The rounding up of sheep is an Icelandic tradition with roots back in the past when pastures and fields near the farms were so precious that they had to be kept for the hay harvest. Thus the stock was driven to the mountains during the summer.
On this unique tour you join the farmers as they gather thousands of sheep from the mountains. This adventure has been privileged to farmers and their friends until now. Learn from them how to manage the flock, drive sheep down hill sides, across rivers and out of sheltered valleys to their resting place for the night. Enjoy the singing at night in the cabins when the farmers celebrate a successful day in the mountains.
All participants join an annual tradition and not a customised riding tour. Therefore an open mind, good physical health and the ability to work hand in hand with others is required. Expect to be treated as one of the crowd, required to fulfil your duty every day and enjoy the camaraderie of all those participating in this great adventure of the fall.
Special Offer: 5% discount for all riders that have travelled with us to Iceland before.
Please Note: The opinions expressed in these reviews are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Unicorn Trails Ltd. These reviews are "directly from the horses mouth" and unedited. Unicorn Trails may make additional comments for clarification clearly identified in red.
Review received from KB of Bandon on 28/09/2016
Due to the early start on Day 1, it is recommended that guests arrive in Reykjavik the day before the round up begins and stay in a hotel in the city. Please see 'Accommodation' for recommended hotels.
Morning pick up between 09:00 and 10:00 from your hotel. Vehicles have to pick up and drop off all passengers staying at hostels and guesthouses within central Reykjavik at designated bus stops. Further details are available in the Accommodations tab. Please be ready at the earliest pick up time and dress ready in riding clothes. Transfer from Reykjavík in the morning to the Riding Centre. Receive details about the adventure ahead of you. On to Landmannahellir where we meet the horses and fellow riders. Surrounded by colourful mountains and black lava fields, we gather up the horses we will be using. This is a short riding day which gives us time to get acquainted with the terrain and to learn about the task which lies ahead. (3 – 4 hrs riding.)
Jökulgilið, a long and shallow valley with multiple colours and rock formations, is our destination for today. The valley is surrounded by mountains and glaciers, mostly barren yet covered with grass here and there. This is what attracts the sheep who seek into this remote area far away from any human contact. A glacier fed river makes it hard to access the valley during the summer time and it is only now that we can ride in and look for the sheep that have been grazing there all summer. (8 – 9 hrs.)
Today we cover the areas that lay between two mountains, Landmannalaugar and Landmannahellir. Even though not too far apart the area is covered with lava fields, craters and lakes and sheep can be found widely. Therefore it is important to keep your place in the human chain to make sure that no sheep stays behind. We return for our final night in our accommodation, before moving onwards in the morning. (8 hrs riding)
We leave in the morning, pack our belongings into a transport vehicle and ride back to Landmannahellir, driving our spare horses along in a free running herd. Today we explore the surroundings of Landmannahellir, which has a long tradition as a night rest for those gathering sheep. Originally two caves there were used as a shelter for horses and men. (8 hrs riding)
Green grass turns into black ashes as we approach Mt. Hekla volcano. Mt. Hekla is an active volcano and has erupted regularly, spewing lava, pumice and ash into the sky. Sheep can be found in sheltered valleys and we make sure that they all return home. While some of us are out in this wilderness looking for sheep others drive the flock to Mt.Valahnjúkar. Overnight in Landmannahellir. (10 hrs riding)
Áfangagil is the final destination for our flock today. Here is the round pen where the sheep will be sorted tomorrow. On our way we search the area to make sure that no sheep stays behind. We spend our last night at Galtalækur farm, underneath the towering Mt Hekla volcano. (8 hrs riding)
This is the final and well celebrated day of the round-up. At noon the sorting of the sheep starts and lasts until each sheep has been returned to its owners. Participate in sorting the sheep, pass the flask around and join in the singing and celebrating after a successful ride into the mountains. Once the sorting is finished we drive back to Reykjavík where this great tour ends at approx. 18:00. You will be dropped off at your hotel or the bus station in Reykjavik. Depending on flight times guests may wish to stay an extra night in Reykjavik.
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We're avid readers here at Unicorn Trails and have selected several books connected to this ride. If you're interested in reading more about the area before you travel, or want to get into the cultural background, here are some suggestions that may inspire you. Click on the links for more information.
Please note: All itineraries are given for your guidance only and it may be altered on the ground and in accordance with the prevailing conditions by the organising team.
