Take a trip back in time with a horseback ride along the historic Kjölur Trail just as Icelanders did throughout the centuries while traveling to the annual summer parliament at Thingvellir. There is a visit to this historic site (which is now a National Park) either at the start or end of the equestrian trail. Traveling from south to north or vice versa, right across the heart of Iceland, horseback riders will pass extinct volcanoes, glacier lakes and cross wild glacial rivers while admiring the majestic Gullfoss Waterfall along the way. On the horseback ride up into the highlands, the green meadows of the south change to barren sand deserts as one approaches the mighty Langjökull and Hofsjökull Glaciers. Sheltered green valleys come as a surprise in this rugged terrain. This equestrian trail is suited to to experienced horseback riders who want to a view of the unspoiled Icelandic highlands with long days in the saddle. 

Accommodation is in rustic mountain cabins in the middle of Iceland's untamed nature.
This is the horseback vacation to see as much as possible of the Icelandic highlands,

Read a brief illustrated account of this ride in Icleland by David L O Smith.

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 BM of Sydenham on 04/08/2023

Ride Summary
Very enjoyable, scenery fantastic
What was your overall impression of the holiday
Overall impression
Unicorn Trails sales staff

Riding tour leader

Additional Comments
Horses and Tack

Additional Comments
First concerned about all trotting, was told due to rough terrain. Once we got smooth surface, lots of tolt.
Meals

Accommodation

Miscellaneous

Was this trip accurately described to you beforehand?
YES
Please give more details to explain your response:
Weather turned out better than described. Just a sprinkle of rain and temperatures cool but not below 0 centigrade
Was there anything you should have known and were not told? YES
Please give more details to explain your response:
I would recommend a helmet bug net. I took a full bug suit and was not ideal for my helmet GoPro. Everything else was great.
What could we do to improve this ride?
I was one male with 20 female guests and that was not a problem. I am 76 years old and it was like I was travelling with my daughters and granddaughters. Great times.
How would you rate the difficulty of this ride out of 10 where 1 is very easy and 10 is very advanced?
7
Please explain why you scored it as you did:
A few steep areas and the speed was perfect for intermediate and advanced riders.
Would you recommend Unicorn Trails to your friends?
YES
Please give more details to explain your response:
This was ride number 2 and both were excellent and looking forward to more. Lots of different rides
May we use you as a reference for other people wishing to go on this ride?
YES
Any other comments:
Hope to do more rides with Unicorn. Sarah King did an excellent job.
Unicorn comments: Thank you for your feedback. Glad you had a great time! :)

Please note: Tours operate alternatively from north to south, south to north.

Itinerary North - South:
 
Day 1  
Reykjavik - Hvammur: Pick up at BSÍ Bus station in Reykjavik at 18:00. The bus will transfer riders to the farm in the north Iceland where the horses and staff are waiting. After a welcoming introductory meal and getting to know the group, relax in preparation for the adventure ahead.

Day 2.  
Hvammur  - Vtnsdalur Valley - Forsæludalur - Hvammur: Ride along the banks of Vatnsdalsá river which give the opportunity to enjoy a fast ride at a soft tölt. This is one of the most beautiful valleys in Iceland and the setting of one of the ancient sagas, Vatnsdælasaga. On the ride, hear the tales of Iceland´s past of conflict, love and blood thirsty revenge. The horses stay at the Forsæludalur, while riders stay overnight at the  Hvammur guesthouse and soak in the hot tub (Approx. 20 km)
   
Day 3  
Hvammur – Forsæludalur –  Áfangi Mountain Cabin: Ride up the valley the to the canyon of the Vatnsdalsá river and its many waterfalls. Today the trail ascends up to the mountain plateau of Auðkúluheiði . The fertile valley with its farms is left behind as the horses run freely over the soft riding paths of the northern highland. Enjoy the view over the impressive highland mountains and glaciers. Riders stay overnight at a Áfangi Mountain Cabin beside the man-made lake Blöndulón. Hot tub on site. (Approx. 35 km)
 
Day 4  
Áfangi – Hveravellir Geothermal Area - Áfangi Mountain Cabin: The ride today we passes the mountains of Sandkúlufell and Sauðafell. This is a historical route that has been travelled on horseback for centuries -all the way back to the early settlement of Iceland. The route today leads further to the south, over the  river pf Seyðisá. Today's destination is Hveravellir, a unique geothermal area between the Hofsjökull and Langjökull glaciers. Here, in this rugged, but  beautiful landscape, the most famous local outlaw, Fjalla Eyvindur, survived for years. Overnight at Áfangi Mountain Cabin and enjoy a soak in the natural hot pool. (Approx. 35 km)

