Touch of the Highlands | Horse Riding Holidays in Iceland | Globetrotting

Touch of the Highlands Ride, Iceland

6 NightsIntermediate to AdvancedFrom €4,100 EUR?Tour costs €4,100 EUR which is approximately $6,742 AUD

Believe us when we say, once you’ve tölted under a midnight sun in Iceland there is no turning back. You’ll be transformed. FOREVER.

From the moment you swing a leg over an Icelandic horse, you’ll become swept up in the saga that is Iceland. The beating heart of The Touch of the Highlands Ride {and our Wilderness Expedition}, is hands down the horses. We can guarantee that by the end of your ride you’ll be ready to give your herd of 70 horses a standing ovation. BRAVO. Over the course of The Touch of the Highlands Ride you’ll have the pleasure of riding between 10 to 12 different Icelandic horses, each and every one as brave-hearted as the next.

As a synchronised riding group you’ll tölt across the black earth, the shifting valleys and the milky-blue river deltas of Iceland. Your focal point for the entire trip is the free-running herd of Icelandic horses gallivanting ahead or behind you at all times. Without your herd, there is no way you would be able to cover so many kilometres each day. We’ve been told by our guide and host, Magnus, that horse herding in Iceland is a dying art, so this is a UNIQUE PRIVILEGE to be part of.

Fast Facts

  • Horse Breed:Icelandic horses - the jewel in the crown of this itinerary!
  • Pace:The pace varies on a daily basis but it’s a fast-paced ride. Expect to mostly trot and tölt with the occasional canter.
  • Weight Limit:A maximum of 100kg / 220lbs (depending on height, physical condition and riding ability).
  • Type of tack:English all-purpose saddles.
  • Seasons:July & August
  • Group size:A maximum of 12 guests.
  • Time in Saddle:4 to 6 hours in the saddle per day (this is also dependent on the weather, which could see you in the saddle for up to 8 hours).
  • Riding Ability:The Touch of the Highlands Ride isn’t as physically intensive as our Wilderness Expedition. If you’re an intermediate to advanced rider with good physical fitness, this is the ride for you. You'll need to be up for an adventure and able to handle up to 6 hours' riding a day.  Not sure what your riding ability is? Watch THIS video to find out.
  • Accommodation:Throughout the 7 day itinerary you’ll stay in varying accommodation. On 5 of the 6 nights, you’ll stay in comfortable cottages made up of 2 to 3 bedrooms, each with a shared bathroom. Although you may share a bathroom with just 1 other guest, please be prepared to share with up to 5 other guests. Assignment of rooms is at the hosts’ discretion, although special requests will be considered.
    On the remaining night you’ll stay in a remote, rustic mountain hut with 2 to 4 guests per room. There is warm running water for showering in this mountain hut. #winning
  • Ride Length:7 days, 6 nights, with 6 riding days.
  • Inclusions:

    The price includes all ground transportation throughout the riding tour, private bus transfers between Reykjavik and Varmahlíð on days 1 and 7, and full board during the tour, starting with a light meal for lunch on the first day and ending with breakfast on the final day. Sleeping bags, mats, helmets, rain gear and saddlebags are also provided.

  • Exclusions:

    The price does not include alcoholic beverages, international flights, travel insurance and any additional activities outside the itinerary.



NEW! Secure your saddle seat NOW with a 10% deposit - as part of our 10x 10% payment plan!

The price includes all ground transportation throughout the riding tour, private bus transfers between Reykjavik and Varmahlíð on days 1 and 7, and full board during the tour, starting with a light meal for lunch on the first day and ending with breakfast on the final day. Sleeping bags, mats, helmets, rain gear and saddlebags are also provided.

The price does not include alcoholic beverages, international flights, travel insurance and any additional activities outside the itinerary.

Accepted payment is by credit or debit card only. There is a 2% surcharge on all card payments. Click HERE to read our recommendations on which cards are best to use to avoid international transaction fees.

With our riding destinations, the currency is dictated by our ride partner in that country. Therefore due to fluctuating exchange rates we have to quote in the same currency.


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*Please note, this is a suggested itinerary only and subject to change at the discretion of your guides due to weather (let’s be honest, this is Iceland) and other influencing factors.

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  • Day 1

    You will be picked up in Reykjavik this morning and transferred via private bus to Varmahlíð, where you’ll be met by your guides and taken to the cottages where you’ll spend the night. Here you’ll settle into your rooms and have a light lunch before heading to the stables and meeting the much anticipated mob of Icelandic horses for your FIRST ride on Icelandic terrain {insert squeals of delight!}.

