Wilderness Expedition, Iceland

7 NightsStrong Intermediate to AdvancedFrom €3,950 EUR?Tour costs €3,950 EUR which is approximately $6,559 AUD

Right, we’ve made an executive decision: Iceland should now be referred to as WOW-land.

WOW-land. That’s what we’re going to call Iceland from here on out. Credit goes to our globe-tölter Lizzie Cullam, who coined this phrase after completing our debut Wilderness Expedition. She’s right – every moment of every day, we were lost for adjectives and could only utter WOW.

Firstly, in terms of horse culture, Iceland is off the richter scale. The Icelandic horse (not pony, even though they don’t stand higher than 14 hands) – is enchanting with his plucky demeanour, wild eyes, free-flowing mane, and not to mention that fifth gait – the tölt. This gait is best described as a four-beat lateral amble and is awesome for explosive acceleration and speed, while being SUPER comfortable for the rider.

Astride these big-hearted horses you’ll explore dramatic, raw and unkept Nordic landscapes of volcanoes, geysers, hot springs and lava fields with a free-running herd of Icelandic horses. Our riding partners in Iceland are the country’s oldest riding tour operator. Established for over forty years, their reputation precedes them.

The Wilderness Expedition is an eight day, seven night itinerary, with seven full days in the saddle. If you prefer untouched, stunning nature over luxury, then this is your tour! In true Icelandic style, you’ll drive a free-running herd of horses across vast grasslands, stony mountains and a moon-like volcanic landscape towards the glacier.

Fast Facts

  • Horse Breed:Icelandic horses - the jewel in the crown of this ride!
  • Pace:The pace varies on a daily basis but it’s a fast-paced ride. Expect to mostly trot and tölt with the occasional fast-paced canter.
  • Weight Limit:A maximum of 100kg / 220lbs (depending on height, physical condition and riding ability).
  • Type of tack:English all-purpose saddles.
  • Seasons:August.
  • Group size:A maximum of 12 guests.
  • Time in Saddle:Approximately 6 to 8 hours in the saddle per day (this is also dependent on the weather, which could see you in the saddle for up to 10 hours).
  • Riding Ability:You need to be a strong intermediate to experienced rider who is up for an adventure and can handle riding up to 6 to 8 hours each day. You need a good level of all-round fitness as well as riding fitness to wholeheartedly enjoy this ride. The more training you put in prior to the ride, the more you’ll enjoy the experience on tour. Not sure what your riding experience is? Watch THIS video to find out.
  • Accommodation:Throughout the 8 day itinerary you’ll stay in varying accommodation. On days 1, 2 and 7, you’ll stay in comfortable cottages made up of 2 to 4 bedrooms and shared bathrooms. For the remaining 4 nights guests will be staying in remote, rustic, single-room mountain huts with bunk beds. This is communal living, no privacy, with up to 14 riders in a hut. There is no hot water for showering in these mountain huts. If you would prefer your own privacy (away from possible snorers), you’re more than welcome to opt for your own tent (at no extra charge).
    *Sleeping mats and bags are provided at no extra charge.
  • Ride Length:8 days, 7 nights, with 7 riding days.
  • Inclusions:

    The price includes all ground transportation throughout the riding tour, 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. Optional extra return transfer to Reykjavik on day 8.

 

DEPARTURE DATES & RATES

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WHAT IS INCLUDED IN THE PRICE?
The price includes all ground transportation throughout the riding tour, public bus transfers to and from the capital of Reykjavik 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.

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 transfer to Reykjavik on day 8.

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.

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 and other influencing factors.

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  • Day 1

    You will catch a public bus to Varmahlíð where you’ll be met by your guides and taken to the cottages where you’ll be staying on days 1, 2 and 7. Here you’ll settle into your rooms and have a light lunch before you head to the stables and meet the much-anticipated mob of Icelandic horses for your FIRST ride on Icelandic terrain! {insert squeals of delight!}

    For your first 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 famous 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 will be this moment that you’ll pinch yourself just to make sure that all of this isn’t a DREAM.

