The sun was high, and the snow too, on the day I joined up with Dogsledding Iceland. Only a twenty minute drive from Mosfellsbær, the meeting place was already swamped by a chorus of bonkers pups as I pulled up. Yipping, barking, and tugging at their leashes, the dogs made it abundantly clear: they were ready to run.
We got some time to cuddle and chat with the animals before departure. The dogs are certainly intimidating creatures—big, and clearly very strong—but within arms range, they start playfully nuzzling. Give them a scratch, and these attention addicts will never stop.
The guides are very clear, though, that you should not stare at other dogs while petting them, as they easily get jealous and will subsequently pee on your leg. While this didn’t happen to anyone in my group, they seemed pretty serious, so try it at your own risk.
Once in the sled, we jolted forwards and got sledding. Once you’re moving, the ride is completely smooth. The dogs run fast—much faster than you’d expect—but at no point will you feel like you’re in real danger. It’s the ideal activity for when you want to do something sporty, but that doesn’t requires too much exertion. You can just enjoy the ride, and the superb view.
There are two ways you’re allowed to be on the sled: either sitting in the front or standing next to the guide in the back. Sitting is more relaxing, and allows you to gaze around, and lounge around taking in the scenery. Standing is more action-packed. Since the sled has only a couple of pieces of wood protruding from the back, you’re standing on a moving balance beam trying to be as aerodynamic and graceful as possible.
While the weather wasn’t super cold for us, the wind chill was real, so dress warmly. It’s especially imperative to add some extra socks, as everyone’s toes were frozen by the end. I’d also recommend accepting the goggles they offer at the beginning, especially if you have contacts. The harsh winds dried mine up quick.
Dog sledding is an Inuit invention. The dogs used for it here—Greenlandic sled dogs—are representative of this. Big, furry, and hearty, the dogs were bred for the sport. They have boundless energy and a high intellect, and they thrive in cold temperatures. In fact, they find Iceland to be a little too warm.
Because of the dogs’ intelligence, they each have distinct personalities, clashing and fighting just like people do. On my ride, the two lead dogs were sisters, and as anyone who knows ‘Little Women’ can confirm, sisters mean drama. On one side was Balta, a stubborn, shy, and headstrong runner; on the other was Bee, your typical goody-goody A+ student of the bunch. The girls baited each other on while running, just like human sisters. The guide filled us in on the dogs’ personalities and quirks during the ride, like the gossip queen of the dog sled high school, which, I suppose, she was.
Dogsledding is still a relatively underground tourist activity in Iceland, but it shouldn’t be. Combining adventure and beautiful vistas with cuddly friends? Need we say more?