Iceland Wilderness Management Team
98% Rating
(24 Reviews)

Iceland Wilderness Management Team

The main activities of our team are maintaining hiking trails in the Thórsmörk area, trail mapping, survey work, and GPS data collection. We are also involved in a special erosion repair project in badly damaged areas close to the fresh lava from the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption.

On our 6-week placements, the project combines practical conservation work in one of the most beautiful parts of Iceland with an opportunity to complete the famous 4-day Laugavegur hiking trail from Landmannalaugar to Thórsmörk. These placements are an opportunity to get to know this amazing area and play an important role in helping to protect it.

Come visit this pristinely beautiful part of the world while learning about geology and erosion!

Locations
Europe » Iceland
Length
1-2 Weeks
1-3 Months
Language
English
Starting Price
$0.00
Currency
USD

Questions & Answers

The minimum age is 20 years old! You can find more information here: https://trailteam.is/opportunities/
Just a summer program I believe, from May till September. See http://trailteam.is/ for more info.

Program Reviews

  • Impact
    95%
  • Support
    98%
  • Fun
    98%
  • Value
    96%
  • Safety
    91%

Program Reviews (24)

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Julia
Female
36 years old
Devon, UK

Amazing break from reality, beautiful scenery, rewarding work, great people, excellent project

10/10

This is an amazing project and probably one of the best things I have ever done.
For a start, as a keen hiker, it is really nice to be able to pay something back and the project really does help to make the trails much easier for users as well as minimising the impacts on the surrounding landscape. The work is hard, and very physical, so I wouldn’t recommend it to those of a softer constitution. There is also a lot of walking, up-hill, as well as carrying heavy objects for long distances; but this only adds to the satisfaction.

At the grand old age of 35 I was one of the oldest participants during my placement, but older volunteers would still be most welcome. I was also one of the slowest participants during my stay but the team were always patient and didn’t make me feel like my contribution to the project was worth less.

You have to be happy camping, constantly moving your tent, only sleeping in your tent during your stay and comfortable using campsite showers and facilities. But in my opinion this is also one of the most rewarding aspects of the placement. The scenery is second to none, it’s simply beautiful; refreshing, breath-taking and exceedingly tranquil. Due to harsh winter conditions wildlife is few and far between, but botanically there some wonderful areas of alpine grasslands and volcanic heathland habitat.

The project is well organised with team leaders and different groups working on different projects, in different locations. All tools and safety training is provided, as well as guidance on how the work should be carried out. There is a great opportunity to learn new practical skills such as carpentry, earthworks and soft landscaping. The work is really rewarding and a real sense of achievement, team work and group satisfaction is achieved.

Outside of work time all food is provided and you certainly never go hungry! Three meals a day, with turns taken to cook and prepare the food. All main chores are shared amongst participants on a rota basis and really aren’t too onerous (much less than I would do at home), as well as being a good chance to get to know your team mates better too.

Camp spirit was always good. I really did make friends for life on this trip and one of things I valued most about the experience was living as a group of people and sharing life as a short lived ‘family’ with such like-minded people. Chas really does do a good job with participant selection, it was so inspiring to spend time with people that are constantly positive and have a very optimistic outlook on life. Weekends were always great fun, with great food and drink, bonfires by the river and great company. Weekend hikes are easy to organise if you have the energy and chilling out in camp can be a real luxury too.

Chas should be very very proud of everything this project achieves. The outcomes are clearly tangible and I think there must be few voluntary projects that are run so successfully. The work achieved is appreciated by all who use the trails, as well as the rangers in the area; but it also offers a unique opportunity for those seeking such an experience. It is a very popular placement for those still studying or just finished, but from a person who is well past this point I can honestly say it is an amazing chance to escape the day job, learn something new and experience a different way of living for a while. I would thoroughly recommend this project, and whilst 2 weeks may be more financially and responsibility achievable for some people I do feel you would slightly miss out on the real experience of the project gained from a longer stay.

