After weeks of excitement and anticipation, we finally arrive at Keflavik airport – the gateway to breathtaking scenery, adventure and cultural heritage. On arrival we took a bus transfer to one of Iceland’s natural wonders, the Blue Lagoon. Here we were able to soak away the effects of a long flight by bathing in the steaming, milky blue, geothermal heated waters of the Lagoon. Aside from the sulphurous odour, we enjoyed applying the silica mud onto our faces, which is reputed to be very good for your skin. However, in the cold weather it gave us a muddy frozen face in an instant – it was the less glamorous look! The weather was cold, wet and very windy; but it made swimming in the steamy lagoon all the more dramatic.
After an invigorating soak in the geothermal waters, we made our way to Hotel Cabin. The hotel is a good base for Reykjavik and offers a clean and comfortable stay. The hotel is set one street back from the sea front, offering an invigorating stroll to the nearby downtown area. We relaxed in the hotel and sampled the buffet salad bar before retiring to our sea view rooms for an early night.
Our first day began with a city tour around Reykjavik, which was informative and interesting. Our first stop was at the Perlan which was originally built as hot water storage containers. The impressive building has a museum and an outdoor viewing deck offering panoramic views across the city.
The tour continued to the Laugardalur sports area. This is a great place for school groups as it has a sports centre, skating rink, botanical garden, zoo and an outdoor thermal pool. The recreation area is ideal for groups staying at theCity Hostel (on site) or the Hotel Cabin, which is just a 15 minute walk away.
After the tour we enjoyed a traditional Icelandic lunch by the harbour followed by a visit to Hallgrímskirkja church, one of the most photographed sites in Reykjavik. We ended the day with a stroll along the main shopping streets Skólavörðustígur and Laugavegur before taking a leisurely walk back to our hotel.
Our second full day involved visits to the historical church in Skaholt, the awe inspiring Gulfoss Golden Waterfall, a walk down the rift between continents at Pingvellir and the bubbling hot springs at Geysir. The most spectacular attraction of the day was the Strokkur geyser, which blew up to 40 metres high at intervals of 5-8 minutes. Capturing the ‘big one’ on camera was a real challenge. Nevertheless, we persevered and managed to capture the dramatic spurt! This made the perfect end to the great Golden Circle tour.
During our tour around the circle, we were lucky enough to stop and get close to a herd of Icelandic horses. We wanted to take one home. We decided against it, however,as we might have encountered a few problems at customs!
The forth day took us on the eagerly anticipated South Shore Adventure. We visited many interesting places, including a spectacular drive down to the beach of Dyrholaey to see the churning white waves of the North Atlantic breaking against the rocks and rushing across the black sands.
Next on the programme was a drive to two of Iceland’s most famous waterfalls – Seljalandfoss and Skogarfoss. Here we were able to walk behind one of the falls along a narrow cascade, which was a truly unique experience. The highlight of the trip came when we arrived at the foot of ‘black glacier’ Sòlheimajökull. A walk beside the glacier was a great experience and something we’ll always remember.
We left Iceland having gained some insight into the fascinating Geographical landscape and culture that students experience on an educational trip to this incredible country. A Geography trip to Iceland offers students a fantastic range of experiences; a chance to witness an active volcanic landscape; a land being actively shaped by glaciers and ice caps; an opportunity to visit a country less familiar than Spain, France or Germany; a landscape that has few equivalents in the world with relevance to GCSE, AS and A-level Geography study.
Jenny Walsh – Geography Tours Specialist and Zoe Campbell – Itinerary Consultant