EPS Undergraduate Field Trip to Iceland

Undergraduate field experience, Harvard University, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, 2019

A week long fieldtrip to Iceland that emphasizes tectonics, glaciology, volcanology, climate, and Earth history.

Iceland Photo

Link to our route map

Preliminary Itinerary

August 24

Depart Boston in the evening. This is a red eye flight, you will not get a good nights sleep, so be well rested to start! Flight info: Iceland Air flight 630 24 AUG Departs Boston 9:05 pm arrives 6:05 am +1day

Day 1, August 25

Upon the group’s arrival we will be greeted by our guide and start the day with a day tour around Reykjanes Peninsula. We will visit the bridge between the plates, geothermal springs, a lighthouse and pillow basalts / pahoehoe flows. Spend the night in Reykjavik at Reykjavik City Hostel.

Day 2, August 26

We will drive to the South to Þingvellir National Park, a UNESCO site and the place where the Icelandic Parliament was founded in AD 930. Þingvellir is also located in a rift valley that marks the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Next we drive to Geysir, the famous geyser. Geysir had been inactive for years now, but its neighbor, Strokkur erupts every 4-8 minutes. Nearby there is Gullfoss, or “The Golden Falls”, a spectacular double cascade waterfall that exposes lava flows and sedimentary layers. Afterwards we will travel inland to the Landmannahellir highland area for your accommodation for the night at another hostel.

Day 3, August 27

This morning we will continue driving inland through rather barren volcanic landscape to Landmannalaugar; site of the famous hotsprings. After a good soak we will spend the rest of the day exploring the craters and lava flows in Fjallabak Nature Reserve. In the afternoon we will travel through the Fjallabak highlands to Kirkjubæjarklaustur area and then back to the coast to our lodgings in Vík.

Day 4, August 28

Today we will focus on the geology of the South Coast. Reynisfjara impresses with its black sandy beach backed by Reynisdrangar, basalt sea stacks emerging from the sea. Dyrhólahey rises dramatically rises above the area, revealing a beautiful overlook of barrier beaches and sea stacks. Hopefully we will see Puffins nesting in its bluff cliffs. We will take a Glacier Hike on Sólheimajökull glacier. Later we will visit he impressive Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss waterfalls (you will need your rain gear!). From there we will enter a gravel road to Þórsmörk passing under the infamous Eyjafjallajökull that paralyzed air traffic in 2010 and crossi numerous river fords. We will stay at the remote Volcano huts.

Day 5, August 29

We will spend a full day in Þórsmörk Valley. We will take some hikes around the area, visit a gorge located right beneath Eyjafjallajökull volcano and look at moraines from alpine glaciers and the deposits and kettle holes from the Jokulhlaup from the Eyjafjallajökull eruption.

Day 6, August 30

After breakfast you will travel back to the asphalt and travel the south coast to Reykjanes Peninsula again. We will visit the worlds largest geothermal power plant on the way. We will be at the airport in time for your flight back. Flight info: Iceland Air flight 631 30 AUG Departs Reykjavik 5:15 pm arrives 6:50 pm



We will be staying at Hostel style accommodations. Typically there are rooms with 3-four beds (possibly bunk beds), assigned by gender. Bathrooms and showers are “down the hall”. You might want to pack a light bath robe and slippers. Before the trip we will give you a list of the places we will be staying along with contact information.


Let us know if you have any dietary restrictions. Meals will be taken care of and we will supply some snacks. Breakfast in Iceland is typically a smorgasbord, that includes hard-boiled eggs, cheese, ham, fruit, various breads and crackers, and usually cold cereals, oatmeal, and the Iceland yogurt called skyr. Sometimes we will make our lunch from this spread, sometimes box lunches will be provided. Dinners will typically be set menus, with provision for vegetarians and vegans. You should expect to be served a lot of fish and lamb.

Washing clothes

Don’t plan on it. Opportunities for washing will be limited. You should bring what you need.


The weather in Iceland is typically windy, wet and cool. Be prepared! Bring all the suggested clothing on the gear list. Jacket and rain pants are essential; they don’t need to be high tech (expensive) breathable fabric. Bring bathing suits for the hot springs! Sturdy hiking boots are required. Both moraines and lava flows can be uneven and unstable.


The hikes will be generally less than an hour, but we will have one day with longer hikes. We will probably have a long and short option, but the hikes will be half day. Trails will be similar to what you might expect in the US with some rocky and wet stretches and some steep sections.

Travel by bus

We will have one large bus. We will generally stop at least once every two hours at a place with toilettes and a store. These facilities have Wifi, as will our lodgings. Pack light! We will be changing our lodgings almost every night, and dragging huge suitcases or duffels is tiresome, and space is limited on the bus.

Gear List

Proper clothing and boots are essential. Be prepared for wet and cool to cold weather and intermittent intense sun. Temperatures will typically be in the 40’s to 50’s F with below freezing temperatures possible. Layering is key. You will have to load and unload your bags from the bus every day. So don’t bring too much stuff. We will get out of the bus for geology stops and short hikes regardless of weather. We will also do some longer hikes so good boots, and adequate rain/snow gear are essential. You will not need “evening out” types of clothes as we’re mostly going to be in the field.

  • sleeping bag – the department will provide one if you indicated you’ll need one
  • Day pack, large enough for lunch, rain gear, water bottle, sweater
  • Notebook for journal entries
  • Passport, visa, airline tickets (provided), and other travel documents, with backup copies
  • Pens and pencils; some color pencils would be useful
  • Camera, charger, plug adapter, extra batteries
  • Smart phone (remember to bring power adapter for Iceland/Europe)
  • Small flashlight (head lamps are great)
  • Water bottle, one liter
  • Toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, hair brush, deodorant, etc.)
  • Swimsuit for hot springs
  • Towel and washcloth for hostels and hot springs
  • Sleepwear for hostels (including light bathrobe, flip-flops or slippers for shared bath accommodations down the hall)
  • Medications (personal “life support” supplies, and prescriptions)
  • Medium weight hiking boots (really important to break them in if new!)
  • Sneakers or light shoes (for evenings or in Reykjavik)
  • Sunglasses; critical in the sub-arctic summer on snow, as is sunscreen, lip balm, etc.
  • Sun hat, with visor (baseball caps work)
  • Rain parka with hood and rain pants
  • Warm gloves and warm hat (extras are good because one pair may get wet)
  • Heavy sweater or fleece, or two lighter for layering
  • Two pairs of long pants (zip-off combo pants/short are great if dorky)
  • One pair of shorts (just in case!),
  • Two or three long-sleeve shirts
  • One short-sleeve shirt
  • Sufficient T-shirts and underwear (there will be limited opportunities for laundry)
  • Hiking and sneaker socks, multiple pairs
  • Long underwear, bottoms and tops.