Astonishing Iceland!

  • Quo Student Travel - People to People - EF Tours
Land of Wonders!

This expedition to Iceland will transform the way travelers see the world, and their place in it.

Iceland is on the front line of climate change as it transforms our planet.

Hands-on exploration is the best way to examine Global Warming and the adaptations it necessitates for our species to survive and thrive.

Dive into traditional culture, engage with Icelandic students & live like a local.

Your journey of discovery & adventure is calling!

I saw this on “Game of Thrones!”

  • Experience the rugged beauty of black sand beaches, massive roaring waterfalls, stacked basalt columns & explosive geothermal geysers.
  • Awaken your awareness of melting ice on a phenomenal glacier hike.
  • Glimpse the wonders of Iceland’s remote night sky at the nation’s premier planetarium.
  • Get your blood pumping on a thrilling whitewater rafting adventure.
  • Learn about exotic wildlife, like diminutive Icelandic horses & indigenous puffins, the “clowns of the sea!”
  • Immerse yourself in distinctive Icelandic culture and rich Viking history.
  • View geomorphology in formation and study the effects of global warming.
  • Explore the longest lava tube in Iceland & feel the heat at a red-hot “Lava Show!”

Program Highlights

All-Inclusive Price:  $4,995
Program length: 8 days
Program Departs:  June 16th, 2022

Minimum Group: 24 Paying Travelers

Program Priced from Minneapolis (MSP).

Deposit: $500 required at Enrollment.

Program Highlights:
  • Active Itinerary!
  • Beluga Whale Sanctuary & Adorable Puffins
  • Volcanoes! Waterfalls! Geothermal Hot Springs!
  • Whitewater Rafting, The Blue Lagoon & Red-Hot Lava Show
  • Glacier Trekking, The Golden Circle & Black Sand Beaches
  • Planetarium, Endless Daylight & Intro to the Aurora Borealis
  • Immersion in Local Culture, Sustainability & Conservation
  • Icelandic Snack-splosion! Taste all the Local Favorites
  • Unforgettable Summer Solstice Bonfire Celebration w/ Villagers
  • The Bridge Between Two Continents
  • Sailing Expedition to the Westman Islands
  • Vikings: Democracy, Seafaring & Mayhem!

Intensive Educational Focus

Focus: Geothermal Power Meets 70% of Iceland’s Energy Needs

Focus: Farming, Crops and Food Supplies vs. Inhospitable Conditions

Focus: Global Warming’s Impact on Glaciers, Wildlife and Civilization

Focus: Conservation & Sustainability in Nature and Icelandic Life

Click to ENROLL!

Full Program Itinerary

Day One – Embark!
Today, your group departs for a phenomenally active & totally unforgettable adventure!

In addition to speaking Icelandic, most Icelanders also speak English. So there’s little language barrier to worry about, but of course you’ll want to learn a little of the native tongue!

  • Prepare to for the pronunciation challenge of a lifetime.
  • Icelandic words contain sounds you may have never heard before and will struggle to repeat.
  • Icelandic spelling uses letters you’ve probably never seen. (You’ll see below just how inexplicable some words appear!)
  • Our local guides are eager to teach and help untangle our tongues.

How many challenging Icelandic words will be fluent in your vocab by the time you return home?!

Day Two – Reykjavik: Culture & Vibe
We won’t waste a moment once we arrive in Reykjavik this morning!

Kick things off with an opportunity to eat like a Viking! An informative, delicious & hearty welcome breakfast at Vikingworld captures our imaginations and helps us get to know our Travel Manager and local staff.

  • Vikingworld introduces us to Viking history and traditions that dominated the North Atlantic a millennium ago.
  • We’ll be introduced to mythical Viking gods and folklore.
  • We’ll marvel at a magnificent Viking ship just like the one Leif Eiríksson used to sail to the New World more than a thousand years ago.
  • We’ll also gain an understanding of how this incredibly inhospitable landscape was settled and civilized.

