Iceland – Country of ice and fire

Riding in Iceland – a true adventurey
Iceland and riding go together like bread and butter. Far from the madding crowd, from noise, cars and too many people, saddle up one of these wonderfully rugged horses and canter past volcanoes, geysers, marshes, rivers and moors, across heathlands, black lava fields and pristine beaches. If you’ve never ridden or have only very little experience, then book a beginners’ lesson with an instructor. If you feel confident in the saddle and are reasonably fit, then you could sign up for a longer tour lasting several days; the daily rides are anything up to 60 kilometres and the speed is brisk. On some tours, riders stay overnight at farms or mountain lodges. A special recommendation is the Icelandic HorseWorld riding centre, run by Katrín Ólína Sigurðardóttir. Situated roughly an hour’s drive from Reykjavik, the 350-hectare, family-owned farm is surrounded by beautiful countryside. Over 100 Icelandic horses live here – and Katrín loves introducing visitors from around the world to her charming animals and taking them on rides. For more information, visit www.iceworld.is

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Monster trucking 
Another great way of exploring Iceland is in a monster truck. Each tyre on these impressive vehicles weighs as much as a horse – and is capable of effortlessly ploughing across deserts, along beaches and the rockiest roads. Even the steepest tracks, rivers and glaciers are no impediment to these terrain-gobbling monsters. If you feel more comfortable in the hands of a local guide, then book a guided tour which can often be combined with eco-friendly activities such as white water rafting, snowmobile rides or hiking tours (for example, through www.midgardadventure.is). And of course you can book tours to the infamous volcano Eyjafjallajökull, which brought aviation to a global standstill in 2010 with its kilometre-high ash plumes. An unmissable attraction for anyone interested in Iceland’s 130 active and inactive volcanoes is the Lava Museum in Hvolsvöllur, roughly 100 kilometres from Reykjavik (www.lavacentre.is). If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you could hire a car and set off on your own. But remember that the weather in Iceland can change from one extreme to the other in a matter of minutes; you should always have a warm blanket and a thermos flask of hot tea in the car because you never know what might be waiting for you in remote areas. If you’re visiting Iceland in the winter it is imperative to hire a 4-wheel drive.

Iceland’s last cave dwellers
If you like to travel back in time, you’ll love Laugarvatn in the south of the island. At the beginning of the 20th century, two young Icelandic families lived here until 1922. The caves were formed when lava solidified and the ensuing chambers were furnishes as small cottages. The inhabitants kept cows, sheep and horses, grew potatoes, hunted ptarmigans and picked wild berries. They sold food and provisions to wayfarers travelling to the capital, Reykjavik. To make the experience as authentic as possible, the caves have been furnished with original artefacts and goods, including a butter churn and a waffle iron. Smári Stefánsson has been offering guided tours of the caves since summer 2017. A fabulous experience! For more details, visit www.thecavepeople.is

The perfect finale: a swim in the Secret Lagoons
Could there be anything nicer than ending a day in the Icelandic wilderness in a hot, natural outdoor pool? Particularly in the winter, when it’s icy cold outside and the snow is lashing around your ears (which is why you should keep a hat on, even in the pool). A quick dash to the hot water, which is a pleasant 40° C, and then stretch out and luxuriate! So where’s the best place? We recommend Gamla Laugin, also called Secret Lagoon – the oldest swimming pool on the island, situated in Hverahólmi. As early as 1891, the Icelanders were learning to swim here, and the remains of the very first bathing hut can still be seen by the side of the pool. If you’re extra lucky, you might also be able to see the famous Northern Lights (the chances are best between 30 September and 14 April). For more information: www.secretlagoon.is 

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