What's the attraction?
The Lone Ranger, released in cinemas on Friday and starring Johnny Depp as the Native American warrior Tonto, may well increase our interest in the notion of the Wild West. The film was shot in locations across the western United States, from New Mexico to Utah, an area that is particularly evocative of the frontier period in the late 19th century.
For tourists, it's still possible to get a flavour of that fabled era today – cowboy (and cowgirl) holidays are available here and further afield, catering for a range of abilities and interests. So from cattle drives in Arizona, to getting your hands dirty at an Australian cowboy school, or learning to ride Western-style across the vineyards of southern Tuscany, now's your chance to saddle up.
Help Icelandic farmers bring their horses down from the mountains for winter on a new trip from Regent Holidays (020 7666 1290; regent-holidays.co.uk). Experienced riders can join local farmers on a spectacular three-day ride, driving hundreds of horses down from the upper highland moors to the milder valleys and glacial lakes of the wild north-east. Accommodation is at family-run farms and rural hotels where you can enjoy a traditional rettardansleikur each evening: eating, dancing and singing Icelandic songs to celebrate a successful day's round-up. The seven-day Iceland Horse Round Up costs £1,415pp including flights from London, accommodation, most meals, equipment and guides. Departs 1 October.
The Western style of riding developed on working ranches is taught at the Castellare di Tonda 800-acre wine estate and quarterhorse stud farm in Tuscany. Enjoy rides through vineyards and medieval villages, stopping for lunch and a gelato on the way. The trip by In the Saddle (01299 272 997; inthesaddle.com) also enables you to soak up the history of nearby Florence and Siena, book a spa treatment or just relax by the pool after a hard day's ride. The eight-day trip starts at £828pp and includes half-board accommodation, 12 hours' riding and equipment, but not flights. Weekly departures from February to October.
The Wrangler National Rodeo Finals (prorodeo.com) is the pinnacle of cowboy sports and a new trip from Ranch Rider (01509 618811; ranchrider.com) will take you to the heart of the action. Get in the mood with four nights at the luxurious White Stallion Ranch, near Tucson, Arizona – the setting for many a Hollywood Western including the 1940 Oscar-nominated Arizona – and four nights helping to herd cattle at Williams Working Family Ranch. The group then heads up to Las Vegas for the big event: bull riding, steer wrestling, barrel racing and more. The 10-day trip departs 26 November and costs £1,329pp including accommodation, most meals and activities, and a one-day ticket to the Rodeo Finals. Flights and transfers not included.
Learn real cowboy skills on an authentic Australian "Jackaroo" holiday. Immersed in the daily life of a working ranch at Bingara, near Sydney, guests will spend a week learning to shear sheep, muster cattle, break horses and ride the Australian way. A certificate is provided on completion and there are opportunities after the trip to find employment as a qualified stockman or an Australian cowboy.
Beginner riders are welcome and the minimum age limit is 18 years old. Go Learn To (0845 625 0445; golearnto.com) offers the week-long Jackaroo trip for £644pp, including accommodation, all meals and training, but not flights. Weekly departures until 28 September.
Ride with the Argentine gauchos at Caballadas (00 39 0471 840 005; caballadas.com), a new luxury ranch in a private 55,000-acre estate in northern Patagonia. The price of US$650pp (£433) per night includes half board and daily rides.
Badger Creek Ranch (001 719 837 2962; badgercreekranch.com) in Colorado offers simple, hard-working holidays helping to manage the estate's 100 to 200 cattle, high in the Rocky Mountains for $200pp (£133) per night, all-inclusive.
For a Native American take on the classic ranch experience, Hualapai Ranch (001 928 769 2636; www.hualapaitourism.com) in Peach Springs, Arizona, is owned and operated by the Hualapi tribe. Doubles start at $302 (£201), half board, including activities.
"It's always best to bring a hard hat with you and most people like to buy a pair of Western riding boots, too. The maximum weight of any rider should be about 230lbs. First-time riders are always welcome, but will reap rewards from taking a few lessons before the holiday." – Tony Daly, managing director of Ranch Rider (01509 618811; ranchrider.com).
For experienced riders, there is perhaps no greater thrill than rounding up wild bulls in the Avenue of the Volcanoes, Ecuador. Ride for two days around the dramatic Cotopaxi volcano to reach the mountain moorlands where the bulls graze. Then, in the company of the chagras – horsemen of the Andes – help to isolate the bulls and drive the cattle down from the high plains to corrals in the valleys below. Evenings are spent camping with the Ecuadorian cowboys and staying in haciendas along the trail. Unicorn Trails (01767 600606; unicorntrails.com) offers the 10-day Cotopaxi Cattle Round Up for £1,985pp including accommodation, all meals and equipment, insurance and an expert guide. Flights not included. Departs 10 November.
An escorted cowboy experience is offered by Trafalgar (0800 533 5617; trafalgar.com) on its eight-day Pioneer Adventures of the Old West trip. It visits many of The Lone Ranger locations from Arizona to Utah, stopping along the way to explore The Grand Canyon, the Native American cliff-dwelling Montezuma Castle and the dramatic sandstone pinnacles of Monument Valley. It ends with a Wild West party. The price of £2,425pp includes flights, accommodation, most meals, tours, transfers and guides. Departures on 22 and 29 September.