Tour across Iceland´s western highlands, from the beautiful Vatnsdalur Valley in the north to the shrine of the nation Þingvellir in the south. The smooth tolt of quality Icelandic horses takes you through this mystical and inspiring landscape, following in the footsteps of the Icelandic people who rode these paths to visit their King back in 1907. Today, the trails offer a rarely found peaceful wilderness.
Discover the legendary Arnarvatnheiði Heath with its countless lakes. Your guides will fill you in on the local myths and legends. During the ride, spot the majestic glaciers of Langjökull and Eiríksjökull before visiting the geothermal area of Húsafell; often called the pearl between the lava and the glaciers with its natural forest and great outdoor pool. The end of the trail takes you to the Þingvellir National park, a UNESCO World Heritage site which you will visit on horseback as the Icelanders have done for centuries. On this trail you will be travelling with a herd of 60-90 free running horses, an extremely special experience and unmatched anywhere else in the world.
Accommodation is in shared rooms with shared bathrooms at local farms and mountain cabins. This trail is ideal for those who want to visit the many spectacular natural and historical sites.
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Sample Itinerary: North - South (4 - 10.07.2020)
Day 1: Saturday: Reykjavík – Vatnsdalur Valley – Hvammur Farm – Haukagil
Pick up between 8am and 9am in the morning from Reykjavík. Drive to the north where you'll be welcomed by the farmer and his team at Hvammur farm. The farm is in the valley Vatnsdalur which is said to be one of the most fertile and beautiful valleys in Iceland, shaped by water, glaciers and volcanic activity. On the ride you'll pass the historical farm Hof and cross Vatnsdalsá river. Vatnsdalur is the setting of one of the ancient sagas, the Vatnsdælasaga. On your way you'll hear tales from Iceland´s heroic past of bloody conflict, revenge and love. You can sense the happiness of the free running horses as we head towards the highland. The horses stay at Haukagil farm which is the last farm on this side of the valley before we enter the highland plateau. You'll stay overnight at Hvammur where you can relax in the hot tub before getting ready for the riding adventures of the coming days. (Riding approx. 20 km)
Day 2: Sunday: Haukagil – Haugakvíslarskáli Mountain Cabin
You'll start off by helping to gather the herd of horses we take with us on the trail. Today you'll be riding through the summer pastures of horses and sheep belonging to farmers in the north of Iceland. You'll ascend towards the highland plateau; Víðidalstunguheiði heath. The highland opens up for us and you'll see the mighty Álkugil gorge with picturesque waterfalls tumbling down over rock formations. Throughout the ride you'll see the free running herd tölt on the soft paths of the old Kings Trail and the tracks from travelling horses through the centuries. Here the only inhabitants are foxes, birds and maybe some trolls. You'll spend the night at Haugakvíslarskáli Mountain Cabin. (Riding approx 35 km)
Day 3: Monday: Haugakvíslarskáli – Arnarvatnsheiði Heath and Lake Arnarvatn – Álftakrókur Mountain Cabin
Further into the mountains you'll head towards the spacious Fellaskáli Cabin owned by the farmers of Víðidalur valley. There you'll have lunch before continuing along the ancient highland paths. You'll enjoy the magnificent view over the impressive highland mountains and the glaciers Langjökull and Eiríksjökull as they get closer. You'll pass the Réttarvatn lake on the way to the beautiful lake Arnarvatn; a fascinating mystical place of silence and tranquillity. The fertile highland vegetation and rich birdlife are the highlights of this area. It's now time to say goodbye to the north as you ride further towards the high plateau that belongs to the west area of Borgarfjörður. You'll overnight at the Álftakrókur Mountain Cabin where wanted men were supposed to hide out from the law enforcements long ago. (Riding approx. 35 km)
Day 4: Tuesday: Álftakrókur – Eríksjökull Glacier - Hallmundarhraun Lava – Surtshellir Cave – Borgarfjörður Area
The ride continues beside one of the biggest lavafields in Iceland, Hallmundarhraun. This is a mystical area filled with legends of outlaws and tales from the past. The horses already sense that we are getting closer to the grassland of the farms in the Borgarfjörður Area, and tölt happily as you ride on the banks of the glacial river Norðlingafljót, which you will also cross during the ride. Eríksjökull Glacier, which is also a volcano, is majestic on the east side of the trail. You'll see the best known cave in Iceland; Surtshellir. This spectacular 3500m long lava cave was a hide out for bandits back in the days. The horses will stay at Þorvaldsstaðir. Accommodation at Gamli Bær Guesthouse. (Riding approx. 30 km)
