Iceland, known as the 'Land of Ice and Fire' is a large island in the North Atlantic Ocean, close to the Arctic Circle, and is part of Europe. It has close ties with Scandinavia. Way back in time Iceland was home to Viking settlers and eventually fell under Danish rule. Iceland is home to the world's first parliament, set up in Norse times. It was an act passed by this parliament centuries ago that banned the import of horses which resulted in the pure breed of today. It was only as recent as 1944 that Iceland became a fully independent country.
Iceland has many awsome natural phenomena. This is a land of wild, rugged natural beauty and in the summer months the sun barely sets. It is very barren which immediately becomes obviously as you enter an almost lunar landscape as soon as you travel away from the airport. Only approximately 15% of Iceland is populated and most people choose to live around the coast. The capital city, Reykjavik, is the most northerly capital city in the world. It is stunningly picturesque, nestling into a beautiful bay with a backdrop of snowy mountains. You will of course find modern architecture and commerce in the city but you don't have to travel far out to discover quaint traditional wooden houses with corrugated roofs brightly painted in primary colours. The nearby geothermal hot springs have been harnessed to provide a cheap natural heating system. This leaves the air pristine and pollution free. Your photographs will benefit from the fabulous clear sharp light.
So why 'The Land of Ice and Fire'? Well Iceland is packed full of snowy mountains, huge icy glaciers and frozen rivers but also volcanoes, mighty boiling geysers, sulphur vents, bubbing hot pools and natural hot springs. As you travel around you'll see greenhouses and poly tunnels plonked over steaming fissures enabling even exotic fruit and vegetables to be home grown. Vast numbers of fish can be seen left hanging outside to dry. A must-do attraction in Iceland is to soak in the Blue Lagoon which is a large ever-constant 35 degree C pool, situated in the middle of a lava field and created by a natural hot spring. Allegedly the mineral rich water is theraputic and does wonders for the skin. There are also spectacular waterfalls in Iceland - perhaps the best is Gullfloss. With care you can climb down very close to the ferocious water.
The sea is never far away and is key to the lifestyle and economy of Icelanders. Many are employed in the fishing industry off its coast - no doubt European debates over fishing quotas and whale culling spring to mind. The coast and fjords are home to many species of birds, particularly sea fowl.
The people in this unique country are friendly and fun-loving - the latter can be confirmed by one member of the Unicorn team who went to the Hard Rock Cafe in Rejkjavik for a meal and was immediately invited to join in the hen party which was in full swing. Something non-Icelanders find hard to comprehend is the importance of folk-lore and legend to the people of Iceland. Spirit-folk such as elves, trolls, lovelings (who live in hedgrows), gnomes and huldufolk (hidden people) are often taken seriously and there are plenty of stories to convince you of their existance!
Horse riding in Iceland is very special because the horses are pure Icelandic horses -small and sturdy but more than capable of safely carrying their riders, even heavier riders, over the most hostile, rough terrain. They are known for their “tölt”, the unique gait of the Icelandic horse. Unicorn has several excellent horse riding holidays in Iceland to choose from. These are trail rides where groups, couples, families and single riders are welcome. You will ride in the traditional way on trails to suit every level of adventurous rider -herding along the other free running horses through the highlands, riding across lava fields and rivers. Thrilling! You change to a fresh horse at least once a day. Different routes explore the coast, the lands of the legendary trolls and elves, and historic upland trade routes through glacial terrain and extinct volcanoes. The better tracks allow memorable, fast rides in the soft tölt for which the Icelandic horses are renowned.
Unicorn offers several exciting horse riding holidays in Iceland. Accommodation is from rustic huts to guesthouses and farms.
You ride in the traditional way, herding free horses and changing to a fresh horse on some days. Visit the best known sights in Iceland, the Geysir Hot Spring area and the Golden Waterfall Gullfoss by riding along bridleways and deep canyons, across wide salmon rivers, through a lovely birch forests with wild mountain flowers to a panoramic highland plateau. There are made up beds throughout the tour, and a hot outdoor tub is available every night. This ride is suitable for fit riders with a basic knowledge of riding.
