Iceland’s shoulder travel season starts in September and it’s the perfect time to experience Réttir our ancient farming tradition.
Réttir: Iceland’s Sheep and Horse Round-Up Tradition
Iceland celebrates the arrival of autumn with the ancient farming tradition of Réttir. During this annual event sheep and horse farmers band together and set off on horseback to gather their flocks. The sheep and horses have been roaming free in the highlands and grazing on green grass and moss all summer long.
The flocks are identified by their earmarks and sorted into pens according the farmer they belong to. This entertaining process can take up to a week as the sheep population in Iceland is more than double the human population. There are over 800,000 sheep in Iceland in a country with only 350,000 citizens.
The entire farming community gets involved in the lively herding action including every family member, even children who love chasing the sheep. The activity is not reserved exclusively for Icelanders. Visitors are welcome to join in and tour operators such as Icelandic Farm Holidays and Laxnes Horse Farm offer réttir tours where participants ride along on horseback. Fall is a wonderful time of year to discover Iceland’s backcountry in places like Skagafjörður, the traditional heart of horse breeding in the north.
Sheep and horse herding has been around in Iceland for centuries and there are over 200 réttir events located throughout the country. Réttir is a major event on the farming calendar and culminates with a large celebration of Icelanders dancing, drinking and singing traditional farming songs late into the autumn evening.
Visitors are always welcome so don’t be sheepish! Join in on the fun of réttir and discover rural Iceland during the colorful fall season.
Due to COVID infection control and number restrictions, everyone is encouraged to familiarize themselves with the work methods in each location before proceeding to rettir. To find a rettir event near you and their policies check out bbl.is.