The Icelandic Horse Tour Guide – Complete Review on the Icelandic Horse

Icelandic Horse

The pony-sized Icelandic Horse is notably admired and acclaimed for its inherent hardiness, easygoing disposition, and tenacious ability to deftly navigate Iceland’s characteristic rough and rugged terrain. One of the world’s oldest equine breeds, these horses first arrived in Iceland as cherished possessions of early Norse explorers and settlers in the 9th and 10th centuries and today upwards of 80,000 horses can be found scattered throughout the Icelandic countryside. Renowned as compact and sturdy yet additionally as eminently friendly and social creatures, Icelandic horses have always been known and prized as hard workers and were originally put to industrious uses such as carrying loads and tilling fields. The value of the sure-footed Icelandic was quickly realized for their ability to carry riders for long distances and Icelandic horses are still used today as they were traditionally for seasonal sheep herding in the country’s interior highlands.

The Iconic Icelandic Horse

The short-statured Icelandic would be categorized as a pony on the basis of its size (the Icelandic horse stands 13-14 hands high and weighs in at 330-380 kg), yet it is authoritatively termed a horse due to the its weight-bearing stature and indispensable role in Iceland’s early history. Icelandics come in a variety of colors and have a double-layer coat for winter insulation, giving them a distinctive shaggy appearance. Isolated by both geography and law, Icelandic equine populations are free of diseases found elsewhere and the breed is exceptionally long lived with some horses reaching 40 and 50 years of age. No new horses have arrived in Iceland for more than 1,000 years and the population remains pure by restrictions disallowing the importation of horses- nor can exported animals return. Equally as many Icelandics live in other countries, with Germany boasting the largest Icelandic horse population outside of Iceland.

The Icelandic horse is known by its riders notably for being a five-gaited animal, something that comes naturally to the Icelandic. It is believed that European horses also started with five gaits but lost two gaits in late medieval times when they were not compatible with uses such as pulling carts and carriages. In addition to the standard trio of walk, trot, and canter/gallop, the Icelandic horse allows the rider to travel at a tölt, a comfortable four-beat ambling movement that keeps one foot always touching the ground and can be performed at various speeds to cover significant ground both comfortably and efficiently.

The final gait of the Icelandic is a skeið, ‘flying pace’, and as the name suggests, this two-beat gait is fast and smooth such that the skeið can transport a trained rider for short distances at speeds approaching 48 kph. On long journeys, Icelandic horses are ridden in a large group with the animals falling into place in either the front or the back of the pack. With spare horses running loose between the riders, those on front horses are responsible for setting the pace and ensuring the path is clear for the group to follow while the back riders must be careful to ensure the herd does not bunch or split. Often when riding with the loose group, riders will be able to ride several horses throughout one day.

Experiencing Icelandic Horse Riding For Yourself

Icelandic Horses In Different ColorsWhile numerous visitors come eager and prepared to ride this iconic animal as an integral part of their time in Iceland, others learn of the beauty and uniqueness of the Icelandic horse only once they’ve arrived and observed the horses first hand. Truly told, there is no more authentic and ‘down to earth’ way to experience the Icelandic landscape and get a glimpse into the country’s culture than upon horseback and a substantial range of regional tours with hands-on instruction and guidance by veteran operators are available for both the novice and experienced rider. Horse riding tours range from a short few hours in duration to cross-country trekking excursions lasting multiple days and can be undertaken throughout the year with each season delivering its own quintessential experience. Some tours additionally include the opportunity to combine a few hours of Icelandic horse riding with other local attractions such as a visit to geothermal hot springs or whale watching and tour operators may maintain a guesthouse or partner with nearby accommodations to provide inclusive packages.

Iceland receives the majority of its visitors in the summer months (June, July, and August) for very good reason- the weather is at its warmest and the daylight hours are by any definition extended in length (upwards of 20 hours of mid-summer daylight). The result is that crowds are sometimes found during these peak times, but the extra daylight of the ‘midnight sun’ months lends an opportunity to plan activities early or late in the day. While summer enjoys the long hours of sunshine, it’s still cool by the standards of most non-Icelanders, averaging 10-13 degrees Celsius while winter brings the opposite with only 4-6 hours of daylight per day.

