Highland Expedition North
Travelling the dessert and canyons north of Hofsjökull Glacier
August 5 . - 12.
August 19. - 26.
August 5 . - 12.
August 19. - 26.
A fascinating Expedition style tour into the absolute wilderness of the Northern Highlands with a free running herd of spare horses. Riding through Icelandic tundra, the Sprengisandur desert, deep canyons and beautiful views of Hofsjökull glacier you will find yourself merging with one of Europe´s last true wildernesses. The daily rides of 20-40 km in a small group of max. 12 riders are challenging and only for experienced riders who are not afraid of „roughing it“ when it comes to accommodation as 4 nights during this ride are spend in very basic mountain huts in dormitory style sleeping back accommodation.
This riding tour with 7 riding days will leave you altered with a passion and longing for the breathtaking wilderness and freedom of the Icelandic highland.
Type: Multi-day tour with a free running herd of spare horses
Operated by: A trusted partner of Exploring Iceland Tour
Duration: 8 days / 7 nights/ 7 riding days
Level of expertise required: Experienced riders only in good physical shape
Area: Northern Part of the highlands
Accommodation: 3 nights in cottages (2-4 bed rooms with made up beds and and shared bathrooms) and 4 nights in mountain huts (sleeping bag dormitory style). Sleeping bags are provided but you are welcome to bring your own. Accommodation in Reykjavik not included but can be arranged.
Meals: Full board starting with lunch on day 1 and ending with breakfast at day 8. Lunch is mostly picnic lunch.
Min: 6 guests
Max: 12 guests
Guide: English and German speaking.
Maximum Weight: 110 kg
Price 2019: ISK 495.000
Please contact us for more information and booking!
Day by day itinerary
Day 1: Transfer from Reykjavík by public bus to North Iceland – Introductory Ride
In the morning you will go with your fellow riders by public bus to North Iceland where you will be met and greeted by our partner at the bus station. Transfer to the cozy cottages amid beautiful nature, that will be your home for the next 2 nights. Check-in and enjoy a light lunch before setting out again to meet the horses, learn about the Icelandic tack and the soft and comfortable tölt before going on your first introductory ride (approx. 2 hours). Back from the ride we enjoy a hearty dinner before relaxing in the hot tubs underneath the arctic sky!
Day 2: Towards the mountains!
After breakfast we saddle up and leave civilization the way we know it by following the herd of spare horses into the mountains. The first part of the ride takes us on charming trails to the idyllic Héraðvötn river delta, a paradise for wildlife and especially birds. We push further into the valley in south direction with beautiful views to the peak Mælifellshnjúkur (1147 m) and the highland mountains until we have reached farm Breið, where our horses get a well deserved break. We ourselves drive back to our cozy cottage accommodation and hot tubs! Riding distance ca. 25 km.
Day 3: Going south towards Goðdalavalley
After breakfast we drive back to the farm to join the horses and ride from the farm grounds with direction towards the highlands, leaving the last pieces of rural civilization behind us. We aim for Goðadalafjall mountain and follow the valley Goðdalur further into the south. As we ascend into the mountains the artic flora is clearly changing. Instead og green meadows we ride through low arctic birch and a numerous kind of mosses and lichens. Straight ahead of us we can already see the huge ice cap of glacier Hofsjökull. At the mountain hut Skiptabakki we find a resting place for us and our four-legged companions.
Riding distance: ca. 30 km. Accommodation: Sleeping bag (dormitory style) in basic mountain hut Skiptabakkiskáli.
Day 4: Towards the glacier
Today we are going to explore the desert like highland area north of Hofsjökull glacier. On barren land with hardly any vegetation we ride through moon-like landscape on remote briddle paths towards glacier Hofsjökull, the so called „Temple glacier“. It is Iceland´s third largest glacier and covers about 925 square km and rises up to 1.765 m above sea level. We follow the river Vestari Jökulsá for a while and need to find a good and safe place to cross this glacial river on horseback. Our ride takes us now very close to the glacier edge and towards our next mountain hut Ingólfsskáli situated right between glacier Hofsjökull and mountain Sáta (941m). Riding distance: ca. 30 km.
Accommodation: Sleeping bag (dormitory style) in basic mountain hut Ingólfsskáli
Day 5: Through the desert to oasis Laugafell with natural hot bathing spring
Today we take our herd through the lavafield Lambahraun towards the mountains Ásbjarnafjall, Rauðafell and Illviðrahnjúkar. The landscape we will be riding through is very arid and infertile so few creatures such as polar foxes and ravens can survive the short summers and very harsh winters in that area. Tonight we will enjoy a bit of "mountain luxury" as our next hut at Laugafell sits in a true highland oasis. It will be a reward after living rough for the last nights as a natural hot spring awaits us with wonderful warm water to bath and relax after the ride.
Riding distance: ca. 40 km. Accommodation: Sleeping bag (dormitory style) in mountain hut Laugafell with sanitary house and natural hot pool.
Day 6: Heading north again through Austurdalur
Makes sure to have a good breakfast as we are heading for another long day in the saddle! As we come down from the higland through Hölknadalur valley and towards the glacial river Austari Jökulsá we notice that nature is not as barren anymore as up in the mountains. Beautiful arctic flowers pop up along the streams and rivers such as the purple Arctic Willow, the pink thrift and the compound umbels of white or greenish-white flowers of the Angelica, a plant that was used for medical purposes and also for a Viking Akvavit! We ride through untouched wilderness until we finally find our resting place at the next mountain hut.
Riding distance: ca. 38 - 40 km. Accommodation: Sleeping bag (dormitory style) in mountain hut Hildarsel
Day 7: The deep canyon of Merkigil, home to Monika Helgadóttir
After breakfast we saddle up again and follow the glacial river towards the abandoned turf farm Ábær and its tiny parish church. This place was probably first settled by a Viking called Önundur according to the Landnáma book and was only accessible through the deep Merkigil canyon which we will explore today! At Merkigil farm a young widow named Monika Helgadóttir lived with her eight children in beautiful dramatic nature but also grim poverty. All the material for her house had to be brought there on horseback through the canyon. At Kelduland farm where the glacial rivers Vestari and Austari Jökulsá meet, we have to bid good bye to our wonderful horses before enjoying dinner and the luxury of showers, proper beds and the hot tub at the cottages again! Riding distance: ca. 25 km. Accommodation: Cozy cottages with made up beds with showers and a communal hot tub!
Day 8: Back to Reykjavík
After breakfast transfer to Akureyri and flight back to Reykjavík (approx. 3 hours drive). Please note that the accommodation tonight in Reykjavík is not included but we are more than happy to arrange the night and flybus back to the airport for you!
Exploring Iceland reserves the right to alter routes, itineraries or timetables should the necessity arise. The estimated duration of tours as indicated by km or timing can change according to road or weather conditions.
- Transfer by public bus from Reykjavík to North Iceland
- All ground transportation throughout the riding tour
- Full board during the riding tour, starting with a light meal for lunch on day 1, ending with breakfast on day 8
- 3 nights in cozy cottages (2-4-bed rooms, with shared facilities)
- 4 nights in Mountain Huts (sleeping bag accommodation, sleeping bags are provided)
- English and German speaking guide
- Helmets, raingear, saddlebags
- Accompanying service carrying luggage, food, etc.
- Transfer to Akureyri in the end of the tour
We are more than happy to assist you in arranging additional nights in Reykjavík and any further explorations of Iceland