The Independent Parent: 'I would like to take my daughter riding in Iceland as a treat after she finishes her exams. Is this possible?'


Q I've heard that Iceland is a great destination for horse riding. I'd love to take our daughter on a riding holiday as a treat after her GCSEs. Could you give me some more information?

Q I've heard that Iceland is a great destination for horse riding. I'd love to take our daughter on a riding holiday as a treat after her GCSEs. Could you give me some more information?

M Vickers, via e-mail

A Iceland is a spectacular place. With a dramatic landscape consisting of remote mountain ranges, forests, glaciers, lava fields, rivers, lakes and beaches, there is certainly plenty to see. Geothermal activity is also a major feature of the island, and as a result, it is dotted with spectacular geysers, hot pools and bubbling fumaroles. In summer, the daily temperatures should be around 20ºC, although it is cooler in the evenings. In addition, from mid-May to the end of July, Iceland experiences almost round the clock daylight, so you'll be able to make the most of your time there.

Icelanders are extremely proud of their pure-bred native horses, which at an average height of 13 hands would be described by anyone else as ponies. Despite their stature they are incredibly strong and are capable of carrying grown men over long distances. They have their own "fifth gait" called the "tolt", best described as something between a trot and a canter, which is perfectly suited for covering the windswept terrain - although it does take a bit of getting used to.

You don't specify what type of riding holiday you would prefer - whether you would like to spend just a few hours riding each day, or whether you'd want to tackle something a little more challenging. Generally speaking, riders should be relatively experienced and fit in order to tackle longer trips, as you can be riding for up to six hours a day. But there are also plenty of more leisurely options for the less confident and those wanting to relax. For longer journeys, riders change horses two or three times a day so the ride is often accompanied by a herd of loose animals.

For longer trips, the companies I spoke to offer varying levels of basic accommodation on the trails. If a hot shower every day is important to you, check the exact facilities available before you book. Depending on the company, food is normally picnic lunches, with smoked fish and meat for dinner, but vegetarians can normally be catered for if you give advance notice.

Most tour operators in the UK can organise flights for you if you do not want to do it yourself. It's best to reserve these well in advance as they book up quickly for the summer months. Flights to Reykjavik with Icelandair (0870 787 4020; www.icelandair.co.uk) cost from around £140 return from London Heathrow and £150 return from Glasgow. Iceland Express (0870 850 0737; www.icelandexpress.com) also offers return fares from around £160 from London Stansted. It is also important that you get insurance for a riding holiday, for obvious reasons. You should always specify that your trip will involve horse riding or you might not be covered should you have a fall.

In the Saddle (0870 013 3983; www.inthesaddle.com) is a well-established company that offers three tours in Iceland, two of which can be booked during the school summer holidays. Its "Kjolur" itinerary, for example, passes glaciers, deserts, hot pools, rivers and the stunning Gullfoss waterfall as it traverses the country. An eight-night holiday will cost £1,080 per person and includes shared accommodation, all meals on the trail, a guide, entry fees where necessary, and all road and air transfers within Iceland. Meals, drinks and flights will cost extra. In the Saddle also offers a trip exploring the mountains and coast in the north of the country called "Forward to the Past". This costs £840 per person for six nights on the same basis. On these tours you will not be able to have a hot shower every day, but you have the option of washing in streams if you remember your biodegradable soap.

Discover the World (01737 214214; www.arctic-experience.co.uk) offers a seven-day "Golden Circle" tour. The cost of £1,262 per person includes flights from London Heathrow on Icelandair (add a £15 supplement if you are flying between 15 June and 14 August), transfers, five nights' full-board accommodation on the trail, two nights B&B in Reykjavik, and all riding equipment. The route takes in some of Iceland's most breathtaking scenery including mountains, lava fields, hot springs and the Gullfoss waterfall.

Icelandair can also tailor-make itineraries, including flights and any of the tours offered by the Icelandic company Ishestar (00 354 555 7000; www.ishestar.is), which generally works out cheaper than booking the flights and tour independently. For instance, it offers a four-night holiday visiting Gullfoss and the geysers of the same region for £756 per person, which includes return flights from London Heathrow, transfers, a night in Reykjavik and farmhouse accommodation while riding. It can combine any of the itineraries offered by Ishestar, ranging in length from a couple of hours to 12 days.

To soothe your aching muscles, make sure you plunge into the turquoise geothermal waters of the Blue Lagoon (00 354 420 880; www.bluelagoon.com) just outside Reykjavik in Grindavik. It opens daily from 9am to 9pm and admission costs Iceland Kronur 1,200 (£9) per adult and ISK600 (£4.50) for teenagers (aged 12-15), and is an unmissable part of a visit to Iceland.

The website www.visitreykjavik.is gives information on smaller tour operators in Iceland. For further information contact the Icelandic Tourist Board on 020-8391 4888 or go to www.icetourist.is.

Send your family travel questions to The Independent Parent, Travel Desk, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS or email crusoe@independent.co.uk

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