For the love of horses – living a dream in the sierras of Rocha, Uruguay

By David Hammond
Lucie Cibulka (originally from Austria) relocated to Uruguay about 10 years ago. Today, Lucie and her husband, Santiago, operate a horse tourism business in Uruguay’s Department of Rocha called Caballos de Luz (Horses of Light).

What does Lucie like best about Uruguay? “Everything!” she says, “I love the way it lets me live my dream of making a living working with horses. I love how much wide open space there still is here.”

How Lucie came to Uruguay

Lucie's love for horses started early. When young, she competed in dressage and show jumping in Austria. As an adult, she got the travel bug. She spent time in Australia where she cared for horses. And she journeyed 2,000 kilometers on horseback in South America.

Lucie came to Uruguay from Costa Rica where she'd worked as a horse tour guide. “There were some friends who invited me to buy land with them in Uruguay,” says Lucie.

Lucie met her husband, Santiago, on a bus in Uruguay. “He sat beside me and claims to have fallen in love at first sight... It took me a little longer, but not sooo much longer,” says Lucie.

Together, Lucie and Santiago provide the following horse tours:
  • Day trips, lasting from two-hours to all day
  • Multiple-day tours in the sierras of Rocha
  • Scheduled seven-day treks to the coast
Guests can also stay at their horse ranch in one of three guestrooms and enjoy home cooked meals. Most of the vegetables served come from Lucie and Santiago's garden.

1:32-minute video about Caballos de Luz, released in 2016 by Uruguay's Ministry of Tourism 

Challenges of starting a new life in a new country 

 For Lucie, the most challenging part of starting a new life in Uruguay was being so far away from her friends in Europe and Australia. How did she overcome it?  “By making new friends, of course! And, actually, starting a new farm and business kept me on my toes.  There wasn't much time to get nostalgic about the past,” says Lucie.

What Lucie likes most about her life in Uruguay 

“I love the way it has all the modern stuff like WiFi many places, but still has a laid-back feeling and rhythm to it. I love how rural it is. Some of the older folks I meet around here are total picture book characters.

“I love the area that I live in--the sierras of Rocha. It's sooooo beautiful. We have a river two minutes from our house where we can swim. We have a full view of the sierras and endless trails for riding our horses.  But if I want to see something totally different one day, I can be at the beach within an hour,” says Lucie.

Starting the business

In addition to raising horses and providing guided horse tours, Lucie and Santiago provide room and board for their guests. “I knew that I wanted to work with horses. Once I realized how amazing this rural area in Rocha is for trail riding, I knew I would also need rooms for guests.  We had two guestrooms the first few years. Now we have one more, which is a geodesic dome with a deck facing the Sierras,” says Lucie.

Lucie (who speaks English, German, and Spanish) and Santiago (known as "Super Santi" for his broad range of practical skills) have been operating Caballos de Luz for more than eight years. They're located in the sierras of Rocha, 13 kilometers northwest from the City of Rocha.

What's special about Caballos de Luz

“Well, if you like nature, silence, great horses, lovely healthy food and good company, everything about it is special. If you are more the 'I-love-loud-traffic-and-stress-and-going-out-at-night-and-getting-drunk' type, you might not like it so much.” says Lucie.

“We are open all year round, and we find that each season has its charms.

“Also, bring your instrument if you are a musician...we are!

“We have a website,  There is lots of information and pictures - of horses mainly.... My phone number is (598) 9940-0446 from outside Uruguay and 099-400-446 inside Uruguay. My email is,” says Lucie.

Editor's note: 
Link to reviews of Caballos de Luz on Trip Advisor

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