Looking for a great adventure in Iceland? Are you a dog lover who can bear the cold and has a need for speed? Well then, dog sledding in Iceland might just be a fantastic option for you. Tourists can find many different options as there as several dog sledding agencies that operate within the country. Some packages offer self-guided tours, however this option can be expensive and is more for people who like to splurge. Tours are generally restricted to non-pregnant, solo riders weighing less than 95 kg (210 pounds) and older than 6 years of age.
Dog Sledding in Iceland
Dogsledding Iceland tours are available all year and are an interesting experience that feels different throughout each season. Some dog ride tours are only offered in winter over snow while others can take place on dry land. Either way, travellers are sure to have a unique experience being transported through the idyllic Icelandic landscape at high velocity. A half-day dog sledding tour normally encompasses at least a 45-minute guided dog ride as well as opportunities to take pictures. This entails time to snap shots of the scenery and also time to cuddle with your four-legged race team.
Sled Dog Breeds
There are only three breeds of sled dog used to mush: Greenland dogs, Siberian huskies and Alaskan huskies. Each sled dog breed has its merits but the latter is considered the quintessential sled dog since they are built for speed. Alaskan huskies share genetic links with grey wolves and can maintain a speed of 31 km/hour over great distances. Equally, Siberian huskies are descendants of the original sled dog, bred by Chukchi people of east Siberia ages ago.
This breed was an important element in the survival of many ancient tribes, allowing them to cross swathes of land. Greenland dogs are typically heavy-built with high stamina and endurance and able to traverse most terrain with ease. No matter which breed you choose, all are sure to love a belly rub from mushers after a morning run.
Ethical Implications of Dog Sledding in Iceland
Dog sledding in Iceland is a responsible industry as a whole with countless vets confirming that huskies love to run. Icelandic mushers seem to genuinely love their dogs and they try not to push them beyond their limits. From birth, pups are typically treated very well by being given healthy food, routine medical exams, and copious rest breaks.
Still, remember that they are not house pets and they don’t want to be treated like lapdogs either. Huskies have a pack mentality and living in kennels allows them to abide by those rules. From a young age, they are trained to pull sleds with a decent rest in between runs. For breeds with thinner fur training can begin in summer but more typically takes place in the autumn season.
The dogs pulling the sleds were literally born to run and pulling a sled is exactly what they love to do. Huskies are also a breed which require plenty of exercise and running is hardwired into their DNA. It’s the only thing they want to do in summer when it becomes very challenging to stop them from running.
Huskies have thick fur more suited for winter so when warmer weather hits, handlers must keep them from overexerting themselves. This could even happen by accident if the dogs are allowed to run freely as they would keep going until they dropped. Thus riders should be confident that by the end of their tour, these sled dogs will be gleefully wagging their tails. Make sure to give them a nice long belly rub and a treat for their efforts.
Iceland Dog Sledding Trips
Iceland dog sledding trips are very exciting and quite popular. There are several husky tours available throughout this island nation and many can even accommodate small groups. Normally sleds can hold two people plus a guide but there are also bigger sleds for families with young children. Riders are able to switch positions throughout the tour, giving everyone the chance to experience dog sledding from the front. Most tours consist of the same itinerary where participants are guided by a professional musher who leads the sled team.
While the mushers remain in primary control of the sled during most tours, some others allow passengers more free reign. Participants can therefore learn how to steer the dogs themselves and halfway through the tour are given a photo opportunity. This includes time to get up close and personal with the dogs and to snap pictures of the Icelandic countryside. These photos will capture the moment perfectly.
The majority of dog sled tours take between 2 to 5 hours with only about an hour consisting of actual sledding. The tour will generally cover a trail of 5 to 8 km through glacial plains, mountain slopes and snowy pastures. This means prospective mushers should take precautions against the cold and wind burn by wearing appropriate attire to protect themselves. This should include multiple layers, thick undergarments, waterproof jacket and trousers, ankle-high hiking boots, hats, gloves, scarves and sunglasses. And don’t forget the sunscreen. Be sure to wear all the winter accessories you would need to enjoy dog sledding to the fullest.
The Impact of Weather
Interested parties should keep in mind that weather conditions strongly affect the availability of dog sled tours. Tour operators reserve the right to change a team sled tour to a scooter tour from lack of snow. This means instead of being pulled by a team of 4 to 8 dogs, passengers will be ushered by only 1 to 2 dogs. During warmer spells, this is more likely to happen so keep an eye out for snowy forecasts before you book.
Dog Sledding over Snow
Dog sledding over snow is an activity that takes place between December-April when there is enough snow in the area. For those wishing to see the Northern Lights, this is also the best season to travel when visibility is best. Taking a sled tour in the Golden Circle is a great way to merge multiple activities on the South Coast.
This is a very popular tourist route as it’s comprised of Thingvellir National Park, Gulfoss Waterfall and active geysers. Many tour operators advertise expeditions of 5 days plus along the 300 km (186 mile) route, which tends to include sled tours. Several tours operate out of kennels close to Reykjavík but only a few offer transport from the city to their site. Prospective mushers should consequently verify that their tour comes with pick-up from their accommodation before deciding on the best package.
For those wishing to travel Ring Road from North Iceland, then there’s the country’s “Capital of the North,” Akureyri. There are also multi-day tours that only focus on husky riding and might also involve other attractions in the region. Some of these include Lake Mývatn, Dimmuborgir lava fortress and the geothermal field of Hverir filled with hissing mud pools. If you’re lucky enough you might even catch a glimpse of some sets from the HBO series Game of Thrones.
Dog Sledding on Dry Land
If you’ve decided to travel to Iceland for the summer months and are afraid of missing out, don’t worry! There are still various dog sled tours offered on dry land which is no added hindrance to the dogs. These breeds are used to running all year long and the equipment used by the professional mushers is typically wheeled. Instead of sleds, dog carts are often used and participants are then pulled by a strong team of 4 to 8 canines.
For intrigued dog lovers and summer travellers, these tours are normally available from April through November when there is almost no snow. However, the difference in weather has little bearing on tour prices. The cost is about the same as tours in the winter over pristine white snow. Either way, participants are guaranteed to enjoy the experience and to end the day by cuddling their furry guides.
The Final Verdict
Regardless of when you want to have an Iceland travel adventure, there will be a tour agency available for your convenience. The most economic tours begin around 16,000 ISK (128.97 USD) but others can easily reach 25,000 ISK (201.52 USD). This can depend on the amenities included as well as the location as those to the North are better priced. For those willing to spend extra cash, this is sure to be the experience of a lifetime so book today.
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