You won't find a ton of wildlife in Iceland — you can thank the horribly cold winters and unpredictable weather patterns for that — but you will find a ton of horses. They're downright adorable, with shorter legs than other breeds of horses and wonderfully curious personalities.
Aside from their good looks, they also have two special gaits unique to only Icelandic horses. The first one is called a tölt and it's achieved when the horse consistently has one foot touching the ground at any given time. The speed of the horse is quite fast, not dissimilar to a gallop. This gait is the horses' natural choice and it quickly picked up by foals.
The second is called the flying pace and reaches speeds of 30 miles per hour. This particular gait has two of the horse's feet on the ground at any given time. This particular gait is hard to master, but is considered one of the most exciting moments when riding an Icelandic horse.
There are a lot of places you can ride a horse in Iceland; it's a hugely popular pastime for locals. That being said, there is no bad place to ride a horse in Iceland, all safety taken into consideration. But there are some tour groups that come with higher marks than the rest. More on that ahead.
South Iceland: Eldhestar
There's a lot to see in Southern Iceland, from the black sand beaches and the never-ending lava rock fields to the glaciers and waterfalls. And seeing them on horseback only adds to the completely surreal experience at hand.
Eldhestar is a horse farm in South Iceland, near the town of Hveragerði (also close to the Reykjadalur Valley hot spring river, in case you're looking to round-out your day). They offer tours of all lengths — half day, full day, and multiple day — as well as the ability to combine one of their horseback rides with other activities offered by other tour operators.
A quick tour will get you out into the lava rock fields and away from all civilization where you can properly appreciate the horses' two special gaits. The longer tours (which visit Reykjadalur and Þingvellir National Park) double as history and local geology lessons, as you'll learn all about the area surrounding the farm and how it came to be the way it is. Plus, they even offer a half-day elf tour, which breaks down — you guessed it — the history and presence of elves in Icelandic culture.
North Iceland: Hestasport
Hestasport specializes in bringing visitors into the northern regions of the country — even the Highlands, if you're looking for a more challenging ride. The tour operators also own a handful of cottages that they rent out whether or not you're venturing out on a horse, making it the perfect touring company for groups who has some interested in riding and others more inclined to enjoy the scenery from indoors.
Hestasport tours will take you all over the nearby Skagafjörður valley (and beyond). The guides also offer a Viking Ride, which will take you on a ride throughout the winter months between October and April, an offering that isn't very common across the region. Just make sure to prepare yourself for some pretty intense temperatures and snowfall.
One of the most relaxing things you could possible do is take a private ride through Iceland's Westfjords with Fosshestar. The private rides target any level of rider, from beginners to advanced riders, focusing on riding lessons where they're needed.
One of the best parts about riding with Fosshestar is that you won't have to worry about documenting everything on your ride. Your guide's helmet comes with a GoPro attachment and they'll be filming the experience for you. That means you can fully focus on enjoying the ride.
If you're not looking to go out on a ride, but you do want to interact with the horses, you can opt for "The Encounter" experience. (It sounds way more intimidating than it actually is.) This option will let you pet, feed, and visit with the horses during mealtime, led by a guide. You can also ride the horse within the arena with Fosshestar's "The Experience" tour.
East Iceland: Skorrahestar
Skorrahestar is a tour operator known for its fantastic horseback rides throughout eastern Iceland, but they do also offer guided hikes. The horse tours are split into two options: Long and short. For the short tours, you can choose to be out one or two hours and the longer tours run multiple days, general five to six, including farm stays.
You can read all about the various horses at the Skorrahestar farm online, which might be one of the purest things on the Internet. For all rides with Skorrahestar, you'll start from the farm in Neskaupstaður — a fjord region in the eastern corner of the country. It's worth factoring in time to sightsee in the area, as the views are not to be missed.
Central Highlands: Equitours
The Central Highlands are one of the toughest regions in Iceland to access, given the treacherous terrain that covers the entire area. You need a proper 4x4 vehicle to get there — or you could visit on horseback. Equitours can help with that last part.
The Hekla Tour will take you along Landmannalaugar Trail, a path famous for its hiking opportunities. Along the multi-day tour, you'll stay in mountain huts and see some pretty incredible sights, including mountains ranging all colors of the rainbows, stunning mountain lakes, and field after field of moss-covered lava rocks.
You can also ride through Fjallabak Nature Reserve, where you'll find the Torfajökull volcano.