Guide to Horse riding Iceland
As summer comes into full swing in the northern hemisphere, there is no better place to vacation than Iceland. Visit its capital, Reykjavik, and hike along the volcanic mountains with their lava fields, mountains and glacial rivers.
Hike walk and drive all around Iceland all you like, but there is nothing quite so awe-inspiring and memory-producing than horse riding tours.
The Horses of Iceland
Horses are as much natives of Iceland as the people. The very first Icelandic horse, most likely of German descent, stepped off from a Viking ship in the late 9th century. The horse’s reliability, intelligence, small stature, and friendly nature have kept it a favorite from the very beginning.
Norse mythology gives this majestic creature its full respect - not only did several Norse gods and their enemies, the giants, own these horses, but the most famous of these was Sleipnir, an eight-footed pacer. Even to this day, many Icelandic riding clubs bear the names of mythological horses.
The horses are not limited to mythology!
Icelandic sagas have their fair share of horses, from beasts of war to hunting mounts. After all, for a warrior the horse was absolutely indispensable. For many hundreds of years, horses were Icelandic citizens’ chief form of transport. The tasks of transport and work animals kept the horse “the most useful servant” up until the first automobile’s arrival in 1904.
While only 270,000 people inhabit the small country of Iceland, it boasts around 80,000 horses. Practically speaking, the horses are used for the annual sheep roundup, however leisure and competition are their primary uses today.
Scenic Horseback Trails in Iceland
Your primary goal in Iceland? Leisure, of course! We have prepared a list of horseback tours in Iceland, for your visiting pleasure.
Golden Circle Horseback Riding Day Tours
Kill two birds with one stone - ride one of the sturdy Icelandic horses, and view three unparalleled sites of the Golden Circle. Take a two-hour horseback ride through the lush green countryside, with views from mountains to plains and down to the ocean.
First stop? Geysir Geothermal Area. Every ten minutes in this location, the geyser Strokkur erupt up to 40 m (or 131 feet). Nearby are several hot springs and steaming fumaroles.
Stop #2 is Gulfoss, the “golden waterfall”. Here, the Hvíta waterfall pours down two separate tiers into the plunging valley. During this summery, warmer time of the year, you can reach a viewing platform up at the top of the waterfall for a breathtaking view.
The final stop on this tour is the Þingvellir National Park. The only UNESCO site on the continent, Þingvellir was the original site of the world’s longest-running ongoing representative parliament.
Looking for a personal experience with the Icelandic environment? Definitely check out a tour through the lava fields. You do not have to be an experienced rider. You will be matched with a mount ideal for your skill level and soon set off with up to nineteen other people across the lava fields of Iceland.
The environment through which you will be riding is truly drastic. These lava fields came into being when an eruption scraped the entire plains clean of plant life. They now resemble pebbled, craggy riverbeds filled with rocks. Plant life attempts to reclaim the plains, covering it in blankets of moss, scrub brush and purple lupine.
Not for nothing was the importation of horses to Iceland forbidden after the 10th century - your curious, friendly mount will become as much a friend as a horse by the end of your beautiful tour!
Lava fields not your thing? Take a horseback ride through the mountainous Hengill region. The active volcano’s heated water bubbles up in a variety of hot springs and fumaroles, the entire region providing much of the hydrothermal energy for the south Iceland. The horses can relax as you recline in one of the warm rivers, beneath the picturesque mountains and surrounded by lush grass.
After you’re out and dried off, you’ll mount again and set off on a ride past the Hveragerði village and surrounding farmlands, a clear day providing a view of the Westman Islands. The colorful Guðudalur valley with its clear evidence of the 2008 earthquake comes as the last stop on your scenic route, followed by some coffee and homemade cake in a local farm.
Can you do any better than that? Cake, coffee, relaxing in a hot spring, and horseback riding through one of the most beautiful regions on Earth?
Family Nature Horseback Riding Tour
Traveling with family? Smaller children? Looking for something not only enjoyable, but safe and educational? Visit the spacious Riding Centre just outside Reykjavik. Here you will see a large paddock and barn, home to dogs, cats and bunnies for guests such as you (and your kids!) to pet.
The tour begins with a history of the Icelandic horse, followed by a walk trot through the well-kept trails in the fields around the riding center. The guide takes each trip slowly and carefully, ensuring that every rider feels safe and comfortable.
But the safety feature doesn’t mean you don’t get to see some of the beautiful scenery that Iceland has to offer - the Bláfjöll mountains rise in the distance, and you will be completely surrounded by craggy lava fields filled with moss, thorny bushes, and epic rock formations.
What are you waiting for?
Why wait to visit these epic locations and meet such friendly, legendary horses? Iceland - with all its volcanic grounds, beautiful mountain ranges, geysers and ocean views - is only a plane ticket away.
How can you say no to visiting the land of Norse mythology? Walk the Bláfjöll mountains yourself. Visit Gulfoss, the golden waterfall. Ride a horse through the volcanic plains like a Norse warrior of old.
Don’t rely on what you can find online - pictures and documentaries don’t compare to the raw emotion of experiencing this amazing country for yourself, and what better way than renting a Kuku Camper van and seeing everything in your hotel on wheels? I’ll see you in Iceland!
Do people in Iceland eat horses?
After the Christening of the entire country in the 10th century, eating horse meat was, in fact, forbidden. But many centuries have passed and the answer to this question is yes, Icelander do still eat horse meat but they do not eat the same horses as they ride.
Are horses wild in Iceland?
For centuries Icelandic horses have lived half wild and half tame. In the summer farmers drive them to the highlands, where they live without human care for months. There is a herd of about 100 wild horses in Iceland. For those who want to know where to find Icelandic horses, your best bet is a horseback riding tour or horse farm in Iceland.
Where are the horses in Iceland?
They´re all over, just stop where they are at the road side. Just don´t stop on the road, find a place to get the kuku campervan completely off the road. You will mostly spot Icelandic horses by the side of the Ring Road throughout the country, in all but the worst of weather; don’t worry! they are well used to Iceland's winters!
Should I call them ponies or horses ?
They may be short, but still, they are not ponies. If one calls the Icelandic horses “ponies”, he/she will not make local friends! Icelanders are really proud of their horses. Icelandic horses tend to be around 132 to 142 cm tall (52 to 56 inches). According to the international rules, most horse breeds shorter the 148 cm (58 inches) are categorized as ponies. However, there are other characteristics that make a horse a pony and the Icelandic horse is right on the limit. Icelandic people will always argue about that. According to them, the horses have the genetic makeup, intelligence and strength of a horse and not a pony.
What should I wear ?
The most important thing is to wear something you think comfortable while riding. It could be a dress on high heels! But it will be better for you with high riding boots with a heal. Make sure to bring more than one pair of comfortable shoes to change if you get wet!