7 days (6 riding days)
Intermediate and advanced riders
- Jul 10 - Jul 16 2017
Tour operatorGunnar and Bjarni
Kjölur - the Mystic Trail
The settlers that came to Iceland in the 9th century were free minded people that did not want to become subjects of King Harald Fairhair who had seized power in Norway. They decided to form a unique social arrangement in Iceland: democracy without central government. A critical part of that arrangement was the annual meeting at the Þingvellir parliament, established in 930 A.D. In order to be able to attend these meetings, routes across the mountains of Iceland were established, of which Kjölur - the link between the north and south was one of the most important ones
This route offers great variety of landscapes. We start by riding through the beautiful valley of Gilhagadalur, climbing up to the soft heathlands above Skagafjörður. From there we ride between the two giant glaciers Langjökull and Hofsjökull to the Hveravellir geothermal area with it's natural hot baths. Further south the trail takes us through the amazing lavafield of Kjalhraun where the famous outlaw Grettir sterki lived in a cave. The cave lies just beside our trail, so we can have a look at the accomodation of this old hero, who had inhabited it 1000 years earlier.
A bit further into the highlands, we pass by Beinhóll, a place of great mystery and importance to the Icelandic folklore. We ride into the spectacular mountain range of Kerlingarfjöll and from there by the Skipholtskrókur area which, according to evidence in Botticelli’s “Primavera”, da Vinci’s “Last Supper” and even Dante’s “Divine Comedy”, is considered to be the hiding place for the Holy Grail!
Day by day
Day 1: Kaldbakur - Búðará
We start the tour at the remote farm of Kaldbakur and ride towards Hrunakrókur which marks the start of the formidable Laxárgljúfur Caynon which is up to 200m deep. We ride an old path along the canyon providing many breathtaking views. In the latter part of the day we enter the Hrunamannaafréttur highlands where we ride to north-west to river Búðará where we leave the horses and drive a to the mountain hut in Svínárnes where we spend the night.
Distance: 30km, 5-6 hours
Day 2: Búðará - Fosslækur
We start the day by taking a short drive to Búðará where we left the horses. The first part of the day we ride alongside a long fell Búrfell. To the west is an impressive view to Langjökull Glacier and the Jarlhettur Mountain range. We arrive at the hut in Svínárnes where we have lunch and change horses.
In the latter part of the day we ride west to river Hvítá and explore the Ábóti waterfall, a natural treasure that very few people get to see. From Ábóti we ride east to river Grjótá and follow very nice riding paths all the way to the magical mountain hut in Fosslækur.
Distance: 35km, 6 hours
Day 3: Fosslækur - Gíslaskáli
We ride towards the impressive Kerlingarfjöll mountain range which was formed in series of volcanic eruptions under the icecap of the last ice age. While we approach it, we will see the rock Kerling which according to folklore used to be a huge female troll that turned to stone when she was caught by the morning sun. The mountain range is named after her. Our path turns to west passing Mt. Mosfell, crossing the glacier river Jökulfall arriving at a well equipped hut Gíslaskáli at the edge of the Kjalhraun lavafield and at the start of river Svartá.
Distance: 30km 5 hours
Day 4: Gíslaskáli - Strangahvísl
We enter the formidable lavafield of Kjalhraun and ride an ancient route estabished by the Vikings soon after the settlement in the 9th century.. The trail is marked by spectacular waystones and has been the major route connecting the north and the south ever since. The environment is ghostly and is the stage for many stories of the Icelandic folklore. We pass Beinhóll (Hill of Bones) where two brothers from Skagafjörður perished in the year 1780 with their 3 fellow companions, 16 horses and 300 sheep. Their story is one of great mystery and their fate made people abandon tours over Kjölur for over a hundred years. A little later we pass the cave Grettishellir, where Grettir Ásmundarson, famous for his strength and fighting skills, lived as an outlaw about 1000 years ago.
As soon as we exit the lavafield we ride towards river Blanda which is one of three major rivers that we have to cross before we arrive at our hut. The others are Svartahvísl and Strangahvísl. These rivers are quite safe to cross, but they provide an exciting experience when the horses wade through the heavy stream of opaque glacial water.
