Geysers, volcanos and tolting in the land of fire and ice
The Viking Challengers return! Welcome back to the following 12 riders who have returned from Iceland after completing the BHS Challenge ride for BHS Welfare: Julia Brock, Amy Bumford, Carol Grainger, John Illingworth, Ann and Brian Irwin, Francesca Lawrence, Maria Lewis, Sally Madgwick, Hannah Mulligan, Katarina Spiers and Ellie Street. Well done and thank you to the Challenger Riders and their sponsors for collectively raising £8,500 for BHS Welfare.
Sally Madgwick commented ‘The Icelandic horses were truly amazing and this and some of the landscapes we rode through will be an abiding memory, as of course will the thoroughly nice bunch of people I was with – both fellow riders and staff’.
It is no surprise that The Viking Challenge is one of our most popular rides. Challengers experience not only a new country, but a new pace: the Icelandic horses’ unique gait, the tolt. With scenery including black sands, lava fields and volcanoes, the trip is like nothing you will have experienced before. The stunning surroundings and amazing horses provide an amazing reward for the dedicated fundraising leading up to the trip.
What is The Viking Challenge?
Riders will be involved in herding up to 100 Icelandic horses, which is an amazing sight. The varied terrain means you never have a chance to get bored and there is always something new to see. One previous rider described The Viking Challenge as having "amazing scenery, fabulous horses and overall a challenging, unforgettable experience." So you don’t just have to take our word for it!
Which horses will I ride?
The hardy Icelandic horses carry you through spectacular scenery going at their own speedy pace. The tolt is a four beat gait without a moment of suspension so they always have one or two feet on the ground. It is a fast pace and when pushed can be as fast as a gallop! However, it is also very comfortable, and has be described as like sitting in an armchair by some riders.
What will I do on the Challenge?
Saturday 28 July 2018.
Day 1: Arrival
Fly from the UK to Reykjavik and take the shuttle bus “Flybus” from the airport to Reykjavík. We will meet the stable owner there and drive to the farm called Vellir near Hveragerði. Overnight in the Vellir guesthouse with dinner at the farm with the host and the day will end with a detailed description of the ride.
Sunday 29 July
Day 2: Vellir to Fellsmúli
Today’s ride follows a circular route: setting off from the farm we follow the bank of the Eystri-Rangá River, riding over meadow grassland. The dominant feature is the Hekla Volcano which stays in view all day.
This is Iceland’s most active volcano which was once called ‘The Entrance to Hell’. The meadows grow on the fertile old lava flows which came originally from Volcano Hekla. Around 2.30pm the bus takes us first to Eldhestar for some refreshments and later to Reykjavik, where the group spends the evening together in the guesthouse. Dinner this evening is not included, and everyone can order as they wish from the menu. The horses overnight at the stable in Fellsmúli.
Reykjavik guesthouse accommodation B&B
24 km, 4 hrs
Monday 30 July
Day 3: Fellsmúli to Hólaskógur
Bus back to Fellsmúli and meet the horse; the ride continues along Iceland’s longest river Thjórsá. We pass Mt. Búrfell, which, in the old days was the home of trolls, and Tröllkonuhlaup (the place where a troll woman jumped over the river). A few kilometres along the river, we get a magnificent view over Thjófafoss (the Waterfall of the Thieves), about which many stories are told. Our destination is the Hólaskógar hut, which is located in a very special and varied environment. 45 km, 8 hours
Tuesday 31 July
Day 4: Hólaskógar to Helgaskáli
We continue riding through the fascinating, wide-open highlands where we can actually listen to the silence until we reach Háifoss. The waterfall here is 122 meters high, making it the second highest in Iceland. We spend the night in a mountain hut called Helgaskáli beside the Litla-Laxá River.
20 km, 4 hours
Wednesday 1 August
Day 5: Helgaskáli to Geysir Myrkholt
On our way into the desert-like landscape we have a magnificent view over the glacial river Hvítá (“white river”), and can see how the river, over hundreds of years, has shaped the mountain, flowing deeper and deeper into it. Continue up towards the Icelandic highlands, leaving the inhabited farms behind to reach Myrkholt.
35 km, 6-7 hours
Thursday 2 August
Day 6: Geyser/Myrkholt to Skógarhólar
Today we ride across the Thingvellir National Park. From Gjábakki we have an exceptional view over the park, Lake Thingvallavatn and the stunning volcanic landscape around it. This is the area where the North American and European continental tectonic plates meet. The plates are drifting apart about 2 cm per year on average, which has created a beautiful valley. We cross Lyngdalsheidi Moor, and stop at the Laugarvatnshellir lava caves before we finish the day’s ride outside the village of Laugarvatn, named after the nearby lake. The lake is heated by underwater hot springs. The bus takes us to guesthouse and then on a sightseeing tour to the famous “golden waterfall” Gullfoss, and to the Geysir hot spring area in Haukadalur for a dip.
35 km, 6-7 hours
Friday 3 August
Day 7: Heiðarbær to Kolvidarhóll
Ride North below the Húsmúli and Hengill mountains. The group needs to dismount and lead the horses through the narrow cleft to Marardalur (Valley of Horses). Ride on through Dyrfjöll (Door Mountains) and alongside Sköflungur. When we reach the mountaintop, we have a view over Lake Thingvallavatn, the largest lake in Iceland. Ride on the short distance to Heiðarbær and the day ends with a walking tour at the old Althing (Icelandic Parliament). From here, it is not far to Skógarhólar, where we spend the night in a mountain hut.
38 km, 6-7 hours
Saturday 4 August
Day 8: Kolvidarhóll to Hveragerdi
After lunch follow the old route from Hveragerdi to Hellisheidi. When we reach the moor, continue to the Hengill volcano across the Kristnitökuhraun lava field. This lava came from the Hengill eruption in the year 1000, the same year Iceland officially became Christian. The old folktales say that the eruption was the revenge of the old gods Thór, Ódinn and Freyr. Continue on the track between lava and hills (“milli hrauns og hlidar”), down to Kolvidarhóll, where people have stopped to rest for hundreds of years.
There will be the opportunity to visit the Blue lagoon in the afternoon for a warm soak of tired muscles.
The night will be spent at the guesthouse in Reykjavik. The last dinner is not included. Bed & breakfast accommodation in a guesthouse in Reykjavik
21 km, 4 hours
Sunday 5 August
Day 9: Departure
After breakfast catch the FlyBus back to Keflavik Airport.
How much does it cost?
All of our Challenge Rides require a registration fee. This £300 fee is needed to secure your place on the trip and is non-refundable if for any reason you are unable to participate.
Based on 10 riders the cost will be £2,423 plus a £700 donation to BHS Welfare. These total funds are required eight weeks before departure and flights are booked with VentureCo as early as possible. This cost includes flights, transfers, horses, accommodation, food and guides. Travel insurance is not included.
Now you’ve read about the Viking challenge we’re sure you’ll want to know how to raise the money to get there. We’ve put together a list of fundraising tips to help you on your way.
If you're chomping at the bit for an exciting and life-changing experience, simply complete the application form and email or post it to email@example.com.