The Riding-Iceland Experience
Roots and fundaments of the experience
Over 1000 years ago a man named Ingolfur Arnarson and his kinsmen headed west to keep their freedom and independence from Norwegian aristocracy. Guided by the Gods, the wind and the sea, they settled where Ingolfurs high seat pillars came ashore, which they had thrown overboard earlier according to an old norse tradition. The land welcomed them with smoke and steam from hot springs and rifts in the ground and so they called their new home Reykjavík – Smoke Bay.
The aura of the young country has not changed too much ever since the first settlers have set foot on this island. The experience of visiting Iceland still contains impressions, like the strong smell of sulfur coming from the hot sulfur springs – and out of every hot water pipe in Icelandic households. Vast lava fields and earth cracks are testament to the story of a powerful mother nature, who is not done forming this country yet. At the youngest places of the island, close to the rift of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge which bisects the island transversely, you can feel her boiling energy under the thin earthly surface underneath your feet. At the places that are already solidified, nature has built the most amazing shapes and colorful sceneries to the landscape.
The greater part of the country is still uninhabited since most of the population is allocated around the coast line. The most remote areas remain beyond the reach of any vehicle. That is the reason why men depended on their horses to carry them and their goods across the country throughout the history of Iceland.
Ingolfur and his kin had brought in horses from Norway and the western isles of Scotland, Ireland and the Isle of Man. Since space on the small open Viking boats was limited, they only chose to bring the best of the best of their living stock and import was stopped as soon as there were enough horses on the island. Thus only nature could mold this unique breed of the Icelandic Horse thereafter and its treats and talents were preserved until today.
During a Riding Iceland tour, our horses take you to the most beautiful and remote areas that the country has to offer. We enjoy the vast nature of Iceland by leaving man made roads behind and following the old historic tracks of Ingolfurs descendants across the Highland, accompanied only by our fellow riders and a herd of loose horses.
On the arriving day, we usually meet at the international airport in Keflavík and drive to the starting point, where we spend the first night and come to know our fellow riders. A warm dinner will be prepared to welcome the group. After a hearty and tonic breakfast on the next morning we go to meet the horses which have been carefully selected and specially trained for the purpose of a highland tour and thus are in good spirit and have the necessary stamina to take us safely through the wilderness. The sure footed Icelandic horse is mainly known for its two additional gaits – the tölt and the pace. We will indulge in the breathtaking feeling of riding a smoothly tölting horse whenever there are suited riding tracks. The different tour designs are carefully drawn, so you have the chance to explore the great variety of the Icelandic nature. It ranges from mighty canyons, waterfalls and colorful mountain ranges to smooth and flowery heath land, powerful glacier rivers and the magic scene of the glacier itself. It includes old lava fields as well as the wetland – an area that is covered with cotton grass as far as the eye can reach. We might also come across one of the countless fields of wild growing blueberries – where we usually stop for snack break.
After a day of utter solitude in the wilderness, we will find our way to a remote mountain hut. Our horses spend the night in a fence or rudimental stable close by the huts. Every one of these cottages has its own story, being built or even inhabited by elves or the ghosts of old heroes and outlaws. There is a magic moment during the hours of twilight in the Icelandic mountains, when you almost feel them sitting next to you on one of the mossy hummocks, following your gaze to the horizon that seems to be as far away as anywhere else. At some places we will find natural hot water pools, where we can warm ourselves up again, relax sore and stiff muscles and listen to some stories about the local ghosts, elves and hidden people.
A day of high physical activity and lots of fresh air usually quickens the appetite quite a bit. On the dinner table, you will find fresh local food that has been lovingly prepared. We will eat salmon from the rivers we crossed and lamb that has been roaming free in the heath land areas as well as wild geese and reindeer from Iceland or Greenland. We also invite you to try out and taste local specialties like the strong and dark whale meat and the spicy Hákarl (shark meat). With all dishes, we serve fresh vegetables from local farms and greenhouses. If we were lucky on the hunt for wild blueberries, we might also prepare a delicious blueberry skyr cake for dessert. Following a deep-seated tradition, the schedule for the hours after dinner is reserved for larking singing and lively storytelling. This daily ritual includes old Icelandic songs and poetry as well as your favorite songs, re-mastered by the tour guide and his guitar.
Accommodation on most of our tours is relatively basic. We sleep in sleeping bags on bunk beds or mattresses in the small and cozy mountain huts where generations of travelers have gathered close together and found shelter before us. To begin a new day, we start by having a typical Icelandic high-energy warm or cold breakfast to be well prepared for another long day on horseback out in the Mountains. It is an unforgettable experience to drive and maneuver a herd of loose horses, either feeling their rush in your back or watching them disappear behind the crest of a hill. Especially during the last days it might be more of a challenge to control the herd, since they already feel the call of home. The last stints on perfect riding tracks allow us to enjoy the experience of the horses tölting at full speed – a cheering and overwhelming feeling on its own - before we finally arrive at the place where we started our tour. Here we can for the first time after several days in the wilderness indulge in hot showers and regular beds and sheets. For having been the last riding day, it is a perfect occasion to organize a lavish feast and by this means celebrate our adventures.
A Riding Iceland tour into the Icelandic mountains is a spirit cleaning natural experience which aims to take you out of your daily routine and put you in intimate touch with Nature. Most of the pre-organized tours are attended with relatively high physical demands and require some riding experience in the open country. To make this tour a great experience for everyone, it is absolutely vital to meet the demands of the specific tour. If you are interested in joining in one of the tours but insecure about the necessary requirements, please feel invited to contact me personally. I would be happy to find the perfect tour for your individual needs and interests.