Trail ride Iceland: Thingvellir and around Lake Thingvallavatn
A Deep Dip into History
Duration: 6 days and 5 nights – 5 days on horseback
Approx 125 Km; 20 to 35 Km per day; between 4 and 7 hrs riding per day.
The ride begins at the farm in Vellir. Thingvellir is a little further inland and sits within a rift valley; not quite as huge and dramatic as Africa’s Great Rift Valley, but a rift valley none the less. A rift valley occurs when tectonic plates move apart and the land in between sinks; in this case it’s the crest of the mid-Atlantic Ridge. Thingvellir is the ancient seat of the Icelandic parliament, established in the year 930. It remained here till 1798 when it moved to Reykjavik.
The trail leads through beautiful valleys, including the appropriately-named Maradalur, “Valley of the Horses” with its unusual volcanic formations. Ride between ancient lava flows, along lakeshores and through pristine forests. The ride ends with a canter through Reykjadalur Valley where we can take a “river bath” in a part of the river with a hot spring and a glorious view over the Ölfús.
Day 1: Arrival
We will collect you from Reykjavík or at your hotel if you plan to arrive a day or two early. The drive to the farm, Vellir, near Hveragerði is short and we’ll be there in time for diner. At the farm you stay in the purpose-built guesthouse. We will get to know each other during the first dinner, which will end with a detailed description of the ride that begins tomorrow.
Day 2: Vellir to Kolvidarhóll
From Hveragerdi, in the Ölfus municipality, we follow the old route to the village of Hellisheidi. The trail leads onto moorland and up to the Hengill volcano and the Kristnitökuhraun lava field. This lava came from the eruption of Hengill in the year 1000, the same year Iceland officially became Christian. The old folktales say that the eruption was the revenge of the old Norse gods Thór, Ódinn and Freyr. We continue on the track between lava and hills down to Kolvidarhóll, where people have stopped to rest for hundreds of years. We spend the night at Vellir farm.
21 km, 4 hrs riding.
Day 3: Kolvidarhóll to Marardalur and on to Thingvellir
We continue north below the Húsmúli and Hengill mountains to reach a point where we have to dismount and lead the horses through the narrow cleft to enter Marardalur (Valley of Horses). We ride higher all the time and ascend Dyrfjöll “Door mountain” to be greeted by a panoramic view over Lake Thingvallavatn. The track continues along the lakeshore passed Hestvik to the farm called Heidarbær. After that, we see the sights at the old Althing (Icelandic Parliament) originally constructed more than a thousand years ago. This is the place where Eric the Red was banished for murduring Eyiolf The Foul in 982. From here it is not far to Skógarhólar where we spend the night. Iceland’s big national horse competition used to be held at Skógarhólar until 1978 when it moved nearer to the capital.
38 km, 6-7 hrs riding.
Day 4: Thingvellir to Kringlumýri
This morning the trail leads across the Thingvellir National Park. From Gjábakki you can see right across the park as far as Lake Thingvallavatn, the largest lake in Iceland. This is the area where the North American and European tectonic plates meet.
Ride across Lyngdalsheidi Moor and pause to explore the lava caves called Laugardalshellir. In the afternoon ride back across Lyngdalsheidi Moor and the day ends at Kringlumýri cottage.
30 km, 6-7 hrs riding.
Day 5: Kringlumýri to Villingarvatn
Leaving Kringlumýri cottage we ride along paths called “Drift” which are soft underfoot, ideal for horses. Once again, there’s a great view over Lake Thingvallavatn. We pass one of the first hydro-electric stations ever built in Iceland (1937) and continue along the south side of the lake to Villingarvatn farm, where we leave the horses for the night and continue by bus to our overnight lodge back at Vellir.
15 km, 3-4 hrs riding.
Day 6: Villingarvatn to Reykjadalur to Vellir
After breakfast we return to the corral and horses and ride into the mountains on the east side of the Hengill volcano. The objective today is twin crater lakes known as Kattatjörn. Continue ascending to reach lake Álftavatn, “Swanlake” and then Ökuelduháls and its abundance of hot springs. After a rest and a chance to explore we ride on towards Klambragíl and the steep lava path that leads down into Reykjadalur Valley, with more hot springs. Time for a dip in the valley’s warm rivulet before riding on to Hveragerði. There is a magnificent view, all the way to the sea, from this high point; in fact you can see the Westman Islands (weather allowing!). The ride ends back at the farm at Vellir. After some refreshments, we return to civilisation and Reykjavik, by car, where the ride ends. Please contact us if you’d like to spend a night ot more in Reykjavik. Or maybe a spot of whale watching!
23 km, 5 -6 hrs riding.
Accommodation & Meals
3 nights in guesthouses
2 nights in sleeping-bag accommodation (simple mountain huts)
Full board from dinner day 1 to breakfast day 7.
Please note that dinner on the last evening is not included.