In this temperate climate zone winter temperatures are mild, averaging 0 degrees Celsius and being that Iceland is situated just south of the Arctic Circle, some travelers choose to visit between September and March hoping for a glimpse of the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). Spring and fall are thus transitional seasons and can serve as a balance between the crowds and costs of the summer vs. the darker days of winter. Horse riding tours can be undertaken year round and operators tailor tours to take advantage of what each season has to offer, though having more hours in your day will certainly allow for a greater range of options.

For a rare experience combining horse riding and Icelandic culture, consider visiting during fall roundup time and perhaps taking part directly in the activities of the season. Traditionally, both Icelandic horses and sheep herds are released into the interior highlands for the summer months to leave the land at lower elevations available for crop cultivation and to allow the animals to acclimate to their harsh environment. Fall is then the time when a large scale roundup is conducted to gather the horses and sheep back into closer fields or corrals for the winter. Roundup brings out the locals, is a flurry of heady excitement, and is invariably followed by lively community celebrations.

Horse riding tours can be found throughout Iceland, making it easy for visitors to plan their sightseeing itinerary and undertake a ride at a variety of locations. Iceland is not a large country, being able to be circled on its exterior Ring Road in 17 or so hours of driving, yet this small isle is composed of distinct regions each with their own character and appeal. Home to over half the country’s population, the colourful capital of Reykjavik sits in the Southwestern corner of the island and serves as an excellent base from which to explore numerous easily accessible attractions. Short introductory horse riding excursions are readily available within an hour or two’s drive of Reykjavik while more experienced riders may wish to pursue a more challenging ride in one of the more remote corners on the island.

The West of Iceland extends north from Reykjavik into the Westfjords region and this side of the island includes landmarks such as the Akranes Lighthouse, Breiðafjörður islands where 6 metre high tides occur, the powerful Deildartunguhver hot spring, Gylmar and Dynjandi waterfalls, and the Látrabjarg cliffs, just to name a few. The volcanicly active South half of Iceland encompasses Reykjavik and thus is the more touristed part of the island, being home to well known sights including Thingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall, Vatnajökull – Europe’s 2nd largest glacier, and the Geysir geothermal region complete with naturally warmed swimming pools. East Iceland is lightly populated yet contains some of the country’s oldest inhabited villages which today continue their fishing traditions. The east is one of the sunniest sections of Iceland and this quiet corner of the island a world a way from the bustle of ‘big city’ Reykjavik.

Iceland’s North lies close to the Arctic Circle and this stark land of of contrasts is home to Europe’s most powerful waterfall (Dettifoss), the Askja volcano caldera and its surrounding highlands, captivating Lake Mývatn, some of the country’s best whale watching, and a ubiquitous selection of geothermal swimming pools. Located on Iceland’s longest fjord, North Iceland is anchored by Akureyr, the country’s second largest community. Iceland’s central Interior is oft termed Europe’s last true wilderness and this desolate upland plateau is uninhabited as to contain no villages or even sealed roads. Wind scours this landscape which can receive brutal snowstorms even in July and August. Lightly visited by the casual visitor, Iceland’s interior can be crossed on horseback by way of the historic Kjölur trail on an extended horse riding itinerary.

Icelandic Horse Riding Tours – What to Expect?

While there are a handful of facilities near Reykjavik that will accommodate the walk-up participant who makes a spontaneous decision to partake in a brief riding excursion, the majority of horse riding experiences will need to be secured with the tour operator well in advance of your intended date. For the novice rider, your horse riding tour will always include expert instruction and attention to every tour participant for purposes of your safety and enjoyment. Experienced riders are typically expected to know the basics but those who do ride at home can expect to require and receive guidance in learning the tölt.

Iceland has strict rules about not only importation of horses, but also in regards to importation of horse riding equipment. All imported tack must undergo a rigorous disinfection process and most operators will include all that you need in this regard. Multi-day tours will include overnight accommodations as well as meals that showcase Icelandic cuisine. Accommodations in rural areas will be carefully chosen but may be rustic for some tastes.

Recommended Horse Riding Tour Operators by Region

Icelandic Horses In IcelandPlease note if phoning internationally that phone numbers should be prefaced with +354 Reykjavik and Southwest Iceland: Proximity to the airport and the nation’s capital make Southwest Iceland an easy region in which to find a wide variety of horse riding operators. Most companies will include pickup and dropoff to and from your central Reykjavik accommodation.

1. Laxnes Horse Farm, Laxnes Farm, Mosfellsbær (tel. 566-6179; www.laxnes.is), 15 minutes outside Reykjavik in Mosfellsdalur Valley. Popular choices include the 1.5-2 hour Laxnes Special ride and the 3.5-4 hour Day at the Farm which allows for a lunch break between two rides. Also offered are all day Combo Tours that feature inclusions such as caving in a lava tube at Leiðarendi, free time at Blue Lagoon Geothermal Spa, whale watching in Reykjavik Harbour, and snorkeling at Lake Thingvallavatn. Multi-day tours are also available in summer to the southern highlands and in fall for the sheep roundup.

2. Íshestar, Sörlaskeið 26, Hafnarfjörður (tel. 555-7000; www.ishestar.is), 15 minutes from Reykjavik. Day tours include the 1.5-2 hour Lava Tour (a best seller that is suitable for novices as well as experienced riders), an hour long Nature Comfort ride for the true beginner, the longer Viking and Viking Express (4.5-hrs and 2.5 hours) for more adventurous riders, and a 30 minute Family Adventure for riders of all ages. Combination tours are available with inclusions such as the Northern Lights and whale watching. Íshestar also offers an extensive slate of longer tours from 2 to 13 days in many corners of Iceland and in all seasons.

3. Eldhestar, Vellir Farm, Hveragerði (tel. 480-4800; www.eldhestar.is), 40 minutes from Reykjavik. Declaring they offer Iceland’s largest selection of riding tours, Eldhestar lists an impressive collection of riding experiences throughout the year. Half day tours are typically 1-3 hours of riding while a full day is 5-6 hours of riding. Combo tours deliver 1.5-2 hours of riding with other activities such as biking, rafting, or glacier walking and there are multi-day options from 2-7 days including winter tours.

4. Viking Horses, Almannadalsgata 19, 110 Reykjavik (tel. 660-9590; www.vikinghorses.is) Morning, afternoon, and evening tours are given in small groups in the outskirts of the city lasting 1.5 hours and followed by a light meal of traditional Iceland favorites.

5. Íslenski Hesturinn – The Icelandic Horse, Surtlugata 3 (tel. 434-7979; www.islenskihesturinn.is), 10 minutes from central Reykjavik. A 1.5 hour Volcanic Landscape riding tour is offered morning, afternoon, and evening. Combination tours can include beer tasting, whale watching, admission to Laugar Spa, or an Icelandic meal.

6. Reykjavik Riding Centre, Reykjavik 110 (tel. 477-2222; www.reykjavikridingcenter.is), 8 minutes from the city center. The world’s largest equestrian centre for the Icelandic horse conducts morning, afternoon, and evening riding with a maximum of ten riders per group. The popular Adventure Tour delivers 1.5 hours on horseback with a hot lunch afterward. A full day trip for advanced riders is also offered consisting of 3.5-4 hours riding. Tour combos provide the ability to add admission to the Árbaer swimming pool or a guided tour of an open-air museum.

7. Fákasel Horse Park, Suðurlandsvegur (tel. 483-5050; www.icelandichorsepark.com), 30 minutes from Reykjavik. Iceland’s only horse park presents a daily horse show and offers guided behind the scenes tours of their farm and facilities in addition to riding excursions. Riding tours are available in various lengths- one hour, two hours, or 3-4 hours and there are combos with glacier walking, a visit to a geothermal pool or hot spring, river rafting, and whale watching.

8. Solhestar, Borgargerði, 816 Ölfus (tel. 892-3066; www.solhestar.is), 30 minutes from Reykjavik. Enjoy a one hour small group ride in the Ölfus area for beginners or 1.5-2 hours for experienced riders. Evening rides are available as well as combination tours with a hot springs visit, a trip to Fákasel Horse Park, or a bus trip on the Golden Circle route. There are also longer day rides at Solhestar and multi-day rides such as sheep roundup in the fall.

9. Hraunhestar, Kaplaskeið 16, 220 Hafnarfjörður (tel. 568-6808; www.hraunhestar.is), 20 minutes from Reykjavik. Offering a very personal riding experience, Hraunhestar provides small group tour options of 1, 1.5, and 2 hours with the riding difficulty increasing along with the tour length. Also available is a guided walking tour through the horse stables.

