Smithsonian Journeys (tel. 877/338-8687; www.smithsonianjourneys.com), affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution, hosts several educational trips focusing on geology, hydro power, and Icelandic culture.
Astronomy Magazine leads a 6-day "Northern Lights & Lava Fields of Iceland" in October and January, hosted by an astronomy professor and focusing on Iceland's natural wonders. Bookings are through MWT Associates (tel. 877/707-7827; www.melitatrips.com).
Natural Habitat Adventures (tel. 800/543-8917; www.nathab.com) has "Iceland: Fjords & Glaciers," a late-May tour where naturalists give lectures aboard a Russian oceanographic vessel in a 9-day circumnavigation of the island. Prices start at $5,000 (£2,500) per person, not including airfare.
Ísafold Travel (tel. 544-8866; www.isafoldtravel.is) has educational tours in geology and energy technology.
Cross-Culture Journeys (tel. 800/491-1148 or 413/256-6303; www.ccjourneys.com) based in Amherst, MA, leads 9-day tours focusing on arts, museums, and saga history, with plenty of nature thrown in. Prices are $3,400-$3,700 (£1,700-£1,850) per person, including airfare.
Storyfest Journeys (tel. 301/791-9133; www.storyfest.com) leads a saga and folklore tour in May, though dates may change.
If you want to learn Icelandic, start with this online list of study programs around the country: www.nordals.hi.is/page/other_courses.
The Snorri Program (tel. 551-0165; www.snorri.is) provides an opportunity for young North Americans of Icelandic descent to explore their heritage. The main 6-week program (mid-June through July) is for ages 18 to 28, but older visitors can join a modified 2-week program in late August.
J.R.J. Super Jeeps (tel. 453-8219; http://frontpage.simnet.is/jeppaferdir) customizes tours for those tracing their Icelandic ancestry.
Seeds of Iceland (tel. 845-6178; www.seedsiceland.org), a non-profit group founded in 2005, sets up volunteer 2-week "work camps" for projects ranging from environmental cleanups and trail marking to preparation for local cultural festivals.
Iceland's Environment and Food Agency (tel. 591-2000; http://english.ust.is/of-interest/conservationvolunteers) recruits around 130 volunteers each summer for conservation projects lasting 2 to 11 weeks, and ranging from trail work to wilderness management.
The Earthwatch Institute (tel. in North America 800/776-0188; in the U.K. 01865/318-831; www.earthwatch.org) leads a week-long volunteer trip in August to study glaciers.
Volunteer Abroad (tel. 720/570-1702; www.volunteerabroad.com) maintains an excellent database of volunteer vacation opportunities, with several options in Iceland.
Tours for Women
Canyon Calling (tel. 928/282-0916; www.canyoncalling.com), based in Sedona, AZ, leads a cost-conscious 8-day multi-activity trip for women in early July. Activities include dog sledding, rafting, whale-watching, and horseback riding.