Iceland Middle School Expedition

Witness the extreme powers of the Earth in Iceland, discovering geological wonders—from massive glaciers to bubbling geysers. With dynamic trip leaders and a National Geographic expert, photograph rushing waterfalls and craggy lava fields, witness volcanism in action, and delve into Icelandic folklore amid stone monuments built for Icelandic heroes.

June 25 - July 6, 2019
July 6 - July 17, 2019
Airfare statement: Airfare is not included. We have arranged a round-trip group flight between New York and Reykjavík.

Trip Highlights

  • Photograph Icelandic horses and quirky puffins as you explore the beaches and sea cliffs of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.
  • Visit a volcano museum founded by a National Geographic grantee, and see volcanism in action while exploring geysers and hot springs.
  • Trek across a glacier with an expert guide to learn about climate science and glacial recession.
  • Hear riveting sagas of Icelandic heroes, and see the icy lair of a legendary giant.


Days 1-3

Our trip begins with an orientation walk through Reykjavík, Iceland’s capital and home to nearly one quarter of the country’s population. Learn photography techniques, and begin practicing your new skills by taking photos of the futuristic, glass-walled Harpa concert hall and the colorful houses that line the city streets. Cap off your time in the capital with a dip in the hot springs of the famous Blue Lagoon.

Days 4-6

Travel north of the city, and hike through fields of purple lupines to reach the top of one of Iceland’s highest waterfalls. Visit a traditional dairy farm and try ice cream made from skyr, a thick and creamy Icelandic yogurt, before continuing on to our base on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. This rugged and wild peninsula holds many of the incredible geological features found throughout the rest of the country, including lava fields and black sand beaches, its own volcanic chain, geothermal hot springs bubbling from the earth’s crust, and a glacial ice cap that crowns a volcano.

Over the next several days, explore the wonders of Snæfellsnes. Ride an Icelandic horse at the base of the Snaefellsjokull glacier, made famous by Jules Verne in his novel, “Journey to the Centre of the Earth”. Local legend has it that this ice sheet—which caps the crater of the Snaefellsjökull volcano—is protected by the giant Bárður of Icelandic saga. Learn about the glacier’s unique magnetic field, which serves as a pilgrimage site for mystics and others who practice Norse paganism. Visit Stykkishólmur’s Volcano Museum, founded and run by world-renowned volcanologist and National Geographic grantee Dr. Haraldur Sigurôsson. Join a local storyteller for a hike among cairns—or stacked stone formations—which mark the routes of ancient Viking paths. Go fishing with local anglers off the coast of Grundafjörôur, and learn how climate change is affecting their trade as you watch for puffins nesting on the surrounding sea cliffs.

Days 7-8

Travel to Iceland’s interior highlands and discover the iconic Golden Circle along the way. Use your camera to create a time-lapse film of the thundering Gullfoss waterfall, walk between two tectonic plates at Thingvellir National Park, and witness boiling water shooting 210 feet in the air at the Geysir geothermal field. Visit a modern geothermal plant that provides much of Reykjavík’s energy. Spend a day in Landmannalaugar, trekking across a landscape of stunning blue lakes, multi-colored mountains, and far-reaching lava fields before soaking in some of the area’s natural hot-spring pools.

Days 9-10

Continue to the southern coast, where we’ll hike behind the stunning falls at Seljalandsfoss, and listen to local legends of Viking gold buried beneath the thundering cascades of Skogafoss. Our home base here is Vík, a small coastal town and our jumping-off point for a trek atop the Sólheimajökull glacier. Don crampons, wield ice picks, and learn how glacial morphology has molded the landscape of the region. Witness the impacts of climate change firsthand while examining evidence of the glacier’s recession alongside experienced local guides.

Days 11-12

Return to Reykjavík for the final night of our expedition, and celebrate your adventure with your new friends before flying home.

Our middle school expeditions are for students ages 13 or older in grades 7-8, and offer students the opportunity to discover exciting destinations in a fun, engaging, and safe environment. With guidance from trip leaders and a National Geographic expert, students explore a number of themes that enhance their experience and encourage them to deepen the interests they already have, while discovering new ones along their journey. Students travel alongside a team of highly-qualified trip leaders—college graduates with extensive experience in the field, who love working with students. A National Geographic expert joins for a portion of the trip (four to eight days) to share their insights, and inspire students with their passion for the work they do and the places they will discover. The expedition group size ranges between 14 and 18 participants, and the student-to-trip-leader ratio is usually between six and eight to one and never more than nine to one.
This expedition includes several active excursions, including hiking and glacier trekking. To get the most out of the program, students should be physically fit and enthusiastic about outdoor exploration.
Throughout the expedition, we stay in small hotels and guesthouses.

Andrés Ruzo, Geoscientist and Conservationist

Meet Our Experts

National Geographic grantee Andrés Ruzo is a geoscientist, conservationist, author, science communicator, and educator who grew up between Peru, Nicaragua, and the United States. His childhood summers spent playing amid steam vents and hot springs on the flanks of Nicaragua's Casita Volcano kindled a personal and professional fascination with volcanic landscapes around the world, including Iceland, where he led a National Geographic-documents research expedition in 2018. Andrés is the founder and director of the Boiling River Project, a non-profit dedicated to understanding and protecting Peru's sacred Boiling River of the Amazon by brining together modern science, conservation economics, and traditional Amazonian knowledge Andrés will join the June 25 departure of the Iceland middle school expedition.

Gianluca Colla, Photographer

Originally from Italy, Gianluca Colla has traveled and photographed around the world, from the Arctic Circle to Africa's deserts and from the Amazon to the streets of Edinburgh. He has covered a diverse range of topics including the secrets of the longest-living centenarians in the world, a lost Da Vinci painting, and hidden mummies in Sicilian crypts. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including National Geographic magazine, Condé Nast Traveler, Newsweek, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. Gianluca will join the July 6 departure in Reykjavik.

Program Themes

Explore each of these three topics over the course of the program:

Practice new photography skills—from framing landscapes to taking portraits—and tell the story of your expedition through your pictures. Photograph volcanoes and rushing waterfalls, and capture shots of your friends riding Icelandic horses or trekking across a glacier.
Meet Icelandic storytellers to hear about the island’s rich mythological history and how local legends were inspired by the country’s volcanic landscapes. Learn about local beliefs surrounding elves, gnomes, and trolls; and hear the sagas of legendary Icelandic heroes.
Witness the impacts of climate change firsthand as you trek across the Sólheimajökull glacier. Learn about Iceland’s tectonic activity at a volcanology museum, and hear how locals are harnessing the power of the energy produced by the country’s geothermal landscapes.