A group of riders waits for a large herd of horses to cross a river. High mountains in the backdrop.

Herding the horses at Laufskálarétt - a special adventure in stunning landscape. photo credit @Nele Mahnke

Six unforgettable riding tours in Iceland

Iceland can be explored in many ways – by car, by bike, or by foot. But choosing the traditional way of Icelandic transportation on the sturdy sure-footed and reliable Icelandic horse, brings you closer to nature and connects you to the landscape in a unique way. Horse riding tours, short and long, for beginners and advanced riders are offered in every part of the country. Here is a tiny selection of special riding trips for inspiration.

1.    Wild and untamed – Herding horses at the Laufskálarétt horse round-up

The Northwest of Iceland, especially the area around the Skagafjord, is famous for horse breeding and riding. The University of Hólar with its department of equine studies is situated here as well. Every year at the end of September the horse round-ups (“stóðréttir”) are held in Iceland, and the biggest one, Laufskálarétt is popular with visitors from the whole country and abroad. Thousands of spectators come every year to watch the horses getting gathered in big corrals and sorted after a summer on the meadows.  Do you want to take part and not only watch? Over three days advanced riders gather and ride into the mountains alongside free-running horses and herd the horses into the valley, experiencing untamed nature – and sometimes the onset of winter. These rides are quite demanding and adventurous but an unforgettable experience for everyone taking part.

Hestasport riding tours: ”Game of horses”

5 horses with riders galloping along a long yellow sand beach in the sunshine. On the right hand side one can see the ocean.

Riders galloping on the long yellow beaches of Snæfellsnes. photo credit @eldhestar

2.    Snæfellsnes – the all-landscapes-in-one package

This 7-day tour starts from Borgarnes and entails riding for approximately 190 kilometers along the south coast of Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Due to the diversity of the landscape, this part of the country is often called “Iceland in a nutshell”.  Riding through lava and green fields, fording several rivers, and galloping on one of the longest yellow-sanded beaches in Iceland, makes the riding experience unique. All whilst having the famous Snæfellsjökull glacier in close vicinity. Included is a short hike up the crater Eldborg, a step into Iceland’s geological past. The crater measures 200 meters in diameter and is said to have erupted 5-6000 years ago. Its beautiful round shape is visible from far away and makes a great panoramic view of the surroundings when standing on top. The journey ends in Búðir, a place famous for its natural beauty, and the black church by the beach.

Eldhestar: “Magic and Mystery, Black Lava and White Sand”

A group of riders and horses take a break on a green meadow.  In the backdrop a high mountain peak.

Over hill and dale - on a riding tour along old Icelandic postal routes, the horses can show their full potential. credit@Íshestar

3.    Into the far east – Postmen and puffins

Whilst the likes of us often complain about the daily commute to work, a ride along old Iceland postal routes might put that in a different perspective.

Icelandic postmen in the 19th and first half of the 20th century carried their cargo for weeks through bad weather, over mountain heaths, along glaciers, and through lava fields.

Íshestar offers an 8-day- riding tour on old postal routes in the far East of Iceland. Here the four-legged natives and their experienced riders can finally show off their full potential by climbing steep mountain passes, gallop sandy beaches and ford rivers. The tour overnights in remote mountain huts in Loðmundarfjörður, Húsavík (not the whale-watching town) and Breiðavík. The remote fjords, known as Víknaslóð, might make you feel the connection to the solo traveling mailmen of a time long gone. Unlike them, one gets to warm up afterward in a hotpot in the small town Bakkagerði in Borgarfjörður Eystri.

During summer more than 10.000 pairs of puffins nest in Borgarfjörður Eystri; see them up close at the viewing platform Hafnarhólmi.

Íshestar: “Into the far East”

A long line of horses fording a shallow river.

Some areas are only accessible by foot and horse, which makes riding through one of the most rural areas of the country so special. photo credit @Íslandshestar

4.    From Northeast to East Iceland- Along the old Ring Road through the desert

This tour takes us within 7 days from Northeast to East Iceland on a route that leads partially through the highlands, an area uninhabited and only accessible in the time between June and August/September. The group will follow the paths of travelers in the past, riding along the old Ring Road 901 through Möðrudalur valley, through desertlike landscapes, and along abandoned farms. Being far away from everything gets a new meaning out here.

The tour is packed with nature highlights such as the deepest canyon of Iceland, Jökulsárgljúfur, the photogenic Stuðlagil canyon, and the possibility of watching reindeer, which is only possible in this part of the country.

Combine the trip with sightseeing: The farm Bjarnastaðir from where the riding tour starts, is only a stone's throw away from spectacular sightseeing spots of North East Iceland such as Mývatn, Góðafoss waterfall and the whale-watching town Húsavík.

Islandhestar: "The tour with no name"

5 riders trotting along a path through green bushes and trees on a sunny day.  Mountains in the background

An Icelandic sweater is the absolute go-to piece, also for riding. During a riding and knitting-retreat you can make your own and at the same time enjoy the lush landscape of Borgarfjöður on horseback. photo credit @hestaland 

5.  Mix and match - Combine riding with writing or knitting

The horse farm Hestaland offers trips that intertwine very Icelandic hobbies: riding, writing, and knitting. For 6 days, guests stay on their farm, which is in close vicinity to one of the biggest hot water springs in Europe (Deildartunguhver) and the majestic glaciers Langjökull and Eiriksjökull as well as the historically significant town Borgarnes. In the evenings, guests can either soak in the farm’s hot tub or the nearby Krauma Spa.

This year‘s riding and writing retreat features half a day of enjoying the colorful and picturesque landscape of the Borgarfjörður area on horseback, the other half filled with guided writing sessions and discussions.

The same goes for handcraft: during a riding & knitting retreat, one gets to hold the reins in the morning and knitting needles in the afternoon, which makes for a balanced vacation. With the help of professional instruction, your own Icelandic sweater might be the outcome!

A group of riders ride along a path that is leading through a field of blooming lupines

Riding through fields of lupines, along beautiful lakes and Pseudocraters is also possible in the direct vicinity of Reykjavík. photo credit @Exploring Iceland

6.    Take a ride in the president's backyard

This four-day tour is perfect for experienced riders who want to combine staying at one place and taking daily riding trips in small groups of max. 4 persons into the countryside surrounding Reykjavík.

The tour explores Reykjavík’s beautiful backyard by tölting along the Álftanes peninsula past Bessastaðir, the residency of Iceland’s President. Heiðmörk, a nature reservoir on the edge of Reykjavík with more than 26 different kinds of trees. The Lakes Elliðarvatn, Hafravatn, and Rauðavatn are on the riding schedule as well as the stunningly beautiful Mosfellsdalur Valley and the house Gljúfrasteinn, the former home of the Icelandic author Halldór Laxness. Visits to the Icelandic riding clubs Sörli, Fákur, and Sprettur as well as the grounds of the famous Landsmot competition, provide an insight in Icelandic riding culture.

The grand finale is a ride through the spectacular Rauðhólar area,  5.200 years old remnants of a cluster of fiery red Pseudocraters, that were caused by lava flowing over shallow waters.

Exploring Iceland: “Reykjavík Riding Secrets”

Happy travels!

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Unforgettable horseriding tours in Iceland