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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a very short bucket list: go pony trekking in Iceland. You can go on treks of a week or more, accompanied by a herd of loose Icelandic Horses who function as remounts. How cool is that!

I have wanted to do this since before I got a horse as a grown up, ever since my daughter went through a Norse phase where she read the Sagas incessantly. This was when she was maybe nine or ten, she's nearly thirty now, so it's been awhile.

However I am not all that excited about going alone. This is the challenge. When I began this dream, I didn't know if I could even physically do it, because I hadn't ridden in decades. Now I am quite sure I can. Still, it would be fun to go with a Horse Forum group, eh?

You would need to be able to afford it, be able to take the time off, and be confident you can ride for most of a day (yes, on a gaited horse but still) for a number of consecutive days, and there is a weight limit as these are really small horses.

Things about Iceland -- zillions of natural hot springs. Ancient Norse sagas. Endless vistas of grass and mountains. Volcanos. If you like cities Reykyavik is supposed to be really fun. You can go on tours that include sheep round ups (Icelandic Sheep!), cattle round ups, and all sortsa stuff. Mostly you stay in inns etc. at night (not camping out).

Anybody willing to consider it? Not just "sounds great" but even seriously?
 

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I went to Iceland last summer by myself and it was amazing. I rode an Icelandic pony, sorry, horse, and that was awesome! Just be aware, it's pretty much guaranteed to rain every day, or at least every other day, for part of the day. I love rain, and I don't mind riding in the rain, but a week-long ride in the rain might not be overly fun.

Also, if you plan on going to Iceland in the summer (you might think about early September, though) you need to book everything no later than December, in my experience. By February everything is booked. Also, you're probably aware if you've been looking, but everything in Iceland is crazy expensive, particularly food, gas, and lodging. The only thing cheap and good that I found to eat was sandwiches, and that would get old fast. Even their local lamb and fish is expensive. Just a heads up. Of course if you were on a riding trip that wouldn't be an issue, but you'd presumably take a little extra time at the beginning and end of your trip. Oh, and also it's super touristy in the summer, and it seems to be mostly American tourists, which for some reason I found kind of annoying.

@tinyliny Icelandic horses (don't call them ponies to anyone in Iceland) are really sturdy and were designed for grown men to ride. Also, they are breeding them bigger now to be more in line with modern riding preferences. Weight limit might vary depending on who is doing the ride, but I bet you could check online. I'm sure you could find places with a weight limit over 200 for a good rider. I don't know how much you actually weigh, so I'm not sure if that would help you.

@Avna if you do end up really planning this and have any questions, I'd be happy to answer. I was trying to get my family to go back this summer but it didn't work out. Maybe we'll try again for next summer. I would absolutely recommend going. It's amazing. I think seeing it by horseback would be awesome, even with the rain. I did a fair amount of hiking while there, and it was nothing short of spectacular. Even just driving around, you can see why people there still believe in fairies. The land is nothing short of magical.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
@ACinATX, I bet Iceland is expensive! The combination of Nordic Socialism (universal safety net and paying everyone a decent living wage) and being an island, must hike prices a good bit. I was a bit stickershocked in Sweden years ago.

I would love to hear more! Any details at all!

I am a Northerly person in my soul.
 

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A few years ago we went to Iceland for two weeks. It was very beautiful and we'd like to go again. We drove around the perimeter, not the ring road but the actual country. The fjords are amazing, the beaches incredible. My husband feels like he'll never be able to appreciate other waterfalls again after seeing the ones there.

We had heard that many people speak english. That was fairly true in Reykjavik but you couldn't go into a grocery store in the rest of the country and expect anyone to understand you. In September it was very cold, meaning the temperature was in the 50s and sometimes up to the 60s. I had long underwear on the whole trip. The wind chill must have often made it much colder.

Even in the most remote areas they have things like radiant heating in the floors and you'll never run out of hot water in a shower because they use the volcanic heat. We went out to eat twice, and it cost around $75 to have an actual meal in a restaurant with no drinks. Other than that we ate cold food from grocery stores with the occasional subway sandwich (they had in larger towns) or cheap hot dogs or pizza.

Outside of Reykjavik hotels or cabins were reasonably priced. Most of the hotels included breakfast, so that would keep us going most of the day. The breakfasts are great, with fish, eggs, sliced cucumbers, tomatoes and cheese on bread as a staple. Also yogurt and pastries. Iceland had the strongest coffee I've ever had.


We wanted to see the country so just did one horse ride for several hours. My husband is around 200 lbs and the horse had no issues. The guide showed me how to get my horse to tolt, but all three horses also trotted. We rode on the beach, and the guide took my husband about a mile down the beach while I stayed behind so I could let my horse have a gallop to catch up. I was also able to hold back and then tolt a few times to catch up.

