About Us

The family behind the riding tours

Hekluhestar -the horses of Hekla – was established in 1981 by Jon Benediktsson and Nicole Chéné at Austvadsholt.

Nicole and Jón
Jón and Nicole, founders of Hekluhestar

 In the summer of 1980 Jon and Nicole, at that time traditional farmers, decided to take a short riding vacation into the highland on horseback to spend a few relaxing days, enjoying the unspoiled nature. The riding tour was pleasant, but also eventful because they just made it on the horses home before Mt. Hekla erupted!

Returning home from the riding tour they developed their idea to offer more people the opportunity to travel into the wilderness with the quiet and friendly Icelandic horses. This was a original idea, as at that time there were no organized horse riding tours into the highlands. With his years of experience as a farmer, collecting sheep and going fishing in the Veidivotn area, Jon has been able to share his knowledge by taking the tours through the most beautiful and dramatic scenery around Mt. Hekla.

Aníta, daughter of Jón and Nicole, now the owner of Hekluhestar.
Stefnir, Aníta companion and co owner of Hekluhestar.

For forty years the small family company has guided many groups of people coming from all over the world through the rugged area of Hekla. Now Jón and Nicole´s daughter Anita is continuing the family tradition, and is taking over the leading of the riding tours in which she has been involved every year since she was a little child. Stefnir who is the partner of Anita has joined the family and is as well leading the trips. He is a man of many talents, what ever he does, leading groups in the highlands, training young horses or playing the accordion.   

The farm and the horses

Austvadsholt farm, the heart of Hekluhestar, is located in a vast open area 100 km. east of Reykjavik in the vicinity of the volcano Mt. Hekla.  At this working farm, the main activity is the breeding and training of Icelandic horses.

Most of the horses used by Hekluhestar in the riding tours are born, bred and trained at Austvadsholt. Guests are encouraged to share in this close relationship with all the horses, which is one of the key ingredients in making the Hekluhestar riding tour so special.

The Icelandic horse itself is uniquely well adapted to the varied and dramatic volcanic terrain. The horse has two additional gaits, the “tölt” and “pace”, compared to other horse breeds. These extra gaits allow the horses to make comfortable, fast yet sure-footed progress over long distances riding tours, in both the fertile valleys and the rugged hilltops.

The highland tours

The participants of the riding tours travel off main traffic roads on horseback. They are lead by two very experienced guides who know all the historical paths and trails of the highlands. All luggage, food and necessary equipment is transported by a 4×4 vehicle between the stopovers. Accommodation is provided in well-kept mountain huts.

According to the old tradition of Icelandic horse travelling in Iceland it is usual to take some extra horses along so that one can change mounts if and when necessary which makes the ride even more fun. To ensure a friendly atmosphere each group may not exceed 12-15 persons.

Hekluhestar is fully licensed tour operator from the Ministry of Communications of Iceland.