Day 5  
Hveravellir – Árbúðir Mountain Cabin: Start the day by riding through the Valley of Thieves, named Thjófadalir, a remote grassy valley surrounded by high mountains. From the entrance of the valley there are splendid views over the fertile landscape. The ride leads along the vast lava fields of Kjalhraun. Following the glacial river Fúlákvísl, the group can enjoy the view of the mighty glacier Langjökull. The day ends Árbúðir Mountain Cabin. (Approx. 50 km)

Day 6  
Árbúðir – Fremstaver Mountain Cabin   : Follow the river Svartá for a while before crossing the river Hvítá. The ride continues along the slopes of Mt. Bláfell. During the last century, traveling through the remote Highland was dangerous due to outlaws. Spend the night and rest the horses at Fremstaver Mountain Cabin. (Approx. 35 km)

Day 7  
Fremstaver – Gullfoss Waterfall –  Myrkholt Farm: Saddle up and ride by the canyon of Hvítá river, heading southwards to the lowlands. This is the the last part of the journey.  Explore the world-famous Gullfoss waterfall before reaching home and say a fond goodbye to the horses. They now rest in the farm's fertile fields while the group celebrates a successful trip over a farewell dinner, storytelling and singing. (Approx. 25 km)
   
Day 8  
Myrkholt – Reykjavík: Say good-bye to the team and return back to Reykjavík. On the drive back to Reykjavík there is a visit to the Geysir Hot Spings. Approx arrival at 13:00.

Itinerary South - North:

Day 1  
Reykjavik - Myrkholt: Pick up at BSÍ Bus station in Reykjavik at 18:00 where the bus will transfer riders to the Myrkholt Guesthouse, where the horses and staff await our arrival. After an introductory meal and getting to know each other, relax and rest  to  prepare for the adventure ahead.

Day 2   
Myrkholt Farm -  Gullfoss – Fremstaver Mountain Cabin: The ride starts off towards the majestic glacier Langjökull and the first stop is the beautiful Gullfoss waterfall and the hot spring area Geysir. The ride today leads to a mountain named Bláfell. Spend the night at Fremstaver Mountain Cabin (or similar) (Approx. 25 km)

Day 3  
Fremstaver – Árbúðir Mountain Cabin: The ride continues along the slopes of Mt. Bláfell, which was roamed by outlaws in the old days. Cross River Hvítá and enjoy the view to the glacier-fed lake Hvítárvatn. Tonight the group stays at Árbúðir, situated right on the banks of river Svartá. (Approx. 35 km)

Day 4  
Árbúðir – Hveravellir Geothermal Area - Mountain Cabin: Ride along the glacier fed river Fúlakvísl through huge rugged lava fields of Kjalhraun. Enjoy magnificent views of the glacier Langjökull and continue into the world of Thjófadalir, or Valley of Thieves, a grassy valley surrounded by high mountains, and a true oasis in the wilderness. The destination is Hveravellir, a unique geothermal area between Hofsjökull and Langjökull glaciers. Here, in this rough but extremely beautiful setting, the most famous outlaw, Fjalla Eyvindur, survived for years. At the mountain cabin is a natural hot pool where riders can enjoy to a deserved relaxing soak. (Approx. 50 km)

Day 5   
Hveravellir – Áfangi Mountain Cabin: The route today leads further to the north over the beautiful river Seyðisá. Here the horses can run free, taking riders safely on the soft paths of this highland area. Pass the mountains Sandkúlufell and Sauðafell before reaching tonight's destination. This is a historical route that Icelandic people have used for centuries. The well-equipped cabin has a hot tub next to it and is named after the hill Áfangafell which offers great views of the big glaciers in the South and towards the high mountains of the North . Up to mid-July the sun hardly sets in this part of the country. (Approx. 35 km)

Day 6  
Áfangi – Vatnsdalur Valley  – Hvammur Farm: Continue the ride over the Auðkúluheiði Moo on route to the valleys and farms in the north. The impressive fertile valley of Vatnsdalur is a spectacular sight. Ride down to the valley in the canyon of the Vatnsdalsá river with its many beautiful waterfalls. The horses stay at Forsæludalur Farm, the first farm, while riders overnight at Hvammur Guesthouse with a welcoming hot tub. (Approx. 35 km)

Day 7  
Hvammur – Forsæludalur – Vatnsdalur – HvammurThe tracks and paths along the banks of Vatnsdalsá river gives the opportunity to enjoy a fast ride at a soft tölt. Vatnsdalur is one of the most beautiful valleys in Iceland and the setting of one of the ancient sagas, Vatnsdælasaga. On the ride to Hvammur the group will learn of Iceland´s heroic past of bloody conflict, revenge and love. Say goodbye to the horses as they graze in the green fields of the valley. Celebrate the end of a successful tour with a farewell dinner, storytelling and singing. (Approx. 20 km)

Day 8  
Hvammur – Reykjavík: Say goodbye to the team before transferring back to the BSI Bus station in Reykjavík. Approx. return at approx 14:00.

The hosts reserve the right to change the itinerary if necessary.

Bring a short riding jacket as long ones tend to flap. 
Luggage is taken ahead every day by truck/trailer to the next night's stop. We recommend you bring bags, rather then hard cover suit cases, and pack light because transport space is limited.
Accommodation is basic in rustic mountain huts in the midst of Iceland´s untamed nature. At Hveravellir, a geothermal area in the highland, you may take a long bath in a natural hot pool under the midnight sun! Bring snacks for the ride and cash for purchases at the riding centre.
Please note that it is not possible to book a single room during the riding tour. 

There is a family discount of 5% available for parents and older children (between 12 and 18 years old) travelling together, 3 or more people only for this offer.
Children under 12 receive a 25% discount.

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.

Horses & Riding

In this land of the midnight sun the season for rides only lasts for 4 months – June, July, August and September but the rides we offer provide plenty of variety of scenery. You will ride the traditional Icelandic horses - they are called horses not ponies despite being pony sized! Icelandics are gaited horses and have a special gait known as the tölt which is very comfortable . 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 also explain how to tack up the horses, mount and how to ride the tölt before setting off. All the guides are English-speaking. As well as the ridden horses, a herd of loose horses will be running with the group, and you will change your mount at least once during the day.



There is about 6 – 7 hours riding each day (starting around 10.30am) as up to 35/55km has to be covered: you’ll need to be riding fit because occasionally the odd day may be slightly longer. The purpose of riding with a herd of horses is to enable a change of mount at the 2 or 3 breaks each day. A minimum of 10 riders up to a maximum of 20 riders per trip: so you could be riding with up to 70 loose horses! You ride across the wide salmon rivers on sturdy native ponies - the preferred mode of transport for many Icelanders, still. Pass glaciers, extinct volcanoes, icebergs floating in the lakes and explore the bubbling hot springs.


Rider requirements

5 to 8 hours per day, this ride is mainly for good intermediate to advanced (beginners and novices can have tailor-made rides organised for them) - all paces including tölt (instruction is given), 110kg weight limit (please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.) Some walking beside horses required. Children are welcome provided that their parent/guardian is prepared to take full responsibility for them during the holiday.

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

Weight Limit

The weight limit for this ride is 242 lb/110 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.

On the Glacier Trail, sometimes the whole group stays together in one room, depending on the size and location of each mountain cabin. Indoor WC, warm showers and/or hot pools are available at most but not all locations. 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 picnic lunches up from the large food selection at the breakfast table. Luggage will be transported in the kitchen van. Please bring bags rather than hard cover suitcases and pack light because transport space is limited. 



Please bring your own sleeping bags and pillow



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 Cabin Hotel and Brim Hotel



As part of an initiative to improve the centre of Reykjavik for locals and travellers,there are no buses within the central part of the City. Instead, vehicles with group licenses will 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 within reason can be accommodated with advance notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests before booking.

Documents - Visa and Consulate Info

Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip.

NB: Be sure to check the COVID status of the country you plan to visit including entry procedures.

Passport and Visa 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 should you need a visa.

In the UK the British Foreign Office gives advice: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/iceland

In the US: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Iceland.html

In Canada: https://travel.gc.ca/destinations/iceland


Climate Summary

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.

Climate Chart

Health

COVID: Be sure to check the latest COVID regulations for travelling in any country you visit.

Please refer to your country’s latest health guideline for travel in Iceland and contact your own GP for up to date advice on vaccinations and prophylaxis prior to travel.

You should make sure you have sufficient medical supplies (including prescription medicines) for the duration of your stay and any unforeseen delays, adequate travel insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment and repatriation.

Sunscreen and insect repellent is advised.

No special health precautions are required for the rides.

If you need to contact the emergency services, call 112.

Health (ride specific)

No special health precautions are required for visits to Iceland.

Electricity

In Iceland the supply voltage is 230V. If the appliance is a single voltage rated appliance, it will need to operate at the same voltage as the supply voltage of the country i.e. 230V. If this is not the case it should be used alongside a voltage transformer or converter to allow the appliance to work safely and properly.

Mobile, WiFi and charging

Bring sufficient film, batteries, etc. with you because there are no opportunities to buy these out on the trail. If using a GoPro make sure to get the permission of the group to be filmed.