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Melissa
Female
21 years old
Irvine

Thorsmork Trail Team 6 Week Volunteer

10/10

This program is like no other. Volunteers get to spend their days working in one of the most beautiful places in Iceland, with amazing friends from all over the globe. To top that off, volunteers get to end each day with really good food and some unwinding in a river valley nestled between two stunning glaciers as the ice changes colors from the sunset. A truly amazing experience!

The work we do is very rewarding as it's amazing to see the impact you can have, and receive thanks and encouragement from hikers as they pass by. It's also a wonderful experience to be able to look up from the work and be astounded by the stunning landscape around you! Just a warning, the work is rather strenuous as we often carry our own tools and timber up steep mountain trails and do tasks like staircase and drain building, rock work, trail repairs, and invasive species removal. But I can guarantee that every volunteer was in great shape by the end of the six weeks there!

The six week placement is very special because volunteers get to work from three different locations throughout their time in Iceland; Langidalur, Basar, and Hvanngil. Each location is uniquely different and special in it's own way. Volunteers are also rewarded with a holiday week as a thanks for the work put in. If you decide to apply for a six week placement, you'll be given the opportunity to hike the world famous Laugavegur trail as a thanks for five weeks of hard work.

If you love travel, adventure, beautiful landscapes, and great people that this program is 100% for you! I am so thankful that I had to opportunity to participate in such a wonderful program!

Kieren
Male
28 years old
Gloucester, Gloucestershire

An unforgettably transformative experience!

10/10

Whatever you are looking for from a volunteer programme, this has it.

Whether you want a cathartic release from your conventional lifestyle; to meet new people from all over the world; to visit a new landscape; to challenge yourself personally or develop skills and knowledge for your career development you will find it here.

As a team leader I arrived one week prior to all the other volunteers to join a small group of others who had also signed up as leaders. We spent this week getting to know each other and gaining invaluable knowledge through the training provided; which involved learning about group management and the practical aspect of the work we would be doing. Knowledge useful for career development.....check!

We would camp in small secluded areas of the campsite surrounded by trees, wildflowers, glaciers and mountains and spend our free weekend evenings around the campfire. During our spare time we could go hiking with other volunteers in to the mountains or stay on camp and get to know the wardens. Escape from conventional lifestyle and meet new people....check!

The work was challenging but incredible fun, hiking through the mountains carrying tools and materials come rain and shine provides a good test of character. But the sense of achievement you get as an individual and as part of a team is worth any hardship. Everybody that uses the trails is so grateful and it makes you feel that you are really making a difference. Personal challenge and achievement....check!

The hike week is incredible; starting from the hot pools in Landmannalaugar you will hike 55km along the Laugavegur trail through incredible volcanic scenery back to your base camp in Thorsmork. Visit an amazing landscape....check!

The programme is organised well, Chas bends over backwards to keep the project going and to ensure everybody is well looked after. The food is incredible and there's plenty of it!

So if you're looking for a programme that you will never forget; that will challenge and reward you then this is the one for you!

Scott
Male
37 years old
Oldham, United Kingdom

Life changing and breathtaking!

10/10

Hi,
After many years of dreaming of a trip in Iceland I finally got the opportunity through the Trailteam Iceland project. As a team leader the training and support was second to none. We were made to feel secured and empowered to facilitate a positive experience for all of the members of the team. Chas and Tony were a constant support to us.

When you are at Thorsmork, you are immediately immersed in challenging tasks and environmental settings that will take your breath away and change your life. the work can be so physically demanding and logistically challenging, but at the end of the day you feel so alive and proud of what you and your team achieved. I had so many moments of clarity where I had to stop and reflect on the fact that we were doing incredible work in one of the most incredible places on Earth.

I have led and managed people in a number of settings and yet for me, this experience was something beyond. It is hard and tiring, but it brings you so close to your peers. Within the team is fostered a duty to both Thorsmork and the people of Iceland as well as to each other. I could wax lyrical about troll churches, mountain ridges and volcanic craters, but it would never do justice to being part of the trailteam in that otherworldly place. You are unlikely to do anything more challenging and more amazing in your life. Go with a positive head and I promise it will change you. Do it, do it, do ti! But save me a place because I am desperate to go back!

