Iceland is a known haven for the avid adventurer and nature lover. From the powerful waterfalls, blue ice caves, sweeping Highland mountains to the robust bird and aquatic life. There is something majestic for everyone to enjoy. But Iceland has an extra special activity for dog lovers who have an interest in the great outdoors. Dog sledding is a unique experience you will surely treasure for years to come.
Travelers can choose between many great options since it is a popular activity with several available vendors. There are various packages to suit your needs such as group tours or the daring self-guided tours. Be mindful that pregnant women, children under 7 years old, and anyone over 209lb (95kg) cannot do the tours.
Dogsledding Iceland packages can be booked in all seasons and the experience will feel different throughout the year. However, specific dog ride tours are only available in the winter and even then on dry land. It is a wonderful way to experience the Icelandic landscape rush past you as you mush through the terrain. Now let’s learn more about this amazing activity that you will add to your Iceland itinerary.
What are the Sled Dog Breeds?
Iceland is famous for the vast colonies of friendly Atlantic puffins and the Minke whales. However, its dog breeds might not be as commonly known. There are three specific breeds used for sledding and they are Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Huskies, and the Greenland Dogs.
Siberian Huskies were bred in eastern Siberia by the Chukchi people and were essential to their lifestyle as hunter-gatherers. They are medium-sized and weigh between 35 to 60lbs (159 to 29.4kg). They have soft, fluffy, tan and white fur with brilliant blue or brown eyes. The Siberian Husky is a great breed because they are powerful, resilient and can withstand cold weather. Siberian Huskies are also direct descendants of the first sled dogs. The ancient Chukchi tribe trained them to be skilled hunters and you can see this when they enthusiastically run outdoors. Siberian Huskies are also friendly and require companionship from humans and other animals.
Alaskan Huskies are smaller than the Siberian Huskies but their fur can be similar. However, Alaskan Huskies can look very different from each other. Their fur can be speckled, sable, or deep black. This breed was in the Americas about 12,000 years ago and shares genetic traces to grey wolves and the Alaskan Malamutes. Alaskan Huskies are undeniably the best sled dog because of their slim build and powerful long legs. They can maintain top speeds of 19mph (31km/h) over a three-day sprint race. Alaskan Huskies are worth 3,000 to 10,000USD (2,720 to 9,067EUR).
Greenland Dogs come from Greenland and are born with an innate pack instinct. For example, they are strong workers but need their owner to be an alpha and train them. Once they learn discipline and develop loyalty from the owner they will be amazing pets and sled dogs. They are medium-sized and are a type of husky with cream fur dusted with black. All three of these breeds are amazing sled dogs.
Iceland Dog Sledding Trips
Iceland dog sledding trips are a memorable and scenic excursion akin to scuba diving or skiing. You can also take amazing pictures and have an authentic Icelandic experience. When you book your dog sledding tour you can choose the terrain depending on the season. A husky tour can be over dry land or over powdery and pristine snow. The tour size can vary between a small group, big group or one person. When you are sledding, bear in mind you’ll not actually be directing the sled. But you’ll be in the front next to the musher. Then you’ll rotate positions between passengers. This way everyone has a chance to feel what it’s like to be in the front overlooking the dogs in action.
However, some Iceland travel tour companies will give you more freedom. They might let you learn how to steer or mush the dogs for a few moments. At the halfway mark of the tour, the guide will stop at a designated location. You’ll then have an opportunity to have a complete photoshoot if you want to fully capture the moment. Get close to the dogs and strike a pose against stunning natural backdrops.
Most dog sled tours are 2 to 5 hours long but there is generally only one hour of true dog sledding. The tour will consist of routes that are 5 to 8 km (3 to 5mi) over varying terrain. This includes snowy pastures, icy plains, and mountain passes. Since the weather in Iceland is so unpredictable as well as harsh, it is essential to dress appropriately. You must pack and wear protective clothing such as warm layers, waterproof outerwear, hiking boots, gloves, scarves, and so on. When you are dressed accordingly you are more likely to enjoy your excursion.
Please note, extreme weather conditions might impact the availability of the dog sledding tours. If there is not enough snow, the tour leader can change out the full dog sled team. A full team is 8 to 16 dogs. When there is not enough snow, the team is just 4 to 8 dogs. And instead of a sled, you will be in a cart with wheels. When the weather is warmer during the snow season this swap can happen, therefore look at the weather forecast before booking.
Winter Dog Sledding
Dog sledding on snow occurs between the months of December and April. During this time period you will dog sled over fresh snow. This is also the optimal time to spot the dancing Northern Lights and marvel at nature. Many tours are based near Reykjavik but only a handful will provide transportation from the capital city to their location. Therefore, before you book, find out if the tour will pick you up from where you’re staying. Some will, but some will require you to book your own transportation. The price including transfer from Reykjavik is 352USD (319EUR), and the price without transfer is 236USD (214EUR).
There are many routes to choose from and the length varies from one day to five days. You can take a sled tour through the popular Golden Circle and also through the picturesque South Coast. When you dog sled through the Golden Circle you will see many famous Icelandic features. First, you’ll pass through the historic Thingvellir National Park, then the powerful Gullfoss Waterfall, and finally the steaming Geysir Geothermal Area.
Another route is traveling along the Ring Road to North Iceland to visit Akureyri, commonly called “Capital of the North.” You can visit Hverir, which is an otherworldly experience because at the base of the Namafjall volcanic mountain is a geothermal area. This imposing zone has huge bubbling mud pools and dramatic orange landscapes. It looks reminiscent of Mars.
Other routes can focus on scenic areas like the dramatic Dimmuborgir lava formations found in Lake Mývatn. Dimmuborgir, or the Dark Fortress, is said to be the home of the mythological Gryla and her Yule Lad sons. Gryla is a violent troll who would eat children and her mischievous sons would wreak havoc on towns during Christmas. Either route you take, you’ll admire the magical surroundings that have even appeared in famous shows like Game of Thrones.
Sledding on Dry Land
If you want to go sledding in Iceland during the warmer months have no fear, you still can. However, it will not be on glistening snow but on fresh, dry land. Instead of being pulled by a full sled team in a sled, 4 to 8 huskies might pull you in a wheeled dog cart. These dogs love to run all year round and they will certainly enjoy the route. The tours on dry land are available from April through November.
Since summer is the peak time to visit Iceland there is no difference in price if it’s on dry land or snow. Both options are amazing and you will have an authentic experience. At the end of your journey, you can give your sled team a warm belly rub. The dogs love to be cuddled and it will also create a wonderful memory and photo.
Create Great Memories
Go ahead and make your reservation now. These energetic dogs were born to run and they want to take you on an adventure through the majestic Icelandic countryside.