Things to Do

Fakasel: The Icelandic Horse Park

UPDATED August 2017: Fakasel’s web site is now more or less blank. Sadly, please treat the information below as nostalgia only, since you won’t be able to visit! See our new post about other options for seeing and riding Icelandic horses.

UPDATED MAY 2017: Fakasel’s web site says there are temporarily closed, and it has said that for about a month. I don’t have any additional information, but it is strange for an attraction to be “temporarily” closed as we approach the busy summer tourist season. I’ll let you know if I found out what’s going on.

Perhaps I should work on a list of underappreciated things to see in Iceland. I’d put the Westman Islands on there. The petting zoo Slakki. Probably the local thermal pools. I’m not quite sure Fakasel makes the list, but the afternoon show might come close. The large tour bus companies seem to have discovered this place, but maybe not people touring on their own.

Fakasel is on Route 1, between Hveragerði and Selfoss. Those are some of the first towns you will come across heading east from Reykjavik; Fakasel is about 40 minutes from the center of Reykjavik. And right as you pull into the parking lot, you’ll know you’ve arrived.



I’ve seen a lot of people who stop by the side of the road to pet Icelandic horses they come across. Not only is this sometimes dangerous if there is no good place to pull off the road, but you almost never have permission from the owner of the horses. Here, you can pet the horses in a safe and comfortable place.

Of course, the owners here hope you’ll come inside and buy something! The good news is there are lots of options; first and foremost are the horse shows and barn tour.

During the summer, there were two horse shows daily: A shorter (and cheaper) afternoon show at 4:30, and a more expensive and elaborate evening show at 7:00. The afternoon show, also called the Daily Show, is only running in the winter for groups of 10 or more, so you’ll have to call or e-mail ahead to see if it is running.

Let’s start with that afternoon show. This is a short show- only about 15 minutes, plus a chance to meet the horses in the ring afterwards. And it feels short, to be honest; make sure you’re ready for that. But it’s a nice show– an overview of the importance horses have had in Icelandic history, followed by a demonstration of their unique gaits.

Fakasel afternoon 20160519-imgp0635

You’ll probably hear a lot about the history of the Icelandic horse. Briefly, in the year 982 (yes, nine eighty-two!) a law was passed in Iceland forbidding any horse from being imported into Iceland. A horse can leave the country, but it can never come back. And this law has been in place continuously for over 1,000 years.

These Icelandic horses have a unique characteristic. Most (all?) horses can walk, trot, and gallop. But Icelandic horses have two more, shall we say, speeds: The Tölt, and Flying Pace. You’ll see a demonstration of both of these at either show. Here’s a slightly jerky video of the Flying Pace. Watch how smooth this is for the rider:

After the show, you can go down and pet the horses, and the dog (who was also in the show):

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The afternoon show is 1800 krona for adults, and free for kids 12 and under.

We actually saw both shows, with dinner in between. You don’t need to do this– I wanted to see both to write this review. But you can work dinner into your plans if you’d like– Have an early dinner after the 4:30 afternoon show, or a slightly less early dinner before the 7:00 evening show.

You can see the menus here. As you will often find in Iceland, the kid’s menu is the best value:


We thought the food was a solid example of Icelandic food. It wasn’t spectacular, but it was still very good.

Fish and chips

Fish and chips


If you don’t want a meal, you can get cakes and pies like the apple pie above at the coffee shop area. Here you’ll find muffins, cookies, cakes, teas, and ice cream.

The evening show was much longer and much more elaborate. And it’s much more expensive: 5200 krona for adults, and 2600 krona for kids 12 and under. This is actually a significant increase from the prices just a few months ago if you have kids: In the summer of 2016, the price was 4800 krona for adults, but free for kids 12 and under. For this you get to see a 45 minute show, but you also get a barn tour afterwards; that alone is worth 1800 krona (though it’s still free for kids.) Let’s start with some pictures from the show, which features a lot more effects, and some fire.

You start off with some folklore about elves:


And move on to the role of horses in Icelandic life:


And then some fun riding demonstrations:


And then finally more demonstrations of the gaits of Icelandic horses.


After the evening show, you get to go behind the scenes and tour the barn. The barn is huge, and is a nice add-on.


Finally, there is one more show option, and this one is a movie: I am Aurora, a show about the Northern Lights. For 2000 krona for adults, 1000 for kids 13-17, and free for kids under 12, you get a 15-20 minute show. You’re in the same arena they use for the horse shows, and the screen takes up most of the length of the arena; they claim it is 200 square meters.


The movie is fun, but I think it’s only worth it if you have a kid who is really into the northern lights, and you’re not going to get to see them on your trip. In fact, my guess is that shows like this exist so the big tour bus companies can offer a tour that includes the “Northern Lights” year round.

So where are we? I’ve been somewhat critical of the price and value for the Northern Lights movie and the evening show. (I’d like the evening show much better if kids were still free!) But I think the afternoon show is a compelling value, especially if your kids are all 12 and under.

Remember that it’s only a 15 minute show. But, you can go down to the arena afterwards to meet the horses and riders, and you can also see some of the horses outside before or after the show. If you are only paying for adults, you get all of that, plus nice bathrooms and snack options, for 3600 krona for your family. That’s about $32, or the cost of 4 pieces of cake at a nice Icelandic cafe.

Be sure to check the schedule for the show you want to see; I expect the afternoon show will be offered on a set schedule once or twice a day starting in the spring.

Thanks to Fakasel for sponsoring our visit (though we paid for the food)!

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Fakasel: The Icelandic Horse Park was last modified: August 27th, 2017 by Eric