A volunteering holiday is a worthwhile (and relatively inexpensive) way to get intimately involved with Iceland’s people and landscapes. As well as the options below, a stint at the Arctic Fox Center in the wilds of the Westfjords is also possible.
To prevent any exploitation of volunteers, the union-led website www.volunteering.is outlines the rights of workers.
Iceland Conservation Volunteers (www.ust.is/the-environment-agency-of-iceland/volunteers) Iceland’s Environment Agency, known as Umhverfisstofnun (UST), recruits around 150 volunteers each summer for work on practical conservation projects around the country, which mainly create or maintain trails in Vatnajökull National Park. Places on its short-term programs (under four weeks) are usually arranged through its partner volunteer organisations, such as Working Abroad (www.workingabroad.com) or Iceland-based SEEDS. Longer-term placements are also possible on Trail Teams that work together for nine weeks over summer; see the UST website for details.
SEEDS (www.seeds.is) Iceland-based SEEDS organises work camps and volunteering holidays (generally two to three weeks in length), primarily focusing on nature and the environment (building trails, ecological research), but also construction or renovation of community buildings, or assistance at festivals and events.
Volunteer Abroad (www.volunteerabroad.com) Offers an overview of possible projects in Iceland. Note that many of the projects listed are under the remit of Umhverfisstofnun, but arranged through various international volunteering organisations.
Workaway (www.workaway.info) This site is set up to promote exchange between travellers/volunteers and families or organisations looking for help with a range of activities (from au pair work to farm assistance). It has dozens of Icelandic hosts looking for unpaid help in return for accommodation.
Worldwide Friends (www.wf.is) Iceland-based Worldwide Friends runs short-term work camps that largely support nature and the environment. There are also options for involvement in community projects, and art and cultural events.
WWOOF (www.wwoofindependents.org) World Wide Opportunities On Organic Farms (also known as Willing Workers On Organic Farms) has a handful of farm properties in Iceland that accept wwoofers, although there is no national WWOOF organisation. In return for volunteer help, WWOOF hosts offer food, accommodation and opportunities to learn about organic lifestyles.