Packing List

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.
Please don't bring a long riding raincoat as they tend to flap. A short riding jacket will suffice.
It is advisable to riders to bring their own snacks for the ride (chocolate, energy bars etc).
Please bring cash for purchases at the riding centre.
Please note, leather items shoes/riding boots etc are only permitted if disinfected with Virkon S 5 days before arrival.

Luggage is taken ahead every day by truck/trailer to the next night's stop. We recommend you bring bags, rather then hard cover suit cases, and pack light because transport space is limited.

Riding Boots - We strongly recommend knee-high, rubber boots to avoid getting wet feet and for ease of disinfection
Sleeping bag and pillow
Warm jacket or overcoat.
Warm (woolen or fleece) sweater.
Warm socks and gloves, at least 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).
Swimsuit, towels and soap
A small camera to take with you on the ride.
Band aids and second skin plasters for chaffing.
Fly net
Chocolate, snacks like energy bars or glucose sweets for strenuous riding days (not available at the riding centre)
Sun lotion for face and lips (with hight UV factor)
A sports bra for the ladies often comes in handy
Sunglasses
Bum bag or similar to carry water, cameras etc.
Ear plugs (some people snore!)
Pillow for nights in mountain cabins

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.

Items provided:
Saddle bags
Rain wear (heavy/industrial so best to have your own and use the provided 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.

Programmes

This is an 8 day/7 night programme with 6 days riding, available on set dates. Alternative departures for this riding holiday are operated from North to South.

Departure Dates

2024: 19, 26* Jun; 5*, 12* (Full) Jul; 7* (FULL), 7, 14* Aug
(*denotes high season)

Pricing
No single rooms available (on some or all nights). Riders must be prepared to share with someone of the same sex.


No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description £
2024 - Low Season8d/7n6double pp2,439
2024 - Low Season8d/7n6Child under 121,829
2024 - High Season8d/7n6double pp2,615
2024 - High Season8d/7n6Child under 121,959
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description
2024 - Low Season8d/7n6double pp2,785
2024 - Low Season8d/7n6Child under 122,089
2024 - High Season8d/7n6double pp2,985
2024 - High Season8d/7n6Child under 122,235
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description US $
2024 - Low Season8d/7n6double pp3,205
2024 - Low Season8d/7n6Child under 122,405
2024 - High Season8d/7n6double pp3,435
2024 - High Season8d/7n6Child under 122,575
No of   
days/nights
Riding days Product item description SEK
2024 - Low Season8d/7n6double pp33,995
2024 - Low Season8d/7n6Child under 1225,495
2024 - High Season8d/7n6double pp36,409
2024 - High Season8d/7n6Child under 1227,309
Recommended Reading

WH Auden and Louis MacNeice Letters from Iceland

Chris Casseldine Most Unimaginably Strange: An Eclectic Companion to the Landscape of Iceland 

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!


Other Activities

Blue Lagoon, Whale Watching (Reykyavik)

Wildlife

Enjoy geothermal pools, outdoor hot tubs, bird watching and exploring the lava fields and fauna in the evenings.

Other Information

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.

Other Country Information

Iceland is known as the ‘Land of Fire and Ice’ and is a large island in the North Atlantic Ocean, close to the Arctic Circle. It has close ties with Scandinavia and is part of Europe. Historically, Iceland was settled by Vikings and later came under Danish rule. Known for having the world's first parliament during Norse times, Iceland passed an act centuries ago banning horse imports, leading to today's pure breed. In 1944, Iceland gained full independence. Iceland also boasts a rich horse culture, with nearly every Icelander being a rider or adept at horseback riding.

Iceland is a true gem in the world of travel. With its incredible landscapes that seem to come straight out of a storybook, this destination is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places on Earth. The opportunity to witness volcanoes, stunning beaches, geothermal springs, rocky formations, and mineral-packed pools sparkling with color is truly unique. Plus, its wild landscapes are home to some of the world's most awe-inspiring natural phenomena, such as the midnight sun in June where you can experience almost 24 hours of daylight. And there's no better way to immerse yourself in this natural wonderland than by taking a horseback ride through the glacial river valleys and ancient routes. With its vast uninhabited land, Iceland is an adventure waiting to happen for those who are willing to explore off the beaten path. Only approximately 15% of Iceland is populated and most people choose to live around the coast, leaving the rest of the country's rugged beauty to be discovered by travellers.

Reykjavik, the world's northernmost capital, is picturesque with modern architecture and commerce mixed with traditional colourful wooden houses. 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. The sea also plays a vital role in Icelandic life, supporting the fishing industry. The coast and fjords are rich in bird species, especially sea fowl.


Travel Summary

Meeting-point (getting there):
BSI Bus Station in Reykjavik.
Transfer:
2024: Included from BSI Bus Station in Reykjavik.
Flight Guide:
2024: London - Reykjavik return from £95 pp.
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