Putney Student Travel: Iceland | Cultural Exploration

Putney, VT

Overview

Join us for an adventure amid Iceland’s glaciers, lava fields, and dramatic fjords. Explore the remote and culturally rich Westfjords region by paddle and on foot as we kayak pristine waters and hike fields of wildflowers. Catch a live musical performance, and enjoy a soak in a geothermal pool, the Blue Lagoon.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Kayak pristine fjords as you scout for whales, seals, and seabirds.
  • Traverse the glacier that inspired Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth.
  • Relax in natural hot springs after an afternoon of riding Icelandic horses.
  • Learn about Icelandic elf folklore from a local huldufólk expert.
  • Trek to the summit of the famous Glymur Waterfall with a cascade of 650 feet.

OVERVIEW

Journey beyond Iceland’s iconic Ring Road and discover the dynamic Westfjords region of this stunning country. Begin with an in-depth orientation in Reykjavik, the world’s northernmost capital, before traveling north to the craters, lakes, volcanoes, and waterfalls of this lesser-known peninsula. Learn how the famous Sagas and legendary folklore intersect with local geology, and discover how the dramatic natural beauty of the island has merged landscape and myth since ancient Nordic times. Craft traditional Icelandic sweaters or interview a local to get another perspective on historic tales of sea monsters, sorcery, and witchcraft.

Outdoor Adventure

Your adventures on this program are designed to actively immerse you in the local culture. Explore the fjords, inlets, and smaller peninsulas that make up the northwest corridor, and use them as a tool to understand the geological and cultural diversity of this region. Kayak the fjords of Isafjordor amid seals and puffins, then enjoy a relaxing soak in natural geothermal pools on the outskirts of town.  Perched atop an active volcanic crater, don crampons, grab an ice pick, and ascend the Snæfellsjökull glacier, the starting point for Jules Verne’s A Journey to the Center of the Earth. Photograph cliffs of nesting puffins along pink-sand beaches, hike through fields of wildflowers in Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, or trek across rugged lava fields with your fellow group members.

Cultural Immersion

Icelandic history and literature come alive through the convergence of geology and lore, particularly so in this part of the country. Follow trails through landscapes that once hosted Iceland’s most famous sagas, learn about viking ship building at a traditional craftsmen’s shop, or interview a local expert onhuldufolk, or hidden people, who are believed to live among the boulders, hills, and cliffs that dot the landscape. Watch masters at work as they weave Icelandic wool sweaters, taste traditional skyr, or Icelandic yogurt, or spend an afternoon with curators of the Icelandic Museum of Sorcery and Witchcraft.

Final Adventure

After an active two weeks in the Westfjords, travel south and cap our experience with a challenging hike to the summit of the famous Glymur waterfall, one of the tallest cascades in Iceland. With the support of experienced guides, meander through caves and scale steep ridgelines to take in a bird’s-eye view of this majestic waterfall as it thunders into the mossy-green canyon below.

Independent Projects

Choose your own independent project topic to further explore an aspect of Icelandic culture or pursue a particular interest. Trace the history of a local saga, investigate the lore behind a hidden elf cathedral, or interview a traditional fisherman on the ways his livelihood is evolving with the Icelandic economy.

A Typical Day

Due to the expeditionary nature of this program, each day is different; however,  an example of how we structure our time is as follows. We generally wake up and gather to eat  breakfast, and then dive into the day’s activities by 8:30 AM. We may go for a morning hike in the countryside or visit a local sheep farm to experience a day in the Icelandic life, visiting the family’s livestock and meeting the resident skyr maker. Lunch is followed by an afternoon activity such as a trail ride on Icelandic horses, followed by a soak in nearby geothermal pools. We eat lunch on-the-go for our several full-day excursions, as we don crampons for a glacier hike or cross rolling hills to a waterfall. Evening activities may include a traditional folk concert or a night in to play games as a group at our residence. Cap each day with a group meeting to reflect on the day and prepare for what’s ahead.

Physical Challenge Level

Our programs are active. Days are filled with movement — you may stroll the streets of Reykjavik, trek the hills of the far north Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, or traverse the Snaefellsjokull ice cap. You do not need to be at peak fitness to participate, but it is important that you have a desire to be physically active and that you are excited to try all activities.

Accommodations 

Group accommodations are carefully selected by Putney Student Travel to emphasize convenience, a positive group environment, and wholesome interaction with local people and fellow travelers. Our housing ranges from youth hostels to small, family-run guesthouses and farmsteads. At certain destinations, we form cooking and cleaning crews and prepare our own meals with the help of a local cook. Most meals are home-cooked and prepared at our guesthouse, and picnic lunches will be taken on day-long excursions.

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