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5 Day Riding the Rift Valley Horse Riding Holiday at Thingvellir National Park

Hotel Grimsborgir, Ásborgir 30, Iceland

South Iceland Horseback Riding Holiday

Volcano, rifts, a national park, rivers, and mountain views! This tour takes you straight into the Rift Valley at Þingvellir National Park! While riding on secluded lava and birch-lined trails in between the North American and Eurasian continental plates, you will get a magnificent insight into the fascinating geology and history of Iceland! Imagine tölting on soft and gentle horses through lava fields over highland plateaus and along lovely lake shores as you discover the wonderful natural wonders of the south. Explore the ancient parliamentary place which is the birthplace of the Icelandic nation!

Key Information

  • Rider Weight Limit: 110 kilograms / 240 pounds
  • Horse Height Range: 13 to 14 hands
  • Tack Type: English Tack
  • Horse Breed: Icelandic Horse

Meet the instructors

Meiki & Steinunn "Steina"
Read more

Highlights

  • 5 riding days according to the program
  • You will have an English-speaking guide
  • Visits to Geysir hot spring, the Golden Waterfall Gullfoss, and Fontana Spa
  • Daily breakfast and good picnic or cooked lunches
  • All transfers are included
  • 4 nights accommodation

Skill level

  • Advanced

Styles


5 days with instruction
Group size: 2-4 participants
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Accommodation

You will be staying in double, twin, or single rooms with private facilities. Single rooms require a supplement. Usually, Exploring Iceland cannot offer shared twins since most people who choose hotel tours don't want to share a room with a stranger.

Hotel Grímsborgir (5-star hotel)

With 68 beautiful and spacious superior double rooms and a first-class restaurant, Hotel Grímsborgir is, without doubt, one of the best hotels South Iceland has to offer. Every room has a nice terrace and access to hot tubs in a common area.

Program

Enjoy five days of great trails in and around Thingvellir National Park. Riding along the Hengill volcano area with “Lord of the Rings landscape” towards mountain hut Kringlumýri. Spend two days riding within the national park, traveling between the continental plates, and visiting historical sites. A visit to a geothermal spa is included!

Day 1: Riding through the volcanic Hengill Valley

Pick up at 10 a.m. at your accommodation in Reykjavík by your wonderful Icelandic hosts! Today´s ride will take you through a stunning mountain landscape that takes your mind right towards the settings of the magical Lord of the Rings films: Tuff cliffs, green moss, deserted valley closed by mountains, and beautiful mountain views.

The ride ends at the geothermal area of Nesjavellir, south of Lake Þingvallavatn. By car, go back to your hotel accommodation (Riding distance: 30 kilometers)

Day 2: Nesjavellir - High Mountain Plateau - Kringlumýri

After breakfast, join the horses again and go riding along the shores of Lake Úlfljótsvatn to the beautiful high mountain plateau of Kringlumýri where the horses are left at a typical rustic mountain hut but the guests return to their more luxurious hotel accommodation. There will be wonderful views during the ride! (25 kilometers)

Day 3: Riding in the Rift Valley - Visiting the famous historical sights of Þingvellir

Today's ride will take you on an exciting ride "in between the continents" as you will be riding in the Rift Valley between the diving plates of North America and Eurasia! During the ride, you will visit two abandoned farms with lots of history. After the ride, you will go visiting the famous historical sights of Þingvellir National Park. This place is really the heart of the Icelandic Nation!

Here did Icelanders meet for their annual Thing meetings from 930 to the end of the 18th century, it is here where they decided to take on Christianity in the year 1000 and declared independence in 1944. Exploring Iceland will walk you to all of the historical sights to give you a perfect view of all the historical sights. (18 kilometers)

Day 4: Riding through Game of Thrones scenery - Golden Circle sightseeing – Fontana spa

In the morning, you will be riding through breathtaking landscape and filming locations of the famous series, Game of Thrones, at Þingvellir National Park! (15 kilometers). After the ride, enjoy a hot lunch at a local cozy restaurant before setting off to visit the famous sights of the Golden Circle by car.

You will visit the Golden Waterfall Gullfoss and the erupting hot spring Geysir before relaxing in the wonderful Fontana spa where you'll enjoy a hot steam bath over a hot spring, a Finnish dry sauna, and different hot tubs; all with a view over beautiful Lake Laugarvatn!

Day 5: Tölting delight!

Today will be a day to enjoy fast rides in tölt, the Icelandic Horse's special gait on wonderful secluded trails from Skógarhólar, south of Lake Stíflisdalsvatn, to Hrafnhólar. Far away from traffic, enjoy the bridle paths used by Icelanders throughout the centuries when they traveled to Þingvellir for their annual summer Thing meetings! Transfer back to Reykjavík in the late afternoon. (30 kilometers)

Exploring Iceland reserves the right to alter routes, itineraries, or timetables should the necessity arise. The estimated duration of tours as indicated by kilometers or timing can change according to road or weather conditions.

