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The Great Tours: Iceland

Embark on the adventure of a lifetime with a journey to an unforgettable land of fire and ice—and so much more.
The Great Tours: Iceland is rated 3.7 out of 5 by 47.
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Rated 1 out of 5 by from It hasn't turned up I ordered this DVD and 2 others over a month ago and I haven't received it yet. I'm getting worried
Date published: 2024-06-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good presenter, beautiful videography This course had me wanting to book a flight to Iceland, but I also discovered via this course how over touristed the island is. I still want to go though. I did not know a lot about Iceland in general, but I absolutely had almost no knowledge of its history. For some reason I have always thought of Iceland as a Scandinavian utopia. Yeah, not sure where that came from. While it is more so at this point, after learning about its history, I have moved it out of this category. I was fascinated by natural history of the island: geology, biology, etc. as presented in the course. I knew that at one point Iceland had forests, but they had been decimated by the settlers. There is a cautionary tale in there somewhere. I noticed one reviewer was upset by her use of so many Icelandic terms. My wife was not upset, but she did begin to find them somewhat comical. However, it was brought out that Icelanders are very proud of their language and work to keep it alive. Kudos for the professor for learning and using the language in her lectures. I would think this would be a great course to watch if you are planning a trip to Iceland. It is still a good course if you just want to know more about the country.
Date published: 2024-06-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Not a Great Tours as such I've watched several of the Great Tours lecture series. This one is a little harder to rate. Approximately 18 of the lectures really weren't about actual tours, but went deep into the geology, the animal and plant species, and geography. This isn't bad, but don't expect actual touring suggestions until almost the end of the course. In my opinion this course would have been fine at half the length. It would have still imparted all the information necessary to get you up to speed on this beautiful country.
Date published: 2024-05-18
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Iceland tour Without a book I will not order this course, pity!
Date published: 2024-01-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from We really enjoyed this series of lectures! We knew nothing about Iceland except that it had volcanoes and glaciers. She did an excellent job of introducing us to mammals, birds, sea life around the country etc. She never once stumbled over an Icelandic pronunciation (although I wouldn't kmow if it was pronounced incorrectly or not). An intelligent woman with lots of enthusiasm for her subject. Icelandic folklore, music, culture, literature, food were some of the topics covered. This was a delightful course - one we couldn't wait to make the time to watch the next one. We learned a LOT which makes life worth living!
Date published: 2024-01-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superlative Overview This is a superlative course, which provides an overview of virtually every aspect of Iceland: history, literature, art, and music, as well as its geology, and plant and animal life. Dr. Verdolin is a trained zoologist, and she describes plant and animal life with expertise and enthusiasm, particularly thanks to her passion for birds. Her scientific training helps her also in analyzing the challenges posed by active volcanoes, melting glaciers, and global warming. Moreover, her love of Iceland is apparent from the enthusiasm that suffuses these lectures. She has learned enough Icelandic to pronounce its words correctly, which is a sign of respect for these hardy, resilient, honest, friendly people. Finally, Verdolin effectively combines maps and video with her lectures, which makes them constantly interesting, if not absorbing. Verdolin shows many specific points of interest from all over the country. Although I recently visited Iceland and saw some of these sights—including Reykjavik, the huge Hellisheidi geothermal/electricity power plant, and a greenhouse/vertical vegetable farm—there are many more places to see! Five stars!
Date published: 2024-01-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A fine effort After four decades in higher education, I have some idea of the extraordinary effort required to put together a 24-lesson program like this. So I am very grateful to Professor Verdolin for this course, in which she shares with us her great enthusiasm for Iceland and its people. One suggestion for improvement has to do with visual support, ie the use of maps and pictures. Much of the camera's focus is on the Professor as she talks, and that's fine: She speaks and gestures in a clear and vigorous manner. But it would have been more helpful (to me) to have more and better maps as she guided us around the country. Too often, in the later lessons especially, it was impossible for me to place what she was talking about in any sort of geographical context. Close-up maps did little to clarify what part of the country we were covering. Similar with pictures: Many of the photos and clips were great, but so overused. That one flinching puffin clip must make 8 or 10 separate appearances, as do the repetitive murals on buildings. The pictures/clips themselves are terrific, but just way overexposed. Bring in more variety? Overall, a fine course, and many thanks to Professor Verdolin and the Wondrium team. I'm off to Iceland in a few months, and I will be much better prepared due to your efforts.
Date published: 2023-11-27
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Reading a Teleprompter This is the 2nd course in a row that I have ordered from The Great Courses where the professor doesn't teach, but rather stands there and reads a teleprompter. I don't recall any course that I ever took in college where the instructor stood there and read his lecture. Very disappointing. I will give it a great deal of thought before I ever order any more courses from The Great Courses. They used to be good. How do these courses get approved? For me it's a mystery.
Date published: 2023-11-24
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Iceland’s natural and cultural history is unlike any other. The Great Tours: Iceland allows armchair travelers and trip planners alike to better appreciate its many wonders. Designed by behavioral ecologist Professor Jennifer Verdolin, these 24 visually stunning lectures take you from Iceland’s bustling cities to its remote towns, from the tops of its glaciers to the depths of its geothermal pools.