How can this program be improved?

No suggestions.

Maria
Female
24 years old
Tampere, Finland

Building and hiking in the mountains

10/10

When I applied for the programme I expected to encounter amazing scenery, learn wilderness skills, find out new things amout my strengths and weaknesses, meet like-minded people and just have a good time in a beautiful place. The programme gave me all this and a lot more.
I applied for the position of a team leader, so before the other volunteers arrived, I had a week-long training with the other team leaders improving both soft skills of volunteer management and learning the practical skills of trail work in the Icelandic mountains. When the volunteers arrived we were divided into teams with 1-2 leaders. During the week each team was given their own project, but we gathered all together for Friday night dinner. Arriving at the main camp for Friday night was like coming back home to all the people dear to you. Having a set project for the week enabled you to look back on Friday and see what you have achieved as a team during the week.
It was amazing to see how motivated everyone was, no matter the weather or a colder night. The teams were unstoppable and even when it was time to go, there was always someone who still wanted to give a stob just another whack with a sledgehammer.
It was heart-warming to hear all the positive feedback for our work from the mountain guides, who took tourist groups along the trails we were fixing. After all, they had a perspective of how it used to be versus how it now was.
Generally, the programme is very well organised. The other volunteers were very interesting and varied from chess player to landscape architect to stone wall builder to park ranger to programmer etc. etc. etc. with the oldest during my time being 65 years old. The food was plenty and good, and I've never eaten so many biscuits in my life.

How can this program be improved?

Frankly, I think Chas, the main organiser, has done an amazing job and I truly applaud.
An "improvement" could be to have an Icelander or two join the programme, just to get even more variety of volunteers.

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Catriona
Female
26 years old
Westhill

It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This!

10/10

Being a Thorsmork Trail Volunteer has been a life changing experience. I first took part in the project last summer and returned this year as I couldn't keep away!

The work is very varied and is typically Monday to Friday so you have the weekends off to explore the fantastic scenery. No previous experience is necessary as training on how to use tools etc. is all included.

The living is simple: camping, cooking together, minimum solar electricity, wifi a 20 minute walk away from camp...but that is really the beauty of the place.

If you enjoy working outdoors (rain or shine!), camping and being close to nature, meeting likeminded people and learning new skills then you can not find a better project to get involved with.

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Valerie
Female
49 years old
Switzerland

Unparalled experience

10/10

We were blown away with every aspect of our experience with Thorsmork Trail Volunteers. We repaired and built trails, built a garden plot, planted native species of trees, removed invasive species (lupine) from a hill-top, cut back willow in campsites to create protection from the wind and privacy for tents, built erosion control fences, built berms to move water into a ditch, and learned to use the waste of one process to make something else. The group is led by a man with deep knowledge of the area and its delicate needs, a man who truly cares about the people he works with. He speaks with passion and clarity about his work. Be prepared to be cold and wet at times, but also be prepared for the experience of a lifetime.

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James
Male
32 years old
All over the place

Unbeatable Experience

10/10

Volunteering on the hiking trails in and around Thorsmork was a phenomenal opportunity and experience. The scenery was breathtaking, the work was rewarding, the food was delicious, hearty and plentiful and the people were some of the best I've met.

We camped for six weeks throughout the program, an enlightening experience in itself, and worked a typical week from Monday to Friday on the trails. Typical work included anything from building steps and drains to pruning, clearing and better marking the trails. We also had a week off during which we hiked the Laugavegur trail.

Food, camping fees, bus travel and everything in between was covered as part of the program. The food in particular was magnificent and we never went hungry. I cannot recommend this program strongly enough, and I shall be returning in a couple of years.

How can this program be improved?

A little less rain!