Level of expertise required

This tour is for experienced riders in good physical shape only.

The Icelandic horse

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 the horses is their friendly "will to go". Exploring Iceland loves to refer to them as the good-natured "Porsches“ - with the speed but without the pollution!

Tack

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, Exploring Iceland 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 their partners 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 also provide you with a saddlebag, big enough for your picnic, gloves, and a small camera.

Never ridden an Icelandic horse before?

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.

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 they offer a pre-tour for their multi-day tours in cooperation with their partners. On this pre-tour, you will 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!

Disinfection of riding gear

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:

  • Used riding equipment such as saddles, bridles, nosebands, pads, rugs, whips, etc.
  • Used riding gloves

Cleaning and disinfection

  • Used riding clothes and boots should be washed in a washing machine or dry cleaned prior to entering the country
  • Used riding clothes and boots that cannot be placed in a washing machine or dry cleaned should be washed and disinfected as follows:

1. Rinse thoroughly with detergent

2. Dry

3. Spray with 1% VirkonS® (10g per liter of water)

4. Store for at least 5 days prior to bringing the clothes into contact with horses in Iceland

Thank you for your cooperation, by following these rules, you are doing your bit towards Horse Welfare in Iceland! More information on this matter can be acquired through the website of the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority

Safety

  • All tours are undertaken on the responsibility of its participants.
  • Pregnant women are not allowed on the rides for their own safety. Most of the time, you will be far away from medical assistance and Exploring Iceland doesn't like to take chances. However, they will welcome you with open arms once you have had your baby!
  • People under the influence of alcohol or intoxicating drugs are not permitted on the riding tours.
  • Please note that the weight limit on our rides is 110 kilograms (240 pounds).
  • All clients must participate in the riding tour by their own free will and they are obliged to inform the tour guide of any condition that might affect their ability to participate in the tour.
  • All customers are obliged to listen to and acknowledge the safety instructions.
  • Backpacks or bags cannot be taken on the ride.

Included excursions

Included are visits to Geysir hot spring, the Golden Waterfall Gullfoss, and the geothermal Fontana Spa where you can sweat in the steam of a natural hot spring and jump into Lake Laugarvatn to cool off.

Instructors

Meiki Witt

Steinunn "Steina" Guðbjörnsd

Location

Quick facts

  • Population: 360,390 (December 2019). The Icelandic population is a relatively young one with a median age of 36.5 years.
  • Size: 103,000 square kilometers (40,000 square miles)
  • Capital City: Reykjavík
  • The largest municipalities are Reykjavík (128,793); Kópavogur (36.975); Hafnarfjördur (29,799); Akureyri (18,925); Reykjanesbær (18,920) - Cities in the capital region

Time

Iceland is on the Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) throughout the year and does not go on daylight saving time.

People and society

Iceland was the last country to be settled in Europe when emigrants from Scandinavia and the British Isles first came to live on the island in the ninth and tenth century. It remains the most sparsely populated country in the continent with less than three inhabitants per square kilometer. Shaped by the unrelenting forces of nature, Iceland’s harsh natural environment has bred a resilient nation that has learned to exist under extreme conditions and harness the natural resources they create for its own prosperity.

Today, Iceland is a progressive modern society that continuously ranks at the top of measurements for quality of life, such as the United Nations Human Development Index. Its economy is one of the most productive economies in the world, per-capita, and it is annually considered to be one of the greenest countries on the planet, due in large parts to its vast renewable energy resources.

Arts and culture

​Iceland’s unique nature, closely-knit population, and enterprising spirit have all contributed to a dynamic, original cultural scene. From the ancient sagas to award-winning films, Icelanders are generally writing, acting, composing, designing, painting, sculpting, and all-round creating bunch. Many locals have “creative” professions and of those who don’t, many sing in a choir, play an instrument, write poetry, design clothing, knit, or have another vent for their creative energy.

Food

The meals included in this tour are breakfast and a good mix picnic and cooked lunch.

What kind of food is served on your tours?

  • Breakfast

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.

  • Lunch

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.

Food on the tours

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 delicacies, ​others, not so much, but fun to try like the famous rotten shark! ​Let's start with the good stuff!

Fish

  • Icelandic (Atlantic) Salmon

Salmo salar or lax in Icelandic is an anadromous fish which means it spawns in fresh water and migrates to the sea for the main growing period. The salmon fry lives in brooks and rivers for their first 2-5 years when they smoltify and leave the rivers in early summer at a weight of 20-40 grams.

