The Best Spot to Ride Icelandic Horses

Horseback riding on a black sand beach in Iceland

Iceland is full of natural beauty, with landscapes that will take your breath away, but one of the highlights of any trip there is a chance to see the adorable Icelandic horses up close. They’re thoroughly adorable, and should not be missed. These small horses – not ponies – were brought to the island centuries ago and have been bred to live in the often harsh climate. In order to protect the integrity of the breed, strict rules are enforced. Once a horse leaves Iceland for any reason, it can never return, and no horses (or any other livestock) can be imported.

Going horseback riding is the perfect way to get up close to these miniature beauties, and the black sand beach at Vik provides a stunning backdrop for your excursion. It’s less famous than nearby Reynisfjara, but I liked the view of the rock formations from Vik better, and it was much less crowded.

An unexpected discovery

Our trip was completely unplanned, as we hadn’t even looked into going horseback riding prior to arriving in Vik. We were out taking pictures of the beach one morning when we saw a group trotting along on their horses. We immediately started looking online to figure out how we could book a trip of our own and found Vik Horse Adventure. We called that day and were lucky enough to get spots in the first group the next morning. This is definitely something you’d want to book ahead of time during busier seasons so you don’t miss out on the opportunity.

We met at the stables bright and early the next morning and got ready to go. They’re located right off of the beach in the main area of town. We had a beautiful, sunny day – probably the nicest weather of our trip – and we were eager to start our adventure.

Meet Von

Horseback riding on a black sand beach in Vik, Iceland

My girl, Von

I got to ride a cute little chestnut horse named Von, which translates to “hope” in Icelandic. She’s evidently a show horse and a young girl rides her in competitions.

After mounting up, we had a chance to ride around on our own in the paddock for a few minutes to get the feel for controlling the horses. The way European style riders use the reins is a little bit different than the western style steering that I’ve always used. It’s not difficult to learn, but it is a slight adjustment if you’re used to only using one hand on the reins. Our guides showed us what we needed to do and gave us pointers throughout the ride, so don’t worry about not being able to get the hang of it.

Exploring the Beach

I’m not an experienced rider by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve gone on a few trail rides over the years at different locations in the US. I’m used to sort of walking slowly in a single-file line, but this was way more fun. We set off at a walk and circled around by the beach before heading back inland for a minute. We got to wade the horses through a stream, too. One of my boots got pretty wet from the splashing, but it was really fun.

Horseback riding on a black sand beach in Vik, Iceland

For the grand finale, we headed back down near the water and our guides dismounted to snap some pictures of us, which was very nice. After that, they asked us if we’d be comfortable going a little faster, to which we enthusiastically said yes.

We took off at a fast trot, running across the beautiful black sand toward the craggy rock formations that sit just offshore. It was thrilling. Especially when Von got a bit too excited and galloped for a few steps. I was able to reign her in quickly though, and made sure we were keeping pace with the other horses for the rest of the way.

Once we crossed the beach, we continued at a walking pace along the bottom of the ridge and returned to the stable. After we dismounted, and their saddles were removed, the horses frolicked in their fenced in area and took the opportunity to roll in the sand in their pen.

Icelandic horse rolling on her back in black sand

There’s nothing like a roll in the sand (and manure) after a nice morning run.

Though we hadn’t even planned on doing it, going for a ride on the Icelandic horses was one of the more memorable activities we did on our trip. A ride with Vik Horse Adventure currently costs 9000 ISK per person, and there are plenty of other riding stables located around the country. If you want a top notch view for your ride, this is the place to do it.

Did you get to meet any Icelandic horses while visiting? Tell me about your favorite encounters in the comments.

Looking for other activities for your trip to Iceland? Check these posts out:

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Horseback riding on a black sand beach in Vik is the best way to get close to Iceland's famous and adorable Icelandic horses.Pin - Horses2Pin - Horses
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Kris's suitcase never rests. She's either traveling the United States for business or exploring somewhere exciting and new for vacation. She's a former Disney World Cast Member and loves writing about Disney parks almost as much as visiting them.


  • sliva (@sliva_app) April 12, 2017 at 3:36 am Reply

    So envy right now 🙂 always wanted to do that, not on the beach but on the green grass with beautiful landscape, ahhh one day I will do it for sure!

  • Asmita Kunwar April 12, 2017 at 12:00 pm Reply

    Loved your post 🙂 Posts from Iceland usually talk about the gorgeous landscape. But your take on iceland is different and interesting! I think I’ll get on a horsie adventure too when I visit iceland 😀

    • nomadbytrade13 April 12, 2017 at 9:52 pm Reply

      You should! They’re such beautiful animals, and a great part of Icelandic culture.