Roads out in the backcountry were quite hairy sometimes. We rented a Jeep. Pot holes were often the size of a car and there are miles long one-way tunnels that are terrifying until you understand the pull out system. There are narrow gravel roads on the sides of mountains that slope toward the edge of a cliff so you better not slip. No guard rails. We met a car once on a road where neither of us could have backed up safely, and it was so narrow that we had to scrape our mirrors past each other.

Sheep are everywhere, and we also saw horses randomly loose in the countryside or penned up all alone. The horses are all interested in people and approach to be petted. Something I noticed right away was that the horses are much higher quality than most we see in the US. You have to understand that many they export are culls, since horses that leave can never return, and no horses can enter or reenter Iceland.

The towns are beautiful with amazing architecture in some places, although many buildings are made of corrugated metal. Rooftops are covered with grass sometimes. You can't go into a small town and tell what buildings are, most of the time. They don't look like shops or restaurants to our eye so it can take some hunting to even find a store to enter. In the grocery stores, the checkers sit down to ring up your things.

Horse trekking sounds amazing, I wish I could go.
Notice how we are dressed and the size of the horses. This was one of the warmer days and I had long underwear on too. I am 5'3."

 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
What I think of when I think of Iceland.

Icelandic sagas were hugely influential on J.R.R.Tolkien and C.S.Lewis who pretty much invented fantasy as we know it today. They are the 'other thread' to Celtic mythology which is a more prominent inspiration for modern fantasy writers. But Norse stories are in my opinion both stranger and more down to earth. Last image is Brunnhilde, from Arthur Rackham's famous illustrations for Wagner's Twilight of the Gods.

Trolls and dwarves still live in Iceland.
 

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Trolls and dwarves still live in Iceland.
I agree on the trolls :biggrin: Especially when spending the night out of sight of any civilization :pinkunicorn:

In hindsight I think I was lucky to visit Iceland back then when it wasn't that crowded/touristy yet. My friend and I were too young/cheap to rent a car, so we hiked all over, pitching our tent in campgrounds or asking a farmer for permission to spend the night on their land... It was a great way to explore the country and actually meet people. It was astounding how many people stopped and asked us if we want to ride with them for a bit and they were actually awesome tour guides...All the people we asked if we could pitch our tent were always very friendly and supplied the weather forecast for the next few days - even though we were struggling with the language barrier :Angel:

Yes, food prices are high compared to the US, but coming from Switzerland I didn't find them too shocking...
And yes, it rained a lot and it was windy most of the time, but that is part of the appeal. Layers are your friend :biggrin:
 

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I've been saving up some thoughts. Here they are.

I feel like the overall tone of my post is negative. Don't get me wrong. Iceland is an absolutley amazing place and I'd go back in a heartbeat. These are just some useful things to know.

1. You can’t bring your own tack or riding gear. Horses in Iceland have no immunity to most equine diseases. When I went on my ride, they were hesitant to even let me wear the gloves I had been riding in, until I told them I had washed them since the last time I rode in them, in hot soapy water.

2. Your flight will be 5-7 hours long, which isn’t enough time to really get any decent sleep. You will be super tired when you get there. Your hotel will not let you check in early. They aren’t being jerks, it’s just that every hotel room in Iceland is booked every day in the summer, and your room isn’t ready yet. If it’s important to be able to go to sleep as soon as you get in, you can make your reservation start the night before you arrive. Just make sure your hotel knows what you’re planning on doing, so they don’t give your room away.

3. Reykjavik is the capitol and Keflavik is the small town that’s near the airport. It used to be a navy base (my dad was stationed there!) and now it’s just a small town. If you don’t need to be in Reykjavik, I would maybe look into staying in Keflavik. I think it would probably be cheaper.

4. Getting from the airport to Reykjavik is expensive, I guess unless you hitchhiked. I think the best option is to take a bus. They have some service like the airport shuttle, except obviously way more expensive. You need to book in advance.

5. Don’t make the mistake I did and book your car rental out of the Reykjavik airport – this is a small airport that’s in town. Or, if you do want to pick up your car in town, be sure that’s where you are getting it. I got the two airports mixed up and went all the way out to the main airport just to learn that my car wasn’t waiting for me.

6. Reykjavik is a relatively small city and very walkable. You can see all that you’d want to see in half a day, honestly. The big church is kind of cool, for like five minutes. There aren’t many old buildings. Up until about a hundred years ago, people were forbidden to live in cities on the coast. You can read about why if you’re interested, but this means that there aren’t any cute old cities like in most of Europe.