Next up, although it’s daytime, we’re in for a fantastic introduction to Iceland’s night skies! It seems unfair that the Aurora Borealis, or “Northern Lights,” cannot be seen in summer. They are an extraordinary, yet common, part of life during Iceland’s long winter months. As one of the most beautiful natural phenomenon on earth, we’ll experience the next best thing. At the Perland “Wonders of Iceland” Planetarium, we’ll experience a new view of this region’s starry skies as well as an impressive “Aurora Show.” It’s visually amazing, tons of fun and very informative.

We’ll head back out into the sunshine for an urban hike. Reykjavik is a relatively small city, best seen, explored and experienced by foot. Hence, the Reykjavik City Walk:

  • Our expert local guide will lead us into Reykjavik’s city center.
  • Here, we’ll see most of the traditional and modern buildings relevant to Icelandic society.
  • But this walk is about much less about seeing the buildings and much more about understanding what makes this society so distinctive from any other nation on earth.

To understand any culture, it’s essential to grasp the fundamental tenants of their civilization:

  • politics
  • religion
  • law
  • arts
  • architecture
  • economy
  • sport
  • education
  • traditions (such as Iceland’s unusual naming system).

Public swimming pools are a cultural mainstay and everyday part of life in Iceland, due to the weather and an abundance of hot water. Icelandic kids grow up in swimming pools throughout the year. We’ll dive into “life like a local” at the newly renovated Sundhöll Reykjavikur in the center of the city. Swim, soak, and refresh after your looooong flight!

After we unwind and refresh at the pool, we’ll have a little time to settle in and get ready for a fantastic Icelandic Welcome Dinner!

Day Three – Golden Circle
The culture and history of a country always tells a fascinating story.

Nowhere is this more evident than when treading in the footsteps of the Vikings in Þingvellir National Park. This is the perfect place to learn about early settlements and democracy’s history in Iceland.

  • We’ll hike through the stunning gorges that are being torn apart as the tectonic plates rip away from one other.
  • If you listen closely, you just might hear the echos of Viking leaders deliberating at this (UNESCO World Heritage) site of the first parliament in the world (930 AD).
  • The renowned Geysir Geothermal Area is not to be missed as you’ll walk the path through boiling ground.
    • In Iceland, you can’t help but learn about different types of geothermic activity, but the phenomenon is on maximum display here.
    • This is where the OG (the original geyser) is located – the geyser after which all other geysers are named!
    • We’re on our guard as we approach the geyser Strokkur, which sometimes erupts when you least expect it.
    • This place is hot, hot, hot!
  • “One waterfall to rule them all:” the majestic Gullfoss Waterfall is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful in the world.
    • It roars with some of the most “golden” water on earth.
    • What Niagara Falls is North America, Gullfoss is to Iceland.
    • We’ll learn the inspirational story of Sigríður Tómasdóttir and her barefoot protest march that saved this astonishing natural wonder.
  • Any Game of Thrones fans? We’ll see several distinctive places where GOT scenes are filmed.

Lava Bread! You’ll never forget your first taste the delicious rye bread that locals literally bake in the ground.

  • Using an ancient recipe, this bread bakes in a pot buried in the black sand, where geothermal heat literally boils up out of the earth.
  • We’ll learn how locals make the dough using ancient ingredients, then we’ll place pots in the “earth ovens.”
  • Next, we’ll slather some fresh local butter on slices of fresh bread, still piping hot from the lava, and enjoy!

The ancient bread experience will get you thinking about this country’s food heritage, and soon you’ll be wondering how people grow crops here at all. Cue: next we’ll encounter a modern solution to such inhospitable growing conditions: Friðheimar Greenhouse.

  • This organic tomato farm will invite us inside to observe how they use Iceland’s natural resources to grow their beautiful produce all year round.
  • We’ll enjoy a taste of the crop as we sample their famous soup, which is enjoyed by Icelanders across the nation.

