Iceland Explorer

Overview Details Itinerary What to Pack FAQs Before You Go

Overview

Iceland: The Land of Fire and Ice.

The minute you land in Reykjavik, you’ll know you’re not in Kansas anymore. The spoken language, the written language (check out the alphabet) are different. And as soon as you leave the airport, you’ll begin to appreciate just how amazing, how spectacular Iceland is.

You and your group will start by heading to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Here you’ll explore Iceland’s coastline, hike alongside a glacier, Snaefellsjokull, and sea kayak with professional guides for two days, on the lookout for seals, whales and puffins.

A backcountry hike along the Laugavegur and Fimmvorduhals routes is next. For six days, you’ll hike past colorful rolling hills, steaming geothermal vents and snowy peaks. After ascending Fimmvorduhals pass, over the world’s newest mountains, you’ll finish the hike at the awe-inspiring Skogafoss waterfall.

Through all of these adventures, your group will become close. That’s the point, really. See one of the world’s most arresting landscapes with a group of like-minded adventurers, sharing stories, laughter and fun every step of the way.

When you head home—wherever home is (Kansas, perhaps?)—you’ll see everything just a little bit differently. It’s partly the magic of Iceland, it’s partly something else, something hard to define. For most people, life is reassuringly routine, comfortingly predictable. But for you, having seen this land of fire and ice, you’ll know there is a big beautiful world out there that is anything but routine and hardly predictable. Having explored Iceland, having seen its spectacular landscape, you’ll be eager to get back out there to see more, do more, explore more, live more.

Questions? Contact us!

Want to learn more? Find a presentation near you!

This trip was a life-changing experience for me; I wholeheartedly recommend it.


- Ryan Ghayour, Lexington, Massachusetts
Itinerary may vary by group and is subject to change.

Days 1 & 2: Trip Start & Hike Snaefellsnes National Park

From Reykjavik, we’ll head to our campground near Snaefellsnes National Park. We’ll take an afternoon hike, review our gear and learn some of Iceland’s history that has been passed on from generation to generation. During our first full day together, we’ll hike in the rugged Snaefellsnes National Park, taking in views of the Atlantic Ocean and Snaefellsjokull, Iceland’s impressive glacier-topped volcano

Days 3-5: Sea Kayak the Coast

Working with professional guides, we will learn basic kayak paddling techniques and skills. We’ll kayak past rocky islands, dipping in and out of the bays and fjords surrounding the peninsula and camp on a pristine beach. Keeping our eyes out for marine wildlife like whales and seals, we’ll gain a fresh perspective of Iceland’s maritime culture. Afterward, we’ll return to Reykjavik to resupply and pack for our backcountry hike.

Days 6-11: Backpack Laugavegur & Fimmvorduhals

Leaving western Iceland behind, we will head south for our backcountry trip on the renowned Laugavegur trek. We’ll hike past steaming hot springs, over black sand deserts and along colorful glacial valleys. Averaging seven to nine miles per day, we’ll learn Leave No Trace principles and basic backpacking skills. Hiking north to south, we will learn what makes the Laugavegur route so famous—with each turn revealing another incredible view of Iceland’s interior. Hiking between two massive glaciers and over a recently cooled lava field, we will ascend the Fimmvorduhals Pass. After six days of hiking, we’ll reach our final destination—the majestic Skogafoss waterfall and a view of the Atlantic Ocean.

Days 12 & 13: Golden Circle & Trip End

At trip end, we’ll return to Reykjavik via Iceland’s Golden Circle route, famous for its natural wonders. We’ll see Gullfoss (Iceland’s largest waterfall), Geysir (a geothermal hotspot with spouting geysers) and Thingvellir (part of the Great Atlantic Rift). On our last night, we’ll enjoy Icelandic cuisine and celebrate all we accomplished in the Land of Fire and Ice.

 

ACCOMMODATIONS

6 nights of frontcountry camping. Campground facilities will have flush toilets and may have showers and laundry.

4 nights of backcountry camping. Except when kayaking, all will have basic bathroom facilities.

2 nights in a backcountry hut. The hut will include toilets, running water, beds and blankets.

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Things to know

  • We travel light on Overland trips; please only bring items on your packing list.
  • Your group will have access to laundry periodically.
  • Please do not bring any electronics (including your cell phone). See FAQs for more information on our cell phone and electronics policy.
  • Do not bring any type of knife or multi-tool (such as a Swiss Army knife or Leatherman tool).
  • If you are flying to your trip start, wear your hiking boots and carry your sleeping bag and sleeping pad on the plane in case your checked luggage fails to arrive on time.
  • Pack everything in your backpack or day pack. Do not bring additional luggage.
  • There are no reimbursements for lost, damaged or stolen items.
  • Please wear the navy Overland shirt that you will receive from the Overland office to your trip start location.

