Climate Change & Renewable Energy
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Smithsonian Student Travel  |  Student Journey  |  Iceland

Witness volcanoes, glaciers, waterfalls, thermal pools, and other geological wonders as you explore the magical landscapes of Iceland, where both climate change and successes in renewable energy are fast-moving and highly visible. On this high school summer program, travel from Reykjavík to the remote Westfjords as you get an in-depth understanding of the country’s unique past and witness firsthand the challenges presented by a changing climate. Meet with fishermen to hear about impacts on traditional fisheries, learn about geothermal energy from geologists, and hike in one of Europe’s last true wilderness areas. Gain insight and knowledge about clean energy, climate change, and possibilities for adaptation as you begin to envision the future of our changing planet.
June 27, 2022–July 11, 2022 (15 days)
July 12, 2022–July 26, 2022 (15 days)
Students completing grades: 8–12
Tuition: $7,990 + airfare
Typical Group: 16–18 students + 2 leaders


  • Go behind the scenes at a geothermal power plant

  • Straddle two tectonic plates at Thingvellir National Park

  • Scout for puffins, whales, and seals as you kayak pristine fjords

  • Speak to local fisherman about warming ocean temperatures


This itinerary represents our best projection of the group’s schedule. However, we may implement changes designed to improve the quality of the program.

Departure • Travel Day • Meet your student travel group and one of your trip leaders in New York City, and fly together to Keflavík, Iceland. 

Reykjavík & the Golden Circle • 3 days • Begin your trip in Reykjavík, the world’s northernmost capital, with an in-depth program orientation and get to know your fellow travelers and group leaders. Explore Reykjavík’s eclectic cafes, and visit the ruins of a Viking household excavated downtown. Then head east into the interior highlands and travel the iconic Golden Circle. Go behind the scenes with geologists at the Hellisheidi Power Plant to learn how Iceland harnesses geothermal energy for sustainable living. Visit the thundering Gullfoss waterfall, walk between two tectonic plates at Thingvellir National Park, and witness the steaming eruptions at Geysir. 

Snaefellsnes Peninsula • 3 days • As you journey north, explore the black-sand beaches of Djupalon and Dritvik to learn the stories of the ancient lifting stones. Ride Icelandic horses along the ocean and speak with volcanologists at the acclaimed Volcano Museum in Stykkishólmur. Don crampons and ice picks to trek on the Snaefellsjokull glacier with expert guides. Then, compare this terrain to the nearby site of Iceland’s first “extinct” glacier, and learn why Icelanders foresee a future in which all glaciers might follow this path.

Breiðavík2 days • Travel farther north by ferry and explore the southern peninsulas of the Westfjords from our base in the town of Breiðavík. Climb the rocky outcrops alongside Dynjandi waterfall and soak in geothermal hot springs overlooking the ocean. Hike between cairns that once connected ancient settlements, and photograph puffins nesting along the Látrabjarg peninsula, the westernmost tip of Europe. Actively participate in one of Iceland’s key industries as you join local fishermen on their boat in the fjord and visit newly emerging fish farms that dot the water. See firsthand the incredible varieties of species of the north Atlantic, and learn how fish stocks are changing with the warming currents along the coast. 

Isafjordur • 4 days • Continue on to Isafjordur, the largest town in the Westfjords, situated just 35 miles from the edge of the Arctic Circle. Kayak pristine blue waters scouting for playful seals, whales, and seabirds, and spend an afternoon at the Arctic Fox Center, which conducts research on this special species. Travel by boat from Isafjordur to the Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, considered one of the last true wilderness areas of Europe. Known for its thriving Arctic fox population, scout for pups as you hike through fields of wildflowers, along picturesque seaside cliffs, and rocky plateaus dotted with glacial lakes. Take in the views of the harbor at the “Troll’s Throne” and reflect on tourism’s role in the current Icelandic economy and landscape.

Reykjavík • 2 days • On your journey back to Reykjavik, stop in the town of Holmavik to gain perspectives on Icelanders’ relationship with elves and folklore. Enjoy a celebratory meal with new friends in the city and cap off your journey with a relaxing soak in the famous Blue Lagoon. 

Return • Travel Day • Fly from Keflavík to New York City with your group and a trip leader, then continue on to your final destination. 

Smithsonian Student Travel Expert

The expert highlighted below will join the group for a portion of the itinerary to add their expertise and insight to the program theme.

Michele Gualtieri looking up and smiling while wearing chef coat and standing against old brick building
Katryn Wiese, Geologist
Katryn Wiese is a professor of geology and oceanography at City College of San Francisco, where she has taught field, lab, and lecture classes since 1995. She studied Earth and ocean sciences at Caltech, Oregon State University, and Stanford University and focused her early research experiences on volcanic processes in Australia, Iceland, and the seafloor. Since then, she has journeyed worldwide as a scientist and field guide, gaining local geologic and oceanographic expertise across the U.S., Central and South America, Arctic and Antarctic locales, and a multitude of ocean island locations including the Azores, the Galapágos Islands, Palau, Tahiti, Fiji, and the Hawaiian Islands. In the classroom, in the field, or through her Earth Rocks! YouTube channel, Katryn’s primary focus today is helping students of all ages and backgrounds recognize and understand the geologic and oceanographic phenomena that build and modify the landscape and impact our climate and society.

Katryn will be joining the June 27 departure of our Student Journey in Iceland.

Michele Gualtieri looking up and smiling while wearing chef coat and standing against old brick building

Stephanie Grocke, Geologist

Stephanie Grocke earned her bachelor’s degree in geology from Colby College and her PhD in volcanology from Oregon State University. She served as a postdoctoral scholar at the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, and as a NSF-Fulbright Arctic Research Scholar at the University of Iceland in Reykjavik, where she investigated the gas emissions from the 2014-2015 Bardarbunga eruption in Iceland, the largest by volume in the country for more than 200 years. Stephanie’s research explores the most explosive volcanism on Earth: “supereruptions,” which have the potential to cause devastating hazards and changes to global climate. Stephanie’s research aims to identify the magmatic processes that result in this style of volcanism.

Stephanie will be joining the July 12 departure of our Student Journey in Iceland.

What to Expect

Physical Activity • This is a physically active summer travel program. Walking, hiking, glacier trekking, horseback riding, and kayaking are all activities in which you might participate. You do not need to be at peak fitness, but it is essential that you have a desire to be physically active, and that you are excited about trying all activities.

Accommodations • Our accommodations in Iceland range from youth hostels to small, rural guesthouses and farmsteads. Many of our residences are run by welcoming Icelandic families who live in town or on the premises. Leaders stay together with students throughout the program.

Climate • Summer days are long at the edge of the Arctic Circle (averaging 19 hours of daylight per day!), with brisk temperatures around 45-55°F and occasional rain and wind.

Meals • We eat meals either at our accommodations, on-the-go during our daily excursions, or at local restaurants. Oftentimes, we form cooking and cleaning crews to help with meal preparations and cleanup.

Cuisine • Fish, lamb, potatoes, skyr (Icelandic yogurt), vegetables, and fruit are typical in the Icelandic diet. 

Language • Icelandic is the official language of Iceland; however, English is widely spoken throughout the country.

Sign up for two programs & save $500!

$300 tuition discount + no application fee