Touch of the Highlands Ride, Iceland

6 NightsIntermediate to AdvancedFrom €2,980 EUR?Tour costs €2,980 EUR which is approximately $4,772 AUD

Believe me 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:Maximum of 110kg/240lbs (depending on height, physical condition and riding ability).
  • Type of tack:English all-purpose saddles.
  • Seasons:July.
  • Group size: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 in the saddle for up to 8 hours).
  • Riding Ability:You need to be an intermediate to experienced rider who is up for an adventure and can handle riding up to 6 hours in the saddle a day. You need a good level of all-round fitness as well as riding fitness to wholeheartedly enjoy this ride.The Touch of the Highlands Ride isn’t as physically intensive as our Wilderness Expedition. If you’re an intermediate rider with good physical fitness, this is the ride for you.
  • 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 4 bedrooms with a shared bathroom. The remaining night you’ll stay in a remote, rustic mountain hut with 2-4 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, transfers to and from the capital of Reykjavík on the first and last day of the tour (public bus transfer and domestic flight respectively), 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 provided.
  • Exclusions:The price does not include alcoholic beverages, international flights, travel insurance and any additional activities outside the itinerary.

Itinerary

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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 and other influencing factors.

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  • Day 1

    You will catch a public bus to Varmahlíð (don’t be nervous, the public transport system is easy-peasy and everyone speaks English), where you’ll be met by your guides and taken to the Hestasport cottages. 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’ll visit Glaumbær, where you’ll see how Icelanders lived in years gone by. Afterwards, on your way to your horses, you’ll stop in at Varmilækur to meet Bjössi (a close friend of your guide Magnus), who has a reputation for breeding some of the best Icelandic horses in the country and around the world. His team of horses will wow you with their fantastic gaits and easy personalities. Then it’s time to saddle your own horses for the last ride.

    With their heads turned for home, it will be a fast and exciting ride towards the stables at Vindheimamelar. Here you’ll say a VERY SAD farewell to the trusty horses that have carried you safely across the raw and rugged beauty of Iceland. Then it’s back to the cottages, where a final feast awaits. To finish the ride off in true Icelandic style, you can jump into the stone hot tub, while reminiscing about the once-in-a-lifetime memories you’ve made in the Icelandic Highlands.

    (Riding time: approximately three hours.)

  • Day 7

    After breakfast, you’ll say goodbye to your wonderful guides and hosts, who will undoubtedly become lifelong friends. Your group will be driven to Akureyri, where you’ll take a domestic flight back to Reykjavík (included in the ride price).

  • Transfer Information

    We recommend guests arrive in Reykjavík, the capital of Iceland, one to two days prior to the start of your ride, so that you have time to recover from the jetlag 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 Reykjavík and can recommend a range of things to do.

    On day one, you’ll take a public bus (the cost of which is included in the ride price) from Reykjavík to Varmahlíð, where you’ll be met by your Icelandic guides and driven to the cottages for a light lunch before heading to the riding stable, which is located a kilometre outside of Varmahlíð. This will be your first glimpse into the world of Icelandic horse culture. On day seven, you’ll be dropped off at Akureyri Airport, where you’ll take a regional flight back to Reykjavík (included in the ride price). If you wish to begin your journey home today, we ask that you don’t book flights until after 6pm 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.

Kat Spencer

‘Since I’ve come back from Iceland, whenever anyone asks me anything about it, all I can say is ‘amazing’. Every single part of the holiday was incredible.’

Kathy Edgell

‘Everyone in Iceland was friendly, helpful and wonderful. Each horse has his/her own personality and I enjoyed changing horses to experience so many.’

Anastasia Miros

‘I still experience goosebumps upon reflection of tölting alongside a 70+ strong herd of Icelandic horses through black-stone moonscapes, whimsical green fields and relentless glacial rivers.’

Ainslie Maher

‘This ride was absolutely AMAZEBALLS! The Icelandic horses were the best horses I’ve ever ridden. Every day was something totally different and exciting. 20 out of 10!’

STORIES FROM THE SADDLE

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