Distance: 50km, 8 hours
Day: 5 Strangahvísl - Galtará
From Strangahvísl we ride north over heaths of beautiful vegetation. The intense aroma of the fields of wild thyme which we ride through towards the end of the day is something you will not forget. This is a short day which give us a breather to recover from the long and taxing day through Kjalhraun.
Distance: 20km, 3-4 hours
Day 6: Galtará - Gilhagi
From Galtará we ride east to lake Aðalsmannsvatn and start the climb up to the high plain above Gilhagi valley. From the high plain we have an amazing view of almost all north Iceland. As we start to decend into the Gilhagi valley the vegetation grows thicker. The trails are good and this is an opportunity to ride fast tölt while enjoying the beautiful landscape of the valley with its spectacular rock formations.
Distance: 35km, 5 hours
Day 8: Departure
After a nice breakfast, a bus will pick you up around 12:00 and take you to downtown Reykjavík arriving around 17:00
Sjá Kjölur - the Mystic Trail á stærra korti
Kjölur - the Mystic Trail
The Kjölur - the Mystic Trail Riding Tour (7 riding days southbound on the old Kjölur-route through the Higlands in Iceland) was one of the best vacations we have ever had. It was brilliantly organized by the superb Riding-Iceland-Team, impressive landscapes, extremely delicious food (drinks incl.!!!) and a herd of horses with a matching character for every rider.
We, Daniel (33), Johanna (29), and Verena (30) wanted a little more “action” for our visit to Iceland than we would have gotten if we only had rented a jeep to take a round-trip of the island. For that reason, over the duration of 6 months, we underwent an intensive training of our riding skills and stamina. This was recommended for all similar riding tours in Iceland and we were grateful for the additional classes. We would have even more benefitted from extended riding experience in the open country.
The Mystic Trail Riding Tour lead us across the Icelandic Highlands, followong the traditional Kjölur-Route from North to South. We rode for 7 days from mountain hut to mountain hut, 4 – 7 hours per day (ca. 20 – 40 km). The landscapes were breathtaking. We passed barren volcanic lava fields, deep canyons, hot sulfur springs, high waterfalls and lush green heath on our way. The main luggage was transported by a jeep to the next hut, while the bare necessities were carried in saddlebags during the rides.
After 1 – 2 days, our felt our muscles aching a bit, but after that, every day felt better and better. There is a break during the rides every 1 – 2 hours. One or two times a day, we changed horses. Siggi has a good feeling for pairing horses and riders and keeps an open ear to wishes in that matter. The speed during the ride is high and the main gait of the horse is Tölt, whenever the terrain allows for it. Siggi and the Team keep an eye on the free running herd of horses, but whoever feels up to it is invited to help with the herding. There is always an option to ride in a bit of a distance to the herd for those who are scared of the sheer energy of these horses.
The style of accommodation on these tours varies. There were 4-people bedrooms with hot showers and electricity at one location and one-room huts for the whole group without any shower or electricity at other locations. We always found a river close by the huts to wash ourselves and a woodstove to warm ourselves, that gave every hut a cozy atmosphere.
Despite the simplicity of many facilities did Siggi and his team manage to serve us a first-class-dinner every night. Icelandic lobster, lamb- and beefsteak, we did not suffer any want and everything tasted delicious. In the morning, we were served, cheese, assorted cold meat, smoked salmon, eggs, musli and porridge.. – not bad for a hut in the middle of nowhere. Drinks were inclusive and despite our efforts to annihilate the stock of beer-and wine during the tour, we had to accept defeat in this regard….
Riding Iceland was founded as a family business. Three generations and friends of the family accompanied the tour. The guest-list itself was international: USA, China, Sweden, Denmark, Germany. One of our reasons for booking a tour with Riding Iceland was our hope to receive a more personal and typical “icelandic” welcome from a family-owned business. The Atmosphere on the tour exceeded our expectations in this regard. From the first day, we were part of the Riding-Iceland-family. That left us, now that we are back home and to our offices, with the distinct feeling: We miss you!