West Iceland/Westfjords

black Icelandic Horse1. Arinbjörn Jóhannsson Touring Service, Brekkulækur Farm, Hvammstangi (tel. 451-2938; http://www.abbi-island.is), 190 km from Reykjavik. For 37 years, Arinbjörn Jóhannsson has operated carefully constructed small group riding excursions ranging from 7 to 15 days that cater to the more experienced rider. One can also lodge in the affiliated guesthouse at 100-year old Brekkulækur Farm and enjoy fresh, local Icelandic cuisine at the on site restaurant. Typically tours are run to coincide with the Landsmót Horse Festival in Hella and also for the horse and sheep roundups in the fall. Winter offers a chance to ride under the Northern Lights and all tours tend to incorporate local attractions such as an approachable seal colony, waterfalls, and hot springs. Hiking and cultural tours are also available.

2. Hömluholt, Eyja and Milkaholtshreppi, Snæfellsnesi 311 Borgarnes (tel. 435-6800; www.homluholt.is), 115 km from Reykjavik. Hömluholt breeds and sells Icelandic horses and also rents out two holiday homes suitable for self-catering. Eldborg crater is 20 km away and Snæfellsjokull National Park is 83 km. Horse riding is offered for 1 or 3 hours along the beach where one might easily sight seals and birds.

3. Oddsstaðir, 311 Borgarnes (tel. 435 1413; www.oddsstadir.is), 69 km from Reykjavik. Since 1992, Oddsstaðir has bred Icelandic horses and offered authentic and varied multi-day horse riding tours. Geared towards the regular rider, riding tours are generally 7-10 days in length during which one may ride as many as 18 different horses. Routes can travel to the ocean, the mountains, and in autumn to the highlands for the annual sheep roundup.

4. Stóri Kambur Horse Rental, 356 Snæfellsbær (tel. 852-7028; www.storikambur.is), 187 km from Reykjavik. Located in the vicinity of Snæfellsjökull Glacier, Stóri Kambur operates 1-2 hour long rides for novices and experienced riders at four times daily during the months from June through October. Accommodation is offered as well; the ground floor of a house has been converted into a studio flat to sleep up to four people.

5. Guðrún Fjeldsted, Farm Ölvaldsstaðir IV, 311 Borgarnes (tel. 437-1686; email: fjeldsted@emax.is – no website), 69 km from Reykjavik. Guðrún Fjeldsted conducts 1-2 hour riding tours on the banks of the glacial Hvitá River which flows from Eiriksjökull Glacier. Open May through October, horses are available for riders of all capabilities as well as the disabled and wheelchair users. The riding school here offers a 5-day course for children and teenagers during the summer.

6. Fengur Horse Rental at Traðir Guesthouse, 356 Traðir Snæfellsbær, Snæfellsnesi (tel. 431-5353; www.tradirguesthouse.net), 187 km from Reykjavik. With two locations in Traðir and 14 km west in Lýsudalur, Fengur Horse Rental allows for rides from an hour in duration or up to an entire day. While most will choose to ride along the Staðará River or follow the shoreline of Löngufjörur, options exist May through September to ride in the mountains, through lava fields, or to a nearby cave. The Traðir Guesthouse has sleeping space for 26 people in various configurations and an on site cafe.

7. Giljar, 320 Reykholt (tel. 691-8711; www.giljar.com), 65 km from Reykjavik. A working farm of 30 horses and 400 sheep situated in West Iceland’s Borgarbyggð, Giljar operates 1-3 hour riding tours daily during the summer months. Described as ‘calm’, the riding tours at Giljar are suitable for both beginners and those with some experience.

8. Þórarinn Birgir Þórarinsson, Hvítidalur, 371 Búðardalur (tel. 487-5331; email: rbiggi@simnet.is – no website), 144 km from Reykjavik. Remotely located and definitely off the beaten track, Þórarinn Birgir Þórarinsson conducts 1-3 hour riding trips in the surrounding countryside during the months of June through August.

9. Fosshestar, Seljalandsvegur, Ísafjörður (tel. 842-6969; www.fosshestar.is), 445 km from Reykjavik. Fosshestar means waterfall horses and the surrounding Engidalur Valley is known for an abundance of rivers and waterfalls. Short riding tours are offered daily, aimed mostly at beginners but suitable for all types of riders, and transportation is included from anywhere in Ísafjörður. Riding tours are typically 1-1.5 hours in length and are geared towards your particular ability and interests with advanced riders being given more challenging mounts. Small group non-riding horse encounters are also offered year round that provide a chance to meet the horses and ask questions of the farm crew. Accommodation is available in nearby historic Tangafgata, either a private 130 sq meter house or a newly renovated bungalow.