It stands to reason that, if your ancestors were Vikings, you might excel at navigating watercraft, doesn’t it? That’s why modern Icelanders have such passion for river rafting! 

Little surprise, then, that we’re taking you on a rafting adventure on the Hvítá River!

  • After our safety briefing and instructional training from skilled rafting guides at base camp, we’ll put in just below Gullfoss Waterfall and sail down a river fed by Langjökull, Europe’s 2nd largest glacier.
  • Clad in proper safety gear and with oar in hand, we’ll carve an exciting path through Gullfoss Canyon into the stunning gorge at Brúarhlöð Canyon.
  • The jaw-dropping rock formations left behind by centuries of powerful glacial flow carving across the land are best enjoyed from the water.

After all the paddling, we’ll head back to the base camp where a warm sauna awaits us. Saunas are an Icelandic tradition you’ll want to keep for life!

We’ll also enjoy a delicious BBQ dinner, before collapsing into bed for a great night’s sleep.

Day Four – Westman Islands
Today we’re going way off the beaten path and going where few tourists venture: the Westman Islands.

We begin with a 30-minute ride on the Atlantic aboard the Herjólfur Ferry, from the mainland out to the island of Heimaey, or “Home Island.” 

Historically, Heimaey was known as Iceland’s most important fishing port. Today, for various reasons, the fishing industry is not as robust as it once was, but there is still plenty of fishing going on. We’ll learn about the many challenges faced by residents, such as how to survive with only one freshwater well.

But today, what will first capture our attention – and our hearts – is the PUFFIN colony that lives here from April through August!

  • Heimaey is home to one of the largest “circuses” of puffins in Iceland.
  • Puffins are known as the “clowns of the sea” because of their colorful and distinctive beaks, which become more colorful during mating season.
  • Their plumage is predominantly black and white and their stocky body and big beak set them apart from any other bird species.
  • They live mostly on costal rocks and in burrows among the dunes.
  • Puffins’ short wings are adapted for both flying and swimming, and they feed by diving for fish.

Vestmannaeyjabær is the main village on Heimaey. In 1973 the eyes of the world were trained on this village of 5,300 when a brand new volcano erupted here, called Eldfell.

  • Approximately 1/5 of the town was destroyed and the entire population was forced to evacuate to the mainland for months.
  • At the Eldheimar Museum, which documents the eruption, we’ll see the volcano’s awesome and destructive power in a new light.

Meaningful Community Service is one of the best parts of every Quo program. “Regular” school will be out for the summer when we’re in Iceland, but that doesn’t mean we can’t hang out with our Icelandic peers. While we’re out on the island, we’ll visit local kids at the town’s “Work School.”

  • All Icelandic kids spend part of their summer working for the benefit of their community.
  • We’ll get to pitch in with these students to participate in a local community service project, while rolling up our sleeves, sweating, bonding and making some new friends.

We’ll cap the afternoon’s activities with an unforgettable visit to the brand new Beluga Whale Sanctuary!

  • All of Iceland has been anxiously awaiting the arrival of this new humane conservation sanctuary, which is scheduled to open just prior to our arrival.
  • These two Beluga Whales were born in captivity in China and would be unable to survive in the wild, but they will be provided with far better living conditions in their new Icelandic home.
  • We will be among the very first guests to meet these whales and enjoy this marine biology experience.
Day Five – Glaciers, Lagoons & Icebergs, oh my!
We’ll kick things off today with a South Shore Safari!

As we make our way through the “breadbasket of Iceland” en route to “the gems of the south,” we’ll see the quaint villages and hardworking farms of the southern flatlands, before we arrive at the splendor of the mountain ranges. Today’s other-worldly landscapes are unlike anything we’ve seen before – in clear weather you can see massive glaciers and volcanoes that have erupted 9 times in the last 50 years.

The South Coast of Iceland has everything but city views: waterfalls, glaciers, beaches, volcanoes, beautiful mountains & farms. We’ll be learning about more of Iceland’s unique vegetation, wildlife, geology and sustainable industry. Bring your sharp inquiry and get ready to think like a scientist.

