Every year 30,000 tourists come to Iceland just to discover the island on the back of a horse. It’s the best way to experience the unique lava landscape. Why not try it out?
Discover this magical island on an adventurous horseback ride! Guided tours on horseback through the mountainous landscape lasting several days are a huge trend at the moment. The tough little Icelandic horses are without a doubt the stars of the island. Almost 80 horse ranches offer the Icelandic horse-trekking all year round. Whether it’s a day trip or a trip lasting several weeks, pony trekking in Iceland is a real adventure.
Icelandic horses are appreciated for being so modest and tough. There are currently 80,000 animals living on the island, the majority of which are free and wild. They are said to be courageous and willing to work. Although on average they only grow to between 1.30 and 1.45 metres, they can effortlessly carry heavy loads and almost any adult rider. They come in about every colour possible. However, the special thing about the ponies is their famous four-beat lateral ambling gait: the tölt. It makes riding the horses very comfortable so they’re perfectly suited for a several-day ride. In total, the Icelandic horses have 5 gaits: walk, trot, gallop, tölt and the flying pace. The Vikings appreciated the small, modest animals as a companion and brought them to the island in the 8th century. Since then, they’ve been a permanent feature of the island.
Ride over mudholes, glaciers and lava fields
Riding in Iceland can in no way be compared to riding in the U.K. If you’ve got a thirst for adventure and aren’t afraid of staying in simple accommodation, then a riding tour through Iceland will be an amazing once in a lifetime experience. Accompanied by a well-trained rider, you can discover all the different corners of Iceland and all the highlights it has to offer. On many tours, you are accompanied by free running horses so that after a few hours the horses can be changed over, this makes the feeling even more special. Comfortably ride past bubbling mud holes, volcanoes, black beaches and striking waterfalls.
The tours offered have varying durations and levels of difficulty, there’s something for everybody. On a long tour, you could easily be sat in the saddle for eight hours of the day. On average the stages are about 50 kilometres long, depending on the conditions and the stamina of the rider and horse. There are offers, for example, that include tours starting from Islenski Hesturinn, very close to the capital city, Reykjavik. A simple 2 and a half hour tour costs a converted price of around £67 (€80), a 3-day tour through the Thingvellir National Park, for example, can cost around £1020 (€1200).
Help out with shepherding in the west of the island
Actively taking part in the annual shepherding in Iceland and supporting the farmers with the rounding up and sorting of the sheep is a truly unique experience. It’s a sweat-inducing activity but an absolutely wonderful Icelandic adventure in the heart of beautiful nature. Every summer, around 500,000 sheep graze on the uninhabited highlands of the island, each one worth almost €100. As soon as winter approaches, the sheep farmers, together with their helpers, swing into action. Without the tenacious horses, the shepherding wouldn’t be possible at all.
The Ishestar equestrian centre in Hafnarfjordur, near to the capital, offers a 7-day shepherding tour for tourists, for example. In the north of the island at Lýtingsstaðir Icelandic horse farm, near to Akureyri, you can also take part in such a tour for around £935 (€1100). Take part in the wide scale autumnal shepherding in the highlands valleys, the so-called Réttir, help out the farmers and have a truly special holiday!
Traditional Icelandic Horse Trekking
Now you’re definitely asking yourself how exactly the horse treks works. It’s actually quite simple: every day, you ride a certain stage and then you camp at night. After the ride through the Icelandic wilderness, you will often stop at secluded mountain cabins, where you will spend the night in a sleeping bag on the floor without water or electricity. Before you can lie down to sleep, you have to feed the ponies. The old Icelandic tradition is to feed the horses together at the end of the day and then cook and sing together. So you will quickly become a part of the Icelandic riding culture.
At some overnight locations, there are even some natural hot springs where you can relax your strained muscles and warm yourself up. Most tour operators offer full board including breakfast, picnics and dinner, which packhorses carry. Depending on where you do the tour, you will ride through the moon-like landscape of the highlands, alongside the glacier tongues, the coastline and so on. It doesn’t matter where you end up on the island – the landscape is amazing everywhere and offers a unique holiday experience!
If you now fancy going on holiday to Iceland, simply send me a free travel inquiry and I’ll come up with a personalised trip for you.