In June 2014, I travelled to the Nordic island of Iceland with a friend to ride Icelandic horses in the countryside and up into the volcanic mountains that dominate the landscape through a company called Eld.Hestar.
We flew into the capital, Reykjavik, and were then picked up from the main bus stop and taken to the Eldhestars farm Vellir which is situated in the heart of Iceland‘s south-western countryside close to the town Hveragerði, one of Iceland’s most popular tourist destinations nestled between volcanic mountains in a green valleys with steaming hot springs.
We spent four days riding across the most dramatic landscape including treeless countryside, through marshes, past fields of foxgloves up into the harsh volcanic and steep mountains where we encountered people swimming in natural hot springs and steam from nearby geysers filling the valleys.
Our little Icelandic horses with their sweet temperaments and a special and incredibly smooth gait called a Tolt hurried around the place in single file – no mountain, rocky path, steep cliff, erupting geyser or cold saltwater marsh too much for these sturdy, hairy little beasties. In some parts of Iceland, they still have tolting competitions to see if people can drink beer without spilling a drop while riding.
The landscape was so Mars-like, so stark and dream-like that I felt like I’d stepped into a fairy tale where giant trolls lived behind waterfalls and at the top of mountains and vikings still roamed the land. Vellir has hundreds of Icelandic horses – all with their own hilarious personalities – and you can even wander around the herd late at night as the sun never sets in Iceland in the Summer. Accommodation was in a bizarre countryside hotel at Vellir which most of the time seemed to be filled with German travellers.
After a brilliant four days tearing around the countryside, we spent a day in Reykjavik admiring the stores, sweet cottages and the incredible views of the far mountainous ranges. We discovered some modern and welcoming cafes and restaurants in the centre of town, being very careful to avoid the foal, whale, puffin and reindeer on the menu.
Returning to the noisy hustle and bustle of London the next day was a shock after the stillness of Iceland. I can’t wait to return.