As soon as I knew I was going to Iceland, I started looking for horse riding in Reykjavik. I wasn’t sure how long I would be there and wasn’t yet sold on renting a car. The search for the best horseback riding near Reykjavik was on. Sure, I was excited about the food, the ice caves and the northern lights, but those Icelandic horses are a mild obsession. I could skip the lights but couldn’t NOT ride my tiny horse.

icelandic horses

These horses might look like ponies, but they are full-grown horses. They have been bred for more than a thousand years to carry people across Iceland’s rugged terrain. Still used for sheep herding and leisure riding, their calm disposition and small size make them perfect for new riders. They can be very playful cheeky monkeys and I am in love with them. Like this cheeky horse who started nibbling my shoulder!

Eldhestar Volcanic Horses

horse riding reykjavik

Eldhestar was the first place on my list, and happily, they agreed to host me for a ride. I was booked in for the most popular tour, 3C- Horses and Hot Springs on the first morning of my Iceland trip. Eldhestar offers a pickup service when you book your ride. Even though I did have a car, I was exhausted and wasn’t ready to do the 30-minute drive on 4 hrs of sleep. I was happy to take the tiny horse bus, although, sadly, there was no tiny horse on board.

Offering riding tours since 1986, they are a well-known outfit. You can choose from half-day, day and combo tours to multi-day tours ranging from 2-8 days. The multiday tours include accommodation and meals at their hotel.

horse riding reykjavik
you can stay overnight and if it’s the right time of year, it’s a great spot to see the Northern Lights

Getting to Eldhestar

This is the way it works in Reykjavik for all tours and excursions. You choose the bus stop closest to your lodging, and the bus will get you there and drop you back off at the end of the trip. I stayed at the Apotek, so my bus stop was #3 and, right on time, a bus with a horse on the side pulled in. After picking up the rest of the riders, we drove to the stables. It’s a gorgeous half-hour ride with snow-topped mountains guiding your way.

You can also drive yourself if you have your own vehicle, of course. It’s a short, pretty drive – I drove right past it later in the week on my way back to Reykjavik from Vik.

Getting Ready to Ride Icelandic Horses

When we got to the stables, we were brought inside and offered the use of their magical coveralls. Take one. Trust me. This day was brisk, cold, and windy, but I was toasty warm for the entire 3-hour ride. I wore all of my clothes plus my coat underneath. I looked like a Teletubby but the only thing that felt cold was my face and my horse said I looked cute.

They also have boots, clean mitts, hats and scarves if needed. You are NOT allowed to wear anything that has been near horses outside of Iceland. The importation of horses has been banned since 900 something AD. The Icelandic horse is, consequently, one of the purest breeds on earth.

Eldhestar Icelandic Horses

Once you are dressed, you make your way outside to be paired with a horse. I told them I had riding experience, but it had been at least 40 years so they matched me with Máni. After some quick pointers and a hands-on tutorial on mounting these feisty little horses, we set off led by our guide Tea (Tereza).

horseback riding near Reykjavik

The Ride

We started off nice and slow, on an easy trail. Although it was incredibly windy, I was warm and very comfortable on my horse. We rode through an actual small forest, which is part of the reforestation plan for Iceland. People say there are no trees, but there are some areas where trees have been planted, and this was one of them.

horse riding reykjavik

The hot spring area above the village of Hveragerði proved to be very dramatic as we rode through thick clouds of steam. Our horses were calm and composed as they were used to it, and Icelandic horses were not easily spooked. There are no natural predators due to their strict rules against importing animals, which probably helps with their solid temperament.

At one point, it was time to experience the tölt gait, specific to Icelandic horses who have two extra gaits. Tölt is a very smooth, four-beat lateral and natural gait for Icelandic horses. Máni, it seemed, did not care to tölt and we kept falling a bit behind. Tea rode back to me and gave me a small whip and instructed me to add a light tap to Máni’s shoulder the next time. From that point on, we tölted like rockstars after that little extra nudge and I, somehow, managed to stay in my saddle.

horse riding reykjavik

Final Thoughts On Icelandic Horses and My Experience

The entire ride took about 3 hours and I absolutely loved every minute of it. Eldestar offers a variety of rides, some of them multiple-day trips, and can cater to every level of experience. I found everyone who worked there to be patient and helpful. In our group, we had three experienced riders right down to someone who had never been on a horse. Tea, our guide, kept us all together, allowing the more experienced riders opportunities to go ahead a bit. She also made sure the less experienced riders never fell too far behind.

I am also pleased to report that despite not sitting in a saddle for 40 years, I was not sore after almost 3 hours of riding. I did have some mystery bruises on my inner calves but not the sort of soreness I recall from riding large horses in the past. There was a slight worry that it would impact the next few days but I felt totally fine after my adventure with Máni (means moon in Icelandic).

horse riding reykjavik

I was picked up at bus stop #3 at 8 a.m. and dropped off again by 1:30 p.m., making it a great activity for those who only have one day in Reykjavik but want to get out of the city. My perfect 24-hour layover would be a morning horse ride followed by an afternoon at Sky Lagoon. Follow with a nap and a freshen-up at the hotel before enjoying dinner in Reykjavik. Perfect Day.

@auburnlane

Eldhestar hosted Carole on their most popular tour, Horses and Hot Springs. For almost 3 hours, they rode along the slopes of Reykjafjall mountain, across the Varma River and through a steaming hot spring! This ride even took them through a green forest, a very rare sight in almost treeless Iceland. Eldestar thankfully probided the very fashion forward, incredibly warm insulated overall & a helmet. There were hats, gloves abd scarves abailable as well. Carole wore 1000 layers of merino wool and both of her coats underneath her onsie, giving her a sleek, dashing profile. Despite the -3C temps and bone chilling wind, she was warm and toasty for the entire ride. She will be looking into purchasing a magic onsie to take home with her. These friendly but spirited horses are one of the purest breeds in the world, with the first coming to Iceland with the Vikings in the ninth century. Today, the import of other horses or livestock into Iceland is strictly forbidden & this has successfully prevented the introduction of disease. Unlike Carole, a horse can leave Iceland, but it can never return. @carole nelson brown #icelandichorse #traveliceland #exploreiceland #discovericeland

♬ original sound – Auburn Lane

Eldhestar 3C ride is 18,200 ISK

and that includes your hotel pickup, English-speaking guide and all safety equipment. They also offer the use of the magical-coveralls, gloves, hats, scarves and boots if you wish. There is a weight limit of 120kg and you must be at least 7 years old to ride. Dress in warm, comfortable clothing, bring a fanny pack as no backpacks are allowed on the horses and if you don’t want to wear their coveralls, make sure it’s all waterproof.

Huge thanks to Eldhestar for hosting me on this dream experience. I will be back for tour 3E – The Elfin Tour because the only thing I like as much as tiny Icelandic horses, are Icelandic Elfs.

Eldhestar offers our readers a 10% discount code SOLO10. The code is valid for bookings made until 31st May 2025 and is valid for half-day and day tours only.