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Lou
Female
33 years old
Leeds, UK
University of Huddersfield

Great country, great people, great fun

10/10

What a fantastic opportunity to get outdoors, do some manual labour, learn new skills, and get to know an amazing group of people, plus you get that warm fuzzy-feeling of doing good in the world by maintaining trails for the benefit of nature and users. This trip will definitely stay with me as a highlight of my life. The photos don't do it justice but it is spectacular scenery accompanied by crisp fresh mountain air.The set up and group size work really well so that you get to know everyone really quickly.The main camp is quite civilised with showers, toilets, clothes washing area and even hot water! The tool talks are very good, in-detail, but concise. There are lots of walks that you can do independently on a weekend from base that vary in distance and time from 30 minutes to most of the day.

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Chloe
Female
29 years old
Australia
Australian National University

Awesome, amazing experience

10/10

This program is one of the best volunteer programs I have been involved with. There are no program fees, you have a certain level of autonomy and you experience the amazing Icelandic scenery. I could go on but suffice to say that it was incredible and I would recommend it to anyone, as long as you are prepared to camp. Well done to all the team and thank you for creating such a great environment.

How can this program be improved?

Taiwanese coffee bags for trail work! :)

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Antonio
Male
29 years old
Funchal, Portugal
Other

A great opportunity to experience life in the nature!

9/10

This programme gives you an unique chanche to visit an extraordinary land, secretive and astounding as Iceland is.Chas coordinates the volunteers in an excellent way, and you always feel welcome and taken into consideration. If you like spending time in the nature, adventure, international environment, hands-on conservation issues, Thorsmork is the place to be during the next summer. Do not hesitate, you will make loads of friends, discovering astonishing landscapes all around the work area, learn languages (also English people can make it :D) and enjoy life in a tent! Except of the persons, what I did like most has been the possibility to see the immediate and concrete results of our work as a team and the endless days, with the sky getting pinkish in some "evenings" and arctic foxes roaming around! You will be completely amazed by this country, its culture and your job location :D ! Highly recommended for everyone!

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Alicia
Female
42 years old
Murcia, Spain.
Open University

Iceland holds you, just let it be!

10/10

As a team leader for 7 weeks during summer 2014 I can only say that this experience is beyond words. Living and working surrounded by an astonishing scenery, meeting great people and learning more than ever are priceless. Camping life starts with breakfast and a little gathering to know and choose in what activity you would like to participate for the day. Then you crack on with it till dinner time with the corresponding breaks at midday and lunch. Once back to the camping site you'd have time for shower, resting, cooking,....till dinner is ready. After, chatting, reading, playing guitar, etc, is all welcome, but remember to respect neighbors! ;) Weekends are all for you ideally for hiking and knowing the glaciers, 2012 Eyjafjallajokull new lava and beyond. Weather wouldn't be an issue if you get the idea that you'd be living close to the Artic Circle and get well prepare for it. Wollen clothes and extra socks would be your besties. Although very demanding some times, this project is for those who love to be in the wild, feel it, respect it and be part of it. Iceland as a whole is unique and is waiting for you.

How can this program be improved?

As a young program, it is still evolving and settling down at the same time. It might change from year to year till it finds out what really is so I wouldn't do any changes just yet. No program is flawless but this one wouldn't be perfect as it is without its willingness of growing and constant changes. Bear in mind that the mayor part of it are the people involved and they change every single year so every summer is different but perfect and unique as it is.

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Fivos
Male
32 years old
Athens, Greece
University of Southampton

An experience!

9/10

Volunteering on the trails of Thorsmork is an experience that gave me great joy, and filled me with incredible images, experiences and good friends. It offers the opportunity to do something useful for this remote land, and to highly enjoy it at the same time. The respect towards the volunteers is really great from the organising team, and especially from Chas, zho is the soul of the whole programme and a great guy and friend.I will definitely return, this time though with adequate equipment for the cold nights...

How can this program be improved?

I think that one thing to improve would be 2 or three free hours in the afternoon, to read a book or have a walk.