    For your debut ride, your guides will take you to the amazing natural paradise of the river delta of Héraðsvötn. The terrain offers the best possibilities to fully experience the gaits of the Icelandic horse, especially the legendary tölt. After an exhilarating ride, you’ll enjoy dinner before taking a relaxing bath in the natural hot tub under a dusky night sky (it doesn’t get dark until 10pm). I think it’ll be at this moment that you’ll pinch yourself just to make sure that all of this isn’t a DREAM.

    (Riding time: two hours.)

  • Day 2

    Today is the beginning of your EPIC Icelandic adventure. After a hearty, stomach-sticking breakfast you’ll be driven to the stables, saddle the horses and, together with your herd of free-running horses,you’ll start your six day riding adventure. The accompanying herd allows your group to change horses during the day, so your mounts can have a well-deserved rest and run free with their friends.

    Today you’ll be riding through the stunning landscape of the river delta towards the pen known as Mælifellsrétt. The herd will get a slight head start with their journey towards the pen, and you’ll meet them there around noon. After lunch, you’ll ride with the herd along a low-traffic road towards the south, deeper into the valley. You’ll end the ride at the farm Gilhagi, where the herd of horses will stay overnight.

    You’ll be transferred back to the cottages, where a delicious dinner will already be waiting for you upon arrival. A hot shower, flushing toilets and WiFi will be available. These are the perks of The Touch of the Highlands Ride: if you end up riding in less than ideal weather conditions, you know you’ll soon return to a warm and cosy cottage with a hot shower.

    (Riding time: four hours.)

  • Day 3

    You’ll be heading out this morning to spend one night in the highlands, so make sure you pack your luggage – a small backpack with just your essentials for two days will suit perfectly, and everything you don’t need can be left at the cottages until your return. After a short drive back to Gilhagi farm, you’ll mount up and ride through the scenic canyon Gilhagadalur and into the highlands. The lush meadows on the verge of the canyon are a welcome treat for the horses.

    Your destination is the mountain hut Galtará located near the Blöndulón Reservoire in the wide moor, Eyvindarstaðaheiði {try and pronounce that!}. The horses will also spend their night here – only a few steps away from your hut! Even though it’s remote, the Galtará hut has the added luxury of running hot water and showers – yay! You’ll enjoy a delectable dinner with all your new friends in the mountain hut. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to see the Hofsjökull and Langjökull glaciers shimmering in the soft light of the midnight sun.

    (Riding time: six to seven hours.)

  • Day 4

    After breakfast at this charming, valley-perched mountain hut, you’ll prepare for an adventurous day. Leaving the peaceful Galtará and the stillness of the highlands behind, you’ll follow wide riding trails that allow for endless tölting. Depending on the weather, you may even be able to pick crowberries, the aromatic wild thymian, or the healthy Iceland moss. As you descend from Eyvindarstaðaheiði further into the Svartárdalur valley, you will see the corral Stafnsrétt, where the sheep are collected every autumn. This corral is your destination today. Your horses will retreat here for the night and you’ll drive back to the cottages.

    (Riding time: four to five hours.)

  • Day 5

    After being transported back out to Stafnsrétt this morning, you’ll be reunited with the herd and begin the journey towards home. The paths alternate between soft riding trails that are perfect for tölting and more challenging, rugged terrain. You’ll gasp in amazement at the horses’ strength and stamina as they climb uphill on rocky mountainsides. From the mountain pass Kiðaskarð you’ll be able to catch one last glimpse of the faraway highlands and the majestic glaciers – just a glimpse into the stunning natural wonderland this country has on offer.

    You’ll continue your descent towards the pen Mælifellrétt, which you might remember from the lunch break on the second day. It’s here that you’ll leave the horses and retire back to your comfortable cottages to wait in anticipation for the last exciting riding day to come.

    (Riding time: five hours.)

  • Day 6

    It’s time for a good dose of history, globetrotters, because after breakfast you’re visiting Glaumbær, where you’ll see how Icelanders lived many years ago. Then it’s time to saddle your own horses for the last time. With their heads turned for home, it will be a fast and exciting ride. On the way, you’ll stop for lunch at Stokkhólmi farm. Now you’re in for a real treat: having perfected the art of riding the tölt, with the expert help of skilled instructors and well-trained pacing horses, you’ll get to experience the famous ‘flying pace’!

    Finally, you’ll ride back to the stables at Vindheimamelar, were you’ll say a VERY SAD farewell to the trusty Icelandic mounts who have carried you on this incredible journey. Then it’s back to the cottages, where a final feast awaits. For an even better way to finish the ride off in true Icelandic style, you can jump into the stone hot tub while reminiscing about the incredible memories you’ve made in the Icelandic Highlands.

    (Riding time: approximately 3 hours)

  • Day 7

    After breakfast, you’ll say goodbye to your wonderful guides and hosts, who will undoubtedly have become lifelong friends. You’ll then be transferred back to Reykjavik via private bus.

