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Horseback riding is a national sport in Iceland. Most Icelandic families have at least one horse enthusiast among them and the riding trail system between the local riding clubs in and around Reykjavík is spectacular! Soft and firm trails through the beautiful volcanic landscapes are kept accessible all year long, some are even equipped with a floodlight to give people a chance for a quick tölt after work. Add first-class competition facilities and Icelandic horse life becomes a true joy, even during winter!
During this tour, you will be staying in double or single rooms with private facilities in Reykjavík. A single room supplement surcharge applies. Usually, Exploring Iceland cannot offer shared twins since most people who choose hotel tours don't want to share a room with a stranger. Icelandic hotels are usually decorated in a modern Scandinavian style. They usually have strict non-smoking policies and are clean and comfortable.
They usually offer Wi-Fi free of charge and their staff speaks good English. Some members of staff often speak German or Scandinavian languages. Rooms come with private shower and WC, some have a bathtub. There are usually one or two restaurants that offer a selection of cold and hot meals. Most but not all hotels have either a geothermally heated hot tub or sauna.
Skuggi Hotel is a modern three-star hotel right in the city center. Its location and beautiful breakfast buffet have made it a favorite with many of Exploring Iceland's guests! The hotel offers standard and superior rooms equipped with modern shower rooms and all amenities needed for a comfortable stay. Free parking for hotel guests upon availability. The hotel does not feature a restaurant but there is an abundance of restaurants within easy walking distance.
Join local horsewoman Steinunn for a visit into the local horse scene, improve your riding skills with professional trainers, and get to know the fascinating trail network right outside the city limits! Visit a local competition with your knowledgeable host and with a little luck, you might even see the "Northern Lights". Non-riding guests are welcome and can join optional day tours from the hotel.
In the evening, choose from the many restaurants with delicious local cuisine that Reykjavík has to offer and stroll via the famous Laugavegur street with its beautiful cafés and bars. You might even want to add another day for whale watching, a fun Reykavík food walk, or a visit to the Lauga Spa to complete your riding and relaxing holiday in wintertime!
Meet and greet with your local guide, Steinunn, at Keflavík Airport. On your way to Reykjavik, stop at her stable to say hello to her private horses before inviting you to Reykjavík's new attraction: The multi-media "Fly-over-Iceland" show where you will be going for an incredible journey over Iceland's natural wonders including wind, mist, scent, and lots of motion!
A short Reykjavík city tour will give you a sense of this vibrant little capital up high in the north. Drop off at your hotel for a free evening. Dinners will be individual.
Pick up at your accommodation at 10 a.m. You will be starting with a professional lesson by one of the Reykjavík riding instructors before enjoying lunch at the cute Álftanes Café, offering tasty local food with a view. After lunch, enjoy a short trail ride on Steinunn's private horses along the shores of the picturesque Álftanes Peninsula with views of Bessastaðir, the residence of the Icelandic president and the Reykjavík skyline.
In the evening, your local guide will take you to a competition where you can see some of Iceland's finest horses compete and get a feeling of the Icelandic horse scene. On your way back, you might spot some Northern lights!
Pick up at your accommodation at 10 a.m. Enjoy another lesson with your professional trainer before setting off for a short trail ride along the magnificent trails that connect the local riding clubs. Perfect trails for tölting, some even with floodlight, give you an understanding why horseback riding is called a national sport in Iceland.
After the ride, join your host for a visit to the winter fields where mares and youngsters are kept outside. Enjoy picture taking with the cute horses in the big winter coats. Return to the hotel, evening, and have dinner individually.
Enjoy a free morning for (tack?) shopping before catching your transfer to Keflavík International Airport or add another day for additional excursions and rides!
Exploring Iceland reserves the right to alter routes, itineraries, or timetables should the necessity arise. The estimated duration of tours as indicated by kilometer or timing can change according to road or weather conditions. Please note that the Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon and sightings cannot be guaranteed.
The Icelandic horse is a small breed of horse that has evolved in isolation in Iceland. It is indeed a horse and not a pony. They are small but strong and very tough! The horse has survived in Iceland for 1100 years without any crossbreeding. The Icelandic horse is relatively small, its average height ranging from 132 to 145 centimeters high. Still, it is so strong that it can easily carry a full-grown adult.
It has a spirited temperament and a wonderful personality. It comes in over 100 different colors and color patterns, even colors you would not find among other breeds. The horses are known for their extreme sure-footedness and ability to cross even the roughest terrain, glacial rivers, and lava fields.
It has two additional gaits; besides the walk, trot, and gallop you find in other horse breeds, it also has the ability to perform the tölt and pace. The tölt is a four-beat gait where the sequence of footfalls is the same as in walk. This means that at least one foot is on the ground at any time. That being the case, there is no period of suspension within the tölt.
This lack of suspension in the gait means it has a smoothness which is comfortable for the rider as there is no time when the horse bounces the rider out of the saddle. Some of the horses can also do the "skeið", the "flying pace". It is used in pacing competitions and is very fast, even sometimes faster than a full-speed gallop.
Some pacers can go as fast as 50 kilometers per hour but it is not a gait used for long distances. But the most exciting thing about these horses is their friendly "will to go". Iceland loves to refer to them as their good-natured "Porsches", with the speed but without the pollution!
Exploring Iceland operates all of its tours in cooperation with local partners that are horse people through and through. They breed their own horses and train them themselves. Their partners are the experts they turn to in order to provide the most authentic and original experience for guests.
They operate their tours in their home region where they know each and every mountain, creek, and canyon. Their partners are their local experts, they know the hidden gems you don't read about in guidebooks and they know the tales, songs, and stories associated with every trail. Meet their partners and guides!
The tack is very similar to the one used by English-style riding, but don't worry if you come from a Western riding background, they will assist you and you will get used to the tack in no time. They use safety stirrups on all saddles and will ask you to wear a helmet at all times. You can bring your own helmet or you can borrow one of the partner's without extra charge.
The bridles are very practical, they have clip-on reins that you can release so that your horse can have some grass while you enjoy your break! They'll also provide you with a saddlebag, big enough for your picnic, gloves, and a small camera.
Exploring Iceland would like to make the bold statement that everybody can ride an Icelandic horse! You just need to choose the right tour for your likes and abilities and they will choose the right horse for you. For the multi-day tours, you should already have some general horseback riding experience.
For the comfortable rides and luxury riding tours, intermediate riding skills are sufficient. However, for the authentic rides where the rides are across the remote highland accompanied by a herd of spare horses, you should fulfill these requirements:
Please note: You do not need any prior knowledge of Icelandic horses or the special gait, tölt. Exploring Iceland will explain the way of riding and will take time and patience to teach you how to ride the tölt. However, you might get more out of a multi-day trip if you know already a little bit about tölting.
This is why Exploring Iceland offers a pre-tour for their multi-day tours in cooperation with its partners. On this pre-tour, you'll stay for two days and one night with full board on a farm with excellent horses and riding facilities and qualified riding instructors who will teach you in two days the basics of riding the tölt.
Altogether, you will spend 10 hours in the saddle and lessons will take place inside an indoor riding area and outside in nature. This is also a splendid way to get back in shape in case you do not ride on a regular basis at home. That way, you are done with the sore muscles by the time your long tour starts!
Exploring Iceland especially recommends this pre-tour for riders that are used to Western riding. But as already mentioned above, this pre-tour is just a service to make sure you enjoy the tour even more but it is not a requirement. Exploring Iceland will take good care of you either way!
Icelandic horses are not vaccinated and are therefore susceptible to infectious agents from abroad. Visitors are asked to adopt strict biosecurity measures! Importing the following equipment is strictly prohibited:
Cleaning and disinfection
Used riding clothes and boots that cannot be placed in a washing machine or dry cleaned should be washed and disinfected as follows:
Thank you for your cooperation, by following these rules, you are doing your bit towards horse welfare in Iceland!
