The Icelandic horse is a one of a kind breed. Equestrians from all over the world agree. The horses that the vikings brought over from Norway have been on the island for so long without change. For this reason, modern caretakers of these horses are very protective of them. If you’d like the chance to ride one of these ancient stallions, you’re best bet is with Ís Hestar Horseback Riding in Hafnarfjörður.
A 20 minute drive from Reykjavik city center, Ís Hestar is located among a collection of many horse stables. Their Lava Tour is the most popular one they offer, and I went out on a cold and windy day to try it out. I definitely recommend it for any Happy Camper during their adventure in Iceland.
Ís Hestar also offers shuttles to and from the city, so if you’re parking downtown for the day, they’ll come to you. Their stables are incredibly easy to find from the main roads with very well marked signs leading to the welcome center.
They offer a large range of tours from 1 hour to multiple days long. Check out their website for availability and booking. The Lava Tour is about 2 hours long and goes from their stables out into the lava fields of the Reykjanes peninsula.
The tour begins with a safety video and overview of the process. Important information is shared on how to mount and dismount the horse correctly, what to do in case of an accident or disruption, and what specifically to wear out on the ride.
From there, you can gear up with helmets, jackets, pants, and spare gloves they provide. There are many different sizes available, and Ís Hestar recommends wearing warm layers of clothes beneath their gear. Even on a sunny day in Iceland, the wind can be chilly and the rain spontaneous. If you have a thin, warm hat to wear beneath your riding helmet, I definitely recommend it for keeping your ears warm.
After gearing up, you’ll walk through the saddle area to the stables where you will be introduced to your horse. Ís Hestar does a great job in pairing everyone with a horse for their riding ability (beginner, intermediate, experienced rider), their size, and their temperament. If you’re concerned about anything, check their FAQ page here.
After pairing up with your riding buddy, you’ll be instructed to take them be the reigns on foot out of the stables to the mounting area and paddock. Then, with the help of the staff, you can mount your horse.
From there, the team will go over a few last minute tips before heading out to ride. My horse, Tímjan (Thyme) was very eager to sniff the rider ahead…
The Lava Tour takes you on quite a long trip toward Mt. Helgafell on mostly gravel paths. It’s a stunning experience, even in cold weather, to ride through mossy lava fields on an Icelandic horse.
The tour guides are very experienced riders and always keep attention to the front and back of the pack during the ride. After about 30-45 minutes of riding, the group stops to split in two.
You have the option of continuing with the slow paced group for walking or bearing left with more experienced riders for faster speed trotting. Whichever you choose to do, the guides are there to help.
During your tour, you’ll take a break for the horses to snack. It’s a great opportunity to take some photos. The Ís Hestar team also explains a bit more about the area, the horses and their training.
Then, it’s a gentle ride back toward the stables where you dismount the horse, take off their saddle, and carry it back in.
After a long horseback ride you can take your time changing out of the gear. There are also hand washing sinks in the changing room for after you’re done.
Back in the welcome center there is coffee, tea, and hot chocolate available. Be sure to check out their great selection of books about the Icelandic horse.
If you’re interested in horseback riding in Iceland, comment here or follow this link to book a tour.
A big thank you to the Solberg and the Ís Hestar team for their assistance. Follow the them and their beautiful horses on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.
Michael’s Other Adventures:
Stargazing in Iceland
My Favorite Waterfall: Kvernufoss
Camping Like Walter Mitty