Usually, one year later, the adult salmon (2-4 kilograms) return to the rivers for spawning. The Atlantic salmon offers the greatest economic value and is the most sought-after freshwater fish in Iceland, categorized as such because sea-fishing for salmon is not permitted. It ascends about 100 rivers and streams, most of them located in the western half of the country.

Salmon fishing, mainly fly fishing or angling, is very popular among Icelanders and foreign guests such as Eric Clapton, Prince Charles, and others! But some rivers are also very expensive, costing up to a few thousand dollars a day! Some farmers however have the fishing rights for salmon fishing and will sell the fresh salmon for a fair price. A true delicacy!

  • Arctic Char

Salvelinus alpinus or bleikja in Icelandic is one of the northernmost freshwater fish species, common around the Arctic, hence the name Arctic char. Of Arctic char, there are known both anadromous breeds and breeds which remain in freshwater for their whole life cycle. Arctic char is the most common and widespread salmonid fish in Iceland. It has an oblong body and a small head, and its color can vary.

In the sea, the fish is silvery with a dark back, but during the spawning season, the belly becomes red and the sides are brownish with a yellowish-green tinge. Some people prefer the Arctic Char even to wild salmon in taste!

  • Trout species - Icelandic Silungur

A lot of different trouts are to be found in Iceland such as Rainbow trout, brown trout, or sea trout. All of them are deliciously cooked, baked, and best grilled!

  • Cod - Atlantic cod

Gadus morhua or in Icelandic þorskur is an important fish stock caught all around Iceland and throughout the year. In the past few years, the catch has been decreasing and the allocated quota for the fishing year 2008/09 is only 130,000 tonnes. Cod is by far the most economically important fish stock in Iceland.

The cod is so important to Icelanders that they even went to war with Britain and Germany in the so-called cod wars from 1952 to 1976 (in intervals), a fascinating story of countries as different as David and Goliath going to war about cod!

  • Haddock

Melanogrammus aeglefinus or in Icelandic, ýsa, is caught all around Iceland and throughout the year. Tasty fish, super for fish and chips but also a popular ingredient for plokkfiskur (fish, potatoes, onion, and bechamel sauce.) A bit milder in taste than þorkur and preferred by some Icelanders.

  • Icelandic lobster

Nephrops norvegicus or Humar in Icelandic; when Icelanders speak of lobster, they tend to mean langoustine, a smaller cousin of the American lobster that is found in the north Atlantic ocean and parts of the Mediterranean. Also known as Norway lobster, Dublin Bay prawn, or Scampi, it is a delicious crustacean with many fans. It can be used in many different kinds of dishes but the most popular use in Iceland are in soup and roasted with lots of garlic!

  • Harðfiskur
  • Dried fish, often haddock and eaten as a snack preferably with salty butter! Very good source of salt and proteins and great to take along on a long horseback tour or hiking tour since it is very light to carry but gives great energy!

Meat

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. Exploring Iceland does 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 tours!

  • Hangikjöt

Smoked lamb meat, often eaten with sugar-browned potatoes, red cabbage, and green peas, and most importantly, with the typical "white sauce" or uppstúfur. Very popular at Christmas and for festive celebrations especially in wintertime; also popularly sliced on flatkökur (rye flatbread).

  • Kjötsúpa

A hearty meat soup mainly made of lamb meat, potatoes, carrots, turnips, and cabbage. A very popular meal with the farming community and especially during the "Round-Up" time in September. Great when horseback riding or hiking in the highland; a very healthy traditional soup that is highly recommended!

  • ​Leg of lamb

Often roasted or grilled, eaten with potatoes and red cabbage; a typical Icelandic Sunday roast and a must-try!

A few words about vegetables

​%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!

Other things foodies love

  • Flatkökur

These are an unleavened rye flatbread. Flatkaka is soft, round, thin, and dark with a characteristic pattern from the pan. Traditionally, flatkaka was baked on hot stones or straight on the embers of the fire, later on, small but heavy cast iron frying pans. Today, when making flatkaka at home, people sometimes bake them directly on an electric hot plate to get the desired result.

  • Rúgbrauð

A sweet dark rye bread, often eaten with síld (cured herring).

  • Kleinur

The twisted donut Icelandic style, traditionally baked in sheep larder.

  • Hjónabandssæla

"Marriage happiness", a sweet cake made traditionally with oatmeal and rhubarb jam. A bit out of fashion now but wonderful!

  • Vínarbrauð

A sweet cake with custard, marzipan, and chocolate. Funnily enough, the German call something similar "Kopenhagener" but the Icelanders call it "Vienna-bread" after the capital of Austria! Very popular and unhealthy, but what the heck!

