In the past few years, Iceland has been listed as an “up & coming” destination. In 2015 alone, the country’s tourism industry grew by 30 percent – welcoming more than 1.2 million tourists.
Iceland offers a rich history, unique culture & a plethora of natural wonders for students to explore. Many colleges & universities have begun short-term programs studying topics such as: agriculture, alternative energy, art & literature, business/trade relations, climate change, geology, global health, photography & wildlife conservation, to name just a few.
When to Go
Iceland is perfect for J-term programs since it’s close to the U.S. & can be done in a short trip. While the winter is very cold, it’s actually a wonderful time to visit as there are far fewer tourists & greater chance of seeing the Northern Lights. There are also a variety of winter activities that can be included like skiing, snowshoeing & visiting ice caves.
Of course, summer programs here will provide a very different experience. June through August is the country’s peak season, offering tourists endless daylight, festivals & plenty of opportunities to hike or use 4WD vehicles to explore mountain roads. Some may choose to pair an Iceland stopover with another destination in Europe to break up their long trip across the Atlantic.
Schools & parents can feel at ease since Iceland presents very few health & safety risks. The tap water is safe to drink, the level of hygiene is high, the crime rate is very low & no travel vaccinations are required.
Iceland’s 8 Regions
East: Travelers can explore eastern Iceland’s forests, mountains & fjords year-round. Some of the most popular sites include Hengifoss, Iceland’s second tallest waterfall, as well as the quiet coastal community of Seydisfjordur. During the winter, this part of the country becomes particularly icy & heavy snowfall is prevalent. Students can trek through the slick terrain on Jeep tours, exploring deep inside glaciers or hiking along fjord trails. The summer months draw crowds for a variety of art & music festivals as well as bike tours & fishing.
West: Visit the most geologically diverse region of Iceland. Students can participate in a variety of outdoor activities like lava-field hikes, exploring Snæfellsjökull National Park or glacier tours. Travelers come from all over the world to experience West Iceland’s culture, cultivated from its unique history & landscape. Visitors can learn about Norse mythology & European explorer Leif Erikson, then admire the beautiful waterfalls or relax in hot springs.
Westfjords: This region is reserved for serious explorers, interesting in observing Iceland’s wildlife & untouched wilderness. See the puffins that live on the Latrabjarg bird cliffs, go whale watching, or hike to the Dynjandi waterfalls. The falls are created by a series of tiered cascades & reach to about 100 meters in height. The Westfjords is one of the roughest & most remote areas of Iceland, but well worth the journey.
South: Southern Iceland has become one of the most sought-after destinations in the world. It is home to the country’s capital, Reykjavik, as well as Reykjanes UNESCO Global Geopark. This region is known for its popular Golden Circle route. Most of these tours include the Strokkur geyser, Skogafoss waterfall & Thingvellir National Park, where the North American & European tectonic plates meet.
This area of the country is one of the most diverse, home to Reykjanes Unesco Global Geopark. Some of the most popular sites in this area include the Blue Lagoon, Reykjanesviti Lighthouse, Viking Museum & Gjain waterfall.
30 minutes north of Reykjanes lies Reykjavik. This humble, yet bustling city is home to about 120,000 residents at the heart of Iceland’s culture & art scene. Students can shop, visit local coffee shops & enjoy a variety of art exhibits & theatrical performances.
Highlands: The Highlands of Iceland are located mostly in the center of the country, about 500 meters above sea level. This part of the country is best explored in the summer months on foot or by jeep. Students can hike across the Laugavergur trail to the Þórsmörk nature reserve or hot springs near Landmannalaugar.
The Highlands were widely unexplored & seen as a wasteland of sorts for marauders seeking refuge. Today, it is recognized as one of the most mystical & breathtaking places on earth.
North: Here, visitors can hit the slopes at one the country’s top ski resorts or venture to Detifoss, one of the largest waterfalls in Europe. Students can explore a variety of geological sites like the Namafjall Geysir, Krafla lava fields or the black sands of Hvitserkur beach.
They can also learn about Icelandic culture & history from local artisans & historians in cities like Akureyri, the second largest in the country. The northern region of Iceland is also ideal for watching the sun set over the Arctic circle – a truly breathtaking experience.
If you are interested in developing an international program in Iceland, let us know how we can help! You can read about an exploratory trip we led to Iceland in January of 2017 for more information about sites of interest.
It’s a big world. Get out there!
Your FTI Team