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Sarah
Female
24 years old
United Kingdom
University of Nottingham

Fun outdoors work, stunning scenery, lovely people

10/10

I joined the programme for two weeks during the summer of 2014 and found it a fantastic experience. The tasks involved doing hands-on practical work to help maintain the hiking trails in the surrounding area, such as building steps and doing stone pitching - interesting to learn how to do and a great test for the muscles! There were quite a few volunteers present on the programme at a time, but we split into smaller groups which made it really easy to get to know people and everyone was really lovely and positive. The base camp is situated in a beautiful valley with plenty of pretty walks that can be done on the weekends, such as a trek up to the lava field made by the 2010 eruption. A good tent and warm sleeping bag is needed (I went at the end of August when there were a few frosty mornings), but the camp has both a marquee and hut which can be used by volunteers for socializing in the warmth, and also warm showers and a proper toilet block. The local people are very welcoming and show clear gratitude for the work being done. There was food aplenty, with volunteers taking it in turns to cook the main meals and lots of biscuits provided for the day. All in all, a very fulfilling experience and very well organised!

How can this program be improved?

If only the northern lights had appeared... :)

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Julio
Male
32 years old
France
Other

Wilderness and beauty

10/10

The program has evolved with time and I have been a happy volunteer already twice in a period of 4 years.
The beauty of the landscape and support of the staff is not the main benefits, it is the fulfillment to wake up facing a mighty glacier and shake off the cold with a warm drink surrounded by happy and helpful volunteers. You will be given all you need in terms of tools, equipment, great food and safety.
Be prepare for unsteady climatic conditions, it is Iceland after all. It is a tough program especially when it is freezing cold and rainy, the volunteers make the experience fantastic and you will definitely want to come back. Work will vary from carpentry and cleaning to a bit of engineering and a lot of heavy weight lifting, if you want to sweat and build up some muscle, this is it!

How can this program be improved?

Bigger communal space for the bad weather evenings.

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Olga
Female
32 years old
Germany
Other

Great work, great experiences and great people!

10/10

As a returning volunteer I can wholeheartedly recommend the programme to anyone that loves the great outdoors, meeting great like-minded people from all over and does not mind 2 to 6 weeks of dirty finger nails! Thórsmörk is a beautiful, rugged place with lots of hiking opportunities and places to explore.

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Felix
Male
32 years old
St Helena island, South Atlantic
University of Essex

Unforgettable Adventurous and Raw Conservation Experience!

10/10

I had an absolutely amazing time as a trail volunteer in the summer of 2014, i felt very much part of the conservation programs and while i the work was at times quite challenging, i felt a great sense of contribution to the project, feeling very satisfied as each day ended with yet more progress achieved! My volunteering was also very much appreciated and i felt very valued by means of the generous treatment from Chas and the forestry team in terms of keeping and food. The social scene was amazing, weekends were kept for exploring and recuperating before another conservation fueled week at work. There is so much to around the Thorsmork area that you volunteer. Also long distance work is a must, as the trip there and back involves crossing Icey streams and you have to take your walking boots off too! Anyone reading this and considering volunteering must take the leap, you will not regret it! Just make sure you pack that extra jumper!!!

How can this program be improved?

Health and safety needs to be reviewed consistently, especially with regard to working near steep drops, the carrying of tools and heavy objects such as rocks.

Conservation strategies need to consider more efficiently the impact of affecting an area to mend another area such as with erosion control within the trail zone.



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Catherine
Female
24 years old
Liverpool, UK
University of Birmingham

Once in a lifetime experience

10/10

I had an amazing time on this trip! You have breakfast together in the morning, split up into groups and go off for the day to do trail work. The work is varied and includes widening & graveling paths, erosion work, building drains, building and installing steps and bridges, carrying out GPS work and lopping overgrown branches of trees. The work is physically demanding and involves hiking to get to the sites but it is so rewarding as you can see the difference you're making and the view whilst you work is spectacular. Everyone is so friendly and it's like living in a community as everyone takes it in turns to cook meals, clean up and wash dishes. On the weekends you are free to do what you like and I went off to explore the many hiking trails. I made so many friends and enjoyed it so much that I want to go back again next year!

How can this program be improved?

