islandic horse in volcano landscape

Why horse-riding in Iceland is like flying on Mars

With a landscape looking like Mars, a rough freezing weather and a limited diversity of plants, Iceland isn’t a home to many living species. On land, you won’t see much wild animals walking around, not even mosquitos, mainly a few insects but you’ll see many many birds. When it comes to the wild life in the ocean it’s another story, there is plenty to see from whales, to seals, to dolphins and more. The amazing fact here is that despite the obvious difficult living conditions, a breed of horse has managed to settle on the island. This world famous Icelandic horse with its friendly character, strong build and little size is the ideal horse to go on your first horse riding experience or simply explore the country from another angle. When in Iceland, and especially in Iceland horse riding is an outdoor adventure highly recommended, you’ll live an experience that you won’t have anywhere else, that’s for sure and this is why.

Playful Islandic horses
Playful Icelandic horses, photo: Nina Druckenthaner

Yes, the Icelandic horse can fly

Often mistaken with a pony due to its small size, the Icelandic horse, believe it or not, is indeed a horse. A very special horse! It is the only horse that has the capacity of mastering the 5 gates. Normally horses have 3 gates: walk, trot and canter, some other have the capacity to go on 4 gates, adding the flying page. But this little pony looking horse has it all! When horse riding on a Icelandic horse, you’ll experience the very special “trölt”, a very comfortable gate which you won’t be able to try anywhere else. Your horse will be looking like it’s flying as when on the trölt, only one of its hoof is touching the ground.

The 5 gates of a horse
Our guide explaining the 5 gates of a horse pointing at the trölt, photo: Hannes Willems

Because you’ll feel like a viking on an expedition

You can go hiking for hours on the black and red volcanic soil, you can drive with your car through kilometres of gravel roads or you can go on a horse and see the landscape from a little bit higher. So why not giving it a go and try it on a horse. You’ll for sure feel like a viking adventuring yourself through this no man’s land. If you are concerned about the unpredictable weather of Iceland? Don’t think about it. What ever happens, it just adds to the charm of the experience. We did have some rain but nothing unbearable, after all, this is Iceland not Bali! Anyways, you’ll be too focused on keeping your horse on the trölt and absorbing that breath taking landscape.

Volcanic landscape horse riding iceland
Beautiful volcanic landscape on our horse riding tour, photo: Pauline Klieber
Landscape near Reykjavik Iceland
Magic scenery while horse riding in Iceland, photo: Pauline Klieber

No, it was not just a dream

Your experience of flying on a horse when going through that black reddish soil which was before warm lava will feel like just a dream. But the slight soreness of your legs and arms the next day will remind you of your exciting outdoor experience. After all, you’ve been doing some outdoor sports without realising it!

Icelandic horse
A kind Icelandic horse, photo: Pauline Klieber

More information on the horse riding possibilities in Iceland

You can go horse riding all around the island as there are many horse riding tours offered a bit everywhere. We decided to discover the volcanic landscape near by Reykjavik as an half day trip with Islenski Hesturinn. Our guide had the funniest sense of humour, and told us everything there is to know about the area and the Icelandic horse. So whether you are a total beginner or a more advanced competition type of rider, you’ll be amazed by the unique volcanic landscape and surprised to discover something that you have never experienced before, the sensation on flying on the horse thanks to a very special gate that only the little Icelandic horse masters, the trölt.

Our guide from Islenski Hesturinn
Our guide from Islenski Hesturinn, photo: Pauline Klieber

Good to know:  you don’t need to bring your own horse riding boots all the way from your country in your luggage through the plane ride. Iceland is a horse disease free country and Icelandic people want to keep it this way, so all equipment that has been touching horses outside from Iceland are forbidden. You can use the spare place in your luggage to take another sweater 😉

The Islenski Hesturinn meeting point, photo: Hannes Willems
The Islenski Hesturinn meeting point, photo: Hannes Willems
Street sign at the Islenski Hesturinn meeting point, photo: Hannes Willems
Street sign at the Islenski Hesturinn meeting point, photo: Hannes Willems
Pauline Klieber
Pauline Klieber

Passionate surfer, climber, snowboarder, outdoor adventures enthusiast and traveler. Co-founder of The Active Place.