Horseback Adventuring in Landmannalaugar, Iceland
“Turn left here!” hollers Anders.
All the front riders veer left past an unreadable little sign. We are now entering the volcanic region of Landmannalaugar, Iceland.
And just like that, with one swift turn, we are suddenly riding through a rainbow. Striking green and purple rocks flow down all sides. Chunks of multi-coloured cobblestone lay underfoot–creating a vivid painting up the entire pass. Black volcanic glass glints; amplifying the painted mix. It makes the unbelievable stones of orange, red, green, purple, and yellow even more surreal.
A babbling stream of crystal clear water flows, creating a snake-like trail of electric orange. As we ascend, the water trail changes to bright red.
I am awestruck…and I can barely breathe. For 15 minutes my horse and I climb through this fantasy land.
“I must be dreaming,” I think to myself. I have never experienced anything so incredible. This must be Bifröst–the road to Valhalla–the road to the Gods.
…And I am riding on it!
Our horses carry us to the top, and we begin our descent. The downhill slope has much better footing, so we once again pick up the pace. Enjoying a fast tölt across the sandy banks of Krókslón River, we round the final bend. The valley opens up, and we see steam rising in the distance. This is the marker that we have arrived. This is Landmannalaugar hot springs!
Well…we have not quite arrived yet, actually. First we must cross the BIG river.
As we approach, I cannot help but think about the wonderful mare I am riding. She fills me with such love for the Icelandic horse as I reflect on our journey together. She has carried me over mountains, chauffeured me through canyons, and tölted me mile after mile through lava-sand desert. Every single horse I’ve ridden here has taken such amazing care of me. They’ve guided me through everything; all terrains imaginable! Slabs of solid rock, boulder-filled rivers, loose-slipping slides,… I am humbled by their ability to choose the best footing with every. single. step. Such an impressive breed; such an impressive horse!
Grateful for my confident mare, I ask her once again to carry me across another deep river. I tell her what a good girl she is, and I reach down to stroke her neck.
Within moments we are at the river’s edge. We look and choose our path together, and she seamlessly carries me across the swift-flowing current. Huh, this must be a truly special day–the river is not even so deep! I only dip my shoes in the water. We splash ourselves out the other side, and my mare becomes quite excited. So am I! With the end of the riding day in sight, we make haste across the last stretch of speckled riverbed towards the final holding pen for the night.
With the front riders leading the herd in, the back riders work together to push the remaining loose horses the rest of the way. It is not such hard work; the horses know this is the final stop, and they are quite eager for their rest. We unsaddle, untack, rejoice, and give our furry companions their well-deserved food and water.
And now it is time for yet another prize–a dip in the warm-flowing river of Landmannalaugar! We have earned our soak, and we are ecstatic! We make our way into the earth-heated tributary, and the mineral-rich water instantly restores us. Our tired muscles melt, and we clean our dirty faces. It is invigorating; we feel rewarded and alive! As we unwind, watching the hot and cool streams run together, we laugh and relive the stories of the day; from the whole adventure. We point out each other’s bruises and laugh some more. A flask makes its way around the circle. It is another perfect moment in another perfect place.
This story is just one memory I have from the Landmannalaugar trek of 2018. It is a piece of a far bigger picture–a far bigger journey. Riding 8 hours a day and working together as a team is a magical experience. We direct a herd of free-running horses (no easy job!) through the Icelandic highlands, and it is unforgettable. In riding this way we accomplish and amazing feat that we could never do alone! We travel through everything together; both physically and emotionally. We share tears of joy; tears of grief–and still we ride–through the mountain passes…beside the freezing lakes, across the rivers, and into the valley bottoms. You cannot help but form life-long friendships during this expedition. So many funny things happen; so many stories arise, and so many memorable moments occur. When you’re herding 60 horses, anything can happen…and sometimes anything truly does! Riders and horses form connections immediately, but equally important is the camaraderie riders form with each other. Life stories are shared, past experiences discussed, and commonalities enjoyed. We talk, we support each other, and we grow; all while developing a deeper appreciation for all things inside and outside ourselves.
Every time I ride in Iceland I experience something new and different, but there is one thing that happens universally every time I come here. It actually happens to everyone! In a uniquely Icelandic way, riding here–being in this land–always gives us exactly what we need. It gives us what we need when we know what we seek. It gives us what we need when we have no idea what we’re looking for.
Iceland improves me as a person, and I feel more complete. I enter this magical place with love in my heart, and I leave with this love filled to bursting. I hold more kindness, more empathy, and more tranquillity. The goodness inside spills over onto all those around me, and they absorb the surplus. The epic riding quest of Landmannalaugar is a journey of self-discovery; and the self-discovery is never ending! It is a reconnect to many things; a complete reboot.
And this whole transformation happens through the magic of horses! What could be better?
Nothing! Nothing is better! 🙂
It fills me with great honour that I can bring people to this magical land to experience it for themselves. The adventure is different each and every time, and for each and every person. If you are a horse-riding enthusiast, you owe it to yourself to experience riding in Iceland at least once in your lifetime. You will return home with so many things, so many GREAT things. So many things I cannot even begin to describe.
From the moment you arrive here, you breathe freedom. And it sticks with you forever. It permeates the deepest reaches of your core.
And this moment is only the beginning.
Iceland is a bridge. And it will connect you to endless rainbows. 🙂
takk fyrir að hlusta á söguna mina!
(Thank you for listening to my story!)
Fire and Ice Tours Host and Guide
Please message me if you would like to see the detailed itinerary for this ride.
July Landmannalaugar Ride Event:
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ABOUT THE LANDMANNALAUGAR RIDE
Landmannalaugar is an 8-day riding adventure that sets out July 18, 2019. The trek spans over 300 kilometres into and through the wild Icelandic highlands of the south. Each night we stay in cozy mountain cabins, which all have heat, running water, and flushable toilets. Here we are always greeted too with a warm and amazing Icelandic meal! All our gear is transported by an accompanying bus, which acts as our transportation at times as well. <3
I would like to give a HUGE shout out to Mo from Tölt Club for approaching me and allowing me the opportunity to write this article for her e-magazine. She is the founder of the Tölt Club–an online hub for coaching and competitions, and also a community for gaited horse enthusiasts worldwide.
Tölting friends and family around the world–please add Tölt Club as your friend! Here you can announce your competitions, clinics, and other relevant info! Plus Mo is kind and amazing! <3