10. Lýsuhóll-Snæhestar, 356 Snæfellsbær (tel. 435-6716; www.lysuholl.is), 187 km from Reykjavik. Lýsuhóll-Snæhestar offers year round short horse rides on an hourly basis and for a full day in the countryside landscape that surrounds the farm. Beginners and experienced riders are both welcome and several multi-day itineraries are offered in the high season. Accommodation is available with options including self-contained summer cottages as well as rooms in the guesthouse at all times of the year.

11. Svaðilfari, Þórður Halldórsson, Laugarholti, 510 Hólmavík (tel. 456-4858; www.strandir.is), 225 km from Reykjavik. Specializing in a small group atmosphere, Svaðilfari delivers an 8 day circular riding tour complete with traditional Icelandic cuisine around and across the Drangajokull icecap. Group size is limited to just 6 riders and accommodation is communal at abandoned farms.

12. Brimhestar, Brimilsvellir, 356 Snæfellsbær (tel. 436-1533; www.islandia.is/brimhestar), 187 km from Reykjavik. One of the largest estates in the north of Snæfellsnes, Brimhestar is situated by the sea and surrounded by mountains. A maximum of 8 riders are invited to spent a week at the farm during the months of June, July, and August. Spend 3-5 hours per day in the saddle and enjoy guided sightseeing further in the region by car. Accommodation is in single or double rooms in the guesthouse and transportation is included from Reykjavik.

13. Strandahestar, Víðidalsá , 510 Hólmavík (tel. 862-3263; www.strandahestar.is), 225 km from Reykjavik. Open in the summer months, Strandahestar conducts an hour long ride around Húsadalsá, a half day trip to Þiðriksvallavatn, and a 5 hour/500 meter trek for experienced riders over the mountains from Steingrímsfjörður to Króksfjarðarnes. 3 day tours through the countryside are possible upon request.

South Iceland

white Icelandic Horse1. Riding Tours South Iceland, Syðra-Langholt 3, 845 Flúðir (tel. 772-1299; www.ridingtourssouthiceland.com), 97 km from Reykjavik. Both short horse riding tours and multi-day itineraries are offered, each with several variations. For beginners and families there are one hour rides as well as two hour versions for regular riders who want a bit more adventure. Full day rides (4.5 hours) can take you to a local hot spring or include a delicious Icelandic brunch. A selection of 6 day journeys offers a chance to visit many of the highlights of South Iceland. Options include the popular autumnal sheep roundup but also a 5-day family tour.

2. Kálfholt, Ásahreppi, IS-851 Hella (tel. 487-5176; www.kalfholt.is), 90 km from Reykjavik. Kálfholt conducts short rides and multi-day treks through all seasons and for riders of all ages and experience levels. There is a 30 minute ride just for children and a beginners’ ride of an hour, but also a two hour ride for riders of all levels and May through September a 3 hour tour for the experienced. A full day (5 hour) ride is also available during summer months that covers 20 km of ground within the river valley. Multi-day tours include a two day day family option, a 4 day tour for all levels, 6 days for experienced riders, and a 3 day tour for women only while winter offers a 3 day weekend getaway tour. Training courses can be taken as well for those preparing to compete or wishing to better their riding skills.

3. Hestheimar, 851 Hella (tel. 487-6666; www.hestheimar.is), 90 km from Reykjavik. Lying in the shadow of the Hekla volcano, Hestheimar delivers in the summer months several choices of guided 7 day treks in the Reykjavik area, Þingvellir, or the black beach at Þykkvibær. A full day ride is also available on riding tracks near the farm. Hestheimer operates a week long training course for those who wish to improve their skills and or kids there is a popular 6 day riding camp in the summertime. Accommodation options in the guesthouse include a double room, apartment, and cottage; the latter two can accommodate up to 6 people. There is also a restaurant on site that overlooks three nearby glaciers.

4. Hekluhestar, Austvaðsholt, 851 Hella (tel. 487-6598; www.hekluhestar.is), 100 km from Reykjavik. With its origins going back to 1981, Heklushestar was a pioneer in leading guided horse rides to Iceland’s interior highlands. Today, several dates are offered in the summer months for rides of 6 and 8 day lengths. Riding is 4-7 hours per day in a small group, crossing lava fields and high country desert before reaching the Landmannalaugar geothermal area. Hekluhestar also is home to a year round guesthouse that can sleep up to 18, built in a traditional style with a turf roof.