Have you ever seen a black sand beach? Today, you can check that off of your list! Reynisfjara beach, with its backdrop of dramatic mountains and towering basalt column cliffs, is a particular favorite of the south. The crashing waves of the open Atlantic break on this distinctive black sand beach.

In Iceland, waterfalls are like characters in the nation’s story. Each one is beloved in various ways, and you’ve never seen anything quite like this landscape.

Right about now, we’ll start to think of Iceland as something of a waterfall-a-palooza. So. Many. Waterfalls. And no two exactly alike. We’re zeroing in on the most important and memorable examples of this geologic phenomenon.

  • We’ll visit “the hidden waterfall” Gljúfrabúi.
  • As we drive along the old sea cliffs we’ll spot the legendary Seljalandsfoss…
  • and the distinctively stunning Skógafoss.
  • If it’s a windy day, we’ll even see a few of them flow upward!

SPLASH ZONE ALERT: Seljalandsfoss Waterfall is one of the most famous features of Iceland. (A few years ago, this was the dramatic setting for Justin Bieber’s “I’ll Show You” video.) We’ll hike up to and around this waterfall, so we can appreciate it from every angle – including from behind! You’ll get a bit damp, but it’s totally worth it to walk behind this crashing, magnificent waterfall.

After our waterfall treks and science lessons, we’ll up the ante in Vík, a charming town nestled in volcano-strewn Ketla UNESCO Geopark. Vík is home to the exciting new Icelandic Lava Experience!

  • This is the only place in the world where you can safely see what real lava looks like.
  • We’ll feel the heat from actual flowing lava, in a safe environment, as the scientific guides explain many aspects of this phenomenon.
  • Molten lava will actually pour into the specially-equipped demonstration room, providing a completely unique opportunity to safely experience red-hot lava in close proximity.
  • You’ll see it flowing, hear it sizzling, and feel the heat that radiates from it.

Next up, let’s grab an ice pick, strap on some crampons, and hike a glacier! 

Sólheimajökull glacier is the ideal place to view geomorphology in formation and the effects of global warming on glaciers.

**The things you’ll learn today will fuel papers & research for the rest of your educational career.**

We start with a safety briefing and a short lesson how to use the crampons and the ice pick on the glacier walk.

The glacial landscape is amazing and dynamic, including crevices, sinkholes & small black volcanic sandhills. Sometimes it’s possible to take a look at the small holes or enter the cavesWith our expert guides, this setting is a fascinating and informative place to safely explore, learn and feel inspired.

**This glacier has been melting very rapidly in recent years, and we will see how dramatically the ice has receded. We will literally be standing at ground zero for global warming. There is no better place to begin a study of the devastation climate change is waging on our planet.  

In front of the glacier is a glacial lagoon where we’ll see many icebergs floating. We may witness the haunting event of new icebergs calving where the glacier meets the sea.

Day Six – Þjórsárdalur Valley, the Hot River & Summer Solstice Bonfire
It’s always fascinating to explore the items in a foreign grocery store – especially the snack foods! This morning, we’ll stop at a local grocery to buy some snacks for today’s Reykjadalur hike.

Our next stop is at the Iceworld Stables, where we’ll get up close and personal with diminutive Icelandic Horses.

  • We’ll learn about the history of this distinctive breed and what makes them so unique (beyond the obvious).
  • We’ll have a chance to meet horses and possibly help with their care & maintenance.
  • A word of advice: don’t call them “ponies!” Icelanders are very sensitive about this.

In Hveragerði, we’ll enjoy a typical Icelandic BBQ lunch (weather permitting).

Then we’ll explore the village to learn about the innovative building techniques of this area’s settlers. Because of seismic instability and harsh conditions in this area, a new approach to construction was required. 

Hot River Hike: Travel is at its best when you see & do things that only locals know about. This afternoon, we’ll join our local hosts for a very off-the-beaten-path adventure. (We won’t judge you for bragging about this when you get home.)

