A Guide To The horseback riding south Iceland in The Mountains
Imagine horse trekking through Iceland’s snowy highlands – well now you can. The Iceland horse trekking is one of the best tours in Iceland we did. And, we couldn’t recommend it any higher if you’re visiting Reykjavic or Iceland’s South Coast!
There are not many opportunities in life where you will get to ride an Icelandic horse.
What’s so special about Icelandic Horses?
The Icelandic horse is just how Iceland likes to perceive itself: little but strong!
Icelandic horses are best known for their Tölt, which means a walk in Icelandic. Tölt is basically a sped-up version of walking, but much more impressive as the horses lift their front legs up high, and only one foot touches the ground at any time. Tölt is very useful for the often uneven ground of Iceland, providing a steady ride, and was presumably needed back in the day when there weren’t many roads in Iceland.
As a result, the Icelandic horse has been purebred for over 1000 years and has remarkably few livestock diseases, as well as very strict regulations about even bringing saddles or riding boots with you to Iceland.
The Icelandic horse comes in a rainbow variety of colours, with more than forty basic colourings officially listed, as well as over a hundred variations. Additionally, the Icelandic people have long since believed that a horse’s colour might reflect its personality.
So you’ve learnt a little about the uniqueness of Icelandic horses, but where can you actually experience this once in a life time experience?
What company should I choose?
Well, there are lots of different tour operators offering multiple trekking tours all at different prices and located in different areas of Iceland. But how do you know which company is best? Well, we’ve got you covered! We had to opportunity to partake in a half-day Icelandic Horses and Hot Springs Tour operated by Eldhestar and we weren’t disappointed.
Eldhestar has been operating horse riding tours since 1986 so have rightly become renowned experts in their market. Located south East of Reykjavik, Eldhestar is a professional reputable company with over 18 passionate guides who are dedicated to providing guest with unforgettable memories whilst maintaining guests and horses safety.
The unique location between volcanic mountains, rivers and the ocean enables guests to experience diverse and fascinating nature. The area around the volcano Hengill with its beautiful valleys, hot springs and the chance to bathe in naturally warm water is the origin of our name: Volcano horses – Eldhestar in Icelandic.
Guests can relax in a beautiful and peaceful environment, get to know fascinating nature with the Icelandic horses during the day and enjoy fine accommodations, food and drink in a cosy atmosphere in the evenings. They emphasize personal service, safety and an environmentally friendly operation – a perfect combination for the perfect tour.
Don’t forget to book in at one of the best Iceland hotels to maximise your stay in Iceland!
What tours are offered?
There’s something to suit everyone. If you’re looking for a taster session into Icelandic Horse Trekking why not book onto a half-day tour whilst the guides show you the ropes. If you’ve ridden before check out the full day tours, where you can enjoy 5-6 hours of relaxing riding in the scenic Icelandic highlands.
If you’re really serious about riding try out one of their multi-day tours and spend up to a week exploring what Iceland has to offer.
Here’s a sample list of what they offer:
- Meadows and Mountains – This tour follows the river Gljúfurá and continues on an old route towards Ingólfsfjall Mountain and along the slopes of the mountain Reykjafjall
- Midwinter Warmth – Let an adorable Icelandic horse warm your body and soul! After one hour on horseback, you can soften up in the big and warm hotpot in Hveragerði’s famous swimming pool
- The Beach Ride – Experience the extraordinary, the volcanic beach, the river banks and islands of the Ölfusá delta and great views! We take the horses in the trailer to the small fishing town Thorlákshöfn where we start the tour with a ride on the long, black beach.
- Eldhestar Exclusive – Experience some of the most scenic riding trails in Iceland’s South and Southwest for this tour. Experienced riders enjoy spectacular days on horseback in small groups and the comfort of our hotel in the evening.
How to book Horse Trekking Tours?
Simple – just head of too Eldhestar website and book online. Half-day tours, day tours and combo tours are available every day and should be booked at least one day before arrival. During the summer season, book earlier as this is popular activity in Iceland and you don’t want to miss out.
What if I’m not an experienced horse rider?
Even if you’ve never sat on a horse before, not only are the Icelandic horses renowned for their pleasant temperament, they’re also much shorter than other horses – if you fall off, it won’t be far!
The expert guides will match you’re riding skills with a suitable horse – so be honest about your riding history. Different tours are more suited to different riding abilities so make sure you check out what tours are available before you book.
What should you bring?
- Sturdy shoes, good sneakers or hiking boots
- Gloves and a thin hat under the helmet
- If you would like to bring small items such as a camera you should bring a small waist bag, backpacks cannot be taken on horseback.
- Waterproof warm clothing
We had the opportunity to experience the horseback riding south Iceland and Hot Springs half day tour which included 2 hours of riding through an Icelandic forest (a rare sight), passed hot springs and through thermal rivers!
We got picked up at 8am outside of outside our hotel before driving 45 minutes to Eldhestar Stables. On arrival, we got kitted up with waterproof overalls (a must in Icelandic winter), although if you have your own suitable gear that’s fine. We then got fitted for our helmets – safety first!
We were partnered up with our guide who asked us about our riding experience (pretty non-existent if we’re being totally honest) and she matched us to a suitable horse. After a basic guide to horse riding and practice in the gated paddock, we were good to go!
It was a windy winter day and it took a while for us to settle into the swing of things but our horses were very well behaved and listened to our commands. We passed through an Icelandic forest, which are pretty infrequent in Iceland due to chopping down of trees for sheep grazing when the settlers arrived in Iceland over 1000 years ago!
Like cool experiences in Iceland? Check out the kvernufoss waterfall in winter!
We then passed a number of hot springs located in a colourful geothermal area situated just above the village of Hveragerði, a small town also known as the “hot spring capital of the world”. The guide explained the significance of the hot springs in the area and made it very clear that it wasn’t possible to bathe in these springs due to the 80+ degrees water! We even got to walk through Varmá River, also known as the “warm river” as geothermal water flows through it!
There’s plenty of opportunities to grab some awesome pictures to share with family and friends back home, as well as learning about the history and culture of Iceland.
During the ride we have multiple goes at trying the famous Icelandic Toit – the unique four-beat lateral gait, that the breed is best known for. Once we arrived back at the stables, we said our final goodbye to our new horse friends and headed to the café to warm up with hot chocolate and cookies! The perfect way to end a perfect day.
We had an amazing time doing the horseback riding south Iceland experience, and I know you will too! There are not many chances in life, of riding through the snowy mountains on a horse.
Check out my other Iceland travel guides;
- The Golden Circle Tour
- Iceland Northern Lights Tour
- South Iceland Glacier Tour
- Reykjavic Beer Tour
- Kvernufoss waterfall
- Iceland’s Diamond Beach
- Where to stay Reykjavik