Roadtrip Iceland, in the plumber car

My new found home on wheels has offered so many opportunities for travel, and because of tour guiding work, I haven’t been outside of Iceland since before May, so roadtrips in Iceland where the greatest way to play. My 2-seater car, with a mattress, fridge and sink, has been fully kitted for an impromptu roadtrip thru Iceland at any moment; two friends have been lucky enough to become the plumber car’s first guests.

my home on wheels, under Hekla

I met a couchsurf host in Geneva who was on his way to Iceland for a few days, so we decided to test the home on wheels together for the first time. We drove the golden circle, had pizza and beer at Skjól, and hottubed til the wee hours of the morning at Hrunalaug, which hadn´t yet run dry. We met two Romanian workers from the Geysir shop who offered endless entertainment, and a yoga photographer from LA who I´ll probably see again in the future for a yoga workshop in Iceland. That night we slept near Fluðir on the banks of Thjorsá river, and carried on the following day on a hunt for more hot pools.

Hjalparfoss

We visited a pool that I´ve still never quite figured out why it got deserted, but it´s just there, all alone, rundown, perfectly swimmable. We went to Hjalpárfoss, which I hadn´t realized I´d never been to until I was there, looking at something I´d never seen. We drove south, under Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull until we reached Seljlanads country, and thought we´d be sneaky and sleep close to the sea on a dead end farmer´s hay field road a couple of km´s west of the infamous US Navy DC plane crash at Solheimasandur. On our midnight walk west, we realized there were a few too many unbridged rivers to make it. He´ll have to come back to see it net time.

the perfect secret lagoon

I made a friend in Thailand last November with a handful of Americans on a Travr trip, and she was coming from LA for a week long vacation to a place she´d never been, or even considered going, so I planned a full circumnavigation of the island for her… and my car. We left Reykjavik headed for the north over Kjolur, and spent our first night in Blondudalur. We arrived quite late, after a midnight dip in the Hveravellir hottub, so my pregnant friend Kristine was already sleep. When we woke up, she was gone, and her man, and it took some time to realize that they had left for Akureyri hospital, since she had gone into labour.

super preggers Kristine in between conractions, with permission to leave the hospital for a little photo shoot and virgin mojito action

We carried on to Husavik, where we visited Geosea until closing, and camped, illegally, in their parking lot, after having one too many beers at the swim-up bar. They woke us up in the morning with a knock on the car door, politely asking us not to “camp” in the parking lot.

Lauren and I at Geosea

The next night we went to Egilsstadir, my former summer stomping ground, where Nielsen Restaurant has been making waves. Run by a friend, the former head chef Kari of Michelin-starred Dill, it was a treat to eat so well, for so little, in a quiet, countryside town.

Head chef Kari at Nielsen restaurant

We drove to the bottom of Fljotsdalur to Egilsstadir farm, the last inhabited farm in the valley headed southwest to Snaefell and the foothills of Vatnajokull glacier, to stay at the Wilderness Center. My former boss and friend Denni runs a museum, guest house and viking sauna there, surrounded by horses and reindeer. We ended up, fireside, sharing stories and grass, before falling asleep in the back of the campervan, a place that had started to feel more and more like home.

at the end of the world, Obyggdasetur Islands, aka the Wilderness Center in East Iceland

The next morning we had intended on sleeping in Vik, but one of the first and worst rainfalls of the summer had started coming down like hell on earth, so we just kept driving to Reykjavik and crawled into my warm, dry bed in Reykjavik, feeling slightly as if we had cheated on the plumber car. Its hard to say, but I´m sure my apartment was happy to finally have some cuddles too.

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Photo Highlights: A Summer of Riding in Iceland

the calm before the storm - an empty sheep coral waits for the round up to arrive in Oxafjordur, Iceland

the calm before the storm – an empty sheep coral waits for the round up to arrive in Oxafjordur, Iceland

After 7 week-long tours and 2 sheep round up weekends, my summer of riding in Iceland has come to an end. It’s a bittersweet moment, since my butt and back are surely happy to not spend another hour in the saddle, but as soon as the last ride is over, I already start to miss the horses.

the lose herd is one of Iceland's signature horse tour characteristics

the lose herd is one of Iceland’s signature horse tour characteristics

Here are a few photos from a summer of riding Kjölur, Mývatn, The Golden Circle, Þveráhlíð and Melrakkasletta.

a rider poses over Jökulsá á fjöllum glacier river

a rider poses over Jökulsá á fjöllum glacier river

If you´re looking to book a riding tour in Iceland next summer, check out Ishestar´s long list of short and long tours on offer (some are even available all year round!).

