Europe

Horseback riding trails in Iceland

A riding holiday in Iceland is perfect for lovers of dramatic landscapes and fun riding. The "land of fire and ice" is home to glaciers, volcanoes, haunting volcanic lunar landscapes, lava fields, rivers and endless grassy plains. The Icelandic horse, a reminder of the country’s strong Viking roots, is a pleasure to ride with its unique extra gait - the tölt, a smooth 4-beat stride that allows for a comfortable fast-paced ride. Most horse riding trails in Iceland involve riding amongst a herd of free-running horses which is a truly exhilarating experience. A visit to Iceland at the end of the season means working alongside the local farmers and lending a hand on the annual, and vital, sheep and horse round-ups before the long winter falls.
See all our trips

From the horse’s mouth

  • Snaefellsnes Beach Trail
    Svenja, Encino
    Fantastic horses, stunning landscape, great company. I defenitely recommend this trip!
    More about this trip
  • Iceland Kjolur trail ride
    Trail ride in Kjolur Iceland
  • Horseriding in Landmannalaugar, Iceland
    Landmannalaugar Fjallabak Trail
  • Horseback trail ride in Landmannalaugar, Iceland
    Landmannalaugar Fjallabak Trail
  • Iceland and icelandic horses herd
    Icelandic horses
  • Northern Lights and whales riding trail
    Enjoy the amazing Northern Lights in Iceland
  • Summer riding trail and Gullfoss waterfalls
    The legendary Gulfoss waterfalls

Visa & Health

Formalities

A passport valid for three months beyond the length of stay and issued within the past 10 years is required by Australian, British, Canadian, USA and most EU nationals. Some European passport holders can enter Iceland on a national ID card but this does NOT include British.
Visas:
Visas are not required for stays of up to 90 days.
Visa note:
Travellers from outside the UK are advised to contact the embassy to check visa requirements for Iceland.

BREXIT ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

The rules for travel to most countries in Europe will change if the UK leaves the European Union (EU) with no deal.

After 29 March 2019:

You should have 6 months left on your passport from your date of arrival. This applies to adult and child passports.

If you renewed a 10 year adult passport before it expired, extra months may have been added to your passport’s expiry date. These extra months will not count.

The new rules will apply to passports issued by the UK, Gibraltar, Guernsey, the Isle of Man and Jersey.

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/passport-rules-for-travel-to-europe-after-brexit

Addresses of consulates

  • Consulat d'Islande
    8 av. Kléber
    75016 Paris
    Tél. : 01 44 17 32 85
    Fax :
  • Ambassade à l'étranger
    Tungata n°22-PO Box
    1750 Reykjavik 121
    Tél. : +354 551 76 21/22
    Fax : +354 562 55 67
  • Ambassade en France
    8 avenue Kléber
    75116 Paris
    Tél. : 01 44 17 32 85
    Fax : 01 40 67 99 96
    icemb.paris@utn.stjr.is
  • Ambassade d'Islande
    Rond-Point Schuman 11
    1040 Bruxelles
    Tél. : +32 (0)2 238 50 00
    Fax : +32 (0)2 230 69 38
    emb.brussels@mfa.is
  • Ambassade d'Islande
    Rue du Mont-de-Sion 8
    1206 Genève
    Tél. : 022/703 56 56
    Fax : 022/703 56 66
    consulat-is@nbh-law.ch

Health

There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Iceland. The country has a very good public health infrastructure with hospitals, good doctors and widely available pharmacies.
The biggest hazard in Iceland is probably the weather, especially when venturing inland along the difficult roads. You need a very sturdy high clearance 4wd vehicle and all supplies like food, water and fuel. Also, watch out for sudden storms and blizzards, even in the middle of summer. Also, after rain, some slow flowing small rivers might all of sudden turn into wide and deep rivers, almost impossible to cross by car. So if you do venture inland and away from the main roads, watch all of these things very closely.

Insurance

It is a condition of your booking with Equus Journeys that you have travel insurance which covers you for the riding activities to be undertaken. Your travel insurance should cover you for medical expenses and repatriation. Your guides will require your travel insurance details before they allow you to ride and may refuse to let you ride if you cannot provide them. You should take your insurance documents with you.

Voltage

220 volts AC, 50Hz. Plugs are two-pin

Budget and money

The Icelandic currency is the króna (Ikr.). Coins come in denominations of five, ten, fifty and one hundred krónur and there are notes of 500, 1000, 2000 and 5000 krónur.
You don't have to bring lots of cash, because Iceland is a country where plastic money seems to have been invented and even small things can usually be bought by credit card. If you don't have one, most banking cards of your own country (Cirrus, Maestro logo) will be fine for taking money from ATM's and these can be found in almost every small town.
Tipping is not necessary in Iceland as taxes (VAT) and service are included in the price.

