The Rotunda as seen from the east colonnade
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Landscapes of Iceland

Ready for an adventure? Marvel at the magnificence of Iceland with Howard E. Epstein, professor and chair of the Department of Environmental Sciences at the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences at the University of Virginia. Epstein and a group of alumni and friends traversed rocky coasts and lava fields with UVA’s Alumni & Parent Travel in June 2018. Enjoy exploring Iceland through these breathtaking photos from the trip, and read about more adventures on Thoughts From the Lawn!

Check out Alumni & Parent Travel’s upcoming trips!



The Icelandic landscape is unlike anything you have ever seen before. The island was formed from volcanic activity along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and then further modified by its inhabitants, who essentially removed all of the island’s forests for agriculture and grazing animals, beginning as early as 800 AD.

You could easily convince yourself that you are on another planet, with young, volcanically generated landscapes, geothermal activity, geysers, hot springs and pools, water flowing every which way throughout a rough, craggy landscape, and glaciers at the higher elevation.



It is literally the land of “fire and ice.” The term “geyser” actually derives from the name of a geothermal eruption, Geysir, in Iceland. Nearly all of the energy use in Iceland comes from geothermal sources, and there are still ~30 active volcanoes.

We toured around the southern, western, and northern coasts of the island. Every day we discovered another waterfall more spectacular than the next; the natural environment was breathtaking.

This exploration was interspersed with visits to see Icelandic ponies, a geothermal power plant, a superb geological history museum (LAVA Centre), a shark fishery (yes, we ate shark), and a boat trip to the “island of puffins” (I was only mildly seasick). Evenings were filled with great food, beer (for me anyway), excellent company, and maybe a dip in a hot pool.

We ended our tour in Reykjavik, and on the final day, a small group of us visited the Blue Lagoon, a large geothermally sourced collection of hot pools smack in the middle of the moss-covered, basaltic rock landscape common throughout Iceland. It is certainly a tourist attraction, but it was beautifully run and thoroughly enjoyable on our final day.

I want to go back as soon as I can. Don’t pass up an opportunity to see this highly unique country; there really is nothing else like it.

For more virtual adventures, read:
Wolves of Yellowstone
Montane Wonders: The Canadian Rockies

If you’re ready for post-pandemic travel, check out UVA’s Alumni & Parent Travel trips scheduled for 2021 and 2022.

Continue your education with Lifetime Learning’s online resources available to alumni, parents, and friends.

The Thoughts From the Lawn (TFTL) blog is published by Lifetime Learning at the University of Virginia’s (UVA) Office of Engagement. This platform features UVA faculty and staff articles for the benefit of UVA’s alumni, parents, and friends. The views expressed in TFTL blog posts reflect the views of the authors and not those of Lifetime Learning. Lifetime Learning reviews the content and links in each article before publication; however, we take no responsibility for inaccurate information and/or links that lead to post-publication, unintended sites. Lifetime Learning is not responsible and will not be held liable for blog comments and reserves the right to remove malicious or mean-spirited responses.


Thoughts on “Landscapes of Iceland

    What beautiful scenery! Thank you for bringing us along on your adventure as we wait for the day we can again travel to far-off lands!


    Brings back so many great memories of 2 summers ago. Thank you so much for sharing your amazing adventure.
    Diane Wykowki


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