Clients ride the traditional Icelandic horses (called horses not ponies despite being pony sized!) who have a special gait known as the tölt which is very comfortable and anyone comfortable with English (or McLellan) or Western tack will be able to adapt to sitting to the new gait without any problems – the trail leaders explain how to sit it before the first day’s riding. The guides will explain how to tack up the horses, mount it and how to ride the tölt before setting off. All the guides are English-speaking.
Riding days can be long so you should be in good physical condition. Hours per day in the saddle ranges from three to ten. Riders should be confident at all paces, in the open and over varying terrain, and able to mount and dismount unaided. When rounding up the sheep, you will need to be able to turn and adjust speed quickly. The minimum age for this ride is 7 years.
A sense of adventure is important as is an open and positive frame of mind due to the nature of the trip.
Used riding clothes must be disinfected before entry to Iceland. Riding gear (riding trousers, jackets, etc.) needs to be washed (40°C) or dry cleaned. Items which cannot be washed or dry cleaned (riding boots, riding hats) need to be disinfected at least five days prior to arriving in Iceland. The Icelandic Veterinary Authority recommends the broad-spectrum disinfectant Virkon S for disinfection. Used riding gloves, whips, saddles, bridles and other used leather gear may not be brought into the country.
Please understand that these precautions are necessary because there are no contagious animal diseases in Iceland. Horses are not vaccinated and are therefore susceptible to infectious agents from abroad. Please help us to protect Iceland's fragile nature! For further information please take a look at: www.mast.is
The weight limit for this ride is 17 st/242 lb/110 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.
Accommodation is in simple mountain cabins shared by the local farmers participating with you in the Sheep Round Up. Please bring your own sleeping bag. Large breakfasts are traditional (lamb and fish are the staple dinners) though special diets (vegetarian, etc.) can be provided if advance notice is given. Riders make their own lunches up from the large food selection at the breakfast table (a tip: bring a small box, Tupperware or similar, to pack it in). Luggage will be transported in the kitchen van. Please bring bags rather than hard cover suitcases and pack light because transport space is limited.
Extra accommodation: We recommend that you arrive the day before the ride begins and stay in a hotel in Reykjavik. Some riders may also want to stay an extra night at the end of the ride before flying home. There are many hotels to choose from in Reykjavik, some recommendations are below.
Cabin Hotel - http://hotelcabin.is/en/
Brim Hotel (also known as Reykjavik Hotel Centre) - http://www.booking.com/hotel/is/reykjavik-hostel-center.html
As part of an initiative to improve the centre of Reykjavik for locals and travellers, the local authorities will ban all buses to drive within the central part of the City from July 15 2017. Instead, vehicles with group licenses will have to pick up and drop off all passengers staying at hostels and guesthouses within the area at designated bus stops, including airport transfers and tours.
Please take a look at the available bus stops here http://www.busstop.is/ to find the stop closest to your intended accommodation.
Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.
Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip. If Visa’s are required the requirements can change from year to year depending on diplomatic relations. Please request information from the appropriate Consulate in your home country. Unicorn Trails will assist with any questions you have or supply any necessary supporting documents as required by the consulate on request.
Visa are not required for U.K. or other European nationals. In the UK the British Foreign Office gives travel advice on travel insurance, passport and visas, health and vaccinations, legal issues and emergency issues. They can be reached on 0207 008 0232/0233 or at www.fco.gov.uk.
The British Embassy in Reykjavik is at Laufásvegur 31, 101 Reykjavík. Postal Address: PO Box 460, 121 Reykjavík. Tel: + (354) 550 5100. Email: email@example.com.
In the U.K the Embassy of Iceland is at 2A Hans Street, London SW1X 0JE. Telephone: (020) 7259 3999. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Come prepared for all kinds of weather as the day can change very quickly! Summer temperatures usually reach the 20°C+ but can be less than 10°C.
No special health precautions are required for visits to Iceland, for further details please see your local doctor.
For up to date information on specific health concerns please contact the Medical Advisors For Travellers Abroad. Their website can be found at www.masta.org.
No special health precautions are required for visits to Iceland.
Voltage is the same as in the UK and most appliances such as battery chargers for videos, hair dryers etc. can be plugged in with appropriate adapters. These are available for purchase at most airports and travel shops.
Bring sufficient film, batteries, etc. with you because there are no opportunities to buy these out on the trail.
You should be ready for all kinds of weather as the weather can change very quickly. We recommend that the following items are included when preparing for this tour.
• Riding Boots - knee-high, preferably rubber, because of the rivers you cross.
