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Icelandic Horses: How to see them and where to ride them

Icelandic horses are unique, and their history is amazing.

Here’s a quick summary. 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 gaits: The Tölt, and Flying Pace. Both of these gaits are considered to be extremely smooth for how fast they are.

Seeing and Petting Icelandic Horses

You may or may not want to go on a horse riding tour while in Iceland, but a quick stop to see them can be an enjoyable experience. You’ll see cars stopped by the side of the road to pet random horses they come across, though I don’t think it’s ideal to visit strange horses on private land.

I used to recommend a place called Fakasel, but sadly they seem to be out of business; their web site returns more or less nothing. You used to be able to pet the horses and see a short but entertaining show. If you’d like to enjoy the nostalgia of the place, see my Fakasel post here.

The Icelandic Horse Center

So I am switching my recommendation to a brand new place, The Sólvangur Icelandic Horse Center. Their web site is icelandichorsecenter.is, which redirects to hesturinn.is. Sólvangur is about 40 minutes outside of Reykjavik, and 10 or 15 minutes south of Selfoss. So it’s not far out of the way if you’re on your way to the Golden Circle.

I shouldn’t really call this a brand new place. They’ve been breeding horses and offering riding lessons for 17 years. But what is brand new is a stable tour and the café and gift shop.

The stable tour is the reason to come out of your way to get to Sólvangur. The 20 minute tour is a nice option for families with children too young to ride, or if some people simply don’t want to ride. The cost is 1400 krona for adults, 1000 krona for ages 7-15, and free for kids 6 and under. (You may not see these prices on the web site yet, but just tell them I sent you!)

Before or after (or instead of) the stable tour, you can also visit their horse-themed gift shop, as well as the café, which is open from 11 AM – 5 PM. You can just drop by and see and pet some of the horses, but if you’d like to take a stable tour, it’s best to e-mail and make a reservation; e-mail them at icelandichorsecenter@gmail.com

Riding Icelandic Horses with children

There are lots of companies offering horse rides of an hour or two, and just about all of them are reviewed favorably online. Sólvangur, just mentioned above, also offers riding lessons and tours, though only to more experienced riders.

Other companies do offers tours for people with less experience and/or small children. We enjoyed our ride up north at Hestasport in Varmahlíð. They are west of Akureyri, in an area where there isn’t as much to do as you will find, say, on the south coast. If you’re traversing the entire Ring Road, Hestasport might be a nice stop on a long driving day.

The minimum for their “Pleasure in Every Hoofstep” tour is 6 years old. You can see our just turned 8-year-old returning from that tour in the picture above.

Note these names are all sounding similar: hesturinn, hestasport. “Hestur” means horse in Icelandic!

Riding horses near Reykjavik

If you are looking for options closer to Reykjavik, make sure you look at the minimum ages different companies have. Almost all of your options have excellent ratings online, but only a few offer tours for younger children.

One good option is Íshestar. (There’s that Icelandic word for horse again!) They are about 20 minutes south of Reykjavik, near Hafnarfjörður. It’s just a few minutes out of your way if you are heading to the airport. Or, if you want to make a day of it, see our post about other attractions in Hafnarfjörður. (If you don’t have a car, Íshestar will pick you up for an extra 1000 krona per person, or about $10.)

Íshestar offers a tour called Family Adventure:

“Our trained guides take you and your whole family on a quick ride on calm horses allowing both you and the youngest ones to experience the breathtaking nature and the excitement of riding a horse.
Children under the age of 6 will be led by rein in a paddock at a discounted rate.”

Riders 6 and older will have a 30 minute ride on that tour. For a longer tour, the Nature Comfort ride is an hour, and children 8 and up are allowed to ride. For a shorter tour, the Meet the Horse allows for a short ride after the stable tour. This is much more expensive than the stable tour at the Icelandic Horse Center described above.


If you plan to ride with a company not listed here, you will still more than likely have an amazing experience! Horses are a respected part of Icelandic history, and companies offering riding tours all seem to offer excellent service. The companies above just offer options for younger riders or non-riders that you are less likely to find at other horse farms.

Icelandic Horses: How to see them and where to ride them was last modified: August 31st, 2017 by Eric