a picnic lunch and then continue riding onto “Las Taperas” bed & breakfast, a cozy local posada located in the lovely countryside area of the region. Dinner and  Accommodation at “Las Taperas”. B, L, D.

 Day 3: Riding Trek to José Ignacio

After breakfast, begin your day riding your horse along “Camino Medellin” and onto the isolated beach of “La Boyita”. Experience the freedom of cantering along the coast before arriving to the Jose Ignacio Lagoon where we will stop to enjoy a picnic lunch before continuing to the town of Jose Ignacio. Tonight we suggest dinner at the famous “La Huella” beach restaurant. Accommodation at La Viuda de Jose Ignacio. B, L.

Day 4: Swimming with the Horses

After an early breakfast, ride along the beach towards “La Lengueta”, where the Garzon Lagoon reaches the ocean! For the adventurous ones, we offer the possibility to swim with the horses at the lagoon before continuing cross country along private trails of local private estancias and onto the Anastasio Lagoon. Transfer to Punta del Este Airport, or bus terminal.