    (Riding time: two to three hours)

  • Day 2

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

    Today you’ll ride along a low-traffic road towards the south, deeper into the valley. You will end the ride at the farm Breið, where your horses stay overnight. You’ll then drive back to the cottages. A hot shower, flushing toilets and WiFi will be available.

    (Approximately 25 kilometres = six to seven hours in the saddle.)

  • Day 3

    From Breið, you’ll head further south. Soon the last farms are left in your wake and all signs of civilisation disappear as the Icelandic wilderness takes over. Ahead looms the gleaming glacier Hofsjökull.

    You will be following the West Glacial River until you reach a remote mountain hut, Skiptabakkaskáli, in the late afternoon. The lush meadows on the verge of a canyon are a welcome treat for the horses. Running cold water is the extent of the luxuries in this charming cabin but ‘central heating’ is guaranteed since you’ll all be sleeping together in one room furnished with bunk beds! No hot showers, and a long-drop toilet.

    *If you prefer your own space and privacy, a tent is also available.

    (Approximately 25 kilometres = six to seven hours in the saddle.)

  • Day 4

    After breakfast at this charming, valley-perched cottage, you’ll prepare for an adventurous day. Today, the majestic glacier Hofsjökull dominates the horizon while you ride west along the river Vestari Jökulsá. The herd will expertly find its way across the stony, barren landscape of the highlands. You’ll encounter your first huge glacial river crossing, and once all the horses are safely on the other side, you’ll continue on to reach the hut Ingólfsskáli, located in the ancient lava field Lambahraun, only a few kilometres from the roots of the glacier!

    Basking in the surrounding tranquility, you will spend the evening together in your simple accommodation. No hot showers, and a long-drop toilet.

    (Approximately 35 kilometres = seven to eight hours in the saddle.)

  • Day 5

    Today you have a shorter day of riding to reach your destination, the cabin Laugafell. Riding on the border of Orravatnsrústir, you head to the bridge above the glacial river Austari Jökulsá. In the distance, the mountain Illviðrahnjúkur is emerging from the shadows of the ever-present glacier Hofsjökull. The geographical heart of Iceland is not far from the east side of this mountain. The winters in this area are extremely harsh and almost devoid of wildlife except for ravens and the arctic fox.

    Riding through the pristine, raw and rugged wilderness, you’ll head towards the cabin Laugafell, a true oasis in the centre of this desert. A steaming hot tub awaits to help you relax your weary bones and saddle-sore muscles. You’ll enjoy a blushing sunset while bathing in the hot tub, another pinch-yourself moment. Special treat: there is a hot shower and flushing toilet on offer!

    (Approximately 35 kilometres = five to six hours in the saddle)

  • Day 6

    Day six is one of the longest days of your riding adventure, so a hearty breakfast is a must! With stomachs filled to the brim, you and your mount will descend from the highland plateau down into the valley Hölknádalur. The scenery around you is stunningly beautiful and serene! You’ll ride along the river Hölkná, where once again you’ll admire the strength and agility of these Icelandic horses in such difficult terrain.

    As you approach the East Glacial River, the surrounding nature turns greener and more verdant; you’ll hear the common snipe and might get a glimpse of a ptarmigan (a type of bird). You’ll skirt the alpine streams decorated in willowherb and angelica (wild flowers) that rush down the mountains into the fast-flowing river.

    You’ll enjoy long trots through dwarf birch and blueberry bushes as you flank the raging, alpine river. This is a true highlight of the ride where you’ll gasp at the ever-changing vistas until you reach your final destination, a rustic hut called Hildarsel in Austurdalur Valley. No hot shower, and a long drop toilet.

    (Approximately 38 kilometres)

  • Day 7

    On your final day of riding, you’ll head north through the valley until you reach the remains of the turf farm Ábær and a tiny church. This place holds many stories about the lives of past generations. After a short stop, you’ll ride towards the breathtakingly dramatic Merkigil Gorge. On horseback, you will descend into the gorge and take a moment to observe the unique beauty of the pristine surroundings.