Clothing

  • Navy Overland Shirt (1)
    We will send students an Overland shirt prior to their trip, and we encourage students to wear their Overland shirt to trip start. We highly recommend this for students flying to their trip start location.
  • Fleece Pants (1)
    Please do not bring cotton sweatpants (they are heavy and bulky and will not keep you warm if wet).
  • Synthetic Hiking Pants (1)
    Lightweight and quick dry material. Non-cotton warmup style pants are acceptable.
  • Synthetic Long Underwear Top & Bottom (1)
  • Synthetic or Wool Top (1)
     Medium to heavyweight. For layering with long underwear and jackets.
  • Winter Hat
  • Gloves or Mittens (pair)
    Insulated, warm and waterproof. Avoid knit and porous materials.
  • Synthetic Shorts (1)
  • Synthetic T-Shirt (3)
    Short-sleeve T-shirt or tank top.
  • Underwear (5)
  • Wool and/or Synthetic Socks (4)
  • Neck Gaiter or Buff (optional)
    To protect the neck and face from the elements
  • Hat with Visor
    For protection from the sun. Baseball hats are acceptable.
  • Swimsuit

Outer Layers

  • Fleece Jacket or Pullover (1)
    Medium to heavyweight and reasonably compact.
  • Packable Synthetic or Down Jacket (1)
    Midweight, compressible, synthetic (Primaloft or similar) or down jacket. Full zip or 1/4 zip are acceptable.
  • Insulated Vest (1)
    Insulated fleece, Thinsulate or down vest to wear on cold days and evenings.
  • Waterproof Raincoat (1)
    Waterproof material required (not just water resistant). Rain coats provide protection from wind and rain and serve as an extra warm layer. Your jacket should be large enough to allow layers underneath. We recommend hoods and breathable materials. Gore-Tex is a well-known waterproof and breathable fabric but there are many other quality fabrics. Ponchos are not acceptable.
  • Waterproof Rain Pants (1)
    Waterproof material required (not just water resistant). Rain pants provide protection from wind and rain and serve as an extra warm layer.

General Gear

  • Internal Frame Backpack
     65-85 liters or 4,000-5,100 cubic inches. Before purchasing a backpack, find your backpack size by measuring your torso length and your hips (instructions are available here). We recommend getting fitted at a store and trying on multiple packs.
  • Waterproof Pack Cover
    If your backpack does not come with a cover, we recommend buying a cover one size larger than your pack.
  • Day Pack
    Basic two-shoulder backpack large enough to hold your lunch, two water bottles, snacks, extra layers and rain jacket. Use your day pack as a carry-on for your flight and for daily activities or hikes. A standard school backpack is usually fine (no satchels or shoulder bags).
  • Synthetic Sleeping Bag
    A lightweight, compact synthetic sleeping bag rated to 15 degrees Fahrenheit or less. A synthetic sleeping bag is required for this trip; down is not appropriate as it does not insulate if wet. Your sleeping bag should compress into a stuff sack no larger than 20" in length.
  • Sleeping Pad
    Full- or ¾-length compact sleeping pad. We recommend closed cell foam that is thin and firm (e.g., RidgeRest) or self-inflating (e.g., Therm-a-Rest).
  • Bowl, Mug & Utensils
    6" to 8" plastic dish or bowl with top, insulated plastic mug, spoon, fork and knife. These don't need to be special camping utensils (a Tupperware dish and regular utensils are fine).
  • Water Bottle
    One 1-liter bottle. A Camelbak or similar water carrier is acceptable.
  • Headlamp & Extra Batteries
  • Adjustable Trekking Poles
    To add stability, reduce strain on the knees and improve balance while crossing unstable surfaces.
  • Gaiters (optional)
    Calf-height, waterproof gaiters to protect your legs and feet when hiking through brush, across snow fields or streams.

Footwear

  • Waterproof Hiking Boots
    Choose comfortable boots designed for hiking with a pack (i.e., mid to high cut for ankle support).  Boots should be waterproof. Break them in before the start of your trip.
  • Camp Shoes
    Closed-toe shoes to wear around camp. Crocs or lightweight tennis shoes are ideal.