Telephone and jetlag

The international telephone code is 354
Standard GMT

Country information

Country ID

Official title: Iceland
Capital: Reykjavik
Area: 103,000 sq km (39,769 sq miles).
Population: 315,281 (2013).
Population density: 3.1 per sq km.
Language: The official language is Icelandic; English and Danish are widely spoken
Religion: 85.5% Lutheran, with a Catholic minority.

Political regime: Republic
President: Ólafur Ragnar Grimsson since 1996.

Head of government: Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson since 2013.

Socio-economical data

Iceland made headlines around the world in October 2008 when the country’s three banks suffered an economic collapse. Iceland was hit hard by the global recession, and as a result the Icelandic government had to step in and seize control of the country's biggest banks in a rescue operation that sent shockwaves around the island and beyond.
Until that point Icelanders enjoyed a per capita income that was amongst the highest in the world at US$38,000 (2007)/US$39,400 (2008 estimate). The country had been in a positive economic period; in 2007 economic growth was at 2.5% and unemployment at a very low 1%. The future is uncertain but the country has started to rally and with increasing numbers of tourists visiting for some of the best Northern Lights shows of recent times, as well as volcano tourism, there have been some positive signs.
Iceland is short of raw materials and so relies heavily on foreign trade; exports of goods and services account for more than one-third of GNP. The largest proportion of these derives from fishing, Iceland's most important export (40% of its export earnings). The economy is therefore particularly susceptible to fluctuating fish prices and maintains a broad fisheries exclusion zone of 320km (200 miles) to protect its earnings. The government remains opposed to EU membership, primarily because of concern about losing control over their fishing resources.
Aluminium smelters are playing an increasingly big part in Iceland's economy, and have polarized Icelanders in recent years. While some argue that the pristine nature of the interior should be preserved at all costs, others think it should be tapped to regenerate areas where traditional industries are no longer viable.

History

The first people believed to have visited Iceland were members of a Hiberno-Scottish mission or hermits, also known as Papar, who came in the 8th century or even as early as the second half of the 7th century. No archaeological discoveries support this theory; the monks are supposed to have left with the arrival of Norsemen, who systematically settled in the period circa AD 870–930. The first known permanent Norse settler was Ingólfur Arnarson, who built his homestead in Reykjavík in the year 874. In 930, the ruling chiefs established an assembly called the Alþingi (Althing). This parliament was founded as the political hub of the Icelandic Commonwealth. Christianity was adopted 999–1000. The Commonwealth lasted until 1262 when the political system devised by the original settlers proved unable to cope with the increasing power of Icelandic chieftains.

From the 14th century onwards to the late 18th century, Iceland was part of the Norwegian Crown, Norway-Denmark (Kalmar Union) and later under Danish rule. Lutheranism became the main religion and the last Catholic bishop in Iceland was beheaded in 1550, along with his two sons. Two Black Death and one smallpox epidemics killed about one third to a half of the population each time during these centuries.

In 1814, following the Napoleonic Wars, Denmark-Norway was broken up into two separate kingdoms via the Treaty of Kiel. Iceland, however, remained a Danish dependency. Throughout the 19th century, the country's climate continued to grow worse, resulting in mass emigration to the New World, particularly Manitoba in Canada. In 1874, Denmark granted Iceland a constitution and limited home rule, which was expanded in 1904. The Act of Union, an agreement with Denmark signed on 1 December 1918, recognised Iceland as a fully sovereign state under the Danish king. On 31 December 1943, the Act of Union agreement expired after 25 years. Iceland formally became an independent republic on 17 June 1944, with Sveinn Björnsson as the first president. Iceland became a NATO member in 1949.

The immediate post-war period was followed by substantial economic growth, driven by industrialisation of the fishing industry and Marshall aid. The 1970s were marked by the Cod Wars—several disputes with the United Kingdom over Iceland's extension of its fishing limits. The economy was greatly diversified and liberalised when Iceland joined the European Economic Area in 1994. During the period 2003–07, Iceland developed from a nation best known for its fishing industry into a global financial powerhouse, but was consequently hit particularly hard by the 2008 global financial crisis, which extended into 2009 and 2010.

Geography

Iceland, one of the most volcanically active countries in the world, is a large island in the North Atlantic close to the Arctic Circle.

The most significant of its seismic features is found at Þingvellir National Park along the Almannagja fault. This rift in the rock shows the direct point on the earth where the Mid-Atlantic Rift runs through the island, where the North American and European tectonic plates are moving apart at an average of 2cm per year. The dramatic valley is clear on the land here, and is also visible in nearby Þingvellir Lake where divers visit the Silfra rift to see the crack between the tectonic plates in more detail.