5. Steinsholt, Steinsholt II, 801 Hruni (tel. 486 6069; www.steinsholt.is), 99 km from Reykjavik. In a location that once played a key role in Iceland’s history during the Middle Ages, Steinsholt today operates tours ranging from 3 to 7 days for riders of varying abilities. The shortest tours are 3 or 4 days during which riding is for 2-3 hours in the morning and in the afternoon touring is by car. Another 4 day option is based at the Steinsholt guesthouse allowing for evening relaxation. For the regular rider, a 3 day option includes overnight stays in iconic mountain huts and a 5 day tour is offered in the autumn for sheep roundup. Experienced riders may enjoy a 7 day excursion around the volcano Hekla or 6 days seeing the sights of Southern Iceland. The guesthouse at Steinsholt provides single, double, and triple rooms with or without shared bath and all tours include transport to and from Reykjavik.

6. Hella Horse Rental, Gaddstadaflatir, 850 Hella (tel. 864-5950; www.hellahorserental.is), 90 km from Reykjavik. Centrally located within an hour’s drive of many South Iceland attractions, Hella Horse Rental conducts 1.5 hour rides during the summer months at three times throughout the day and evening. The ride follows the Ytri-Rangá River to the Ægisíðufoss waterfall, all the while you are surrounded by the scenery of the volcanoes Hekla and Eyjafjallajökull. A 3 hour tour for more experienced riders goes to another waterfall, Árbæjarfos, making for a more challenging ride. Accommodation is available in summer months in a 3 bedroom apartment in central Hella with full facilities that can sleep 8 people.

7. Núpshestar, Breiðanes, 801 Selfoss (tel. 852-5930; www.nuphestar.is), 51km from Reykjavik. Located on the Þjórsá river, Núpshestar operates tours of a few hours or a few days during the months of May through October. Rides of 1-3 hours are available for all abilities on the trails near the farm and 6 hour rides can be customised to your individual interests. Also offered are 3 day treks into the Southern Highlands and the Þjórsárdalur region or for the fall sheep roundup as well as a 6 day journey to the geothermal features of Landmannalaugar for experienced riders.

8. Horsetravel.is, Hrólfsstaðahellir, 851 Hella (tel. 862-8101; www.horsetravel.is), 100 km from Reykjavik. Several day ride options are offered including a one hour journey along the Ranga river or a 2-3 hour ride that also traverses a lava field and visits an old sheepfold. Longer tours (4-5 hours) in the area are possible by request.

9. Horse Rental Skálakot, Geopark – Austurvegur 4, 860 Hvolsvöllur (tel. 487-8953 ; www.skalakot.com) 100 km from Reykjavik. For 25 years Horse Rental Skálakot has delivered year round riding tours ranging from a few hours through several days. For beginners there is a one hour ride to the Irafoss waterfall or a two hour trip up a hill to view the Vestmanna Islands. For riders with some experience, 3 hours can take you to Lake Holtsós and a black beach. Several multi-day tours are available of 4-5 days including one to the interior highlands. For experienced riders, a 7 day experience is offered to Landmannalaugar. Farm stay with full board is available at Skálakot as are hiking tours.

East Iceland

Horseback Riders On Icelandic Horses

1. Odin Tours, Hoskuldsstadir, 760 Breiddalsvik (tel. 475-8088; www.odintoursiceland.com), 607 km from Reykjavik. Open year round, Odin Tours offers both short and long riding tours and horses for all types of riders. A free demonstration as well as learning time is always available prior to your ride. Accommodation is possible in an on site cottage as are hiking tours in the area.

2. Stóra-Sandfell Travel Service, Stóra-Sandfell 3, Skriðdalur (tel. 471-2420; email: jfk@exmax.is – no website), 609 km from Reykjavik. Horse riding tours at Stóra-Sandfell are held June through September and range from one to 4 hours on the many trails in the nearby area. Hiking is also popular and in the summer there are midnight rides. Accommodation options include a campsite, cottage rentals, or a bed in a shared space.

3. Skorrahestar, Skorrastad 4, 740 Nordfirdi (tel. 477-1736; www.skorrahestar.is), 709 km from Reykjavik. Riding tours at Skorrahestar are operated May through September with two hours as a standard length but a full day of 6-8 hours is possible upon request. Multi-day excursions are also available on select dates of lengths up to 6 days with 3-4 days being the most popular. Destinations include the deserted East Iceland Fjords, the highlights of East Iceland, and the fall sheep roundup. The guesthouse is a renovated barn made available for farm stay complete with home cooked meals.

