Happy Campers made a very special visit to Pólar Hestar, a horseback riding tour company in Grenivík. and it was definitely one of the highlights of my epic road trip through Northern Iceland. I remember my excitement the weeks leading up to the tour after getting in touch with Juliane, one of the owners. I couldn’t wait to finally ride the beautiful, Icelandic horse, and have to admit I checked out their live webcam every so often. So, I ended up choosing the 2-hour tour around the farm’s surrounding landscapes and my, oh my, did we have a unique experience.
Looking back, I’ve trained at a horse summer camp as well as done other quick tours, like through the Arizona desert. All of these were so much fun, but if I’m going to be honest, this most recent horseback riding trip has topped them all! And there were several factors as to why:
1. Juliane’s hospitality was like no other. She made our group feel as though we were visiting family rather than getting right to the activity as a tourist. (She also managed to mail a hat I left at the farm, but that’s a story to tell at HC HQ!).
2. Tour guide to rider ratio was rather small at 1:5 for both safety and keeping it personal; it made conversation easy and it’s certainly great for families. The group was myself plus one, and a family of three. We all got along great!
3. Our tour guide, Sabrina, was well experienced with horses from a young age and made everyone feel comfortable and kept the chatter going.
4. We were able to “tolt”, a fifth gait, exclusive only to the Icelandic horse. It’s considered a smoother version of the gallop and some say you can drink a coffee at the same time. I don’t really believe it, but I did notice less bouncing up and down! And…
5. At the end of our tour, the experience didn’t finish until after a delicious spread of homemade cakes, coffee, and hanging out with everyone at the farm.
From the moment we entered the farm we were greeted with a warm, kind welcome from Juliane. She introduced us to some cute animals on our way to the stables and offered a quick history lesson of Pólar Hestar. Her husband, Stefán, has been in the horse business for over 30 years at Grýtubakki, sharing the joy of Icelandic horseback riding with tourists who want to get a little bit closer to this gentle creature. It was clear to see the love and care Stefán, Juliane, and Simon (their son) put into the farm. And not only is it a sanctuary for 150 horses, there are 250 sheep and 3 dogs residing there as well.
It was easy to navigate ourselves between Akureyri, the capital of the North, and Grýtubakki farmhouse, “the heart of the company.” After using the GPS for a few minutes, we actually didn’t require it anymore since there was only one road leading to Grenivík. It was obvious where we had to turn off thanks to this bright, red sign!
The farmhouse and stables were obviously treated with care, cleanliness, and beautiful mural art inspired by the resident animals.
I was able to meet a cute baby lamb who was only a few weeks old. A rare opportunity as most of the lambs were seen along the main roads that we could only drive by.
This was Smári. When I first met him, I wasn’t sure if he was well, to be honest. He held this pose without moving for several minutes as I acquainted myself with the group. Apparently this is his cue for belly rubs! I found it hilarious and had to share this with you.
Time to get ready! Before the riding began, Sabrina took us into the stable where we had to sign a safety waiver, reading and understanding the conditions and risks of riding horses.
She was also a great instructor on mounting horses. I liked the safety procedure of having the farmhands aid us getting up. It was extremely helpful as some of us were riding for the first time, while others needed an extra push (aka. me with the short legs!).
Here I am mounting Mósa, my riding buddy for the day. She was one of the older horses in the group and quite gentle, although she was ALWAYS hungry.
Over the course of the 2-hour tour surrounded by gorgeous landscape, the group was given two, much needed breaks. Imagine riding horseback for the first time or the first in a long time. It does not feel good after, nor the next day, as a matter of fact! The first stop was atop a hill where all of us got a splendid view of the farmland.
How lucky were we to have the clouds clear and sun shining! This was our second stop and it was time for a quick photo shoot on horseback. Sabrina did a fantastic job of capturing the amazing scenery behind us so we will remember this moment forever. How could you not want a photo of yourself on an Icelandic horse?!
I may have gotten a little too close to these guys for a picture since they ended up running fast. The large, white sheep is the mom, while the two brown lambs are her babies. Awww.
It was literally a sweet ending to our few hours at Grýtubakki as we sampled all the tasty, homemade cakes and kleinur.
But wait! There was one more thing we were lucky enough to witness. Every day after the final tour wraps up, the horses head back to another field where they can sleep and continue to graze. Our group saw the spectacular stampede with the help of the dogs!
Our experience at Pólar Hestar was one for the books and is highly recommended by Happy Campers as one of the more unique experiences you can have visiting the north of Iceland. Pólar Hestar exceeded my expectations as a top notch activity and family experience, and I absolutely know you will be blown away by this opportunity as well. If you’re looking for an epic adventure on horseback in the north, this is it!
Are you a more advanced rider or prefer a 1-hour ride? Feel free to check out all of their other tours on their website.
Until next time, happy travels!
To check out Lea’s adventures, follow her on Instagram @coolitchcowski
To read more about Lea’s Happy Camper Adventures in Iceland check out these articles:10 Free Things to Do & See in ReykjavíkReykjavik Food WalkSouth Iceland’s Slakki Petting Farm Experience