One of Iceland’s oldest cultural traditions, réttir is a community celebration that draws people from near and far. Joined by loyal sheepdogs, tourists and locals of all ages set out on foot and horseback to gather sheep that have been roaming the countryside freely since early spring, fattening themselves on moss, wild berries, and pristine Icelandic grass.
The demanding endeavour of rounding up sheep can take as long as two weeks. Organized community teams donning neon vests, walkie-talkies, and simple noise-makers stay in mountain huts while searching. The long days are followed by nights of traditional meals, music, and drinking.
The gathering and sorting process returns sheep to the farms they came from many months earlier. Packed tightly in a ring made of stone, wood, or metal, the sheep trot and buck wildly as people of all ages try their hand at wrangling them into the proper enclosure. A tag on each sheep’s ear tells sorters which one belongs where, although many long-time farmers claim to recognize faces from across the ring.
Sheep roundups take place all throughout September, followed by horse roundups and celebrations such as tug-o-war across a river, a community réttir dance, and traditional music in the rett.