Touch of the Highlands Ride, Iceland

6 NightsIntermediate to AdvancedFrom €2,980 EUR?Tour costs €2,980 EUR which is approximately $4,816 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:A maximum of 110kg / 240lbs (depending on height, physical condition and riding ability).
  • Type of tack:English all-purpose saddles.
  • Seasons:July.
  • 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: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, standard public bus transfers to and from the capital of Reykjavík on the first and last day of the tour, 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. There are also optional return transfers to Reykjavik available on day 7 for an additional cost.

 

DEPARTURE DATES & RATES

WHAT IS INCLUDED IN THE PRICE?
The price includes all ground transportation throughout the riding tour, standard public bus transfers between Reykjavik and Varmahlíð on days 1 and 7 (other return transfers available at an additional expense), 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.

WHAT IS NOT INCLUDED IN THE PRICE?
The price does not include alcoholic beverages, international flights, travel insurance and any additional activities outside the itinerary. Optional extra return transfers to Reykjavik on day 7.

Accepted payment is by credit or debit card only. There is a 2% surcharge on all card payments.

Why is the price quoted in EUR?
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.

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 (let’s be honest, this is Iceland) 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 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 taken to catch your chosen transfer back to Reykjavík.

  • 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 7 you’ll take a public bus from Varmahlíð to Reykjavik (included in the ride price).

    **Alternatively, you can opt to take the ‘Kjölur Bus’, which leaves Varmahlíð at 9:20am and follows a scenic route that allows passengers to visit the Hveravellir geothermal area, Gullfoss Waterfall and the famous Geysir on the Golden Circle before arriving in Reykjavik at 6:30pm. This service can be booked for an additional fee of €40.

    ***There is also the option to take a domestic flight back to Rekyjavik from Akureyri Airport on day 7 for an additional fee of €90.

    If you wish to begin your journey home on day 7, we ask that you schedule your flights for a minimum five hours after your planned arrival in Reykjavik.

  • 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.

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.’

Sharon Rowles

‘The whole trek was a standout experience. I was happy with all the horses I rode. Such surefooted, willing, safe and affectionate wee souls. I loved the experience of all riding and being together. I felt included even before we set foot in the stirrups. Our guides, Nele, Gracina, Martin plus owner guides Hjalti and Magnus were all superb. Always fun, helpful and patient. Iceland is a very expensive destination; however, this ride was above and beyond what I expected, so I feel I had value for money, especially when you consider the high standards of the food, accommodation, tours, flights, horses, riding, etc.

Take the tölt and sign up for a ride in Iceland. Let Globetrotting handle the details. They will not disappoint.’

Peta Ruiter

‘I’ve been following Globetrotting for more than 12 years, dreaming of an adventure that would return me to the saddle. I spent almost the first 20 years of my life on the back on a horse, but not having ridden or been near a horse for the last 20 years, I was so reluctant (and frankly terrified) to return to the saddle. But… one day last November, on the commute to work, an email titled ‘Is it the right time?’ popped into my mailbox featuring the new tours to Iceland. By that afternoon, I had confirmed and paid a deposit! I am not an impulsive type, but this was THE best holiday decision I’ve ever made. Amazing, fantastic, incredible in every possible way. The Icelandic horses are the most beautiful creatures, each with their own personality. It fed my soul in every possible way, and I made meaningful connections with my fellow globetrotters and the team who looked after us. I even learnt how to sing Icelandic songs! I will be back – the hardest decision is where to next!’

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

Natalie Allen

‘Iceland, the land of fire and ice, is nothing short of spectacular. I had the best holiday of my life and can’t recommend it highly enough. I have never seen such a group of sad faces at breakfast on the last day of the tour! Everyone says, ‘Oh it’s on my bucket list.’ I say, stop dreaming and just book it. Today.
Icelandic horses are everywhere in Iceland and are a big part of the culture. I thought that I had arrived in Horse Heaven Happyland! Magnus and his team were fabulous. I learned so much about the rockstar Icelandic horses and the culture, history and people of Iceland. At one point, we were all singing a traditional Icelandic song in 4 or 5 languages! We had a small group of 5 guests who were from all around the world and we had the best time. Icelandic horses are such little goers, with amazing energy, spirit, and fun five gaits unique to them, and they are really surefooted. I fell in love with a few and wanted to pack them into my bag to take home with me. If you want an amazing experience filled with amazing horses, amazing people and memories for a lifetime, then just do it. I started planning a return trip before I had even left!’

Kat Spencer

‘Since I’ve come back from Iceland, whenever anyone asks me anything about it, all I can say is ‘amazing’. I find it so hard to put my feelings into words. Every single part of the holiday was incredible. The horses were beautiful little beings with such character, who gave everything they had for you – they taught me to trust again. The landscape is awesome, so enormous it makes you feel very small and insignificant. The people were so friendly, knowledgeable and passionate about their country. I absolutely loved Iceland – amazing.’

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 am unable to leave a testimonial which sufficiently (or even remotely) describes the beauty and wonder of Iceland. It leaves me speechless. Photos do reality an injustice! 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. Since returning home, I feel like an abstaining addict who thinks/talks/blurts chronically of the people, places and horses (not ponies) of this awe-inspiring and mesmerising experience, itching to return. Here’s hoping – I just might!’

STORIES FROM THE SADDLE

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