Equally, volcano tourism is big business, with walking routes near the Eyjafjallajokull volcano, helitours over it and scenic trips to nearby Hekla, its hitherto most famous volcano, all popular.

Five-sixths of Iceland is uninhabited, the population being concentrated on the coast, in the valleys and in the plains of the southwest and southeast of the country. More than half the population lives in or around Reykjavík, the capital. Akureyri in the north is the country’s second city.

The whole of the central highland plateau of the island is a beautiful but barren and uninhabitable moonscape - so much so that the first American astronauts were sent there for pre-mission training.

Eleven percent of the island is covered by three large glaciers. Iceland's highest and most extensive glacier is Vatnajökull; at 8,500 sq km (3,280 sq miles), it is the largest in Europe, although it is now reported to be melting. Vatnajökull National Park, established in 2008, is Europe’s largest national park, encompassing its namesake glacier as well as volcanoes, waterfalls and wetlands.

There are several smaller glaciers in the country, including Snaefellsjokull, visible from Reykjavík, which sits atop an ancient cone volcano and was the setting for Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Only 1% of the land in Iceland is cultivated, with 20% used for grazing sheep, Icelandic horses and cattle.

People, culture and traditions

Visitors will find Iceland is a class-less society with a strong literary tradition. Handshaking is the normal form of greeting. An Icelander is called by his first name because his surname is made up of his father's Christian name plus 'son' or 'daughter' (eg John, the son of Magnus, would be called John Magnusson, while John's sister, Mary, would be known as Mary Magnusdóttir). People are addressed as Fru (Mrs) and Herra (Mr). Visitors will often be invited to homes, especially if on business, and normal courtesies should be observed. Icelanders pay careful attention to their appearance and, as for most Western countries, casual wear is widely acceptable although unsuitable for smart and social functions.

Choosing the right riding holiday

Choosing the right riding holiday

There are many options for a horse riding holiday in Iceland - short breaks, week-long trail rides or even longer. All abilities can be catered for as well - there are easy trails for novice riders and challenging routes for experienced riders. It is possible to return to Iceland many times and always ride across different landscapes...

The classic Iceland trail is the Kjolur, which traverses the island from north to south or vice versa.

Also in the Highlands and through spectacular scenery are the Landmannalaugar tours in the area around Mount Hekla and the Power of Creation tour which traverses through Fjallabak from east to west, or vice versa.

The spectacular beach rides along the Snaefellsnes peninsula on the west coast also include dramatic volcanic scenery and glaciers for experienced riders, whilst the incredibly wild beauty of East Iceland can be discovered on the Egilsstadir Trail. To the far north, the stunning Northern Exposure trail takes in Lake Myvatn and Dettifoss - Europe's largest waterfall.

If you are short of time, then there are some long weekend or short breaks on offer: the stunning Northern Lights trail in the Autumn, or Geysir Gulfoss Special through the summer.

At the end of the season there are also a number of Sheep round-ups and Horse round-ups for those who want a hands-on and participatory riding holiday.

For riders who have some skills and are generally fit, but don't have the necessary experience to ride with a herd of loose horses, then the Golden Circle trail is ideal and brings in the three key attractions of Geysir, Gulfoss and Thingvellir.



Extend your trip

    Whale watching excursion

    Budget: £121

    This half-day excursion is a unique opportunity to watch Minke whales, Humpback whales, Dolphins and Porpoises in their natural element.

    This is a fantastic day out, ideal for all from individuals to couples or families! Children can even enjoy a discount - pleace contact us. Obviously, we can never guarantee anything with wild animals, but viewing chances are good, and especially in the summer.

    One or two departures a day depending on the season, pick up at your hotel.

    Blue Lagoon hot springs

    Budget: £155

    Set in a stunning black-lava field, the Blue Lagoon is probably one of the most popular attractions in Iceland. It is also very conveniently located between the airport and the city centre, making it an ideal first stop!

    Take the time to relax in these natural hot springs, enjoy your first day in Iceland. The heated water (38°C) is rich mineral salts and silica mud, which are a real treat to the skin.

    You can decide to visit the Lagoon from the BSI in Reykjavik or from the airport - shuttles run throughout the day.

    Puffin watching tour

    Budget: £59

    The Atlantic Puffin is a captivating and beautiful bird. Between May and August, it settles along the Icelandic coast to nest during the warmer months. Iceland boasts the largest colony in the world and provides some amazing opportunities for bird-watching!

    Animal lovers will love this excursion. On a boat, you get as close to the birds as can be - if you're lucky, you might catch a glimpse of other species such as grey headed ducks or cormorans.

    Three departures a day from Mid-May to Mid-August.
    Children discounts (7-15 yo).