Iceland is a country of extremes, where geysers and lava flows coexist with powerful waterfalls and calving glaciers. Located at the edge of the Arctic Circle, much of the island remains under ice, yet it is also one of the planet’s most volcanically active countries. This summer, travel to the Land of Fire and Ice and take advantage of long days and bright nights to explore the country’s impressive landscapes. Choose either the Photography or Climate & Geology On Assignment and delve into your focus area as you experience the wonders of Iceland up close.
|M Jackson, Geographer & Glaciologist (June 25 departure)|
Geographer, glaciologist, National Geographic Emerging Explorer, and TED Fellow M Jackson can often be found exploring some of the world’s most remote Arctic environments. She has worked in Iceland for over a decade and completed three Fulbright grants studying how climate change is affecting communities near the fishing village of Höfn. Her first book, While Glaciers Slept: Being Human in a Time of Climate Change, blends her own personal history with climate science. M’s 2019 book, The Secret Lives of Glaciers, explores the complex impacts of glacier change for communities along the southeastern coast of Iceland. Her 2023 book, The Ice Sings Back, is her first novel. M is also the Climate & Energy host for Crash Course and she starred as the science expert in the Netflix series, Pirate Gold of Adak Island.
|Erika Larsen, Photographer & Storyteller (June 30 departure)|
Erika Larsen is a photographer and multidisciplinary storyteller known for her essays, which document cultures that maintain close ties with nature. Larsen has shot multiple stories for National Geographic magazine—from following Sàmi reindeer herders across the Scandinavian Arctic to exploring the significance of the horse in Native American culture. Erika was also part of the team that produced the magazine’s 2016 single topic Yellowstone Issue, and she contributed to Yellowstone: A Journey Through America’s Wild Heart, published by National Geographic Books. Larsen has been a Fulbright Fellow for her study of the North Sàmi language, resulting in her first monograph, “Sàmi, Walking With Reindeer,” released in 2013. Currently, she is a National Geographic Society Fellow exploring the landscape of the Americas in relation to the animals and natural resources which are interpreting of our current environment. Her images are represented by Nat Geo Creative, and her work has been shown in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., the Fotografiska Museum in Sweden, and the Reggio Calabria National Archaeological Museum in Italy, as well as at Visa pour l’Image in Perpignan, France. Erika is also one of the featured photographers in Women of Vision: National Geographic Photographers on Assignment, which profiles the lives and work of important photojournalists and goes behind the lens of their individual assignments.
This itinerary represents our best projection of the group’s schedule. However, we may implement changes designed to improve the quality of the program.
Meet your fellow high school student travelers and one or more of your leaders in New York, and fly together to Reykjavík, Iceland.
Dive right into your program with a swim in Iceland’s most famous geothermal pool, the Blue Lagoon. Get to know your group and On Assignment team during an in-depth orientation in Reykjavík, gather essential background on the geology of this subarctic island nation, and learn about the impact of climate change on its landscapes. Immerse yourself in Viking heritage at some of Reykjavík’s cutting-edge historical museums and take time to explore this colorful and welcoming capital city. Join an expert guide to look into the inner workings of an ultramodern geothermal plant that provides much of Reykjavík’s energy and hear how Iceland is at the forefront of the sustainable power movement, with 85 percent of its energy derived from renewable sources. Head out to the Golden Circle and hike along the picturesque shores of Thingvallavatn, the country’s largest lake, and learn about the geological forces that created the islands and canyons around this body of water. Then continue to Geysir—home to the earliest geyser known to Europeans—where boiling water can rocket up to 210 feet in the air. Explore ancient lava flows to learn how volcanism continues to shape Iceland’s dynamic landscape and discover iconic Gullfoss, a thundering waterfall that appears to vanish into the earth.
Explore Iceland’s southern coast and remote glacial valleys en route from the Golden Circle to Kirkjubæjarklaustur. Stop to witness the impressive Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss waterfalls, or visit the original landing place of Iceland’s first settlers, a headland of rugged cliffs dotted with puffins.
Next, journey further east to Höfn, a remote gateway to the mighty Vatnajökull glacier, the world’s largest ice cap outside the Arctic and Antarctica. Photograph a glacial lagoon full of fantastically shaped icebergs. Participate in dynamic field-based seminars with experts on glaciology and climate science. Don crampons and ice axes to trek across Breiðamerkurjökull, one of Vatnajökull’s largest outlet glaciers, with professional guides. In Höfn, investigate changes in the composition of fish stocks and seabird populations caused by warming waters, and spend a day at a research center working on your On Assignment project alongside a National Geographic Explorer and your trip leaders.
Iceland straddles the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates diverge. This unique position makes it one of the most volcanically active countries in the world. Head north across the uninhabited interior to the wild volcanic area around Lake Mývatn. Explore bubbling mud pots, hissing steam vents, and the craters of dormant volcanoes. Alongside expert guides, wander through a spectacular ice cave, home to ice formations that are several hundred years old and which provide spectacular photographic opportunities. Hike on congealed lava flows from a series of massive eruptions that occurred in the late 1970s. Bathe in the blue mineral waters of a natural thermal pool surrounded by black lava beds, and visit Akureyri, a thriving modern city within a mountain-lined fjord. Ride colorful Icelandic horses on the slopes above the fjord, explore a village of turf farmhouses, and go whale watching in a traditional Icelandic oak boat on Eyjafjörður, whose waters are visited by many species of whales and other sea life. Present your On Assignment project in Akureyri, on your final night in the North.
Return to Reykjavík for your final day in Iceland and enjoy a celebratory dinner with your group in the heart of the city, reflecting on your travels together.
Fly from Reykjavík, Iceland, to New York with your group and a leader, then continue on to your final destination.
Due to the traveling nature of this student program abroad, each day is different. Here is a snapshot of a day in Mývatn.
Choose either the Photography or Climate & Geology On Assignment theme, and break into teams to delve further into your area of focus.
Photography: Develop a photo essay on Iceland’s dramatic geology. Focus your lens on the brilliant blue ice caves at Vatnajökull, capture a rainbow in the spray of Skógafoss waterfall, or photograph the glistening ice chunks floating in Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon. Practice portrait photography on your peers from the light of the midnight sun or hone your skills as you shoot pictures of Icelandic sheep, horses, and puffins.
Climate & Geology: Delve into the science behind global climate change and geothermal energy. Initiate a GPS project to measure and map the recession of glacial tongues, build a model glacier, or measure your group’s carbon footprint. Alongside Icelandic glaciologists and expert mountain guides, head out onto the Breiðamerkurjökull glacier for a bird's eye view of this dynamic landscape.
This is a physically active summer travel program that includes hiking and glacier trekking. Life in Iceland is best experienced outdoors, and you will be moving about often throughout the program—there’s so much to see! You do not need to have previous outdoor experience to participate, but it is important that you have a desire to be physically active, and that you are excited about being outside and trying all activities.
We stay in comfortable family-run guesthouses, hostels, and small hotels throughout our time in Iceland. Leaders reside together with the students throughout the program.
The group mixes picnics with dining out in Icelandic restaurants, along with traditional family-style dinners taken at our accommodations.
Please call our office with any questions about the physical nature of this program or to discuss specific accessibility and accommodation questions.