In part 1 of our Iceland Winners' Trip Diary, we followed the pupils of William Edwards School in Grays, Essex, as they explored the Blue Lagoon and the South Coast of Iceland.
They had won Halsbury's 30th anniversary competition, and their prize was to enjoy a school geography trip to Iceland at the equivalent 1980's price.
In part 2, we join the group on the third day of their trip, as they explore Iceland's famous Golden Circle...
Þingvellir National Park
Setting off from Reykjavik, the group headed for Þingvellir National Park. As the coach drove through the park, the sight that met the group was staggering.
Through the front windscreen they could see huge mountains to the left and right, with a wide, flat plain between them. This, explained Ian, was where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet.
The students were awestruck. And, as they got even closer, they could see the fissures that riddled the valley floor – these huge scars on the landscape were evidence of the two plates moving further and further away from each other.
The coach pulled into a smaller car park and the group hopped off to take a closer look. From the viewing platform, the students could look into the deep fissure in front of them.
Engrossed, they listened to Ian explain further how plate tectonics created the landscape around them, and how, in this location, the mantle was just 2km below the surface!
They then drove round to walk through the Almannagjá fault towards the viewing platform at Hakið. First, they stopped at another spectacular waterfall, Oxararfoss, before listening to Ian explain that this was not only an important site in terms of the physical geography, but that it was also the site of the world’s first democratically elected parliament, the AlÞingi.
As they walked through the gorge, the group were, in fact, walking along the eastern boundary of the North American plate!
And from the viewing platform at Hakið, they could really see how the movement of the tectonic plates had created the landscape around them.
Geysir Geothermal Area
All too soon it was time to climb back on the coach and head off to the next stop – Geysir Geothermal Area. Here, the group were able to stop for lunch and a quick look around the shop, before heading across the road to check out the geysers!
Geysir was the first geyser encountered by Europeans and so lent its name to the phenomena. Geyser itself erupts infrequently, but its younger neighbour, Strokkur, still puts on an impressive show every few minutes. Tourists crowd around the rope partition that surrounds it, cameras in hand, ready to try and capture some impressive images.
After taking pictures of a couple of eruptions, the group gathered around Ian, as he explained to them what geysers are and why they behave the way they do. They then took a look at the other geysers and mud pools in the area, before jumping back on the coach.
The next stop was to be another waterfall. You might think the group had seen enough waterfalls by now, but this time they were in for a real treat. As they walked across the gentle slope that led from the car park to the viewing platform, the magnificence of Gullfoss came into view. Many a ‘wow’ and ‘awesome’ could be heard!
Gullfoss was, again, a completely different waterfall to those the group had seen the previous day. About half the height of them, it was, if possible, even more dramatic, as it cascaded down two wide steps into a rugged canyon. To the sides of the waterfall, some of the spray had frozen on the cliff face. The full power of the water to carve out the rock was evident to see at this most impressive of waterfalls.
The final stop of the day and, indeed, the final geographical visit would be to Kerið crater. As a relatively young caldera, it’s still very recognisably a volcanic crater. This makes it a great stop for students in terms of giving them an idea of what calderas look like.
Ian led the group around the crater edge, from where they could see that Kerið is not isolated, but is actually one of three craters in the area. Visually, it is truly stunning, with the deep aquamarine of the lake contrasting with the rusty red volcanic rock and the green of the moss.
Eventually, it was time to head back to Reykjavík, with the group’s adventures in the wilderness of Iceland at an end.
However, they still had half a day to enjoy this beautiful country and so, after breakfast on the final day, they headed out to see the sights of Reykjavík!
Having been staying at Hlemmur Square hostel, the city centre was right on their doorstep. They started with the short walk to the harbour, and a photo opportunity at the iconic Sun Voyager, before walking along the sea wall towards the magnificent Harpa concert hall.
From there, they explored the shops and cafes of Laugavegur, the city’s main shopping street. Most of the group took the opportunity to buy souvenirs and gifts for their families. And some also bought some of the lovely necklaces made from pieces of lava – what better souvenir from a geography school trip to Iceland?!
After a quick stop at the famous Hallgrímskirkja, it was time to head back to the hostel to collect their luggage before being picked up by Palli for the transfer to Keflavík Airport.
To sum it up…
It was an inspiring trip for all. As many of the students remarked, everything was so completely unlike anything we have here in Britain.
They were able to see for themselves things they had covered in class and, where some of them had previously struggled to grasp certain concepts, they now had a much deeper understanding.
Many have chosen to take geography at GCSE and the things they saw on this trip will stand them in good stead for their exams, where they’ll be able to recall memories of seeing the effects of coastal erosion, plate tectonics and glacial processes.
And not only was the trip fantastic in terms of helping them with their geography studies, for many this was a huge confidence boost. It was the first time abroad without their families for the majority, and for some it was even their first time abroad.
Being able to experience this with their friends and with some independence (although always under the expert supervision of their teachers), left them feeling more confident.
Many were quite shy at first, but by the end of the trip they were asking more questions and getting involved with everything!
A huge thank you to the staff and students of William Edwards School for letting us follow their school trip to Iceland!
We hope this trip diary has given you some inspiration for your next school geography trip. If you have any questions regarding our school geography trips to Iceland, please don't hesitate to contact us!