Every September, Icelandic farmers, riders on Icelandic horse’s and entire communities take part in the annual tradition of the sheep roundup called the réttir. This may mean scaling mountains and valleys to collect their sheep and before Iceland’s long dark winters sets in. The sheep roundup is one of the most important events in Iceland’s countryside and visitors are most welcome.

Sheep are important to the farmers and their livelihood as well as important to Iceland: Some 800,000 roam the country, more than twice the human population, and they’ve sustained the island’s inhabitants for centuries. Best of all, they’re almost entirely free-range.                                                             

After lambing time in May, farmers turn their flocks loose to graze on the lush highland grasses and berries of Iceland’s interior. The sheep freely roam the mountains and fjords during the summer, basking in the long sun-filled days, while seasoning and fattening themselves with lush lichen, moss, and grass. 

In the autumn, entire rural communities gather for one weekend to stake their claim on their sheep and celebrate with friends, family neighbours, and visitors.

The ancient tradition is followed by sorting at réttirs, circular pens with radiating sections where farmers separate their herds. It’s a grand country party, where friends, family, and neighbours come together to play music, picnic outdoors, and help each other marshal their sheep. Tourists are welcome to join in on the fun.

Experienced horse riders can join tours that include the annual sheep roundup, while spectators are most welcome at events. The roundups are usually held around the country in mid-September.  Contact Snaffle Travel for more information on the Iceland Sheep roundup horse riding holidays on info@snaffletravel.com.au

Photo courtesy of Icelandic Air