7. Public transportation in Iceland is really bad. Iceland is the first country in Europe where I had to drive. The only alternative to driving is busses, but busses tend to be very few and far between, and often late. There are no proper bus stops outside of cities, so you will probably be standing in the rain for at least an hour, wondering where your bus is.

8. If you go with someone else, you need to take turns driving. It’s hard to drive and gawp and the same time, and literally every time you turn a corner you’re going to want to be gawping.

9. If you are going to be driving, take half an hour and learn the basics about driving in Iceland. One big thing is that once you get far enough out of Reykjavik, a lot of the bridges on the main highway are one-lane bridges. So you have to know how to tell who has the right-of-way.

10. I didn’t personally do any driving outside of the main highways and towns. I don’t have a lot of experience fording rivers and driving on cliffside roads with no fencing, plus I was by myself with a crappy phone, and I didn’t want to get stuck anywhere. You might feel differently.

11. Everywhere I went people spoke English, but I didn’t go very far off the beaten path.

12. Every single (natural) thing is worth seeing, and honestly worth seeing twice. There wasn’t one thing I saw that wasn’t amazing. The cities and towns were mostly meh.
 

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When are you thinking of going? Are you far enough along that you have dates planned? Timing/scheduling because of work would be my biggest holdup but it's a place I've been interested in as well. I have a lot of friends who have done it as a long weekend trip in the recent past and raved about it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I am not going unless I have at least one person to go with. This is because I am a coward about traveling. I stress out easily among the humans and their constructions.

I would probably aim for next august or september, and go on at least a four-day ride.

I immediately thought of you, @egrogan!
 

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Do early September if you can. It should be much less crowded once everyone is back in school.
 
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Let's talk more @Avna. I have a regular conference that comes up in September but if we have a year to plan....sounds promising! :wink:
 

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2.Your flight will be 5-7 hours long, which isn’t enough time to really get any decent sleep. You will be super tired when you get there. Your hotel will not let you check in early. They aren’t being jerks, it’s just that every hotel room in Iceland is booked every day in the summer, and your room isn’t ready yet.
We planned it to arrive in their early afternoon. After we got our rental car, we drove several hours out of Reykjavik to our guesthouse, stopping to see a couple of waterfalls along the way. That way we weren't exhausted and also checked in at a normal time. If you stay out in the country you don't have to worry about everything being booked.

4. Getting from the airport to Reykjavik is expensive, I guess unless you hitchhiked. I think the best option is to take a bus. They have some service like the airport shuttle, except obviously way more expensive. You need to book in advance.

5. Don’t make the mistake I did and book your car rental out of the Reykjavik airport – this is a small airport that’s in town. Or, if you do want to pick up your car in town, be sure that’s where you are getting it. I got the two airports mixed up and went all the way out to the main airport just to learn that my car wasn’t waiting for me.
We flew into the main airport too, but if you rent a car, talk to the company. Our rental car company drove the car to the airport for us, and we just wheeled our luggage right up to it.

7. Public transportation in Iceland is really bad. Iceland is the first country in Europe where I had to drive. The only alternative to driving is busses, but busses tend to be very few and far between, and often late. There are no proper bus stops outside of cities, so you will probably be standing in the rain for at least an hour, wondering where your bus is.

9. If you are going to be driving, take half an hour and learn the basics about driving in Iceland. One big thing is that once you get far enough out of Reykjavik, a lot of the bridges on the main highway are one-lane bridges. So you have to know how to tell who has the right-of-way.

10. I didn’t personally do any driving outside of the main highways and towns. I don’t have a lot of experience fording rivers and driving on cliffside roads with no fencing, plus I was by myself with a crappy phone, and I didn’t want to get stuck anywhere. You might feel differently.
We've driven in a few countries and Iceland was one of the easiest. They drive on the same side of the road as we do. The signs are not in English, but outside of the big city area the turns are so few and far between that you can easily recognize the place names from maps. One thing to note is that individual farms have signs with the name on it, because the country is so small. So often we would think we were going to pass a town but it was really just someone's house with an official road sign.
In September I wouldn't worry about going across any water over the road. The roads were quite driveable, just steep and narrow sometimes. We saw many people far out in the countryside just driving regular cars without 4WD.

12. Every single (natural) thing is worth seeing, and honestly worth seeing twice. There wasn’t one thing I saw that wasn’t amazing. The cities and towns were mostly meh.
The cities and towns are only uninteresting right around Reykjavik. The entire rest of the country is fascinating and the towns amazing. Here is a small town we drove through, and most were beautiful like this.

Me at a waterfall.

A lake out in the countryside.

Some horses napping:

A turf covered church:

There were tiny towns at the foot of mountains, along the fjords. WOW.

If you get a chance to go to Jokulsarlon, the glacier lagoon, that was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen.
 
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