  • We’ll hike into the stunning and picturesque Reykjadalur Valley.
  • This dramatic volcanic valley is full of bubbling pools and hot springs…
  • but it’s known to locals in particular for the amazing hot stream that runs through it.
  • What makes it so special? We’ll slip into our swimsuits and find out!
  • An unforgettable afternoon adventure awaits.

This day has been amazing, but it’s far from over. After our hot river adventure, we’ll be immersed in local tradition and culture!

The evening kicks off with a dinner at the Ingólfsskáli Viking Cabin.

  • Here, you really do eat like a Viking!
  • Your dinner is served by locals wearing traditional viking dress.
  • You’ll eat with old-style utensils and plates.
  • The cabin is authentically designed in the style of the original turf-roofed longhouses.
  • The entire experience is an impressive reminder of Iceland’s past.

Tonight, as the Vikings of old did, we’ll attend a Summer Solstice Festival. In a quaint, historical town of 480 citizens, we’ll:

  • witness their time-honored festivities,
  • see an array of celebratory costumes and headgear, and
  • join the locals for song around the bonfire of Jónsmessa!
  • This is the kind of cultural immersion that very few “outsiders” are ever invited to experience.

What will your friends back home be doing for the solstice? Yeah, you’re definitely gonna brag about this.

Day Seven – Volcanic Cave & Blue Lagoon
The pace of the past few days has been intense, so we’ll enjoy a slightly more gentle start to our day today.

We’ll take a little time to enjoy the remote beauty of this isolated village. There will be lots of stories to share at breakfast about the bonfire and the local festival.

Our first stop of the day will be at the famed “Lava Tunnel Raufarhólshellir.

  • This is one of the longest and best-known lava tubes in Iceland.
  • As we hike inside the earth, we’ll witness the inner workings of a volcanic eruption.
  • We’ll walk in the path of lava that flowed during the Leitahraun eruption about 5,200 years ago.

When we do board our motor coach, we’ll begin a scenic drive through the lava-scarred Reykjanes Peninsula.

We’ll stop at the geothermal area of Seltún, one of the most desolate areas in Iceland. A bit like Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming or Death Valley in California, Seltún is punctuated with:

  • colorful bubbling mud pots
  • dramatic mineral flows
  • smelly sulphur ponds
  • boiling geothermal pools, and
  • steaming hot springs.

With our expert guide, a hike through Seltún is a bit like stepping into another dimension. It’s difficult to describe all the different phenomenon that occur when powerful energy seeps up from within the earth and puts on a show; you just have to see it for yourself.

Another highlight: today you’re on 2 Continents!

The Reykjanes Peninsula is also home to the Bridge Between Continents. This is literally a bridge between Europe and North America!

  • We are in the heart of the Mid Atlantic Ridge, where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates are continuously drifting apart.
  • Fissures form as the plates move away from each other.
  • “Leif the Lucky’s Bridge” is a small footbridge over a major fissure, which provides clear evidence of the diverging plates.
  • The bridge was built as a symbol for the connection between Europe and North America.
  • This is a unique opportunity to cross an actual Continental Divide!

At long last, we’re off to experience the #1 most popular attraction in Iceland: The Blue Lagoon.

  • We’ll enjoy a luxurious soak in the award-winning waters of this world famous “spa of the volcanic earth.”
  • Locals say a hour in these mineral-rich waters will help you harmonize with nature
  • …and a blue silica mud mask is great for your skin!

Tonight, we want to look our best. After the powerful bonding and growth experiences of the past week, our big “Farewell, Iceland!” Dinner will be a bittersweet opportunity to reflect and reminisce. It’s hard to imagine that this adventure is already coming to a close!

Day Eight – Við Sjáumst, Reykjavik!
We’ll awaken this morning to the uniquely captivating beauty of Reykjavik, and feel some remorse as we pack our bags.

It’s an early flight, so we’re off to the airport to board the plane and begin our journey home! Góða ferð!