Reykjavik is, in a word, boring. It feels like a pale step-sister of Anchorage, Alaska. The November weather was similar to Anchorage in April. I try not to be in Anchorage in April.
You can buy a 24-hour city card to gain entry to the museums, swimming pool, art galleries and pop around town using the bus. This option did not appeal to me so I rented a small car.
I spent my 24 hours in Reykjavik fumbling with multiple trips to the ATM which for some reason I found difficult to master, racking up a ridiculous amount in international fees trying to acquire enough cash to purchase an overpriced and very bitter hot chocolate from a nearby vendor who for some unknown reason was allergic to credit cards.
Stopped in the Saga Museum - a bit of a wax viking historical experience, a second-hand clothing store called Spuutnik that seemed not to be the best value proposition, and the Kling & Bang art gallery where I found nothing so compelling that it warranted considering a purchase.
Everyone suggested the group tours where you stare out the window on a bus filled with other people staring out the window before waiting in line behind said people to view the scenery and then follow them on a head-to-tail trail ride where the horses walk in a big circle.
Dear Reader, in case you are wondering, that is my understanding of one of the circles of Hell as described in Dante’s Inferno.
I stayed at the Blue House which is owned by Zeno, who is German, so it was predictably clean, filled with other Germans, and had decent enough internet that I could stream a Masterclass over the sleepless night. My single room with the twin bed had a youth hostel feel and the chilly air made me feel like I was camping. I hate camping.
They provided a hippie-chewy, home-baked, must-be-good-for-you-if-it-tastes-like-this bread and spread breakfast, which was enough to get me to check out and drive far, far away to a magical place recommended to me by the lovely German girl who baked the bread.
It occurred to me as I was driving through the pass that literally no one on the planet knew where I was and began to wonder how long it would take to identify my body if it was dragged 100 feet off the side of the road. At least the “mountains” in southern Iceland were not rugged or tall enough that avalanche were a concern, I think officially they are referred to as ridges populated by a few volcanos.
The communities are a couple hundred souls perhaps, Asahreppur was my destination. The grassy plains seemed to go on forever with farm after farm after farm filled with flocks of sheep and herds of horses of every color and pattern imaginable. In a word, HEAVEN.
Judging by the architecture, it is an understandably Spartan life. Modern, clean, efficient farmsteads with a few charming nods of whimsy that hinted at the humor of the owners. Regretfully, I found no advertisement for either Hatari or Fire Saga playing anywhere.
Hestheimar was the name written on the scrap of paper by the German, she thought they might rent horses. It is located about an hour away from Reykjavik between two visitor destination locations - the Vik scenic drive and the Golden Circle of Geysir, Gulfoss, Kerið, and Þingvellir.
There are six cosy cottages available for rent that boast panoramic views of what must be a hundred head of Icelandic horses moving over Hestheimar’s pastures framed by the Hekla and Eyjafjallajökull volcanos. They are well worth the price point.
It is tranquil here. There are two outdoor hot tubs for soaking off the journey. Bathrooms are stocked with organic soaps and shower gel made from wild-harvested therapeutic ingredients from the local highlands. The restaurant features homemade bread and pastries for breakfast. That the heat and electricity is geothermal bears mentioning. This is the Iceland I had intended to discover when I booked my flight.
Renting horses for tourists to ride is not really what this property is about, however. Hestheimar is a breeding farm and training facility owned by Sigurður Sigurðarson - known as Siggi Sig. Icelandic horse aficionados, in case you are wondering, just lifted their heads and perked up their ears. Training facility Hestheimar and the adjacent breeding farm Þjóðólfshagi are the HaDvir of the 1,000-plus-year-old breed’s temple. Siggi holds several Icelandic championship titles, a world championship title, and is a former world record holder. Plus he is handsome.
For me, life doesn’t get better than a full day on powdery snow paths in a winter wonderland while experiencing all the gaits of an exceptionally well-trained, well-bred horse.
All of the tours are private, and I was able to break out in the afternoon sun with a engaging guide and an endearing Icelandic sheepdog as companions for as long as I wanted at a very reasonable price point.
If I could have packed my pony in my luggage I would have, unfortunately not an impulse purchase for me. A willing partner, I dare say he enjoyed the ride as much as I did. I’m rather in love with the Icelandic saddle as well - very comfortable. I am seriously considering having an Icelandic as my next horse.
Speaking of purchases, my Oros Orion parka, with its solar core panels, did a great job of keeping me toasty warm under Icelandic winter conditions. It allowed for nice freedom of movement in the shoulders and was easy to roll and pack. Oros Explorer leggings were warmer than most, but really needed some insulation on the front of the thighs and knees. I would have ridden several hours longer if it wasn’t for that design fail.
The Tindfjallajökull, Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull glaciers were in view as well as the Hekla volcano. I plan on returning in summer for excursions to the nearby Geysir geothermal area, Gullfoss waterfall, Stöng Saga Age farm, and the Icelandic Saga Centre at Sögusetrið for a deep dive in Norse mythology.