Travel Documents

  • Passport
    A passport that is valid until at least six months after your trip end date
  • Passport Photocopies
    Make at least four photocopies of your passport and visa (if applicable). Leave one copy with your family and put photocopies in both your checked luggage and carry-on luggage for the flight, separate from your original documents.
  • Photo Identification
    A current school or other kind of photo identification (if you have one).
  • Original Copy of Permission to Travel to and from Iceland
    Please bring the original copy of your Permission to Travel to and from Iceland form.

Miscellaneous

  • Synthetic Camping Towel
    A medium-size synthetic camping towel (synthetic camping towels dry much faster than regular towels).
  • Gallon Sized Ziploc Bags (10)
    To organize and waterproof your gear and small items.
  • Large Trash Bags (4)
    To waterproof your gear.
  • Sunglasses
    Polarized sunglasses that wrap around to protect from glare are ideal.
  • Sunscreen (SPF 15+) & Chapstick (with SPF protection)
  • Toiletries
    All items should be travel size (if necessary, you will be able to restock during the trip).
  • Package of Moleskin or Molefoam
    To protect your feet from blisters.
  • Camera, Charger & Extra Batteries (optional)
    A digital or disposable camera and, if necessary, a charger and large enough memory card to accommodate your pictures (4 to 8 GB).
  • Personal Journal or Book (optional)
  • Spending Money
    $50 per week in local currency or a debit/ATM card (please notify your bank of international travel before trip start).
  • Health Insurance Card
    Please bring an original or copy of your health insurance card.
  • What is the weather like on Iceland Explorer?

    The weather in Iceland during the summer varies, though due to its position in the Atlantic Ocean its climate is relatively temperate. Average temperatures in July range from the 40s to 60s during the day and are cooler at night. Brief rain showers are common, and it can change quickly from sunny and warm to windy, rainy and cold. Layering is the best strategy. Our packing list takes these variables into consideration. Please follow the packing list, paying close attention to rain gear specifications.

  • What are the arrival and departure airports for my child's trip?

    You will need to arrange transportation for your child to and from Keflavík International Airport (KEF) at trip start and end. We will provide more specific travel information once we have placed your child on a program.

  • How often will my child have access to showers and laundry?

    Groups typically shower and do laundry once a week.

  • Please tell me about safety at Overland.

    Safety and risk management are at the forefront of our decision-making–from trip planning to leader training to supporting our groups in the field. We cannot guarantee absolute safety–no program can. All recreational activities include inherent and other risks. Therefore, we strive to manage the risks that we can, knowing we cannot eliminate them. We work hard to recruit, train and support our trip leaders so they can create the kind of trips that have made us successful for over 30 years. Please click here to read more about our approach to risk management and our accreditation by the American Camp Association.

  • Does my child need to have previous experience?

    While no previous experience is required, we have high expectations of our students. We expect your child–with your help–to select a trip that is appropriate for his or her interests and abilities. You should spend some time familiarizing yourself with the details of the specific program and help your child understand what to expect. We also expect our students to prepare ahead of time: to review the packing list, gather clothing and gear and complete whatever training the trip requires (for recommended training please see the Before You Go tab). Once the trip begins, your child should be ready–and excited–to contribute to a wholesome and enthusiastic group where each group member feels welcomed and valued.

  • Please tell me about Overland’s admissions process.

    For more information, and to access our application, please visit our Apply page.
    When we receive child’s application, if the first choice is available, you will receive a phone call and an email containing a link to our Overland Portal where you will find our Admissions Review Forms. We will accept your deposit to hold your child’s place in the program pending a favorable Admissions Review. If the first choice is not available, we will call you to confirm that the second choice is acceptable. If neither the first choice nor second choice are available, we will call you to discuss options. For those students placed on our waitlist, we will notify you as soon as a spot becomes available.


    We seek to admit students who have demonstrated that they possess the personal qualities and experience necessary to succeed on an Overland trip. While Overland is always supportive and nurturing, an Overland program is unlike a traditional camp in that our small groups–12 students and 2 leaders–travel, live and work as a group, making all of their own meals, helping each other and cooperating in ways big and small, and they do all of this far from home. As a result, every student must be able to thrive in an environment that places equal emphasis on:


    1. 1. Teamwork and Shared Responsibilities.

    2. 2. Independence and Self-Reliance.

    3. 3. Support of Others and Consideration for Others.

  • What are Overland’s policies on phones, electronics and communication?

