Access and Resources: Reenact Your Own Viking Saga

Jun 1, 2002
Outside Magazine

The diminutive yet durable Icelandic horse.

Whitewater Rafting // North Iceland
Whitewater rafting may be a relatively new activity in Iceland, but if you want to tackle the country's toughest waterways, act now. Within the next few years, Iceland's government plans to dam up the rivers of the northern Skagafjördur coast, considered the country's top rafting area, to power a hydroelectric plant. Icelanders prefer the wild of the East River (Jökuls‡ Austari), a ten-mile run through deep basalt gorges, under red cliffs, past black sand beaches, and through dramatic Class IV rapids. Based at Varmahlíd in northern Iceland, Activity Tours (011-354-453-8383; offers three-day trips on the East River ($430, not including travel from Reykjavík).

The Viking Horse // Near Reykjavík
Only 13 hands high with long shaggy manes, Iceland's friendly horses appear to be dainty little ponies, but the diminutive beasts are actually tougher than the volcanic rocks they clamber over. They're also accustomed to carrying much heavier loads than pampered American stallions, which may ex-plain why former heavyweight-boxing-champion-turned-horse-lover George Foreman, who owns nine, has such an affinity for them. But the most popular feature of these purebreeds is that even someone who's never been on a horse before can learn to handle one in five minutes, and then spend the next few hours in a "tolt," the horse's signature fast but smooth gait. First-timers might want to start off with a three-hour Lava Tour ($44) or a four-hour Viking Express adventure ($60) through lava fields around 1,122-foot Mount Helgafell volcano near Reykjavík, offered by the Ishestar Riding Center (011-354-555-7000; Ishestar also organizes a seven-day, 145-mile trek ($1,536) across Iceland on the Kjölur Trail for hard-core equestrians. This ancient Viking route will take you past national parks, monumental waterfalls, glacial rivers, geothermal hot springs, and lush valleys. —N.S.

Getting There // Iceland
Because Iceland's long sunny nights allow for nonstop adventure, summer is the best time to visit, but it's also the busiest and most expensive season, so plan ahead. Icelandair flies daily to Reyjkavík from New York, Boston, Minneapolis, and Baltimore (summer round-trips from $982; 800-223-5500; But last-minute deals are available via Icelandair's affiliated Web site (, which offers good rates on flight-plus-hotel packages. The Icelandic Tourist Board ( gives advice on hotels and tour operators, and pointers on everything from horseback riding to saltwater angling, plus information on special summer events, like the Arctic Open golf tournament and the Reykjavík Marathon. —N.S.

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