Jennifer Verdolin

Just as some of Iceland’s glaciers extend well below sea level, there is more to Iceland than first meets the eye.


University of Arizona

Jennifer Verdolin is an Associate Professor at the University of Arizona and an animal behavior scientist, author, speaker, and conservationist. She earned a PhD in Ecology and Evolution from Stony Brook University. Her writing and research on animal and human behavior have appeared in The Washington Post, Scientific American, and National Geographic. She is also the author of the popular nonfiction books Wild Connection and Raised by Animals, and she has contributed to multiple podcasts, radio shows, and wildlife documentaries.

By This Professor

The Great Tours: Iceland
The Great Tours: Iceland


Exploring Iceland

01: Exploring Iceland

Begin your adventure into a fascinating world of fire and ice with an introduction to what makes Iceland such an unparalleled place to visit and explore. Discover how Iceland’s people have existed throughout its history and learn how they were inspired to explore the land in many ways, including through beautiful poetry and epic sagas.

26 min
Volcanic Iceland Rises from the Sea

02: Volcanic Iceland Rises from the Sea

Iceland was born from volcanoes erupting in the ocean roughly 25 million years ago—and its story continues to be shaped by them. Explore how the various types of volcanoes, active volcanic zones, history of eruptions, and the continued expansion of the mid-Atlantic ridge make Iceland a geologically active region like few others on our planet.

26 min
Frozen in Time: Iceland’s Glaciers

03: Frozen in Time: Iceland’s Glaciers

Beyond capturing the hearts and minds of photographers, geologists, and mountaineers, Iceland’s glaciers are deeply rooted in the country’s culture and history. First, look backward in time to learn how Iceland came to have so much, well, ice. Then, plunge into a world of ice tunnels, ice caves, and other extreme features.

25 min
Iceland, a Land of Water

04: Iceland, a Land of Water

The waters hugging Iceland’s coasts play an important role in the country’s culture and economy. Investigate some of the many lakes, rivers, lagoons, waterfalls, hot springs, and geysers to be found. Among them are the Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon; Gullfoss, the most visited waterfall in the country; and the thriving business of the Blue Lagoon.

24 min
How Iceland Was Settled

05: How Iceland Was Settled

Travel back in time to the cultural birth of Iceland, which began with the arrival of the first humans. Where did these people come from? What ancient documents help scholars understand early Icelandic settlements, and how do modern tools corroborate these sources? And another thing: What happened to all the Icelandic sheepdogs?

23 min
How Settlers Modified Iceland

06: How Settlers Modified Iceland

Iceland represents a great example of how, when humans arrive at a new place where none presumably lived before, their footprint is large—and often destructive. Follow along as early Nordic settlers grow grains and cereals, then turn to sheep farming. Also, explore the impact of early settlers on the extinction of the Icelandic walrus.

23 min
Iceland’s Independence

07: Iceland’s Independence

Survey pivotal moments in Iceland’s journey to becoming an independent country. See how the transformation from paganism to Christianity set the stage for the end of the Iceland Republic for centuries to come, the rise of Reykjavík as an urban center in the 18th and 19th centuries, and Iceland’s official return to sovereignty in 1944.

20 min
The Plants of Iceland

08: The Plants of Iceland

Don’t be deceived by all that fire and ice. There’s a diversity of plant life to be found in Iceland: trees and woody shrubs, moss and lichen, flowering plants and fungi. In addition to exploring the island’s flora, consider the ever-changing relationship between humans and the environment, as seen in the Icelandic Sagas.

21 min
Iceland’s Freshwater, Sea, and Land Birds

09: Iceland’s Freshwater, Sea, and Land Birds

Iceland’s volcanoes, craters, lakes, marshes, and coastal areas provide habitats for a breathtaking number of birds. Spend some time getting to know birds like razorbills, which live primarily out on the open ocean; the gyrfalcon, which can be found on the highest honor Iceland bestows to individuals; and the beloved and iconic Atlantic puffin.

26 min
Iceland’s Fish, Sharks, and Crustaceans

10: Iceland’s Fish, Sharks, and Crustaceans

Fishing as a livelihood shaped Iceland’s population for centuries. Dive below the surface for a fascinating look at Atlantic cod and the “Cod Wars” they sparked; at Greenland sharks, which reach maturity at around 150 years of age; at Atlantic salmon; at the three-spined stickleback; at crustaceans like the Norway lobster; and much more.

26 min
Iceland’s Marine and Land Mammals

11: Iceland’s Marine and Land Mammals

Enjoy meeting Iceland’s various mammals on land and sea. Rub snouts with Arctic foxes, remnants of the last Ice Age and the island’s top predators. Get a glimpse of harbor seals on the golden beaches of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Travel to Husavik, and other excellent spots, to sight humpback whales, orcas, and white-beaked dolphins.

