My recent trip to Iceland was not long enough when you consider how much there is to do in this awesome country. Whale watching, the Blue Lagoon, glacier walks, seriously the list is endless. So I decided to use my time wisely and go for one of Reykjavik Excursions’ day tours that combines two of their tours in one: horse-riding and the Golden Circle.
I knew I had to see the Golden Circle while I was there as it’s one of the top things to do in Iceland, taking in the country’s gorgeous and impressive landscape. But I had also been toying with the idea of horse riding as the photos I’d seen of the Icelandic horses were just too cute! So it was the perfect tour for me – two tours, one stone. Let’s go.
The horse riding portion of the tour came first so someone from the Eldhestar Horse Farm came and fetched me from me hotel at 8.15am sharp. And when we arrived at the farm the adorable Icelandic horses were all lined up ready for us! I instantly loved them, the horses were quite small and seemed fairly docile. I admit I’m not a big horse-rider. I went for a little while as a kid but I’ve only been once or twice as an adult and you know how it goes, the older you get, the more fear is instilled in you. But I figured that as they were a bit smaller I would quite like it. So once we were all kitted up (they let you borrow everything from gloves to socks) and all of our valuables were locked away, we were introduced to our new besties. Mine was called Lukal and he was lovely and sandy-coloured. Blondes have more fun and all.
I admit as soon as I got on the horse I was nervous, but it was fine because there were people of all levels on the tour. At one point they split the group up so that the beginner crowd (my people) could have a nice little trot along a flat path whilst those who were more advanced with loads of experience went off gallivanting with one of the instructors.
The route itself was amazing. It’s the main draw of this place, for sure. I mean, as soon as we left the farm they led us through a warm river that came from the nearby hot springs and the horses could just walk through. It’s bloody cool going through a river on a horse, you feel like a proper cowboy. We were also surrounded by volcanoes and mountains and it was just so beautiful, especially with the lovely weather I had there. And they even let us stop for pictures which I always appreciate. Especially seeing as I got this majestic AF shot out of it…
I know right.
Also, the instructors at Eldhestar were really amazing. They kept checking I was ok and gave me tips to control Lukal a little more (he liked to do what he wanted ol’ Lukal). And they were just generally nice people that wanted to chat as well. Sometimes in these kinds of tours the staff are just doing their job and you can tell they don’t really want to talk to you, but this lot were great. I would recommend Eldhestar to anyone for sure.
After the horse riding, which lasted a couple of hours, I was sent round to the hotel attached to the horse farm for lunch. Just sandwiches and soup but it was delicious. The thing is it was quite a wait for the next part of the tour. There were only 4 of us doing this particular combination and we had to wait nearly 2 hours for the coach to pick us up for the Golden Circle. I mean it wasn’t too bad, I was just chilling out with a cuppa, but just so you’re aware. This would also be a great point to have a little snooze if you can because it’s a long ol’ day.
So the Reykjavik Excursions coach picked us up at 1.30pm and we set off on the condensed version of the Golden Circle with the first stop being Geysir! You guessed it, it’s where the geysers are. This was my favourite of the three stops in the afternoon as I found the explosion of steam from the Stokkur geyser really impressive. And it made me jump the first time! I tried filming it but I don’t think you get the full effect on camera. You watch the water swell and bubble until it looks like the water actually explodes. It’s really cool. Although beware it smells like rotten eggs from the sulphur. But if you’re in Iceland, you should be used to this by now!
They let us have an hour at Geysir before it was back on the bus to the next stop, Gullfoss. This is the waterfalls stop on the Golden Circle and we were able to view them from two different platforms, higher and lower for different views. The waterfalls were cool but not really that impressive if I’m totally honest. I feel like I have high expectations of waterfalls since Niagara, you know? Surprisingly, it wasn’t massively touristy here though, so you could just sit and listen to the falls which was nice. There’s also a cute love story about a boy that lived on one side and a girl that lived on the other. I’ve completely forgotten the details, but I remember it was cute. Aren’t I the best blogger? Haha.
The third and final stop on the Golden Circle was Thingvellir National Park. This is a complicated place as there’s so much history behind it as the oldest existing parliament in the world, but it’s also of geological importance as it’s where the Eur-Asian and North American tectonic plates meet. And you can walk between them in the Rift Valley. I tell you, it was like a year 9 Geography flashback in this park. But here’s my main takeaways from it:
- It’s really pretty with cool lava fields
- It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site
- It has a lake that’s deeper than sea level with it’s own species of fish
- Game of Thrones was filmed here
I think that says it all.
It was really cool and had a fab view point but at this point in the day I was knackered.
I got back to Reykjavik at 7pm, so it was a long bloody day. But you know, if you’re low on time like I was, sometimes you have to do these kind of tours to pack it all in! I’d definitely rate the tour though, I think it let me experience a lot of what Iceland had to offer in a single day, so would be perfect if you were stopping in Iceland for a layover.
Also, the coach journey itself was a lovely drive through gorgeous landscapes and I liked the tour guide who gave us an education on Iceland pretty much. Although I’ve learned that all Icelandic folk stories tend to be gory and brutal. Seriously.
If you want more info on this tour, head over to the Reykjavik Excursions website, they’ll sort you out.
Have you been horse-riding in Iceland or checked out the Golden Circle? Let me know your experiences in the comments below or tweet me @HeelsInBackpack!
Total blogger transparency: I accepted this tour free of charge from Reykjavik Excursions but don’t worry, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. I wouldn’t play you like that shorty.