  • The difference between the Wilderness Expedition (W.E.) and the Touch of the Highlands Ride (T.O.H.) in a nutshell

    W.E. – stony underground, steep hillsides, long walking distances, close to glaciers, up in the highlands so fewer changes of scenery
    T.O.H – long soft riding trails, more changes between grassy landscape and stony underground
    W.E. – 3x nights at cottages, 4x nights in rustic mountain huts (often no running water, 1 room only)
    T.O.H – 5x nights at cottages, 1x night at mountain hut (with running water, hot showers, 2-4 person rooms)

    Hours in the saddle:
    W.E. – 7 to 8 hours per day *a high level of saddle fitness is required
    T.O.H – 4 to 6 hours per day

    W.E. – 8 days / 7 nights with 7 riding days
    T.O.H – 7 days / 6 nights with 6 riding days
  • Transfer Information

    We recommend guests arrive in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, one to two days prior to the start of your ride, so that you have time to recover from jet lag and have a look around this gorgeous city before heading off into the wilderness. On our exploratory trip to Iceland, we fell in LOVE with Reykjavik and can recommend a range of things to do.

    Private return bus transfers between Reykjavik and Varmahlíð (where the ride is located) are included in the ride price.

    You’ll be picked up from your hotel accommodation between 9-10am on day 1 of your ride (a specific meeting location and time will be provided by your hosts via email a week before your trip).

    You’ll arrive in Varmahlíð around 2pm where you’ll be met by your Icelandic guides and enjoy a light lunch before heading to the riding stable, which is located 8km outside of Varmahlíð. This will be your first glimpse into the world of the Icelandic horse culture.

    On day 7, you’ll be transported back to your Reykjavik accommodation, arriving between 2-4pm. Should you wish to begin your return journey home this day, you’ll be dropped off at the Flybus Airport bus stop where you’ll be able to make your own way to the airport. Please don’t book departing flights home before 8pm this evening.

  • The Horses

    The Icelandic horse is a unique breed of smallish horse that came to Iceland with the first settlers from Norway 1,100 years ago. Archeological digs in Europe have revealed that the breed is a descendant of an ancient breed that is now extinct outside of Iceland.

    The Icelandic, as it is commonly referred to, is known for being sure-footed and able to navigate rough terrain with ease. It displays two gaits in addition to the typical walk, trot, and canter/gallop commonly displayed by other breeds. The first additional gait is a four-beat lateral ambling gait called the tölt. The tölt is known for its explosive acceleration and speed; it is also comfortable and ground-covering. The breed also performs a pace called skeið, or “flying pace”. Skeið is used in pacing races, and is fast and smooth, with some horses able to reach speeds of up to 50 kilometres per hour. It is not a gait for long-distance travel. The Icelandic horse comes in almost every imaginable colour, and the Icelandic language includes more than 100 names for the various coat colours and patterns.

    The Icelandic breed is extremely popular internationally, and for good reason: you need to ride these horses to understand. A sizeable population exists in Europe and North America, but NOTHING beats riding Icelandic horses in their natural habitat, Iceland. In their native country they have few diseases, and as a result Icelandic law prevents horses from being imported, and exported animals are not allowed to return. In Iceland, the breed continues to be used for farm work in addition to showing, racing and recreational riding.

What our valued Globetrotters say about The Touch of the Highlands Ride

Touch of the Highlands ride, Iceland, Globetrotting horse riding holidays

Frances Lipschitz

‘The Touch of the Highlands ride was absolutely incredible! The horses were amazing, our hosts and guides top-notch, and the scenery was fascinating and beautiful, particularly when the sun came out! We enjoyed long, fast tolts up and down rocky mountain passes and across wide meadows and streams, all the while pushing or leading a herd of 64 free Icelandic horses – that was really an unforgettable experience. We finished the week trying our luck at the famous flying pace, which was just the cherry on top of a week of amazing riding. We couldn’t recommend this trip more highly and would love to do it again!’

Touch of the Highlands Ride, Iceland - Globetrotting horse riding holidays

Kate Testerman

‘I’m not sure if I can adequately convey how amazing, wonderful, spectacular, and life-changing this ride was! From the moment I was picked up in Reykjavik, every moment was perfection! The food was wonderful, the guides and staff were friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful, the scenery was jaw-dropping, and the horses! My god, I will dream about those horses for years to come. I know it seems like hyperbole, but every day was more amazing than the next. I loved riding up into the highlands through fog and across what seemed like a lunar landscape, as much as I enjoyed riding through a valley next to a bubbling stream, looking up at cliffs that seemed to be hiding dragons in their depths. And the final day, riding across the river delta, was like something out of a dream. I can’t wait for my next Globetrotting adventure, and my next trip back to Iceland!’

