One of the most thrilling ways to explore Iceland is via horseback riding. In this article, we discuss what makes this experience so unique and where the best places are to go for all your Iceland horseback riding needs.
Horseback riding in Iceland is definitely one of the best things to do for both locals and visitors in Iceland. But it is not just the beautiful landscape that makes this activity so popular – it’s the Icelandic horses.
The Icelandic Horse: a Unique Breed
The Icelandic horse is the result of both natural selection and selective breeding. This has been going on since horses were first brought to the island by Norse settlers in the 9th century. At first glance, it seems like Iceland horseback riding should’ve been called Iceland pony rides. That’s due to the small stature Icelandic horses have (they average between 330 and 380 kilograms and 132-142 centimeters).
But don’t be fooled. The saying goes “dynamite comes in small packages” and this is certainly true for these unique creatures. They are incredibly hardy and are not fazed by the harsh climate of their surroundings. This is partly due to their heavy coats (especially during the winter months) when they almost look like a cross between a pony and a teddy bear.
But there is also a sense of irony that comes into play with this hardy island, isolated breed. The Icelandic horses have perfectly adapted to their harsh surroundings. Yet, their isolation and lack of interaction with other horses have led to an incredibly sensitive immune system. If an Icelandic horse should ever be introduced to some of the most common equine illnesses around the world, it could completely devastate the island’s population.
Despite this minor “setback”, Icelandic horses have a great reputation for a variety of reasons. The first is their amazing personalities. They are some of the friendliest horses you’ll ever find. And as you can imagine, they are quite adventurous. They are also incredibly smart and easy to train since they are quick learners.
The second reason why these horses are so notorious is because of their gaits. Most horse breeds have only four gaits: the walk, trot, canter, and gallop. But the Icelandic horse has five gaits; walk, trot, canter, gallop and tölt. The tölt is such a famous gait that it has inspired an entire activity called the beer tölt. The gait is supposedly a very smooth and unique ride. The horse always has one hoof on the ground. The beer tölt is a challenge where a rider needs to hold a pint of beer whilst performing the gait and see if they can do it without spilling a single drop.
When is the Best Time for Horseback Riding in Iceland?
Riding horses in Iceland can be done all year round. Now, know that it is an outdoor event, and some roads might be closed during the winter. That makes horseback riding in Iceland in the winter months are not quite as popular as during the summer (April to September).
We highly recommend that you pre-book for this activity to avoid disappointment. Plenty of tourists visit Iceland in summer, and the popularity of Icelandic horseback riding among visitors is high.
You will also find that the different Icelandic horse tours have different departure times. While the shorter tours have multiple departures throughout the day, the lengthier ones might only have two. That’s one in the morning and another in the afternoon. You even get evening tours to experience the midnight sun during the summer months.
Where To Find the Best Horseback Riding Tours in Iceland
With over 80 000 Icelandic horses roaming around on the island, there are plenty of opportunities to go on all sorts of Icelandic horse tours and horseback riding vacations. So depending on the season and where you find yourself, these are some of the best horseback riding tours you can do in Iceland:
Horseback Riding in Vik, Iceland
If you’ve always wanted to go horseback riding on a black sand beach in Iceland, then a horseback riding adventure in Vik is for you. Icelandic horse tours in Vik can range between 1-3 hours. Tours usually departs from the village in Vik and then leads down the black sand beach of Vikurfjara.
Depending on the tour you choose, it can either be suitable for beginners or more experienced riders. Tours can also vary in age, from tours that cater solely to adults to those who are family-friendly.
Horseback Riding in Snæfellsnes Peninsula
Iceland horse tours in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula can range from a quick 1-hour Snæfellsness horseback riding activity to a Snæfellsness horseback riding overnight outing. The minimum age requirements for these Icelandic horse tours are often 7 years. The routes will take you across what may appear to be the endless beach of South Snæfellsness. You’ll enjoy magnificent views over the ocean as well as explore the Snæfellsness glacier (some even offer midnight glacier tours!)
Reykjavík Horseback Riding
Icelandic horseback riding in and around the capital is incredibly convenient. That’s especially true if you use the capital as a base from whence to go out to explore the island. Or simply as a first point of discovery as your landing spot. These tours can also range from 1-hour Reykjavík horseback riding tours to Reykjavík horseback riding day tours.
Horseback Riding on the Golden Circle Route in Iceland.
These tours are once again all about convenience. The Golden Circle route is one of the most popular road tripping routes on the island. And now you can visit some of its sights and attractions whilst on horseback!
Some things to look forward to on this Golden Circle Icelandic horseback riding tour are visiting the infamous Gullfoss waterfall, the Strokkur geyser and Thingvellir (one of the only three national parks on the island).
Horseback Riding in Akureyri, Iceland
Horseback riding in Akureyri, Iceland, is also a family-friendly activity that can accommodate children from the age of 12.
Whether you want to experience the breathtaking phenomenon that is Godafoss waterfall, Lake Myvatn or just want to admire the beautiful surroundings – horseback riding in Akureyri can give that to you. You just need to decide between a short horseback riding outing in Akureyri or whether you wish to make a day outing from horseback riding in Akureyri.
Do I Need Any Horseback Riding Experience for These Tours?
Well, that depends on the trail you choose. But as you can see, most of these Icelandic horseback riding trails are family-friendly with age limits that start from only 7 years. You don’t need to be a Dressage champion to partake in this activity.
An Island Favorite Will Become Yours
Whether you are staying in the capital or travelling around the island, you’ll find Iceland “pony” rides nearby. And whether you want to tölt through lava fields or check off a few of Iceland’s most popular natural wonders, Icelandic horseback riding tours are the perfect way to do that.
And whether you would like to do it as a fun activity for a couple of hours or make an entire day out of it, remains up to you to decide. All we can tell you is that these gentle not-so-giant horses with their wonderful nature and personalities will definitely steal your heart. They will warrant more than just one visit to the majestic icy island!
So, what are you waiting for? Check your car rental options in Reykjavík, book your vehicle and come experience one of the cutest and most unique horse breeds in the world.