4. Stóri-Bakki, Stóra-Bakka, 701 Egilsstaðir, Hróarstunguvegur (tel. 866-5783; www.stori-bakki.com), 644 km from Reykjavik. Stóri-Bakki provides the opportunity to ride for an hour or a full day in the Hróarstunga region as well as a comprehensive one week course. June through August, an 8 day package is offered that combines a few hours of riding daily with touring by car to the black sand beach at Héraðssandur, Hallormsstaði, Mývatn, Borgarfjörður, and the highlands with all accommodation at the Stóri-Bakki lodge.

5. Glacier Horses, Sel in Svínafell, 785 Öræfi, Hornafjörður (tel. 847-7170; www.glacierhorses.is), 445 km from Reykjavik. Located near the Öræfajökull glacier and Hvannadalshnjúkur, the highest peak in Iceland, Glacier Horses conducts 1-1.5 hour riding tours June through September in Sel, 6 km from Skatfanell National Park.

6. Fljótsbátar, Laufskógar Hallormsstað (tel. 847-0063; email: vediskl@simnet.is – no website), 670 km from Reykjavik. Open daily in summer near an old schoolhouse in the Hallormsstaður forest, Fljótsbátar promises scenic riding tracks in the forest and horses suitable for every rider.

7. Húsey, Hróarstunga, IS – 701 Egilsstaðir (tel. 471-3010; www.husey.de), 644 km from Reykjavik. Open year round, Húsey is located between two glacial rivers, the Jökulsá á Brú and the LagarfIjót. A unique package is offered May through September wherein you have your own horse for the week and can partake in daily riding tours or create your own itinerary. Included is a week’s stay in the hostel accommodation at Húsey (self-catering, shared kitchen). A two hour riding excursion is offered daily in an area frequented by seals as is a 4 hour ride to the Jokulsa river. There is also a two day tour with an overnight and a 7 day ‘best of’ itinerary that returns nightly to sleep at Húsey.

8. Gæðinga Tours, Útnyrðingsstaðir, 701 Egilsstaðir (tel. 471-1727; www.gaedingatours.is), 644 km from Reykjavik. Gæðinga operates both short rides of 1-2 hours for all levels of ability as well as several longer tours in the months of June through September.

9. Arnanes, Rte 1, 6km west of Hofn, Höfn (tel. 478-1550; www.arnanes.is), 450 km from Reykjavik. An excellent base from which to explore Vatnajökull National Park and Jökulsárlónice lagoon, Arnanes provides horses for every rider through the months of May through September. Both short and long tours are offered and beginners always get a personal lesson before their ride. 18 rooms are available for accommodation as well as a full service restaurant that features locally sourced food.

North Iceland

Icelandic Horse riding1. Galsi Horse Rental, Arnargerði 33, 540 Blönduó (tel. 692-0118; www.galsi.is), 237 km from Reykjavik. Galsi provides three ride options for riders of all abilities. The ‘first ride’ allows for time to meet the horse and learn how to saddle up with a ride time of 20 minutes. An easy ride for novice and intermediate riders includes 1.5 hours of riding time and a country ride that combines all 5 gaits is available for advanced riders for 4 hours to Lake Húnavatn.

2. Pólar Hestar, Grýtubakki II Farm, Akureyri 601 (tel. 463-3179; www.polarhestar.is), 380 km from Reykjavik. Based in the Afterburner Valley where the mountains of the Fjördur Peninsula meet the Arctic Sea, Pólar Hestar has over 30 years of tour experience and is open throughout the year. Short tours are of one, two, 3, and 4 hour durations while 5 different 6-8 day itineraries are conducted through Iceland’s northeastern regions to locations such as Lake Mývatn and the Goðafoss waterfall.

3. Lukka Langhús, 570 Fljót, Skagafjörður (tel. 847-8716; www.icelandichorse.is), 237 km from Reykjavik. A working sheep and dairy farm, Lukka Langhús welcomes visitors year round. Short horse riding options include a one hour lesson that is tailored to either the beginner or experienced riders, a two hour beach or Viking ride in the Flokadalur valley and a lively 3 hour countryside ride or to the Flokadalsá river. The more adventurous may wish to try a 4-5 hour journey to a remote highland pasture where the young horses spend their summers or up a 630 meter mountain following a medieval trail to a fishing village, a winter Northern Lights ride, and in the fall the 3 day roundup up of 1,000 horses from the Kolbeinsdalur pasture.