21 min
Iceland’s Non-Native Plants and Animals

12: Iceland’s Non-Native Plants and Animals

Just like other places, Iceland is susceptible to the presence of non-native—and often invasive—species of plants and animals that now call the country home. Consider animals like the American mink, first brought to Iceland for fur farming, and plans such as Nootka lupine, a perennial herb that grows in seemingly inhospitable lava fields.

24 min
Culinary Adventures in Iceland

13: Culinary Adventures in Iceland

The Icelandic people’s relationship to food is tightly linked to their relationship with the land and sea. Iceland’s unique food culture includes the sour, cheese-like milk known as “skyr”; the ubiquity of rye bread in Icelandic cuisine; and, of course, the infamous fermented shark that’s considered a national dish.

27 min
Noir and Beyond: Iceland’s Literature

14: Noir and Beyond: Iceland’s Literature

Whatever your flavor of literature (folkloric sagas, crime novels, poetry, literary fiction), Iceland has something for every type of reader. Discover how a combination of historical pride and rich storytelling skills make Icelandic literature, both past and present, so revered around the world.

19 min
The Art and Music of Iceland

15: The Art and Music of Iceland

Start understanding Iceland’s contemporary art and music by looking into its history of stone and wood carvings and oral poetry. Then, explore the prevalence of animals and landscapes in paintings, the country’s vibrant street art and mural scene, the ways Icelandic folk music blends poetry and melody, and more.

24 min
Iceland’s National Parks and Reserves

16: Iceland’s National Parks and Reserves

Sculpted by fire and ice, Iceland’s parks and reserved are breathtaking to behold. Sites you’ll explore in this survey include Iceland’s three national parks and its nature reserves—both of which offer explorers unparalleled looks at lava fields, sea cliffs, black sand beaches, and other geological marvels.

21 min
Restoring and Reforesting Iceland

17: Restoring and Reforesting Iceland

Before it was settled, around 65% of Iceland had vegetation. Now, only 0.5% of the country is forested. So, what happened to the forests? Get a closer look at the dangers of steep-slope erosion, as well as some of the natural difficulties currently challenging Iceland’s century-long effort to reforest the country.

23 min
Long-Term Sustainability in Iceland

18: Long-Term Sustainability in Iceland

Given its deep connection to nature, Iceland has often been at the forefront of conservation and sustainability—despite its early destructive history. Consider vital efforts of soil conservation and carbon neutrality, the powerful use of storytelling as a conservation tool, and ongoing debates over Iceland’s whaling culture.

22 min
The Capital and Beyond in Southwest Iceland

19: The Capital and Beyond in Southwest Iceland

Stroll through the streets of Reykjavík, which started out as a small fishing village and later transformed into the hub of Iceland and home to most of its citizens. You’ll visit a museum with a biological collection like no other, an overlooked nature preserve in the southern peninsula, and the most photographed church in the world.

26 min
Iceland’s Majestic Fjords

20: Iceland’s Majestic Fjords

Mighty glaciers have carved the landscape of western and eastern Iceland into beautiful, scarred fjords. First, visit Westfjords, where you’ll find the oldest site in Iceland and one of the largest bird cliffs in Europe. Then, continue to Eastfjords: home to an artsy community in the heart of reindeer country and 286 square miles of forest.

24 min
Spectacular Sights of Northern Iceland

21: Spectacular Sights of Northern Iceland

Venture on to Iceland’s north-central region for a look at some of the many can’t-miss sights. Among these are three spots for great seal viewing, a canyon that’s one of the 10 most dangerous spots in the country, the spectacular Goðafoss waterfall, and a magical yuletide wonderland that’s perfect for Christmastime visits.

23 min
Eastern and Southern Iceland’s Striking Sites

22: Eastern and Southern Iceland’s Striking Sites

Continue your whirlwind tour of Iceland with stops along the eastern and southeastern parts of the island. This stage of your journey includes a fascinating art installation of egg sculptures, the largest ice cap in Europe, a dangerous beach with unpredictable waves, and the only waterfall where you’re virtually guaranteed to see a rainbow.

22 min
Overlooked Treasures of Iceland

23: Overlooked Treasures of Iceland

Whether you’re on a mountain bike or hiking by foot, there are many spots in Iceland that offer visitors more remote, rugged experiences. Visit the Highlands, the focal point for wilderness tourism in Iceland; a nature reserve that serves as a reminder of the difficulty of Arctic living; the endpoint of the country’s Northern Rift Zone; and more.

22 min
The Future of Iceland

24: The Future of Iceland

Iceland currently has a reputation as one of the coolest places on the planet to visit—and the growth in tourism has created some opportunities and challenges that you’ll consider here. While we can’t know what the future holds, if we look at Iceland’s past, we can say that Iceland has always been resilient, adaptable, innovative, and remarkable.

27 min