Steinunn bought her first horse at the age of 16 and has been smitten by the "horse bug“ ever since. By now, she owns 14 horses and some of her younger horses come from her own breeding lines. She celebrated her 50th birthday by riding across Iceland, 715 kilometers in 19 days. She is also a keen horse photographer and plays the accordion. She speaks English, Icelandic, some German, and some Scandinavian.
During this tour, you will be served with a daily breakfast buffet and two lunches.
For hotel tours, the breakfast buffet offered by Icelandic hotels is of a modern Scandinavian type, a good selection of bread, jam, cold meat cuts and cheese with a generous cereal selection, cold herring dishes, often smoked or cured salmon, fresh fruits and fried sausages, and eggs.
On most of Exploring Iceland's guided hiking and riding tours, there will be either a cold picnic lunch or you will stop at a place where guests can purchase a light lunch. Please check with each tour for a more detailed description.
Exploring Iceland's partners prepare their food themselves. A cook accompanies tours in a kitchen van bringing food, kitchen utensils, and your luggage along. Exploring Iceland always strives to buy local products and to introduce proper authentic Icelandic cuisine to guests. But don't worry, you won't have to live on the rotten shark in case you have already heard of the (in)famous hákarl!
They typically serve Icelandic fish like salmon, artic char, trout, haddock, and cod. Of course, you will also get to taste the wonderful Icelandic lamb, delicious meat coming from high welfare animals. In case you are a vegetarian, no need to worry; just let them know in advance about your preferences and they will cater to your needs as well.
There will be few if any chances to buy food or beverages during the trip, so bring your chocolate and beer as well. During the tour, all non-alcoholic beverages are included but you can buy a can of beer or a glass of wine from Exploring Iceland's partners during the tour. They usually don't serve soda drinks but lovely pure and healthy non-chlorine Icelandic water!
Please note that in luxury tours and farm stay tours, they do not take a kitchen van. Food on these tours is provided or bought at the premises, the luggage is nevertheless transported by car in between accommodations.
Icelanders love to eat; at home and on tour! Not surprisingly in such a cold climate since a good and hearty meal could improve your survival chances immensely in the old days when traveling through the harsh arctic climate. Although common travel comfort has largely improved since medieval times, a good meal is still important especially when you are out and about all day long.
So Exploring Iceland would like to introduce some of the staples of modern Icelandic diet, some of them being real delicassies, others not so much but are fun to try like the famous rotten shark! Let's start with the good stuff!
A few words about lamb meat in Iceland: at Exploring Iceland, they do not support industrial farming but are happy to offer guests the Icelandic lamb. The lambs are born in May and will then spend the whole summer up in the mountains with their mothers to feed on the herbs of the highland. In September, they are rounded up and brought to slaughter. The mothers are mainly fed on good hay for the whole winter.
So this type of farming is very natural and animal friendly, they do, of course, understand and respect everybody who does not like to consume meat for animal welfare reasons. However, lambs reared in Iceland had at least a wonderful life! Please note that Exploring Iceland is happy to offer vegetarian meals on our tours!
Most vegetables in Iceland are grown in geothermally heated greenhouses. Most of them use "biological pest control", minimizing the use of pesticides and making tomatoes even better and healthier. A wonderful place to visit is Friðheimar Farm, not far from Gullfoss and Geysir. At Friðheimar, you can actually sit down and eat lovely homemade tomato soup from their own produces; definitely worth a stop!
Potatoes, carrots, and cabbage can be grown outside but often farmers use hot water to "warm-up" the ground! Tasty mushrooms, strawberries, and raspberries are also grown with the help of geothermal energy at Flúðir village; genius!
Keflavík International Airport
Please arrange your flight to arrive at Keflavík International Airport (KEF). Private airport transfers are included, Exploring Iceland will pick you up at the airport.
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