4. Lytingsstadir, 560 Varmahlið (tel. 453-8064; www.lythorse.com), 286 km from Reykjavik. Known for its year round offerings of both short and long riding tours, Lytingsstadir also maintains 3 self-catering cottages to be used as rentals. In the summer one may ‘Stop and Ride’, combining a two hour riding experience with an overnight stay. Winter also affords the opportunity for a 1-2 hour ride during which you are likely to sight the Northern Lights. A series of popular multi-day tours are run throughout June until September including a midsummer night’s ride, highlights of Skagafjörður, the interior highlands, and fall’s sheep and horse roundups.

5. Tvistur Horse Rental Service, Hringsholt (tel. 861-9631; www.tvistur.is). 387 km from Reykjavik. Tvistur conducts rides of 1-3 hours in the birdland nature reserve of Svarfaðardalur. One may also ride into the mountains for 1-4 hours and in winter 1-3 hour rides are given in the Skjaldarvik area. Tours of 3-5 days can be requested for 7-18 people and lessons are included for novice horse riders.

6. Skjaldarvik, 601 Akureyri (tel. 552-5200; www.skjaldarvik.is), 380 km from Reykjavik. Skjaldarvik provides both daily short rides (1.5 hours) year round as well as combination packages during the high season after which one may enjoy the on site hot tub at no additional charge. The guesthouse at Skjaldarvik has 28 rooms including some that accommodate 3-4 people and the restaurant is open July through September. Also available are bike rentals and buggy rides which can both be combined with a partial day of horse riding. A popular summer package is the Ride and Bite which pairs 1.5 hours of riding with a two course meal. 45 minute riding lessons are provided for children and in the summer a 4 day adventure is operated which includes two nights at Skjaldarvik and one night in a traditional Icelandic turf house.

7. Hestasport, Vegamót, 560 Varmahlíð (tel. 453-8383; www.riding.is), 286 km from Reykjavik. Located in Skagafjörður and open year round, Hestasport is proudly Iceland’s oldest riding tour operator with 40 years of experience to its name. Short rides range from an hour to all day with longer options available into the highlands or to attractions such as the Reykajafoss waterfall. During peak season, an hour long introductory ride is a popular choice for beginners with a two hour ride also offered along the Svarta river. For intermediate riders, there is a 3 hour ride to the Héraðsvötn river’s glacial delta and an all day journey that follows alongside the Húseyjarkvísl waterway. Riders of all abilities may wish to combine two hours of riding with 3 hours of rafting on the West Glacier River and in the winter, a 1-1.5 hour Viking ride is offered. Longer tours are also part of Hestasport’s program with several choices of 3-6 days which are all suitable for intermediate to advanced riders. On site are 7 self-catering cottages in walking distance of town that can accommodate 2-6 people.

8. Riding Iceland, Höfðabrekka 13, 640 Húsavík (tel. 892-4645; www.riding-iceland.com), 472 km from Reykjavik. While morning and afternoon day rides are operated along the coastline and in the area of Lake Mývatn, Riding Iceland’s true strength is in the number and variety of multi-day tours that are offered. Summer delivers the most options with over a dozen tours to various corners of the country in lengths of 5-10 days. In addition, there are 4 and 5 day winter tours, fall roundups of both sheep and horses, and a 4 or 5 day skills workshop.

9. Flugumýri, 560 Varmahlíð, Skagafirði (tel. 453-8814; www.flugumyri.is), 286 km from Reykjavik. Situated in the heart of Skagafjörður, Flugumýri conducts day rides from an hour to a day in length, always with riding instruction included. Flugumýri is also a horse breeding farm and there is accommodation on site in the form of a small flat with 3 bedrooms. Farm visits for an hour or two are additionally available which include a horse show to demonstrate all 5 gaits of the Icelandic horse.

10. Garður, Aðaldal, 641 Húsavík (tel. 464-3569; www.gardur.de), 472 km from Reykjavik. Serving as both a guesthouse and a horse breeding farm, Garður offers introductory rides of an hour (30 minutes for children) and trips in the adjacent area of 1, 2, and three hour lengths. Additionally, an 8 day journey that includes many highlights of North Iceland is operated during the summertime.

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