    PHONES:
    To maximize independence and self-reliance, we do not permit phone calls, emails or text messages to or from our campers (the exceptions to this are: your child will call home on arrival and departure with our phones and assistance, and in the case of an emergency). If your child brings a phone for use while en route to Overland, please do not send him or her with an expensive smartphone; instead bring an inexpensive prepaid cell phone. All phones will be collected on arrival and returned at departure. While we will take reasonable steps to prevent damage, theft or loss to phones, we take no responsibility for phones and we will not make any reimbursements for lost, damaged or stolen phones.


    ELECTRONICS:
    Cameras are welcome but please do not bring any other electronics (e.g., iPods, iPads, Kindles or other readers, GPS or similar devices). All electronics (except cameras) will be mailed home on arrival (at your risk and expense).


    COMMUNICATION:
    We are committed to providing extraordinary support to you and your child; to that end, the Overland office is staffed from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. seven days a week during the summer (outside of office hours our answering service provides emergency coverage). Our leaders in the field are in touch with our office regularly; they carry cell phones (and in some cases satellite phones). Anytime a camper is treated for an injury or illness by a doctor or medical personnel, parents are notified by our office. A director will call the parents to explain the nature of the injury or illness, the sequence of events leading up to the injury and/or the steps leading to the treatment. Parents are typically able to speak with the medical personnel, with the leaders and with their child.


Hike, backpack and kayak in the Land of Fire and Ice and learn about Icelandic culture.

Students going on Iceland Explorer should prepare for:

  • 8 days of hiking with an average of 8 miles per day
  • Travel to and from the trip
  • An Overland experience

We expect you to arrive to your trip fully prepared for all activities.

Preparing for Hiking

On Iceland Explorer, you will spend a total of six days backpacking and two additional days on day hikes. You should prepare for long days of hiking over a variety of landscapes. Most of the trails and routes we will follow are well established, but travel through steep terrain at times. Although we will not hike above 4,000 feet, you should prepare for days with considerable elevation gain and loss.

Backpacking is a strenuous physical activity and requires proper training. While backpacking, our groups are fully self-supported—meaning that you will carry all of your belongings (clothes, sleeping bag and pad), some group gear, food and water. Your leaders will distribute group gear and food among all members of the group. Pack weights will vary trip by trip, depending on the location, weather, student and the distance covered. Typically when backpacking, pack weights average about 30% of a hiker’s weight.

Before your trip, we strongly advise you spend time breaking-in and adjusting to your hiking boots. We expect you to prepare adequately so you can keep up physically and participate in all of your group's activities. Please follow our guidelines as you prepare for your program.

Pre-trip training:

  • 5 weeks before your trip: wear your boots for 15-30 minutes a day. Walk around your house or neighborhood so your boots begin to conform to your feet.
  • 4 weeks before your trip: take three 30-minute hikes or walks in your boot.
  • 3 weeks before your trip: take three 1-hour hikes or walks in your boots.
  • 2 weeks before your trip: take three 1.5-hour hikes or walks in your boots with a backpack loaded with 10-15% of your body weight.
  • 1 week before your trip: take two 1½-hour hikes or walks in your boots with a backpack loaded with 20-25% of your body weight.

Groups typically average between 1½ and 3 miles per hour (although pace varies by group). You will take multiple breaks throughout the day - for water, snacks, lunch, to adjust packs, etc.

Preparing for Travel to and from the Trip

Families are responsible for arranging flights to and from the designated airport during a specified window (please do not purchase flights until you have received an email confirming our review of your health forms and school reference). Overland staff will be at the airport to welcome you at the start of your trip and to assist with your departure. We will have you call home upon arrival and before departure. We will provide more specific travel information once we have placed you on a program.

Preparing for an Overland Experience

Overland programs are wholesome, structured experiences with high expectations of each student’s behavior. You are expected to be supportive of your trip mates and your leaders, enthusiastic, positive and helpful. We ask that you leave your cell phone and electronics at home (cameras are always welcome), so you can fully engage with your group and your trip. You will have the opportunity to send letters and receive mail at designated mail stops, which are shared in the spring.

All trips have a range of challenges. You should come prepared and recognize that some days will be more difficult, more challenging and longer—both in terms of miles and hours on the trail - than others. Delays occur due to a wide range of variables beyond the control of you, your group or your leaders. Weather patterns change and trail and route conditions vary. You, or someone in your group, might develop a blister or encounter another issue that could delay your group. On some days your group will arrive in to camp in the early afternoon, with plenty of time to explore the area or go swimming, while on other days your group will spend more time on the trail.

Arriving ready for a challenge – and prepared to contribute to an enthusiastic group—will go a long way toward creating a successful trip. Please contact us if you’d like to discuss preparing for your Overland program.