Globetrotting: Saddle up for the world's greatest riding holidays

Story highlights

  • Riding holidays offer new perspective on world
  • Mongolia and Andes popular destinations
  • New Zealand offers "Lord of the Rings" treks

(CNN)From the land of "The Hobbit" and Mongolia's steppes to African deltas and the sun-kissed beaches of southern Spain.

Holidays on horseback offer adventurous types the chance to explore the world's most beautiful locales from an entirely different perspective.
Choosing to holiday on the hoof, so to speak, might not be the cheapest vacation you'll ever book, but for many the experience is priceless.
    So, if you're thinking about indulging your inner cowboy or simply fancy riding off into a sunset instead of just staring into one, here are some ideas to get you champing at the bit whichever corner of the world you choose to go globetrotting.

    A steppe into the unknown

    Cultural differences with your Mongolian hosts are often overcome by a shared interest in horses.
    With the Gobi Desert to the south, mountains in the north and thousands of square miles of steppes in between, there's a wealth of dramatic scenery for the riding nomad to explore in Mongolia.
    Expect plenty of sunshine -- Mongolia is known as the "Land of the Blue Skies" -- and a warm welcome from your hosts, says James Sales, a consultant with online horse holiday specialist, In The Saddle.
    "The Mongolians think it's fantastic to have visitors who can ride — it provides a link between two completely different cultures ... they are often as interested in you as you are in them," Sales told CNN.
    Sales recommends the visiting the Altai Mountains in western Mongolia during September/October to watch the Golden Eagle Festival -- the bird of prey has been used by Mongolian hunters since the 15th century. The annual event sees local Kazakh nomads put their Golden Eagles, known locally as Berkut, through a series of speed, agility and accuracy tests.

    Sun, sea and saddles

    Stunning weather and spectacular views combine on the Atlantic coast of southern Spain.
    Not all Spanish beach holidays are the same, as visitors to the Cadiz province in the southwest of Andalusia will testify.
    The Atlantic-facing Costa de la Luz has miles of unspoilt beaches to explore on horseback. Coastal pine forests and the nearby Doñana and Alcornocales national parks -- can also be explored in the saddle.
    The region is popular with non-riders too -- with wind and kite-surfers and birdwatchers also flocking to western Europe's most southerly point.
    Locally-based Fantasia Adventure Holidays recommends riding across Cape Trafalgar -- off which the famous 1805 battle took place, with the British Royal Navy defeating the combined forces of the French and Spanish fleets.

    For a few dollars more

    If you've ever dreamed of riding in the Old West then a trip to Montana could be the perfect holiday.
    If you want to discover America's Old West but don't fancy leaving the 21st century completely behind then a trip to The Ranch at Rock Creek in Philipsburg, Montana could be the perfect holiday.
    With creekside trails, rolling hills and the peaks of the surrounding John Long and Sapphire mountain ranges to explore, you'll be quietly humming Elmer Berstein's famous theme from "The Magnificent Seven" in no time.
    At Rock Creek, after you've dismounted there's also the chance to try your hand at barrel racing or pole bending and roping, as well as shooting and fly fishing. But you'll need a fistful of dollars for the privilege -- prices start at around $1,000 per person, per night during the summer.

    The gait of heaven

    The views and the ride are equally attractive in South America thanks to the native Peruvian Paso.
    It's not just the stunning views and epic Andean scenery that attract horsey types to holidays in Peru, the native Peruvian Paso is also a huge draw.
    "People call them the Rolls Royce of horses -- they have a really smooth gait," says Sales. "It's just a joy to ride them no matter where you are."
    One of the most popular expeditions explores the Sacred Valley of the Incas following the route across the Urubamba River near the city of Cusco -- the capital of the Incas established in the 12th century.

    Into the lion's den

    A trip on four legs, not four wheels, is perhaps the best way to see Africa's game reserves.
    But if you want to see lions, leopards, rhinos and elephants from the saddle, you'll need to be a proficient rider.
    A experienced guide like Philip Kusseler, co-owner of South Africa-based Wait A Little, will also be on hand keep you safe on horses that have been rigorously trained to handle the rigors of the bush.
    "It's very important that they are responsive and trust the rider and trust the aids of the rider," says Kusseler, who leads expeditions in the Karongwe Private Game Reserve, near the famous Kruger National Park.
    "Basic training and dressage helps a lot to make them responsive and fun to ride as well."

    Fantasy island

    A horse riding tour on New Zealand's South Island can transport you into a fantasy world.
    The epic landscape surrounding Glenorchy, New Zealand was used as the backdrop to many scenes from the "Lord of the Rings," the film trilogy adapted from J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy novels.
    Venture into "Middle-earth" with local guides from Dart Stables taking one of several movie-themed treks including The Ride of the Rings, The Hobbits' Hack and The Trilogy Loop.
    The latter offers a three-hour, 22-kilometer ride around the head of New Zealand's longest lake, Lake Wakatipu, and views of the fabled "Misty Mountains," "The Wizard's Vale" and "The Mighty Methedras."
    Obsessive fans can also ride a horse named "Frodo."