Day 5: Wednesday: Þorvaldsstaðir – Húsafell - Hraunfossar – Augastaðir
You'll spend the day riding and exploring the extraordinary area of Húsafell and will travel through the biggest natural forest of Iceland, Húsafellsskógur. Húsafell, often called the pearl between the lava and the glaciers is a unique natural gem in a magnificent landscape. Today you'll be visiting the exceptionally beautiful waterfall Hraunfossar. The water seems to appear from the lava but is actually a cold spring that surges through the ground and runs in rapids down into the river Hvítá. After a great day with the horses they rest at Augastaðir and we enjoy the geothermal pool of Húsafell. Accommodation at Húsafell Gamli Bær Guesthouse. (Riding approx. 20 km)
Day 6: Thursday: Húsafell – Ancient Ok Trail – Brunnar Mountain Cabin – Brautartunga
The route today leads you from Augastaðir over the mystical ancient trail of Ok. This fascinating highland trail is named after the 1190m high impressive glacier Ok on the east side of the trails, there you can also see the glaciers Geitlandsjökull, Langjökull and Þórisjökull. This impressive area without any vegetation reminds us on how rough nature can be in Iceland. You'll leave the horses at Brunnar Mountain Cabin to rest and will overnight at the community centre Brautartunga in Lundareykjadalur Valley, were the group will have its own private hot tub and swimming pool. A great place to enjoy the last evening of the tour together with a good Icelandic meal, storytelling and singing. (Riding approx. 35 km)
Day 7: Friday: Brunnar – Skógarhólar – Þingvellir – Reykjavík
We continue our ride and enjoy the great view riding in fast tölt on the trail over Bláskógarheiði Heath towards National Park Þingvellir. These tracks were used for centuries by the people travelling to the parliament in Þingvellir. Here are the historical sites by every foot step as we get closer to our destination. Only a few km from Brunnar we pass the legendary stone cairns Hallbjarnarvörður. The Sturlunga Saga, that describes battles of families in Iceland in the 13th Century, mentions this location as a meeting place of armies and their chieftains. Our trail brings us south by the Kaldidalur road, further on great riding tracks by Draugabrekka (Ghostslopes) and Tröllaháls (Trollhill). As we see the Ármannsfell Mountain we are close to Skógarhólar Fields were our great ride ends this time. Skógarhólar is run by the Icelandic Horse Clubs Association and is located in Þingvellir National Park. We thank our horses and say goodbye until next time. We experience the beautiful sites and history of Þingvellir often called the national shrine of Iceland. Here was the oldest existing parliament in the world assembled. The spectacular Geology of Þingvellir is very visual in the Canyon Almannagjá which is formed between two tectonic continental plates drifting from each other. Transfer to Reykjavík, Landsmót Horse Festival and your accommodation. Approx. arrival in Reykjavík at 18:00. (Approx. 20 km)
Sample Itinerary: South - North (12 - 18.07.2020)
Day 1: Sunday: Reykjavík – Þingvellir – Skógarhólar – Brunnar Mountain Cabin
Pick up between 08:00 and 09:00 in the morning from pick up points in Reykjavik www.busstop.is. Please be ready at the earliest pick up time and be ready in your riding clothes. Transfer to the Skógarhólar Fields where our Horseman and guide Haukur, his team and horses from Hvammur farm will meet you. Skógarhólar is run by the Icelandic Horse Clubs Association and is located in Þingvellir National Park. We experience the beautiful sites and history of Þingvellir often called the national shrine of Iceland. Here was where the oldest existing parliament in the world assembled. The spectacular Geology of Þingvellir in the Canyon Almannagjá can be seen. This is formed between two tectonic continental plates drifting from each other. You'll meet the horses and enjoy the first riding day in fast tölt with great views over the Bláskógarheiði Heath. These tracks were used for centuries by the people travelling to the parliament in Þingvellir. The ride brings you north on Kaldidalur road. The Sturlunga Saga, that describes battles of families in Iceland in the 13. Century, mentions this location as a meeting place of armies and their chieftains. You'll leave the horses for the night at Brunnar before heading to your own overnight accommodation in the cultural heart of Iceland; Þingvellir.
