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Sheep Round-Ups

Overview

Local farmers have been rounding up sheep in Iceland for centuries, bringing them down from the mountains to sort them before the winter. On these tours you'll learn from your hosts how to manage the flock, drive them down hillsides, across rivers and out of sheltered valleys to their resting place…

Highlights

  • Experience an authentic sheep round-up in Iceland
  • Enjoy the annual tradition with the local farmers
  • Find sheep on horseback and push them towards corrals
  • Enjoy long hours in the saddle amongst the mountains
  • Toast the success of the event and join the party

Essential Facts

  • 5 itineraries available
  • Max 18 riders per group
  • Average of 5 - 6 hours riding per day
  • Weight limit: 110kg / 242 lbs / 17 stone 4 lbs

Description

Local farmers have been rounding up sheep in Iceland for centuries, bringing them down from the mountains to sort them before the winter. On these tours you'll learn from your hosts how to manage the flock, drive them down hillsides, across rivers and out of sheltered valleys to their resting place for the night, before heading off the next day to find more. Being amongst the farming community and lending a hand in this age-old tradition is as close to the heart and soul of Iceland as you can get.

We have a selection of round-ups across the country with varying landscapes and highlights, but all of them will be exhilarating and authentic for experienced riders. The Pearls of the Northwest includes just one day of round-up and the Reykjarettir is less challenging than the others so is an option for intermediate riders.

Sheep round-ups are an annual tradition and not customised riding tours, so an open mind, good physical health and the ability to work as a team is essential. Expect to be treated as one of the crowd, be prepared to pull your weight each day and enjoy the camaraderie of those participating.

Our Sheep Round-Ups are the real thing, which means long hours outdoors in sometimes cold weather. Iceland in autumn has many colours and types of weather - you could be in golden sunshine one moment and riding in rain or sleet the next. We recommend dressing well and bringing lots of warm woollen clothing and waterproofs, although your hosts will supply outer layer oilskins to add on top.

Horses & Riding

Tack

The tack used for Icelandic horses is slightly different to the tack ordinarily used for other breeds. The saddle is similar to a dressage saddle and has a relatively flat seat which is either plain or quilted. On longer rides a crupper helps keep the saddle in place. Riding style is close to English but the stirrups are long.
Bits are usually simple snaffles and often have detachable nosebands and clip-on reins.

Horses

Icelandic horses which are c. 12-14hh but sturdy and strong

Riding

There are 5 itineraries:

  • Pearls of the Northwest is a based ride
  • Sheep Round-Up Landmannaafrettur is a trail ride
  • Sheep Round-Up Melrakkasletta is a based ride
  • Sheep Round-Up Rangarvallaafrettur is a trail ride
  • Sheep Round-Up Reykjarettir is a based ride

Ages

16+

Health

Fit, healthy, resilient and tough.

Weight

110kg / 242 lbs / 17 stone 4 lbs

Food & Accommodation

Food

During the ride full board is provided. Our menu consists of a large breakfast and traditional Icelandic meals (fish or lamb). Vegetarian meals are available if requested when booking. All riders make their own packed lunch from the breakfast table.

Accommodation

On some of the rides you stay in mountain cabins and must take your own sleeping bags, whilst on others you are in shared bedrooms with 2-4 beds and linen provided. See individual itineraries for details.

Itineraries

Pearls of the Northwest Basic accommodation.

Sheep Round-Up Landmannaafrettur Basic accommodation.

Sheep Round-Up Melrakkasletta Basic accommodation.

Sheep Round-Up Rangarvallaafrettur Basic accommodation.

Sheep Round-Up Reykjarettir Basic accommodation.

Other Activities

This special riding tour focuses on being on horseback during the day and helping with the experience of herding and sorting the sheep for the season. For this reason, there are no real alternative activities offered, although if you have energy left at the end of the day then you may enjoy taking a walk in the beautiful surroundings.

Travel

Transfer from pick up points in Reykjavik and the bus station is included in the trip.

If the itinerary requires an internal flight to the north then this is also included in the price.

Itinerary & Pricing

Day 1 - Reykjavik - Hvammur

Riding: 3 - 4 hours

You will be collected from Reykjavik at 7.30-8.30am and should be dressed for riding. You'll be transferred to Hvammur farm, arriving around noon for lunch. After meeting your horses, set off for a ride through the beautiful Vatnsdalur valley which is the setting of the Vatnsdaelir Saga and your guide knows the saga well and will recount it. Your route runs along the banks of the river Vatnsdalsa and you have to cross it several times. End your ride deep in the valley where your horses rest and you transfer back to Hvammur for a well earned meal and relax in the hot tub.

Day 2 - Kardalstunga - Audkulurett

Riding: 8 - 9 hours

Ride from Kardalstunga into the highlands with stunning views of the glaciers. You'll meet sheep farmers on their way back to civilisation after many days in the saddle with their huge flocks of sheep. It's a unique sight to witness c. 14 thousand sheep followed by over 30 shepherds and 100 horses! You can feel their joy and excitement as this is their last day and everyone is heading home. End your day at the Audkulurett corral where you leave the horses and sheep to head back to the farm.

Day 3 - Audkulurett - Sveinsstadir

Riding: 6 - 7 hours

Transfer from the farm back to Audkulurett corral where a number of people have shown up to help the farmers sort their sheep. You can help your hosts grandfather, who is a 86 years old and a sheep/horse farmer at Rodull farm. Audkulurett is the largest sheep corral in Iceland with up to 14,000 sheep and you can get deeply involved in Icelandic culture with helping sort the sheep to each of their farmers. Once the job is done, you resume your riding tour by heading to lake Hunavatn and stopping to look at the remarkable stone church at Pingeyrar which was built in 1877. Continue on lowland countryside to Sveinsstadir farm where the horses rest overnight.

Option to join the 'Rettardansleikur' dance at a nearby community centre where everybody celebrates a successful round-up. This is an extra cost, payable locally.

Day 4 - Sveinsstadir - Lake Hop - Pingeyrar

Riding: 6 - 7 hours

Your last riding day and you finish the tour in style by heading towards Lake Hop - one of the biggest in Iceland. Pass the historical place of Pristapar where the last execution in Iceland took place in 1830. Then ride alongside lagoon Hop - the black sand beach is ideal for riding tolt and you can run the horses through the shallow water. The view and splashing of the horses offers an unparalleled sense of freedom. Return to the farm for a final meal and singalong.

Day 5 - Reykjavik

Riding: No riding.

After breakfast transfer back to Reykjavik.

Accommodation

Farmhouse accommodation, featuring shared rooms with 2-4 beds in each.

Experience Experienced

Experienced riders

Minimum group size 1
Maximum group size 16
Departure windows

Sept. 9, 2021 - Sept. 13, 2021

Pricing

2021
Sharing
£1285 $1820 €1495
Included 4 nights accommodation in shared rooms, all meals from lunch on arrival day until breakfast on departure day, soft drinks with meals, 4 days of riding, set-time return transfers from Reykjavík.
Not included Flights, travel insurance, alcoholic drinks, tips & other personal expenses.
Note: All programmes and itineraries are weather dependent; in the face of adverse, or unexpected, weather conditions reasonable attempts will be made to provide equivalent riding. All programmes are accurate at the time of writing. However, the team may adapt or modify details, whilst aiming to provide a similar experience.

Day 1 - Reykjavik - Landmannahellir - Landmannalaugar

Riding: 3 - 4 hours

You'll be collected from Reykjavik between 9-10am and should be dressed ready for riding. Transfer to Landmannahellir where you meet your horses and fellow riders. Set off riding into the famous Landmannalaugar area with its natural hot pool surrounded by colourful mountains and black lava fields. This is a short riding day to get acquainted with the terrain and learn about the tasks ahead. Overnight in Landmannalaugar.

Day 2 - Jokulgilid - Landmannalaugar

Riding: 8 - 9 hours

Jokulgilid is a long and shallow valley with multiple colours and rock formations, surrounded by mountains and glaciers. Mostly barren yet covered with grass here and there, this is what attracts the sheep to this remote area far from humans. A glacier fed river makes it hard to access the valley during summer and it is only in autumn that you can ride in and search for the sheep who've been grazing there all summer and push them back towards Landmannalaugar.

Day 3 - Landmannalaugar - Landmannahellir

Riding: 8 hours

Today you cover the area between Landmannalaugar and Landmannahellir. Even though they aren't far apart the area is covered with lava fields, craters and lakes and the sheep can be found widely spread. It is important to keep your place in the human chain to ensure no sheep are left behind. Final night in Landmannalaugar.

Day 4 - Landmannahellir and surroundings

Riding: 8 hours

Leave Landmannalaugar in the morning and pack your belongings into the transfer vehicle before riding back to Landmannahellir, driving your spare horses along in a free running herd. Today you explore the surroundings of Landmannahellir which has a long tradition as a night rest for those gathering sheep. Originally two caves were used as the shelter for both horses and men.

Day 5 - Mt Hekla volcano

Riding: 10 hours

Green grass turns into black ash as you approach Mt Hekla volcano. Mt Hekla is an active volcano and has erupted regularly, spewing lava, pumice and ash into the sky. Sheep can be found in sheltered valleys and you make sure that they all return home. Whilst some of the team search for sheep in the wilderness, others drive the flock to Mt Valahnjukar. Overnight in Landmannahellir.

Day 6 - Afangagil - Galtalaekur farm

Riding: 8 hours

Afangagil is the final destination for the flock today, as it's where the round pen is situated for the sorting tomorrow. On your way to the area you make sure that no sheep are left behind. Spend your final night at Galtalaekur farm underneath the towering Mt Hekla.

Day 7 - Round-Up

Riding: No riding.

The final and well celebrated day of the round up. The sorting starts at noon and continues until every sheep has been returned to its owners. Participate in the sorting of the sheep, pass the flask around and join in the singing and celebrating of a successful ride into the mountains. Once the sorting has finished, transfer back to Reykjavik (accommodation not included tonight)

Accommodation

You'll be staying in simple mountain huts with shared sleeping quarters and will need to bring your own sleeping bag for this.

Experience Experienced

Experienced riders who can cope with long hours in the saddle, in sometimes extreme weather conditions.

Minimum group size 1
Maximum group size 12
Departure windows

Sept. 17, 2021 - Sept. 23, 2021

Pricing

2021
Sharing
£2105 $2980 €2450
Included 6 nights accommodation in farmhouses and simple mountain huts (shared basis), all meals from lunch on arrival day until lunch on departure day, soft drinks with meals, 6 days of riding, set-time return transfers from Reykjavik.
Not included Flights, travel insurance, alcoholic drinks, sleeping bag, tips & other personal expenses.
Note: All programmes and itineraries are weather dependent; in the face of adverse, or unexpected, weather conditions reasonable attempts will be made to provide equivalent riding. All programmes are accurate at the time of writing. However, the team may adapt or modify details, whilst aiming to provide a similar experience.

Day 1 - Reykjavik - Husavik - Bjarnastadir

Riding: 2 - 3 hours

You are collected from your accommodation in Reykjavik (not included) between 7 - 7.30am for an internal flight from the domestic airport to Husavik in the north. On arrival you are transferred to Bjarnastadir farm where you meet your guides and horses and have a late lunch. On the journey you stop at Dettifoss, Europe's largest waterfall, and Asbyrgi national park. Asbyrgi is a wonder of nature - a wide, horseshoe shaped canyon with sheer cliff faces up to 100m high - according to legend, Sleipnir, the Norse god Odin's eight-legged horse, put one of his hooves down as the god rode by.

After a short introduction to the horses you set out on a 2-3 hour ride through Kerlingaskrogurs low bushy area with great views over the fjord Ocarfjordur and the famous lake Skjalftavatn which suddenly appeared over night after a strong earthquake 28 years ago which lowered the land by 4 metres. Overnight at Bjarnastadir.
Riding c. 30km

Day 2 - Nupasveit round up

Riding: 5 - 6 hours

Start early and each rider is joined by a local farmer and his dog who will be his (or her) mentor and guide during the day. This area is thick with vegetation, green valleys and small lakes. Continue through until late afternoon, leaving the horses and sheep at a remote old hut before returning to the farm for a hearty dinner and good nights sleep.
Riding c. 35km

Day 3 - Melrakkasletta round up

Riding: 5 - 6 hours

Return to your horses and allocated farmer for another day finding sheep amongst the vegetation and driving them down to the Katastadarett communal fold where they overnight together with the horses. Return to Bjarnastadir again for dinner and a good rest.
Riding c. 30km

Day 4 - Round-Up

Riding: 5 - 6 hours

The final and well celebrated day of the round-up. In the morning the sheep are sorted and this continues until every sheep has been returned to its owner. You'll participate in the sorting, 'pass the flask around', join in the singing and celebrate after a successful ride into the mountains. Once the sorting is finished, join the farmers at Dadastadir farm and Prestholar farm to help them drive the sheep home. Overnight and final dinner at Bjarnastadir.
Riding c. 35km

Day 5 - Bjarnastadir - Husavik - Reykjavik

Riding: No riding.

Say goodbye to the horses and your hosts before heading to Husavik for your internal flight to Reykjavik in the morning.

Please note that the itinerary may vary depending on local conditions.

Accommodation

Farmhouse accommodation with shared rooms. You will need to bring your own sleeping bag for the trip.

Experience Experienced

Experienced riders

Minimum group size 1
Maximum group size 8
Departure windows

Sept. 9, 2021 - Sept. 13, 2021

Pricing

2021
Sharing
£1545 $2185 €1795
Included 4 nights accommodation in a farmhouse (shared basis), all meals from lunch on arrival day until breakfast on departure day, soft drinks with meals, 4 days of riding, transfers from/to Husavik airport and from Reykjavik city to the airport for your internal flight.
Not included Flights (both international and internal to Husavik), travel insurance, alcoholic drinks, sleeping bag, tips & other personal expenses.
Note: All programmes and itineraries are weather dependent; in the face of adverse, or unexpected, weather conditions reasonable attempts will be made to provide equivalent riding. All programmes are accurate at the time of writing. However, the team may adapt or modify details, whilst aiming to provide a similar experience.

Day 1 - Reykjavik - Hvanngil

Riding: 4 - 5 hours

You'll be collected between 9-10am from your accommodation (not included) or the bus station and should be dressed ready for riding. Transfer to Hungurfit where you meet the horses and your fellow riders. This day is used to gather the horses and drive them to Hvanngil mountain cabin ready for the next days adventures - this is a short riding day but gives you the chance to get acquainted with the terrain and learn about the tasks ahead. Overnight in Hvanngil.

Day 2 - Hvanngil - Maelifellssandur - Strutur - Hvanngil

Riding: 8 - 9 hours

Today you head to Maelifellssandur, a large area of sand and stones north of Myrdalsjokull glacier. The area is surrounded by mountains and glaciers and is mostly barren yet covered with grass here and there, which attracts the sheep to this remote area, far from human contact. Return to Hvanngil.

Day 3 - Kaldaklof - Bratthals

Riding: 8 hours

Today you cover the area Kaldaklof between the mountains Einstigsfjall and Bratthals. Even though not too far apart the area is covered with lava fields, craters and lakes and sheep can be found widely spread. It is important to keep your place in the human chain to make sure no sheep are left behind. A final night in Hvanngil.

Day 4 - Alftavatn - Sata - Krokur

Riding: 8 hours

Leave Hvanngil in the morning, packing your belongings into a transport vehicle, and start gathering up the sheep at beautiful lake Alftavatn and surroundings. You'll also cover the mountains Faxi and Sata before overnighting at Krokur cabin.

Day 5 - Rangarbotnar - Sultarfit

Riding: 9 hours

Leave Krokur and ride through the area of Sultarfit and Rangarbotnar, through Reidskard mountainpass and Laufahraun lava fields. Sheep can be found in sheltered valleys and you have to make sure they all return home. Overnight in Hungurfit cabin.

Day 6 - Afangagil - Galtalaekur farm

Riding: 8 hours

Reynifellsbru is the final destination for your flock today, which is close to the round pen where the sheep will be sorted tomorrow. On your way you'll search the areas of Austurdalur and Lambadalur valleys alongside Vala river to make sure no sheep are left behind. Spend the night at Foss Farm.

Day 7 - Round-Up

Riding: No riding.

The final and well celebrated day of the round-up. The sorting starts at noon and finishes once every last sheep has been returned to its owner. Participate in the sorting, pass the flask around, join in the singing and celebrate afterwards. Once the sorting is finished, transfer back to Reykjavik (accommodation not included).

Accommodation

You'll be staying in simple mountain huts, with shared sleeping quarters and will need to bring your own sleeping bag for this.

Experience Experienced

Experienced riders

Minimum group size 1
Maximum group size 12
Departure windows

Sept. 12, 2021 - July 18, 2021

Pricing

2021
Sharing
£1975 $2795 €2300
Included 6 nights accommodation in farmhouses and simple mountain huts (shared basis), all meals from lunch on arrival day until lunch on departure day, soft drinks with meals, 6 days of riding, set-time return transfers from Reykjavik.
Not included Flights, travel insurance, alcoholic drinks, sleeping bag, tips & other personal expenses.
Note: All programmes and itineraries are weather dependent; in the face of adverse, or unexpected, weather conditions reasonable attempts will be made to provide equivalent riding. All programmes are accurate at the time of writing. However, the team may adapt or modify details, whilst aiming to provide a similar experience.

Day 1 - Reykjavik - Kalfholl

Riding: 2 - 3 hours

You are collected between 9-10am from your hotel in Reykjavik (not included) and should be dressed ready to ride. Transfer to Kalfholl farm, arriving around midday for a local lunch. Head to the stables to meet the horses and have a brief lesson to get to know your horse before heading out on a ride to the river Thjorsa. Return to Kalfholl to overnight.
Riding c. 15km

Day 2 - Sandlaekjarmyri - Reykjarettir

Riding: 4 - 5 hours

Ride towards the herd of sheep coming down from the mountains - it is an amazing sight to see a flock of sheep kilometres long! Join the locals and help them herd them to their overnight corral. Leave the horses and transfer back to the farm to overnight and prepare for the round-up the next day.
Riding c. 20km

Day 3 - Reykjarettir - Kalfholl

Riding: 3 - 4 hours

An early start to board the transfer to the Reykjarettir corral to re-join your horses. Help the local farmers to collect their sheep - an interesting and authentic experience. When all the sheep are in the right place with their farmers, you ride the horses back to Kalfholl farm. Along the way, stop at the local pub Hestakrain (The Horse Pub) for a traditional Icelandic meat soup. On arrival at Kalfholl a farewell dinner will be served before a relaxing soak in the hot tub. Those who wish to party with the locals are offered a lift to the pub for the local dance (rettarball) but you can just relax at the farm if you prefer.
Riding c. 20km

Day 4 - Kalfholl - Reykjavik

Riding: No riding.

After breakfast, say farewell to the horses and transfer back to Reykjavik.

Accommodation

Farmhouse accommodation with shared rooms. You will need to bring your own sleeping bag for the trip.

Experience Intermediate / Experienced

Intermediate to experienced riders. This option has less riding hours than our round-ups so is a better option for intermediate or less fit riders.

Minimum group size 1
Maximum group size 18
Departure windows

Sept. 9, 2021 - Sept. 12, 2021

Pricing

2021
Sharing
£970 $1375 €1130
Included 3 nights accommodation in shared rooms, all meals from lunch on arrival day until breakfast on departure day, soft drinks with meals, 3 days of riding, set-time return transfers from Reykjavík.
Not included Flights, travel insurance, alcoholic drinks, tips & other personal expenses.
Note: All programmes and itineraries are weather dependent; in the face of adverse, or unexpected, weather conditions reasonable attempts will be made to provide equivalent riding. All programmes are accurate at the time of writing. However, the team may adapt or modify details, whilst aiming to provide a similar experience.