Because of Iceland’s close proximity to the Arctic Circle, it’s the perfect place to take part in winter sports. Between December and April every year, large amounts of snow are guaranteed in most of the country. This gives locals and visitors the opportunity to ice skate, ice fish, ski and snowboard. It also means that sleds can be dusted off and huskies prepared, for dog sledding in Iceland.
Can you go Husky Sledding in Iceland?
Absolutely, although it is not an Icelandic tradition and has never really been used as a mode of transport here. Husky travel through Iceland, then, has been introduced here as a tourist activity. While huskies are not native to Iceland, there are three breeds that are used for dog sledding here. They are Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Huskies and Greenlandic Huskies. These three breeds vary in size, weight and colour, but some characteristics are similar. They are all incredibly strong and well-protected against cold temperatures.
There is only native dog breed here, the Icelandic Sheepdog. As its name suggests, it is traditionally a working dog, but it was never used for mushing.
Dog Sleigh Rides Iceland
If you want to take a dog sledding holiday in Europe, you’d think it would have to be in winter. But that’s not the case in Iceland. There is a company, Dog Sledding Iceland, that runs tours year-round. You can check their web here. They have different sleds for snow and dry-land, so whenever you come to the country, you can take part.
From mid-May to the end of October they run dry-land tours. Whether you will have a snow tour in the rest of the year depends on the conditions. Where their tours start depends on the season and weather, but it will be around a 30-minute drive from Reykjavík. They offer a transfer option to and from the city, or you can take your rental car and drive to them. You will be taken along a 5-10km track somewhere in the south-west of Iceland, a 45-minute ride in total. Between 8-12 dogs will pull your sled or cart, depending on the trail conditions and weight pulled. After the ride, you can pet the dogs; they’re very friendly and love to be stroked.
Fancy a husky trip in Iceland? Look up Dog Sledding Iceland. They are absolutely the local experts. Their dry-land tours start at ISK 24,900 (USD 182) and their snow tours start at ISK 29,900 (USD 219).
If you want to jump on a husky sleigh in the north of Iceland, check out Snow Dogs. They are a company based near Lake Mývatn, which is close to the town of Akureyri. Snow Dogs has 25 Siberian Huskies to pull their sleds and carts. Their dry-land rides start at ISK 15,540 and their snow sled tours at ISK 30,000. They also offer a Kennel Visit for ISK 4,500. Of course, since they are further north it’s important to be prepared for even colder weather and more snow. Akureyri is a wonderful town, and is near to one of Iceland’s best ski mountains, Hlíðarfjall.
What to Wear When Husky Sledding
Even in the summer, the weather in Iceland is not so warm. With an average of around 12°C in July in the south, you may not be wearing shorts so much. Additionally, Iceland’s weather is famously unpredictable, so always be prepared.
Sledding attire, then, should consist of something warm and waterproof. Because you’ll be sat or stood still for a while on the sled, you’ll want a base layer underneath. Over that, put on some breathable but thermal clothing, then a waterproof jacket. Gloves are essential and bring sunglasses if you’re traveling here in the summer. From May to August the sun barely sets in Iceland, so you’ll be getting a lot of exposure.
And as a rule, you should always wear sturdy hiking boots when you venture out in this country. The ground is generally uneven volcanic rock, and you never know when you might want to hike. Some of the best wild hot springs in the country are only accessible via a walk into the wilderness. For this reason, you should also always carry a towel and swimming costume wherever you go in the country, add them to your packing list!
How do Dog Sled Teams Help Humans?
As I mentioned before, dog sledding has never been part of Iceland’s culture. Horses were the preferred mode of transport prior to cars, and there were no natural predators to contend with. In places such as rural Alaska and the other Nordic countries, however, huskies have been incredibly important.
They allowed long distance transport through the Alaskan wilderness, to transport supplies, trade goods, and explore new areas. Their keen senses of smell and sight enabled them to be aware of predators long before any human. They also have an in-built sense of direction, meaning you were less likely to get lost. Their supreme toughness and endurance allowed them to travel extremely long distances, pulling heavy loads.
Even today, when you would think snowmobiles make their input unnecessary, they are still preferred by some as transport. If a snowmobile breaks down, you are stranded. They’re not as good company on a cold Alaskan night, either. When I lived in a small village in Lapland, a man zoomed passed me on the pavement one night. He was being pulled on skis by two huskies. I imagine he was just going to the local supermarket, or to visit a friend.
Today, huskies are mainly kept for tourist sled rides and for use in races. The most famous dog sled race is the Iditarod, a 1,000-mile (1,609km) route across Alaska.
Icelandic Dog Names
Like any other country, there aren’t many names you can’t give to your dog. Many Icelanders name their pets after famous Icelandic people or the names of places. Others give them cute names like Hrema (which roughly translates to snowflake). Interestingly, dogs were banned as pets in Reykjavík for 60 years, from 1924 to 1984. This was due to the discovery of a parasite that could pass from dogs to humans. Since 1984 dogs have been legal to keep as pets, but only by following strict laws of vaccination and microchipping. Because of this long-lasting ban, however, cats became a more popular pet choice in the land of ice and fire.
Pet dogs in Iceland are treated with a great deal of respect and love. Working dogs are no exception; those that own sled huskies ensure they are not over-worked and well cared for. Huskies are extremely high energy and need lots of exercise. You could help with that; make your next holiday a visit to ride with the huskies of Iceland.
Samuel Hogarth, Cars Iceland.