  • Julianna Barnaby April 12, 2017 at 12:29 pm Reply

    Love this post – what a great experience and so lucky that you bagged those spots. Riding on the beach is such a lovely thing to do and sounds like you had a great time. Definitely inspiration for my planned Iceland adventure.

    • nomadbytrade13 April 12, 2017 at 9:52 pm Reply

      Have fun in Iceland! I hope you get a chance to go horseback riding, even if it isn’t in Vik.

  • hollyhambrick April 12, 2017 at 12:42 pm Reply

    These horses are so cute! If I ever make my way to Iceland, I’m definitely going horseback riding on these cuties. And getting to ride along the beach just makes it 10x cooler.

    • nomadbytrade13 April 12, 2017 at 9:53 pm Reply

      Absolutely! It felt like the ultimate Iceland experience.

  • Joy Generoso April 12, 2017 at 12:44 pm Reply

    I’ve read so many good things about Iceland. I can’t wait to see the place to experience all interesting things to do in this country. It’s truly inspiring to read others experience. 🙂

    • nomadbytrade13 April 12, 2017 at 9:53 pm Reply

      It’s such an incredible place. I hope you get to visit soon!

  • Ketki April 12, 2017 at 1:27 pm Reply

    The horses are so adorable! Interesting take on Iceland that i’ve not come across so far.

  • Laryssa April 13, 2017 at 6:20 am Reply

    Von looked so cute. When she was rolling in the sand it reminded me of my dog when she’s happy. Glad you had a chance to do this at the last minute.

  • nomadepicureans April 13, 2017 at 12:29 pm Reply

    I grew up with horses, and I always had a soft spot for Icelandic horses ❤ I only ever thought of doing whale watching in Iceland, but this looks like fun too!

    Jacky 🌞

    • nomadbytrade13 April 13, 2017 at 9:57 pm Reply

      Oooh, whale watching sounds like fun. We didn’t have time to go when we were in Iceland, but I’ve done that off of the Maine coast before and it’s great.

  • nativevagabonds April 13, 2017 at 12:44 pm Reply

    How cute! Now have more of the desire to visit Iceland because of these guys!

    • nomadbytrade13 April 13, 2017 at 9:56 pm Reply

      You should definitely go! There are tons of opportunities to meet them even if you’re not going horseback riding.

  • authenticfoodquest April 13, 2017 at 1:06 pm Reply

    What an adorable horse. Not been to Iceland yet, and it’s interesting to read about the horses – exclusive to the country. Sounds like you had a perfect time in the gorgeous setting. Great pictures by the way 🙂

    • nomadbytrade13 April 13, 2017 at 9:55 pm Reply

      Thanks! It really was the perfect backdrop for such a great adventure.

  • Planes, Trains & Champagne April 14, 2017 at 12:02 am Reply

    Wow! Super cool!

  • klee92 April 15, 2017 at 11:27 am Reply

    THEY’RE SO FUZZY I CANNOT HANDLE THIS POST. Clearly, you have inspired me to make my next trip to Iceland, haha.

  • Jana April 15, 2017 at 12:07 pm Reply

    Going to Iceland is my dream. And reading your post I’m sure riding horses there is an absolute must! Thanks for the inspiration, I just came back home from a ride so I’m more than ever determined to book a ticket to Iceland! 🙂

  • Janie April 15, 2017 at 12:47 pm Reply

    Awesome post, I love the personal take on it! I’m going to Iceland in October and have been wanting to do horseback riding there, but I’m always worried about the animals treatment. How did you find that in this specific place? Did they seem to be treated well or overworked? Would love your input! 🙂

    • nomadbytrade13 April 15, 2017 at 8:32 pm Reply

      They seemed happy and healthy. It’s a family-run business and they looked like they cared for the horses a lot. If I remember correctly, they only do a few short rides per day. We went first thing in the morning, and the horses were nice and energetic.

  • Leigh | Campfires & Concierges April 15, 2017 at 12:50 pm Reply

    So cute! I’m visiting Iceland for the first time this summer, but only a 24-hour layover so the horses will have to wait for my next visit!

    • nomadbytrade13 April 15, 2017 at 8:26 pm Reply

      I’m sure you’ll have a great time in just 24 hours! There’s so much to see close to Reykjavik and the airport.

  • California Globetrotter April 15, 2017 at 1:03 pm Reply

    Ooooh fun! I’d love to go for a horse ride while in Iceland! Icelandic horses are sooo beautiful! #blogpostsaturday

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