(Approx. 20 km)
Day 2: Monday: Brunnar – Ancient Ok Trail – Augastaðir Farm – Hraunfossar Wateralls
The route today leads from Brunnar over the mystical ancient trail of Ok. This fascinating highland trail is named after the 1190m high impressive glacier Ok on the east side of the tracks, there you'll also see the glaciers Geitlandsjökull, Langjökull and Þórisjökull. You'll leave the horses at Augastaðir Farm to rest and head for an overnight stay at Gamli Bær Guesthouse. Today you'll be visiting the exceptionally beautiful waterfall of Hraunfossar. The water seems to appear from the lava but is actually a cold spring that surges through the ground and runs in rapids down into the river Hvítá. (Approx. 35 km)
Day 3: Tuesday: Augastaðir – Húsafell – Þorvaldsstaðir Farm – Surtshellir Cave
You'll spend the day riding through and exploring the extraordinary area of Húsafell, through the biggest natural forest in Iceland,;Húsafellsskógur. Húsafell, often called the pearl between the lava and the glaciers is a unique natural gem in a magnificent landscape. This region has important historical importance. There are tales all the way back from the settlement as well as stories of witchcraft and ghosts from later centuries. After a great day with the horses they rest at Þorvaldsstaðir while you visit the best known cave in Iceland; Surtshellir. The spectacular 3500m long lava cave was a hide out for bandits back in the day. It is a great feeling to relax and enjoy the geothermal pool of Húsafell. Accommodation at Hótel Á. (Approx. 20 km)
Day 4: Wednesday: Borgarfjörður Area -– Eríksjökull Glacier - Hallmundarhraun Lava – Álftakrókur Mountain Cabin
Today you'll be leaving the grassland of the farms in Borgarfjörður and heading for Iceland´s Western Highlands. The ride continues beside one of the biggest lavafields in Iceland Hallmundarhraun. This is a mystical area filled with legends of outlaws and tales from the past. The horses tölt happily as you ride on the banks of the glacial river Norðlingafljót, which you will also cross during the ride. Eríksjökull Glacier, which is also a volcano, rises up majestically on the east side of the trail. Further on, you'll ride to the Álftakrókur Mountain Cabin where wanted men were supposed to hide out from law enforcement long ago. (Approx. 30 km)
Day 5: Thursday: Álftakrókur - Arnarvatnsheiði Heath and Lake Arnarvatn – Haugakvíslarskáli Mountain Cabin
As you travel further into the mountains you'll head towards the spacious Fellaskáli Cabin owned by the farmers of Víðidalur valley where you'll have the main break of the day. Once recuperated you'll enjoy the magnificent views over the impressive highland mountains and the glaciers Langjökull and Eiríksjökull. You can see how the vegetation is changing into lush green colours, created by rich soil and water from the many lakes as we ride to the heart of Arnarvatnsheiði. You'll pass the lake Réttarvatn on our way to the beautiful lake of Arnarvatn. This is truly a fascinating mystical place of silence and tranquillity. Fertile highland vegetation and rich birdlife are the highlights of this area. As you say goodbye to the south you'll ride further to the impressive part of the high plateau that belongs to the North Area known as Húnvavatnssýsla Districht. Here the only inhabitants are foxes, birds and maybe some trolls. You'll be riding through the summer pastures of horses and sheep before ascending towards todays Mountain Cabin for the night; Haugakvíslarkáli in Víðidalstunduheiði Heath. (Approx. 35 km)
Day 6: Friday: Haugakvíslarskáli – Haukagil Farm – Vatnsdalur Valley – Hvammur Farm
Today you'll be riding down from the highland plateau Víðidalstunguheiði heath to the beautiful valley of Vatnsdalur. You'll see the mighty Álkugil gorge with its picturesque waterfalls tumbling down over ancient rock formations. The wildeness and feeling of freedom is inspiring for both the horses and people. You'll see the remains of the old Kings Trail and the tracks from travelling horses through the centuries before spending the night at Haukur´s Farm; Hvammur. Here you'll enjoy the last evening of the tour together with an outdoor jacuzzi, good meal, storytelling and singing (Approx 35 km)