• Warm jacket or overcoat.
• Warm (woollen or fleece) sweater.
• Warm socks and gloves, at lest two pairs, scarf and a cap or hat.
• Warm underwear, long if possible.
• Riding trousers.
• Tracksuit or casual, loose clothes
• A pair of slippers to wear in the accommodation. (Icelanders take off their shoes when entering a house).
• Swim suit, towels and soap
• A small camera to take with you on the ride.
• Band aids and second skin plasters for chaffing.
• Fly net
• Chocolate or glucose sweets for strenuous riding days.
• Sun lotion for face and lips (with high sun factor).
• A sports bra for the ladies usually comes in useful!
• Bum bag or similar to carry water, cameras etc.
• Small pillow to sleep on.
• Ear plugs. Some people snore!
• Sleeping bag
You may bring your own riding gear (eg helmet) but it needs to be dry cleaned or disinfected; officially, a written certificate is needed to prove at the airport that this has been done, but it is rarely asked for.
• Saddle bags
• Rain wear (heavy/industrial so best to have your own and use the Íshestar gear only in the worst of weather)
• Safety riding helmet
Luggage will be transported in the kitchen van. Please bring bags rather than hard cover suitcases and pack lightly because transport space is limited.
This special event takes place just once a year, in the Autumn with a programme of 7 days / 6 nights / 6 riding days. We recommend riders to arrive a day early and stay in a hotel in Reykjavik the night before the ride starts, and after the last day of riding.
2019: 20 September
|Riding days||Product item description||£|
|2019||7d/6n||6||Child under 12||1,645|
|Riding days||Product item description||€|
|2019||7d/6n||6||Child under 12||1,839|
|Riding days||Product item description||$|
|2019||7d/6n||6||Child under 12||2,175|
|Riding days||Product item description||SEK|
|2019||7d/6n||6||Child under 12||20,185|
WH Auden and Louis MacNeice 'Letters from Iceland'; Mark Cowardine 'Iceland Native's and Meeting Places'; David Roberts 'Iceland Land of the Saga's'; Terry Lacy 'Ring of Seasons'.
For a broad selection of equestrian travel books, many previously unavailable visit www.HorseTravelBooks.com - inspiring adventure!
Blue Lagoon, Whale Watching (Reykyavik)
Disinfecting of used riding gear: Riding gear (riding boots, riding trousers, jackets, hats, gloves, etc.) needs to be washed (40°C), dry cleaned or disinfected with Virkon S before arriving in Iceland. Saddles, bridles and other leather gear may not be brought into the country.
Please understand that these precautions are necessary because there are no contagious animal diseases (i.e. rabies or foot and mouth diseases) in Iceland and therefore important to protect the animals of the country. Icelandic horses are not vaccinated and therefore susceptible to infectious agents from abroad. Please help us to protect Iceland's fragile nature!
For further information please take a look at: www.mast.is
Iceland is a volcanic island in the North Atlantic. It is three hours flying time from London and two from Glasgow. Geologically speaking, it is the youngest country in the world. The Icelanders live in a beautiful, but rather fierce natural setting with extremes in the weather, and are continually reminded of the often-harsh natural elements with earthquakes and volcanic eruptions relatively commonplace. Iceland enjoys the midnight sun in summer and extensive darkness in winter, with the northern lights adding a touch of magic on clear winter nights.
In addition to its expansive landscape, it has a rich history and folklore tradition. Iceland was the last country in Europe to be settled, by Vikings and Celts, in the 9th and 10th century AD. The nation converted to Christianity in 1000. From the Middle Ages she was a Norwegian and later a Danish colony. She gained Home Rule in 1904 and then separate sovereign status under the Danish crown in 1918. During WW II, the country was benignly occupied, first by British and then by US forces. Iceland became an independent republic on 17 June 1944.
DISINFECTION: Riding gear (riding boots, riding trousers, jackets, hats, gloves, etc.) needs to be washed (40°C), dry cleaned or disinfected with Virkon S before arriving in Iceland. Saddles, bridles and other leather gear may not be brought into the country.
Please understand that these precautions are necessary because there are no contagious animal diseases (i.e. rabies or foot and mouth diseases) in Iceland and therefore important to protect the animals of the country.
Iceland is on GMT and they use the metric weights and measures system, so kilometres and kilograms instead of miles and pounds. There is approximately 1.6 kilometres in a mile and 2.2 pounds in a kilogram. The dialling code for the country is +354.