You ride in the traditional way, changing to a fresh horse once or twice a day. This ride takes you along the historic Kjölur trail, which Icelanders used for centuries in the past while travelling to their big summer parliament at Thingvellir, first held in 930 AD. This historic place has since become a National Park, famed for its beauty.
The North of Iceland is known for its great natural sights and varied landscape. On this trail we ride from Húsavík to the LakeMývatn area, which has volcanic features and countless numbers of breeding ducks. An optional whale watching tour concludes the circle of natural highlights on and off shore. This tour was nominated by the Sunday Times as one of the 10 best trails in the world
Skagafjörður is a district in Iceland that has a long tradition in horse breeding. With great pleasure we present for the first time a riding trail from this well known district into the rugged wilderness of the highlands. This tour leads all the way to Laugafell, a place well known for the natural hot pool and green vegetation, a true oasis for those following the old and famous Sprengisandur Trail.
This horseback vacation is a trail through the Snæfellsnes peninsula, named after the glacier-covered cone volcano, Snæfellsjökull, one of the most impressive sights in Iceland and recently designated a National Park. Many of the famous norse sagas involving trolls and elves originate from this spectacular region.
Horse Round Up
Join the farmers in this great autumn adventure. Ride along when they drive the herd, sort the horses and celebrate the successful return of horses and men. The varied terrain on this horse riding holiday includes the highland moors, green valleys just turning into their autumn colours of burning red and yellow, deep blue lakes and rivers and Kolugljúfur gorge where a troll woman resided in the old days.
Autumn Sheep Round Up
On this unique tour you join the farmers in South Iceland as they gather thousands of sheep from the mountains. You start your journey in the uninhabited interior of Iceland and follow the sheep all the way back to the farm lands. This adventure has been privileged to farmers and their friends until now. For the first time in 2010 it was made possible for others to come along and we are very proud to be able to present this unique tour to our clients.
Hot Springs and Waterfalls Short Break If you are not ready for many days in the saddle, yet an outdoor person with a basic knowledge of riding and good stamina, this tour might be just the riding holiday you are looking for. You follow fine bridle paths to the magnificent sights of Iceland, Geysir Hot Spring area and Gullfoss Waterfall. During three riding days your guide leads you to these wonders of Iceland.
Northern Lights Short Break
Autumn in Iceland means colourful countryside and the Northern Lights dancing in the black night sky. Enjoy visiting the best known sights in Iceland, riding the Icelandic horse along fine bridle paths and, weather conditions permitting, see the dazzling Northern Lights after a good day in the saddle.
To help you find the rides that best suit your riding level and your requirements we group our rides into categories. Below we have listed the ride categories that you find on at least one horse riding holiday in Iceland:
You've either never ridden or may have had a few lessons. You may be able to trot or ride out at a walk.
You've mastered the basic aids in walk, trot and canter. You're confident on a well-schooled horse in walk, rising trot (posting), and for short periods of canter in a school or even outside.
You're a secure and confident rider on a well-schooled horse at all paces including a fast canter in open country. You're happy to ride for several hours and may have some jumping experience.
You're an experienced rider, confident and relaxed on horseback. You ride regularly, have an independent seat and soft hands. You're capable of handling a spirited horse in open country and are happy to jump. You have experience of riding a variety of horses.
A little different from home, there may be language barriers or different ways of doing things, still quite comfortable, may be unpredictable parts or some rugged terrain.
Different accommodations, attitudes or methods of riding are used to normal riding at home, may have challenging terrain, long days or itinerary changes, may involve camping or not so comfortable accommodation. An appetite for exploration and new experiences required.
A great introduction to riding in Iceland with moderate riding hours and comfortable farm accommodation. This riding holiday is perfect for families with children or novice riders who would like to ride in the beautiful Icelandic countryside.
2017: open all year round, any day arrival and departure, minimum stay 3 nights.
Trip Length: As you wish - minimum stay 4d/3n
Approximate riding time per day: 3 hours
Meeting point: Your hotel or closest designated bus stop (central zone) in Rekjavik (own booking) or the farm, if hiring a car.
Riding Ability Required: From beginner onwards
Group Size: 2 - 8
Transfer: 2017: Bus transfer from Reykjavik to the farm or car hire. Car transfer from Reykjavik hotel to bus station is included, bus journey ticket is around 7040 ISK per person each way payable on-site.