Science Explorer

Departures: Year round Duration: 5 days

This itinerary is ideal for those studying biology, physics, chemistry, geography, geology, environmental science and photography. It covers a number of sites which offer a cross-curricular focus whilst witnessing some of Iceland’s most magnificent natural features.

Introduction

Our Science Explorer itinerary provides ample opportunity for study of the following topics:-

  • SUSTAINABLE & RENEWABLE ENERGY
  • UNIQUE ECOSYSTEMS & EVOLUTION
  • HOT SPRING & GEYSER CHEMISTRY
  • HOT SPRING ECOLOGY
  • THE BLUE LAGOON
  • AURORA BOREALIS/NORTHERN LIGHTS
  • SOIL EROSION
  • PLATE TECTONICS & VOLCANIC ERUPTIONS
  • TEMPERATE ICECAPS IN CHANGING CLIMATES
  • PLANT SUCCESSION

Tailor-made Travel
We are dedicated to providing tailor-made educational travel, allowing you to tailor your own itinerary to suit your individual requirements. If there is an area you would particularly like to visit or if you have any queries regarding your travel plans please contact us. Our Science Explorer itinerary provides you with an idea of what can be achieved on a 5 day tour to Iceland.

Itinerary

Day 1

Blue Lagoon-Perlan-Reykjavik
Fly from the UK to Keflavik and transfer to the Blue Lagoon where you can take a dip in the milky blue geothermal waters of Iceland’s most famous attraction. Continue to Perlan, a Reykjavik landmark. This futuristic glass-domed building comprises large circular tanks holding the city’s naturally-heated water reserves, above which sits an outdoor viewing platform. Perlan is a possible location for studies in viscosity, fluid flow and use of natural resources. Transfer to your accommodation in Reykjavik for an evening meal and overnight stay.

Day 2

Hellisheidi-Hveragerdi-Eyjafjalljokull flood plains-Seljalandsfoss-Skogafoss-Solheimajokull-Reynishverfi
Travel to the new geothermal power plant at Hellisheidi with its interactive display and optional tour, to learn about geothermal energy. Next stop is the ‘greenhouse village’ of Hveragerdi and visit the Hveragerdi Geothermal Centre. Here you can view a number of hot springs and, if you wish, study hot spring ecology – measure the pH values and varying temperatures. The different variants provide habitats for diverse groups of thermophilic life. Hot springs in Iceland are being studied in the hope of discovering unknown species of micro-organisms. You can even learn about the spring spider which lives on the surface of various hot springs, able to withstand very high temperatures.
Travel eastwards until you will reach an area affected by a jokulhlaup (glacier burst) from the recent Eyjafjallajokull volcano eruption, here students will see evidence from where glacial flood water has washed down the valley. Visit Seljalandsfoss, a narrow plunge waterfall where the water plummets over a former sea cliff, far enough away from the bedrock to allow you to walk behind it. Next is Skogar a broad, block waterfall that thunders 60m over a cliff edge. See Solheimajokull, located in an 8km long valley, one of several glaciers that spill out from the Myrdalsjokull icecap. The glacier has been retreating since the end of the 19th century at a rate of approximately 100m each year. Here you can measure plant succession at varying distances from the glacier. Your studies can provide good examples of atomic structure, isotopes, analysis techniques and evidence for climate change. Here you can enjoy an optional glacier walk .
Finally visit the black sand beach and dunes near Vik, the most southerly point of Iceland. Witness the incredible hexagonal basalt columns and impressive cliffs of Reynishverfi. The coastline between here and Dyrholaey is worthy of study with a variety of features including Iceland’s answer to Durdle Door – an immense rock arch. Overnight in the Vik area.

Day 3

Soil Conservation: Thjorsardalur-Mt Hekla-Burfell Hydroelectric Station-Fridheimar Greenhouses
The first stop of the day is Sagnagardur which is part of the Soil Conservation Service. Due to Iceland’s topography the country has the worst soil erosion in the world. Learn how Iceland is combating desertification, sand encroachment and other soil erosion, whilst helping to promote sustainability, including the reclamation and restoration of degraded land. The next stop is Thjorsardalur, a desert-like valley previously buried in volcanic ash from Hekla’s volcano in 1104 and 1948. Take a short walk to look at the pumice beds and lava.
Continue with a guided tour of the Burfell Hydroelectric Station, and learn how hydro-electricity is created, before heading to the waterfall Hjalparfoss (translation “helping falls”). This unique picturesque double waterfall is joined at its base to a very large plunge pool and is surrounded by rugged lava formations.
Driving south, visit the small village of Reykholt. With its rich geothermal energy this was the perfect location for the first ever geothermally heated greenhouse when it was built in the 1930s. The hot springs of Reykholt are characterized by a very high flow rate for a hot spring (180 litres/second) - water emerges at 97°C, and is the highest-flow hot spring in Europe. We offer an optional visit to the greenhouses at Fridheimar. Here you will gain an insight into the processes of greenhouse horticulture and learn how it is possible to grow vegetables in Iceland’s cold climate year round by creating warm Mediterranean conditions. At Fridheimar you can also see the pure Icelandic-bred horse with the opportunity to visit the stables and be shown all 5 gaits of this unique breed, including the famous tolt!
After spending the day looking at the many ways Icelanders utilise their water, both hot and the cold, why not finish the day with the option of relaxing in one of the many geothermally heated spas.

Day 4

Kerid-Thingvellir-Geysir-Gullfoss-Reykjavik
Start the day with a visit Kerid, a dramatic volcanic crater lake, originally believed to have formed following a huge volcanic explosion. Yet more thorough studies show that Kerid was a cone volcano which erupted and emptied its magma reserve. Continue to the rift valley at Thingvellir and see the Mid-Atlantic Ridge where the divergent North American and Eurasian tectonic plates are pulling apart by approximately 2.5 cm per year. Look out for ropey lava as you make your way across the rugged landscape, passing many fissures providing an excellent opportunity to study the physical properties of waves, forces and movement. In view will be Iceland’s largest lake – Thingvallavatn. The fish living in the lake are a testimony to how the evolution of species occurs. For over 10,000 years, since the last Ice Age, the lake has been isolated and the Arctic char have evolved from one species into four, adapting to the various environments within the lake. It is an example found nowhere else in the world. Students can learn all about this at the Information Centre.
Continue to Geysir, where Iceland’s most reliable geyser Strokkur spouts every 5 minutes or so to a height of 30m. Here you can study the physics and chemistry of geothermal water and the role of silicon dioxide deposits in geyser formation. Nearby, witness the immense power of the two-tiered waterfall Gullfoss. Return to your accommodation in Reykjavik or, if you prefer, drive to a rural guesthouse. For those on a trip between September and April, be on the look out for the northern lights. Overnight in Reykjavik.

Day 5

Reykjavik-Whale Watching-Reykjanes and return to UK
Enjoy time at leisure in the capital – perhaps sightseeing, shopping or, weather permitting, take an optional three-hour whale watch trip from Reykjavik Harbour. Between May and July you will also witness a variety of birdlife, including puffins. The boat is interestingly fuelled by hydrogen, adding another example of hydrogen use. Here you can explore the controversy behind whaling and conflicts, with the principles of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Alternatively, visit the Gunnuhver geothermal area and see solfataras (bubbling mud pools) en route to the airport at Keflavik.
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