Heading into Mývatnssveit

Heading into Mývatnssveit

Other operators that I´d also highly recommend are Exploring Iceland, Riding Iceland, and Hestasport in Skagafjordur, North Iceland.

my second Kjölur group

my second Kjölur group under Langjökull glacier

Ishestar: Kjölur

Kjolur is old and often traveled route across Iceland. Its a highland pass between two glaciers that makes it possibly to go from the south to the north in a couple hundred kilometres. It´s always fun to take the first Kjolur ride of the season, because sometimes the road hasn´t opened yet since its a dirt road only open during the summer. In the winter it gets buried under metres of snow, and the only way across is by snowmobile. We had our first tour start June 21 this year, and there was still metres of snow.

so much snow

so much snow

There were just a few sections that were impassable, but it wasn´t such a problem to take 20 riders and our herd of 100 horses accross or around the snow. The real problem was our chef who had to follow in the jeep with our trailer full of luggage and food. By the second day into the trip, the tractors working 24/7 had managed to clear some snow. But by the fourth day when we really had to keep going, we passed the tractors, still shoveling away, and somehow so did the keep.

It was a 6 day ride across Kjolur with 19 happy Europeans and not a drop of rain, and we all came home with sun-kissed noses and suitcases full of warm clothes we didnt have to use since it hit 20°c almost every day. Hopefully that luck carries on in the next weeks, and some of that snow might finally be gone in time for trip number two.

Kjolur: Riding across Iceland

100 horses in line

100 horses in line

One of oldest trails in Iceland is the one that goes from the north of Iceland to the southwest, where the national Assembly was held every year just outside of Reykjavik. It was the trip hundreds of powerful rulers, sheepherders, tradesmen and post men traveled across over the last 1000 years, with the help of their faithful horses, and it took them atleast 3 days to cross, sometimes a whole week. There were many unbridged rivers, icy glaciers, and stormy weather to deal with, but the journey was always made. Nowadays there’s a gravel road, passable even by little 2-wheel-drive hatchbacks, a lot of bridges, and heated huts along the way, and Ishester does the trip north and south in 6 days on horse back.

Kjolur

Kjolur

We follow the road sometimes, since there’s alot of wet lands, lava fields and rivers we also need to use bridges to cross. But then we also follow the thousand-year old trails that have been worn down and multiplied all along the way. We stay at the mountain huts, sometimes alone without electricity or showers, and sometimes we share the popular huts with dozens of other hikers and jeep-riders. We try to not run into another horse group, even though there are others that do the same trail, since sorting out two herds of 100+ horses each is hard to do if we cross paths on the way.

big river crossing

big river crossing

Ironically enough, it was my first time riding Kjolur too, even though I was the guide for the 2 biggest groups Ive ever ridden with. The group north was 21 guests and 10 staff, so we crammed 32 and a half people (there was also a 1 year old baby with the cook) into each and every hut for dinner, sleeping and breakfast every day. The group south was even bigger, but between all those people, we were lucky enough to have great riders and one heck of a party both ways.

trails and trails

trails and trails

The trip starts at Kjoastadir farm, with some 100 horses, and makes its way up between two glaciers. The third day is the longest, and we ride through a famous green-valley oasis that used to house many-a outlaws, and is still home to some sheep, elves and trolls. One of the biggest highlights of the tour is the third night, when we stay at Hveravellir, a natural geothermal area with a pool-sized hottub surrounded by steaming pools and more green valleys. We managed to fit more than 30 people inside at once, and it does wonders to your body after 3 days of riding. The trip continues north towards Maelifell mountain, and we finally wind our way down into Skagafjordur valley, also known as the horse capital of Iceland.

Hveravellir pool

Hveravellir pool

If you want to join us next year, check out the tour on Ishestar’s website.