Saddle Up: The Top Riding Destinations
Ninth-century Vikings brought the first horses to Iceland, and the surefooted descendants of those animals afford a practical means of travel in this land of glaciers and geysers, mountains and waterfalls, and black lava and green valleys.
If you decide to experience Iceland from the back of a horse, you'll be expected to rough it. Backcountry riders stay at rustic farms or in huts used in colder months by shepherds, and in the most remote areas, you will bathe in natural hot springs because showers are not available. Fortunately, a branch of the Gulf Stream meets the island's southwest coast and affects the climate in a positive way, producing summer temperatures that are remarkably hospitable despite Iceland's location near the Arctic Circle. The midnight sun also affords long days for adventurous travel.
If you'd like to ride for just a day or two, simply visit any number of farms outside the capitol of Reykjavik. You can get a listing of farm-stay locations from the Iceland Tourist Board (www.goiceland.org). To take a longer trip, contact Ishestar Icelandic Riding Tours (Sorlaskeid 26, 220, Hafnarfjordur, Iceland, 011.354.565.3044. www.ishestar.is). For novices, the four-day volcano tour from Leirubakki Farm offers diverse terrain and view of Mount Hekla. Riders with more experience may prefer the six-day Hekla-Landmannalaugar Tour of black laval fields, natural hot springs near Mt. Hekla, and a Viking settlement. You ride from four to seven hours a day and stay at farms or mountain inns. The price, roughly $1,060, includes horse, tack, English-speaking guide, lodging, and all meals. A wide variety of other itineraries up to 16 days are offered. Both Equitour (800.545.0019. www.ridingtours.com) and Hidden Trails (888.984.2457. www.hiddentrails.com) book trips with Ishestar and other stables in Iceland. To combine riding with glaicer tours and other such adventures, contact the Iceland Tourist Bureau (Lagmuli 4, P.O. Box 8650, Reykajavik, Iceland 01135-4585-4300. www.icelandtravel.is).
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication