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Vatnsdalur Valley

Overview

Vatnsdalur (Lake Valley) is a valley in Hunavatnssysla in north-western Iceland, located just south of the ring road. The valley takes its name from a small lake, Vatnsdalsvatn, and as the river Vatnsdalsa enters the valley it plunges over many beautiful waterfalls into the magnificent river canyon…

Highlights

  • Ride a glorious Icelandic horse and discover the tolt
  • Explore the rivers & waterfalls in the stunning valley
  • Learn about the ancient saga tales of the region
  • Canter amongst a herd of free-running horses
  • Marvel at the 'midnight sun' in northern Iceland

Essential Facts

  • 2 itineraries available
  • Max 20 riders per group
  • Average of 4 - 6 hours riding per day
  • Weight limit: 110kg / 242 lbs / 17 stone 3 lbs

Description

Vatnsdalur (Lake Valley) is a valley in Hunavatnssysla in north-western Iceland, located just south of the ring road. The valley takes its name from a small lake, Vatnsdalsvatn, and as the river Vatnsdalsa enters the valley it plunges over many beautiful waterfalls into the magnificent river canyon.

Vatnsdalur is full of history and is the site of the family saga Vatnsdaela which tells the story of the people of Hof. Your guides will introduce you to Icelands heroic past with tales of bloody conflict, revenge and love from these ancient sagas.

Your host, Haukur, operates several tours himself and also provides accommodation for the epic Kjolur tour, as well as hosting our Horse Round-Ups and some of our Sheep Round-Ups. He has four children and his wonderful family help him to operate these rides, along with his many well-loved horses. Haukur is always cheerful and likes to take out his guitar to play and sing with guests.

There are two trails to choose from. The Trail of Hope is a circular trail where you spend each night back at the comfortable farm whilst leaving your horses out on the trail. The Kings trail is an adventurous journey south (or back again) where you stay in different accommodation each night and must bring a sleeping bag.

Horses & Riding

Tack

Specific Icelandic tack. Saddles are similar to dressage saddles with a relatively flat seat which is either plain or quilted. Cruppers may be used to keep the saddle in place. Stirrups are usually kept long but the riding style is similar to English. Bridles are normally simple snaffles with detachable nosebands and clip on reins.

Horses

Icelandic horses, which are c. 12-14hh but tough and surprisingly strong.

Icelandic horses are renowned for their extra gait - the tolt - which has similar footfalls to a walk but is much faster and usually very smooth. Most people love the tolt, but it can feel a bit unusual to start with.

Native Icelandic horses are the only horses allowed on the island, and once exported they are not allowed to return. Icelandic horses are therefore not exposed to some of the diseases that are prevalent elsewhere in the world. Please note that in order to ensure the safety of the Icelandic horse breed, there are some restrictions on what riding clothing and equipment you can bring into the country and we will supply full details when you book.

Riding

There are 2 itineraries:

  • Kings Trail is a trail ride
  • Trail of Hope is a based ride

Ages

8 and over if competent in the saddle

Health

General good health

Weight

110kg / 242 lbs / 17 stone 3 lbs

Food & Accommodation

Food

During the ride full board is provided. The 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.

Alcoholic drinks are not included and are sometimes difficult to source, so we recommend buying them at the Duty Free store on arrival at Reykjavik airport and carrying them with you.

Accommodation

On the Trail of Hope you stay at Hvammur farm which has 6 rooms, each with 2-4 beds. There are two showers and two toilets for all guests to share as well as a hot tub in the garden with a view over the river. Beds are made up for you (no sleeping bags) and WiFi is available.

On the Kings trail you change accommodation every night, staying in a combination of rustic mountain cabins, community centres and local guesthouses. You must bring a sleeping bag with you.

Itineraries

Kings Trail Basic accommodation.

Trail of Hope Standard accommodation.

Other Activities

These are predominantly horse riding trips although local site visits are included. Hot tubs are available some nights.

Travel

You are collected from Reykjavik, so will need to take a shuttle bus from the airport (these are easily booked in advance or when you arrive).

Extra nights in Reykjavik are not included but we can advise you.

Itinerary & Pricing

Day 1 - Reykjavik - Hvammur - Haukagil

Riding: 3 - 4 hours

You will be collected from pick-up points in Reykjavik between 8 and 9am and then transferred north to Hvammur farm in the Vatnsdalur valley. Here you'll meet your guide and horses before setting off on your first ride past the historical farm Hof and across Vatnsdalur river. You'll hear tales of the Icelandic heroic past as you ride with your herd of free-running horses towards the highlands. Leave your horses at Haukagil farm which is the last farm in the valley and transfer back to Hvammur to overnight.
Riding c. 20km

Day 2 - Haukagil - Haugakvislarskali

Riding: 5 - 6 hours

Transfer back to Haukagil and gather up the herd. Today you ride through the summer pastures of sheep and horses used by farmers in the north of Iceland as you ascend towards the highland plateau of Vididalstunguheidi heath. The highlands open up before you and you'll see the mighty Alkugil gorge with its picturesque waterfalls tumbling down over rock formations. Follow the remains of the old Kings Trails where the tracks from travelling horses through the centuries are evident. Overnight in a mountain cabin at Haugakvislarskali.
Riding c. 35km

Day 3 - Haugakvislarskali - Lake Arnarvatn - Alftakrokur

Riding: 5 - 6 hours

Heading further into the mountains you ride in the direction of Fellaskali cabin which is owned by the farmers of Vididalur valley - here you stop for lunch. There are magnificent views of Langjokull and Eiriksjokull glaciers and you can see how the vegetation changes into lush greens courtesy of the rich soil and many lakes as you enter the heart of Arnarvatnsheidi. Pass lake Rettarvatn and reach the beautiful Lake Arnarvatn which is a magical place of silence and tranquility. As you say goodbye to the north you pass an impressive part of the plateau that forms part of the western area of Borgarfjordur before reaching your mountain cabin of Alftakrokur. Here wanted men used to hide out from law enforcements many years ago!
Riding c. 35km

Day 4 - Alftakrokur - Borgarfjordur

Riding: 4 - 5 hours

Continue your ride alongside one of the largest lava fields in Iceland - Hallmundarhaun - this is a mystical area where you'll feel like you may see elves or trolls in the lava formations! Your horses can already sense the grasslands of the Borgarfjordur area and will tolt happily alongside the glacial river Nordlingafljot, which you cross later in the day. Eiksjokull glacier and volcano is majestic on the eastern side of the trail and you'll also pass the best-known cave in Iceland, Surtshellir. This lava cave is 3500m long and was once a hideout for bandits. Leave the horses at Porvalsstadir and transfer a short distance to your accommodation.
Riding c. 30km

Day 5 - Porvalsstadir - Husafell - Augastadir

Riding: 3 - 4 hours

Today you'll ride through the biggest natural forest in Iceland, Husafellsskogur which is within the region of Husafell, often called the pearl between the lava and the glaciers. This area has great historical importance and there are many tales ranging from witchcraft and ghost stories to more recent sagas. Visit the beautiful waterfall Hraunfossar where the water seems to appear from within the lava but is actually a spring that surges through the rocks and ends as rapids in the river Hvita. Leave the horses at Augastadir and transfer to the geothermal pools of Husafell for a dip. Overnight in a guesthouse.
Riding c. 20km

Day 6 - Augastadir - Brunnar

Riding: 5 - 6 hours

Depart Augastadir and follow the mystical ancient trail of Ok which is named after the 1190m high glacier Ok on the east side of the trail. You can also see glaciers Geitlandsjokull, Langjokull and Porisjokull here and the lack of vegetation reminds you how harsh nature can be in Iceland. Leave your horses at Brunnar and transfer to the community centre of Brautartunga in Lundareykjadalur to overnight, where you also have a swimming pool and hot tub! A great place to enjoy your final night with perhaps some singing and storytelling after dinner.
Riding c. 35km

Day 7 - Brunnar - Pingvellir - Reykjavik

Riding: 3 - 5 hours

Continue riding in a fast tolt on trails over Blaskogarheidi heath towards the national park of Pingvellir. You'll pass many historical sites as you get closer to the ancient parliament in Pingvellir, including the legendary stone cairns Hallbjarnavordur of the Sturlunga Saga. Your trail continues south on the Kaldidalur road passing Draugabrekka (Ghostslopes) and Trollahals (Trollhill) before reaching Skogarholar Fields near Armannsfell mountain. Here your ride ends and you leave your horses: Skogarholar is run by the Icelandic Horse Clubs Association and is located within Pingvellir national park. Visit the national park and the spectacular geology of Almannagja canyon which was formed when two tectonic continental plates drifted apart. Transfer back to Reykjavik and your accommodation, aiming to arrive between 5 and 6pm (accommodation not included but we can help you).

**Please note that this itinerary also runs in reverse**

Accommodation

3 nights will be spent in farmhouses featuring shared rooms with 2-4 beds in each. For the other nights, you will be staying in simple mountain huts, with shared sleeping quarters and will need to bring your own sleeping bag for this.

Experience Experienced

You should be a capable rider who is safe and in control in all paces on forward going horses across a variety of terrain.

Minimum group size 1
Maximum group size 20
Departure windows

July 7, 2021 - July 13, 2021  (north to south)

July 15, 2021 - July 21, 2021  (south to north)

Pricing

2021
Per person sharing
£2220 $3070 €2590
Included 6 nights accommodation in shared rooms, all meals from lunch on arrival day until lunch on departure day, soft drinks with meals, 6 days of riding, set time transfers from Reykjavik bus station.
Not included Flights, travel insurance, bus tickets/travel to Reykjavik in time for the transfers, 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 - Hvammur - Vatnsdalur - Sveinsstadir

Riding: 3 - 5 hours

You will be collected from the BSI bus station in Reykjavik or your overnight hotel between 07:30 and 08:30am and should be already dressed for riding. (We recommend arriving the day before and spending the night in Reykjavik but this is not included). The transfer takes you north to Hvammur Farm where you will meet your horses and guides. Start your ride through the beautiful Vatnsdalur Valley which is the setting of the Vatnsdaela Saga. Ride along the banks of River Vatnsdalsa before crossing over to the western side of the valley to reach Sveinsstadir Farm. Here you leave the horses and return by vehicle to Hvammur Farm to overnight.
Riding c. 25km

Day 2 - Sveinsstadir - Hop - Borgarvirki - Pvera - Hvitserkur

Riding: 4 - 6 hours

Transfer back to Sveinsstadir to meet your horses and set off alongside the lagoon Hop. The black sand along the beach is ideal for practicing your tolt and the trail along the shore gives you an idea of the beautiful lagoon you will cross tomorrow. Continue along the banks of Vididalsa river and then cross it before stopping for a break at Stora-Borg. Here you have lunch and take a drive to Borgarvirki to visit the fascinating fortress from the Viking period. 

After lunch, continue your ride to the sheep pen Pverarett which is used by farmers in the autumn to sort their sheep. Leave the horses here and take a short excursion to the shore to view Hvitserkur, a basalt rock formation which is a nesting place for many seabirds. The area is also home to large numbers of seals and with luck you may see them resting and playing on the beach. Return to Hvammur Farm to overnight.
Riding c. 30km

Day 3 - Vatnsnes - Thingeyrar

Riding: 5 - 6 hours

Today you explore the beauty of the Vatnsnes peninsula and follow the black dunes on Sigridarstadasandur towards the North-Atlantic. Stop for lunch on top of the ridge of Nesbjorg with fantastic views. After lunch you cross the lagoon Hop on a safe trail through the water and eventually reach Thingeyrar Farm which was once the site of a monastery founded in the 12th century. This day is usually a highlight of the tour. Return to Hvammur to relax in the hot tub before dinner.
Riding c. 40km

Day 4 - Thingeyrar - Hunavatn - Hvammur

Riding: 4 - 5 hours

Start the day by visiting historical Thingeyrar Church before joining the horses for your final ride where you bring them back to Hvammur. Cross Lake Hunavatn on a safe trail through the water and enjoy the excitement of the horses once they are back on the black sand of dry land. Ride on the eastern side of Vatnsdalur Valley, past Hvammsfoss waterfall surrounded by basalt columns. Celebrate your successful return to Hvammur with a farewell dinner.
Riding c. 25km

Day 5 - Hvammur - Reykjavik

Riding: No riding.

After breakfast you are transferred back to Reykjavik, aiming to arrive at c. 12:30 midday. Accommodation is not included in the city if you wish to extend your stay, or you can take a bus out to the airport and depart this evening.

Accommodation

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

Experience Intermediate / Experienced

Intermediate to Advanced

Minimum group size 1
Maximum group size 20
Departure windows

June 6, 2021 - June 10, 2021

June 13, 2021 - June 17, 2021

July 23, 2021 - July 27, 2021  (* High Season)

July 30, 2021 - Aug. 3, 2021  (* High Season)

Aug. 22, 2021 - Aug. 26, 2021

Pricing

2021
High season (27 June-20 August), sharing
£1390 $1920 €1620
2021
Low season, sharing
£1285 $1775 €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 bus terminal.
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.