    From here you will ride on to your final destination, the farm Kelduland. Here you’ll say a VERY SAD farewell to the trusty Icelandic horses that carried you safely across the raw and rugged beauty of Iceland. You then drive back to cottages you stayed in on day one, where you’ll enjoy a farewell dinner and a last soak in the hot tub, while reminiscing about the lifelong memories you’ve made in the Icelandic wilderness. You’ll then return to a hot shower and flushing toilet.

    (Approximately 25 kilometres = six to seven hours)

  • Day 8

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

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

    Landscape:
    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
    Accommodation:
    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

    Duration:
    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.

    On day 1 you’ll take a public bus (the cost of which is included in the ride price) from Reykjavik 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 8km outside of Varmahlíð. This will be your first glimpse into the world of the Icelandic horse culture.

    On day 8 you’ll take a public bus from Varmahlíð to Reykjavik (included in the ride price).

    **Alternatively, there is also the option to take a domestic flight back to Rekyjavik from Akureyri Airport on day 8 for an additional fee of €90.

    If you wish to begin your journey home on day 8, we ask that you schedule your flights for at least five hours after your planned arrival in Reykjavik.

  • More on Riding Ability

    On this Wilderness Expedition you’ll be riding no less than 25 to 30 kilometres per day (approximately seven to eight hours in the saddle per day) and therefore you need to be an accomplished rider who can handle a horse in open terrain at a fast canter. Please don’t take these guidelines lightly, as your riding ability will have a flow-on effect on your enjoyment of your riding experience in Iceland. This particular itinerary is not about the off-the-horse comforts, that’s for sure; it’s for the die-hard riders who are all about the adventure and the horses. Because of the speed and daily distances covered, you’ll be riding between two to three horses a day. The accompanying herd of around 30 to 40 horses will allow you to change horses up to three times throughout the day.

  • 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 The Wilderness Expedition

Wilderness Expedition, Iceland - Globetrotting horse riding holidays

Leanne Goodluck

‘The Icelandic horses were all great to ride and handle. The saddle I had was really comfortable, I didn’t have a sore bum at all! I absolutely loved the first afternoon ride when we all tölted for the first time. The delight shown by everyone was great to experience as a group, it was so much fun! If the stunning scenery, the gorgeus, sweet-tempered Icelandic horses, and riding with a herd of fifty horses towards a glacier doesn’t tempt you to join the Wilderness Expedition in Iceland, then riding a horse at a flat out tölt surely will! One of the best riding feelings ever! Well worth the cost.’

Wilderness Expedition, Iceland - Globetrotting horse riding holidays

Rosie Stroud

‘The highlight of the trip was riding with the herd of 70+ brave horses. Each horse I rode was incredible! We swapped horses up to three times a day and each one looked after me over rough and difficult terrain and had the sweetest nature. I now want an Icelandic horse – I would have bought one if I could get it back home!’

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.’

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. The guides were amazing. They provide remarkable service and experience. Each horse has his/her own personality and I enjoyed changing horses to experience so many. The last day of riding was my favorite. It became green and the rivers and steep declines/inclines were awesome. All the food was amazing. Kate and Laura were great in providing detailed, helpful information!’

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!’

Ainslie Maher

‘This ride was absolutely AMAZEBALLS! Starting with the awesome crew, home cooked meals, and mountain huts. The crew was super efficient, very friendly and ran a tight ship. The Icelandic horses were the best horses I’ve ever ridden. So tough, intelligent and extremely well behaved. I always felt safe. I am totally in love with them and devastated I couldn’t pack several of them in my suitcase to bring home. The scenery was AH-MAAAZ-ING! One minute it’s grassy plains for days, the next it’s totally volcanic, then a giant glacier, then mountains and rivers. Every day was something totally different and exciting. I never got bored. 20 out of 10!’

STORIES FROM THE SADDLE

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