Looking to experience Iceland from a totally different perspective? Then, the unique breed of the Icelandic Horse – suitable for both complete beginners as well as experienced riders – is the way to go!
What is it all about?
Like so many other Icelandic things, the Icelandic Horse is a very unique thing. It's a breed found nowhere else in the world. First brought to the island by the original settlers – Vikings from Norway – it has developed independently of other horse races on the continent for many centuries, since Iceland was always very isolated.
The result is a horse that is a lot smaller than other horses (nevertheless, you should not call the Icelandic horses ponies!). What's really cool about the Icelandic Horse is that it is suitable for experienced riders as well as for complete horse riding beginners. So anyone can ride a horse in Iceland!
Conveniently located just a 20-minute drive outside of Iceland's capital city Reykjavík, the Íshestar stables offer a range of different horseback riding tours for all levels: From just "meeting the horse" without actually riding it, to horse riding tours that last several days for the more experienced riders.
Everything is taken care of on this tour. So all you need to do is literally sit back, relax and do your best to not fall of the horse. 🙂 Let me explain that a bit more…
Like many little girls, I was once totally crazy about horses and went to regular horse riding lessons as a child and young teenager. I stopped when I was about 13 or 14 years old. So when I did the tour in Iceland at the end of April 2017, it had been more than 15 years since I had last sat on a horse.
Nevertheless, being reassured by Íshestar that their tours are even suitable for complete beginners, I felt pretty "safe" to try it again.
After feeling a little bit nervous at first, I quickly got used to sitting in the saddle again and remembered all the rules of horse riding. It probably helped that I had a very friendly horse – a black and white female beauty called Aþena (pronounced "Artiella").
I found it pretty funny actually that just as the humans, there is also a rule that the Icelandic horses are not allowed to be given any names outside of the approved list of nordic Icelandic names.
How will I get there and what's the schedule?
The Lava Tour lasts about 4 hours in total and is offered twice per day at 10 am and 2 pm.
Pick-up for the 10 am tour starts at 9 am (or 8:30 am in the winter). A small van will collect you and the other guests booked on this tour from all major hostels and hotels in Reykjavík.
After you've arrived at the stables, you will see a brief video about safety instructions. You will then pick a helmet that fits you best. You can also choose some additional outdoor clothing and riding gear (such as rain coats, rubber boots etc). While wearing a helmet is mandatory, you do not have to wear the special riding gear. I forgot to bring my ear warmers, so I picked one from Íshestar's supplies. Afterwards, I was happy that I did because even in spring, the Icelandic wind can be very cold.
It's not allowed to carry backpacks or handbags with you while you're riding. However, Íshestar provides safety boxes, in which you can securely store your valuables.
Then it's time to "board" your horse. The riding time itself is approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes. However, it seemed a little longer to me.
Afterwards, you can warm up with complimentary tea, coffee or hot chocolate before you are taken back to Reykjavík by your driver.
What will I see?
After everyone rides out together at first, the group splits into two: Experienced riders and those who feel more confident can go a little faster while the other group takes in the sights and enjoys the scenery at a slow pace.
I opted for the latter because I didn't yet feel that confident yet. I found that to be a good choice as I was able to really enjoy the landscape while my horse carried me safely through the truly otherworldly landscape full of lava, volcanos and snow-capped mountains.
Our tour guide and "lead rider", a German girl on her gap year in Iceland, shared some interesting facts about how the nature around us developed back in the day. We also had a short "pit stop", during which our guide took some photos of us while on the horses.
Back on the horse, I took a brief video. It's quite remarkable how silent it was as I recorded the sound as per normal and didn't put my action camera on mute. But this is just Iceland… a very unique, peaceful and almost surreal place.
What do I need to bring?
- Warm clothes: The weather in Iceland is unpredictable throughout the year, so you should be warmly dressed underneath your riding outfit (for example by wearing a sweater, perhaps the typical Icelandic wool sweater?).
- Ear warmer or hat: Ear warmers are definitely something you should not forget, even in the spring and the summer. Alternatively, bring a thin hat that will fit underneath your helmet.
- A wind and waterproof jacket: If you're coming to Iceland, you should have this with you anyway. However, don't worry if you don't, as Íshestar provides functional weather gear in all sizes for you to wear during the tour.
How much does it cost?
The price for the Lava Tour starts at 12,200 ISK (around 80 EUR), which I admit may seem a little pricy at first. However, an outdoor riding tour on an Icelandic horse is such a unique experience that I think it's really worth paying for. After all, you will only have the opportunity to ride a true Icelandic horse in Iceland!
And don't worry! As you've seen, whether you are a complete horse riding beginner or haven't sat on one for 15 years like me, the Icelandic Horse will carry you safely through the truly otherworldly landscape!
A Lava Horseback Riding Tour really is an Icelandic experience not to be missed!
Ready to ride?
Book the Lava Tour through TourDesk
More Iceland inspiration!
Iceland film tip: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) – filmed in Iceland and the USA
All you need to know for travelling to and in Iceland: Film Fan Travel Guide to Iceland
All photos by © Sonja Irani | filmfantravel.com
Disclosure: I received a complimentary ticket for the Lava Tour by Ishestar. The views expressed in this blog post, however, are entirely my own and thus reflect my personal, unbiased experience. If you book a tour through my dedicated Iceland tour booking website on TourDesk, I will receive a small affiliate fee, which I use towards running my website.