  • Skyr

The new star of Icelandic cuisine invading the European continent! It's a dairy-based yogurt-like substance (though thicker) and is very high in protein while being low fat. Today, it is most common to buy it flavored whereas the unflavored version can have a slightly bitter taste. Most commonly eaten with sugar and cream. It's very healthy, completely natural, and so good!

  • ​Chocolate with licorice

Does the thought of this combination make you cringe? Well then, you haven't tried chocolate dream "Draumur" and other fancy combinations of chocolate and licorice! Do give it a try!

The horrible stuff still worth trying at least once

  • Hákarl - Fermented Greenland shark

Stinks horrible like horse piss and is best eaten in very small pieces with lots of brennivín or Black Death! Bad breath for days guaranteed!

  • Skata - Fermented skate

Kind of similar smell like hákarl but eaten warm with potatoes and melted sheep fat. Typically eaten on December 23rd called Þorláksmessa in Icelandic. Not for the faint-hearted!

  • Svið

Singed and boiled sheep heads, sometimes cured in lactic acid.

  • Hrútspungar

The testicles of rams pressed in blocks, boiled and cured in lactic acid.

  • Sviðasulta

Brawn made from sheep heads, cured in lactic acid.

The liquid stuff

  • Brennivín

Sometimes also called Black Death. A clear, unsweetened Aquavit that is considered to be Iceland's signature distilled beverage. It is made from fermented grain or potato and flavored with caraway. The steeping of herbs in alcohol to create schnapps is a long-held folk tradition in Nordic countries. Brennivín has a taste similar to Vodka. It is typically bottled at 37.5 or 40%

Does Exploring Iceland cater to vegetarians and vegans? And how about food allergies?

Just let Exploring Iceland know well in advance about your preferences and they will try to cater to all your needs. Please note that on the riding tours, there is only a limited supply so in some cases, there might not be a 100% substitute for each and every item available. In case of food allergies, please let them know well in advance (ideally when booking but no less than 14 days before departure).

The following meals are included:

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch

The following dietary requirement(s) are served and/or catered for:

  • Vegetarian
  • Vegan
  • Regular (typically includes meat and fish)
If you have special dietary requirements it's a good idea to communicate it to the organiser when making a reservation

What's included

  • 5 riding days according to the program
  • 1 visit to Fontana Spa including entrance and towel
  • All transfers during the ride including visits to Gullfoss waterfall and Geysir hot spring area
  • 4 nights accommodation
  • 4 breakfast buffets
  • 5 lunches during the tour
  • English speaking guide (Other languages upon request)
  • Pick up and drop off to/from your accommodation in Reykjavík

What's not included

  • Airfare
  • Airport transfers
  • All dinners
  • Guides outside the riding tour(Guide is not staying at the hotel)

How to get there

Recommended Airports

Arrival by airplane

Please arrange your flight to arrive at Keflavík International Airport (KEF). Airport transfers are not yet included but can be arranged at additional costs.

Arrival by bus

The easiest and least expensive way is to travel by bus. There are several companies offering transfer to and from Keflavik airport. Exploring Iceland is happy to arrange your travel to or from the airport and you can book it directly with them. If you prefer a private transfer, please send an inquiry. Departures from Keflavik Airport are in connection with all arriving passenger flights.

Arrival by Flybus

  • You will be picked up from your accommodation starting 30 minutes prior to your departure.
  • Departures from Keflavik Airport are in connection with all arriving passenger flights.
  • The Flybus departs from Keflavík Airport 35-40 minutes after each flight arrival.
  • Busses are located right outside the terminal building.
  • If you are arriving late at night or your flight is delayed, don't worry, there will be a Flybus waiting for you.
  • Exploring Iceland offers special discount fares for children accompanied by adults: 0 - 11 years: free of charge and 12 - 15 years: 50% discount.

Cancellation Policy

  • A reservation requires a deposit of 14% of the total price.
  • The deposit is non-refundable, if the booking is cancelled.
  • The rest of the payment should be paid on arrival.
5 days / 4 nights
from --
Available dates

This tour is available in 2021 at the following dates:

  • June 17 - 21 
  • July  8 - 12  
  • July  29 - August 2
Important information

Non-riders are welcome! The area offers great opportunities, self-drive tours, while your traveling partner is out for trail riding (minimum of two riders).

Special discount

Exploring Iceland does accept children but they must be strong competent riders. They offer a 25% discount for children up to 12 years old if traveling with an adult family member.

Minimum group size

This trip requires a minimum of 2 participants

Monday June 21, 2021
(5 days / 4 nights)

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