This October half term forty one students went on a five day Geography tour of south west Iceland. First stop after landing near Reykjavik, the capital city, was to a newly created ice cave. With temperatures at minus 15 degrees we wrapped up warm and ventured through the sculptured ice tunnels. It was a good preparation for the icy temperatures of Iceland. Afterwards we warmed up in the capital’s famous handmade burger restaurant, where a sign on the wall displays the population of the country. It was at around 380,000 until someone rang the bell to let us know that it had just risen with a new birth in the city. That evening we checked into hotel Ork. When the sun rose the next morning it revealed the landscape surrounding us was steaming with geothermal vents pouring out of the surrounding hills.
On the next day we completed the classic golden circle tour which started off at Pingvellir, Iceland’s rift valley where the faults tearing through the earth are where the North American plate is moving apart from the Eurasian plate. The plates are dividing at a rate of about 2cm a year, making the country gradually grow over time. Iceland is one of the youngest countries created on earth as it is so tectonically active with over one third of all the lava erupted across the world over the last 500 years occurring here. Later that day we saw a geyser erupting hot jets of superheated water tens of meters into the air every ten minutes. Another truly awe inspiring site was the vast waterfall of Gulfoss dropping down a vast gorge and kicking off a huge spray of water into the air which caught rainbows in the sunlight.
A highlight of the day was our visit to Fontana spa. Natural geothermal mineral water feeds into a series of luxurious pools to relax those weary muscles. The spa sits alongside a tranquil icy lake overlooked by glacier topped mountains. The challenge is to take a dip for as long as you can bear it in the lake and then rush over to the hot pools to defrost. It certainly woke up the body and got the circulation going. The spa also bake their own speciality bread in the hot ground, making a delicious sweet and super soft loaf.
On our third day we visited a couple of stunning waterfalls, where the spray froze on the surrounding ground making fantastical patterns. We also walked across the jet black sand beach formed from eroded volcanic rocks, framed by unusual hexagonal basalt columned cliffs from rapidly cooled ancient lava flows. The highlight of the day was our guided hike on a glacier. Wearing crampons and carrying ice picks we explored the crevasses, moulins and moraines of the glacier. It made a surreal and beautiful sculptured landscape to walk though.
The fourth day took us to the amazing new lava centre built at the foothills of four large Icelandic volcanoes, including the one that erupted in 2010, bringing European air traffic to a standstill. The exhibition had stunning interactive displays including a realistic animated lava flow and interactive walls showing information on the nearby volcanoes. We then headed to a geothermal area with sulphurous vents steaming out of the ground and forming an array of dazzling red and yellow colours in the surrounding rocks. The highlight of the day was our visit to the world famous Blue Lagoon Spa. Carved out of a rocky lava field, naturally mineral rich heated sea waters rise up through the ground to form turquoise milky blue water. Reported to have rejuvenating qualities the students enjoyed the vast sprawling expanse of the spa, and its white silica facial mud packs. To end the trip we had a fantastic meal of super fresh Icelandic fish in a local restaurant. Returning to our hotel for our final night we were treated to a stunning celestial display of the northern lights in the cool clear night sky. A perfect end to a wonderful trip. Thanks to all the staff that supporting the trip, Mrs Williams, Mrs Cruse and Miss Stewart, and of course the students for being great company throughout.