Touch of the Highlands Ride, Iceland - Globetrotting horse riding holidays

Thea Evans

‘As someone who grew up riding but now doesn’t have much access to it, I was nervous before this ride – I honestly didn’t know what to expect. But it turned out to be one of the coolest things I have ever done in my life. The Icelandic horse is such a unique and wonderful breed. The guides were amazing, the views were outstanding, and the food far exceeded our expectations. It was really cool to see the different landscapes of Iceland while enjoying the serenity of riding horses. I have a super stressful job and this ride helped me calm down and get back into balance. I would highly recommend it to everyone!’

Touch of the Highlands Ride, Iceland - Globetrotting horse riding holidays

Jackie Mathison

‘The Icelandic horses are so fun. I loved every minute of riding them. They are willing, agile and very well taken care of, and the tölt is amazing to ride. The guides were excellent. Riding with the herd was a really cool experience and Iceland is a very striking country to ride in. I’d highly recommend this trip!’

Touch of the Highlands Ride, Iceland - Globetrotting horse riding holidays

Lindsey Barnes

‘I was nervous about traveling solo to Iceland at first, but I am so glad I decided to take the plunge. The scenery is take-your-breath-away spectacular. All of our hosts and guides were so friendly and amazing. We spent more than a few nights entertaining one another with our favorite songs. The real draw, however, was the horses. I have dreamed of riding these fabulous horses since I was a little girl, and the reality blew away my expectations. It was truly an experience where you have to pinch yourself to make sure it’s real. They were the friendliest, most curious herd I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. Riding the tölt was a personal dream come true. It was like gliding around on a magic carpet! Traveling with and interacting with the herd of 70 horses made me remember why I fell in love with horses and riding in the first place. It was truly an amazing ride.’

Touch of the Highlands Ride, Iceland - Globetrotting horse riding holidays

Kathy Dusek

‘Absolutely the best trip of my lifetime (I am 58). The staff were wonderful and cheerful. Nele was exceptional – always happy and positive. She made sure you were comfortable and happy with your horse. All the horses were amazing. The accommodation was great – a beautiful location, very clean and neat, and all amenities available. It was just a wonderful time. We actually got to herd some of the horses – it was very exciting!’

Touch of the Highlands Ride, Iceland - Globetrotting horse riding holidays

Cassandra Monks

‘Iceland was amazing. It was worth every cent. I got to see and ride through amazing scenery like glaciers, mountains, rivers, canyons and amazing valleys, all while mounted on sturdy Icelandic horses. The horses were amazing, very well trained and well behaved. Some of the best I’ve ridden – they stole my heart. The guides were very knowledgeable, friendly and easy to talk to. Can’t wait to head back there and do it all over again!’

Touch of the Highlands Ride, Iceland - Globetrotting horse riding holidays

Josie Kleinitz

‘I still haven’t found the words to adequately describe my experience in Iceland. Incredible doesn’t quite cut it. So here is a quick run-down:
The horses – Absolute troopers! Getting to regularly swap horses was so much fun. Each was different in their own unique and quirky way. And despite being part of a huge herd, they were still interested and curious to spend time with us. Plus, there is nothing quite as peaceful walking through the herd at the end of an amazing day of riding and being greeted by curious faces nuzzling at your pockets in case you have treats.
The guides – Fantastic! Incredibly knowledgeable about the horses, the Icelandic Sagas and the history of the area. They took the time to get to know their guests and did a great job matching horses to guests.
The riding & scenery – WOW! There aren’t many places in the world where you can sit on a horse and look across a glacial valley to not one, but three massive glaciers! We rode over lava fields, through rocky desert country, into a valley untouched by the modern era and across grassy river plains. In some places it felt like we had travelled back in time to before human evolution.
The food – Magnificent! Fresh, local produce transformed into mouthwatering meals that showcased many traditional Icelandic dishes.
The whole experience was so much more than I expected!’

Touch of the Highlands Ride, Iceland - Globetrotting horse riding holidays

Rebecca Clemmey

‘The Icelandic weather gods smiled on us for our week’s riding, wanting us to see as much of this amazing country as possible. From lush green valleys to rocky volcanic deserts, riding through birch ‘forests’ through to riding in sight of three of the biggest glaciers in Iceland.
This ride is good for the soul. By the end of the week you will emerge from the wilderness refreshed in spirit (even if the body is exhausted and desperately seeking a soak in the hot tub!) The plucky Icelandic horses are incredibly surefooted. Within moments of mounting, you find yourself tlting along on an Icelandic horse, in Iceland!! (I was a little bit excited!) I would never ride any other horse over the terrain we covered at the speeds we rode, but those horses took us everywhere we needed to go and got us there safely. Travelling with the herd was an unforgettable experience and meant that we had the ability to ride a variety of different horses and have a selection of favourites to choose from on the last day.’