Day 7: Saturday: Haukagil – Vatnsdalur – Hvammur Farm – Reykjavík
Vatnsdalur is said to be one of the most fertile and beautiful valleys in Iceland, shaped by water, glaciers and volcanic activity. On todays ride you'll pass the historical farm Hof and cross Vatnsdalsá river. Vatnsdalur is the setting of one of the ancient sagas, the Vatnsdælasaga. On the way you'll hear tales from Iceland´s heroic past of bloody conflict, revenge and love. You'll experience the spirit of the Icelandic horses as we are heading towards home on the great riding paths hugging the banks of the Vatnsdalsá River. At the end of the day it's time to say good-bye to Haukur and his crew. The bus will take you to Reykjavík, either to BSÍ (Main Bus Station) or to your accommodation. Approx. time of arrival in Reykjavík is at 18:00.
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.
Please note that knee-high rubber riding boots are recommended for this ride.
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.
Letters From Iceland
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 and have a basic knowledge of horsemanship. Hours per day in the saddle ranges from three to six. The minimum age for this ride is 11 years old.
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 242 lb/110 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.
Accommodation is in a combination of made up bedat farm houses and in mountain cabins. Indoor WC, warm showers and/or hot pools are available at most locations. The mountain cabins offer simple accommodation in sleeping bags. Please bring your own! Sometimes the whole group stays together in one large room. Accommodation is equipped with beds or bunk beds depending on the size and location of each mountain cabin. Some nights are spent at Hvammur farm which is situated in the beautiful Vatnsdalur Valley and has the famous salmon fishing river Vatnsdalsá running down the middle. The farmhouse was renovated 4 years ago and has a hot tub in the garden with a view over the river. the farm is also equipped with Wifi and 2-4 beds in each room.
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 lightly 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, we recommend the Cabin Hotel or Brim Hotel (also known as Reykjavik Hotel Centre).
As part of an initiative to improve the centre of Reykjavik for locals and travellers, the local authorities banned all buses to drive within the central part of the City in 2017. 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 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 around 17°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.
There is electricity available in each nights accommodation to charge cameras etc. There is WiFi available when staying at Hvammur Farm.
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 will 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.
• Lunchbox/Tupperware to carry your packed lunch
• 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 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.
This is a 7 day/6 night programme with 7 riding days available on set dates. We recommend riders arrive a day early and stay in a hotel in Reykjavik the night before the ride starts.
2020: 4 (FULL), 12 (FULL) July
2021: 7, 15 July
|Riding days||Product item description||£|
|2020||7d/6n||7||Child under 12||1,809|
|2021||7d/6n||7||Child under 12||1,809|
|Riding days||Product item description||€|
|2020||7d/6n||7||Child under 12||1,945|
|2021||7d/6n||7||Child under 12||1,945|
|Riding days||Product item description||$|
|2020||7d/6n||7||Child under 12||2,419|
|2021||7d/6n||7||Child under 12||2,419|
|Riding days||Product item description||SEK|
|2020||7d/6n||7||Child under 12||20,715|
|2021||7d/6n||7||Child under 12||20,715|
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. 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.