I can't think of anything I would change about the program!

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Ines
Female
32 years old
Madrid, Spain
Other

Go wild, go simple and enjoy stunning nature

9/10

Volunteers´ camp is basic but comfortable enough, improving every year. Life is in tents, which provides privacy and freedom. The place is stunning, surrounded by glaciers and one of the greenest areas in Iceland, to my knowledge. Work is rewarding, as it´s turning out long-lasting and useful for the paths, that have high circulation in summer, with hikers doing the famous hike Laugavegur. Work doesn´t require skills or previous knowledge, as it´s explained and supervised by the coordinator and there´re also team leaders on the site. You just need to love being in nature and getting away from the city, traffic jams and crowds for some time. Don´t expect a lot of electricity on the site, just enough to charge devices from time to time. You´ll eventually love this. It´s really worth living this experience, besides it´s free. You´ll be fed and won´t have to pay the campsite fee. Be ready to work in teams and give a hand in different tasks around the campsite. It´s phisically demanding, so exercise before you go, there´s lots of hiking.Useful items in my opinion are ears plugs and eye mask to sleep well, and a sturdy tent and winter sleeping bag. I enjoyed it a lot, and I went back!

How can this program be improved?

I don´t have any complaints. If I were to decide I would introduce some teambuilding activities, provide the place with games that could make stronger bonds.

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Tim
Male
42 years old
Leeds,UK
Staffordshire University

Fantastic experience - you'll want to come back again

10/10

Stunning place,people,community run by people who really do give a damn. Wish I could return this year, maybe next. Make a difference and make friends.Sometimes challenging - always worthwhile. Years of experience and local contacts make this the best volunteer programme in Iceland.

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Mary
Female
42 years old
Brighton
Lancaster University

Adventure of a lifetime!

10/10

I spent an amazing summer in Thorsmork this year. The work involved a whole range of tasks in and around the forest - resurfacing and maintaining paths, building stone and wooden steps, waymarking and even building a full on stair case up the side of a mountain! I met so many great people and the basecamp and surroundings are just breath taking. It really is an excellent programme and I really can't recommend it enough. Best volunteering experience I've had and it's got the best approach... well organised, great people, rewarding work and stunning scenery! You can even sit and watch the glaciers whilst you have breakfast :) can't wait to go back.....

How can this program be improved?

I really can't think of anything I'd change

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Aardvark
Female
32 years old
uk
University of Plymouth

amazing experience, best part of the summer

10/10

Life changing experience. Hard rewarding work. Fuelled by good food and great company. Fantastic scenery, whatever the weather if the view is visible it's a good one. An amazing base camp which is always getting better.

The work is varied but around the same theme. Building paths and steps, filling in holes (erosion), digging holes (drains), other things.

How can this program be improved?

Less rain. More tools. Reduced urge to eat biscuits

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Jonathan
Male
32 years old
Namur, Belgium

Become a volunteer to preserve the fragile icelandic nature

9/10

I've been part of this program during summer 2014. All I can say is that it was a great experience. I feel privileged to have spend time in this beautiful island. Living an experience like this will give you the opportunity to work in a beautiful wilderness and to meet many different people from all over the world. The program is well rounded and even if the work can be physically demanding, it gives you time to relax and to discover the beautiful area.

How can this program be improved?

the weather in Iceland can be quite demanding... ;-)

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Karl
Male
32 years old
Topeka, Kansas, USA
Washburn University

It's good to get a little dirt under your fingernails.

10/10

Never having built wilderness trails before, I had no idea what to expect, but I came to relish the daily routine of packing up with food and tools and setting off to build and repair beautiful paths!

How can this program be improved?

Six weeks is a big commitment. If you don't have the time, stick with two!

About The Provider

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Iceland’s Forest Service (Skógræktin) established 'Trailteam.is' in Thórsmörk and Goðaland (South Iceland) in 2012. It's role is to manage the area’s network of hiking trails as well as completing a variety of other practical conservation tasks. Living and working in Iceland’s mountains is both a

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