When you think of Iceland, images of a cold, hostile, isolated environment come to mind. However, when you step onto Icelandic ground you discover a beautiful landscape largely untouched and filled with cascading waterfalls, undulating hills, glistening glaciers and breath-taking views. One of the main reasons why Iceland has such a unique landscape is due to its position. Located on the edge of Arctic Circle, situated on top of one of the earth’s hot spot zones and on the boundary of the Eurasian and North American plates. All of these geographical factors combine to create some very distinctive landforms and processes.
Our seven day whistle stop tour was jam packed with not a minute to spare but really gave students an opportunity to witness a huge amount of physical geographical processes, ranging from glaciers to volcanoes, erupting geysers and a myriad of waterfalls. All of which are topics that are studied within the Geography syllabus.
Our trip was centred along the southern coast of Iceland, stretching from Reykjavik in the south west to Jökulsárlón in the south east. Our itinerary seen us take in the many exquisite sights of Iceland and ended with the traditional golden circle tour of Gulfoss, Strokkur Geysir and Þingvellir National Park.
This certainly was a trip that left every one of us in awe in wonder at the fabulous landscape of this beautiful island. As a group we have struggled to pick just one particular highlight or best bit as we thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of trip.
Particular highlights to be mentioned were the glacier walk on Sólheimajökull, viewing the spectacular glacial lagoon at Jökulsárlón, the eight wheel monster truck ride around Eyjafjallajökull and of course catching a glimpse of the aurora borealis (northern lights).
Sólheimajökull Glacier is an outlet glacier from the Mýrdalsjökull ice cap which runs all the way to the coast, giving some spectacular views. You cannot tire at looking at this magnificent landform and if you listen very carefully you can actually hear the creaks as the glacier moves. Whilst we are all aware that glaciers move over time, we were astonished to see just how much Sólheimajökull had retreated by. From looking at photos of our 2015 trip, we estimated that the glacier had retreated by about 200-250m! This gave us a lot of food for thought and prompted lots of discussions on climate change and ways of decreasing our personal ecological footprint. The pictures below show the shocking depletion of Sólheimajökull between 2015 and in 2017.
We were very fortunate to get an up close view of the glacier during our glacier walk. Kitted out in crampons and ice picks we were ready to set up on our journey.
My favourite event in Iceland was visiting the glacier, because we got to experience what it is like to go climbing with equipment like crampons and ice axes. I also enjoyed the view from the top of the glacier. When we heard about how fast the glacier melts nowadays and how much it used to cover, I was really amazed. – Daniel Brunenglinghaus- Year 8
My best memory of Iceland was visiting and walking on a glacier called Sólheimajökull because I expected it to be clear like ice cubes, but it was actually blueish green like in the cartoons and movies. Another amazing thing about the glacier was that you could see each layer of ice and ash which were showing thousands of years of history- Frederick Mcluskie- Year 9
My favourite part of the Iceland trip was to walk on a glacier (basically a big chunk of ice) for it was a great opportunity and I might never get another chance to do it again. It was also really cool how the colours of the glacier and ash blended into each other- Lindsey Ren- Year 7
My highlight of the 2017 Iceland trip was going on the glacier walk. I especially enjoyed this as we had to put on special equipment such as crampons, which help grip into the ice, and also an ice pick which is used as well to grip onto the ice. If we attempted the walk without this equipment, it wouldn't have been safe and we probably would have fallen. We had to walk in a single file line to make sure nobody got injured and when we got to the top, we practiced our strength with our ice picking skills. Overall, it was really fun and would definitely do it again with my friends and family- Abe Zakhem- Year 8
Jökulsárlón is a stunning glacial lagoon on the edge of Vatnajökull National Park and is one of the most photographed areas in Iceland. From the photos below, you can see why, simply beautiful.
Monster Truck Ride around Eyjafjallajökull
Eyjafjallajökull is a volcano that is covered by a glacier which is famous for the huge eruption in 2010 that halted air traffic over much of Europe. We had the amazing opportunity to drive off road and explore this gigantic volcano / glacier.
My favourite part of the Iceland trip was the monster truck ride around Eyjafjallajökull and viewing the northern lights. The monster truck was very bouncy and we went through the river in the truck! The northern lights is a once in a life time experience, they were stripes of green glowing light in the sky- It was beautiful- Amelie Zou- Year 7
Lava Tube Caving
The Lava tube caves are remnants of old lava flows that have cooled and hardened and are many thousands of years old. Before we could enter we were suited and booted in our safety equipment, a hard hat and a head torch. All kitted out, we entered the cave. Many of us are familiar with caves especially as we had ventured into the caves of Yangshuo during Y7 project week trip. This however was unlike any other caving experience. The rocks were very jagged volcanic rocks with lots of pores yet there were entire sections of the cave that were smooth and shiny. Whilst there were stalactites, they were formed not by a reaction with water but as a by-product of the lava flow. The passages were in parts very narrow requiring us to crouch, squat and crawl. When we reached the middle we turned off all our lights and experienced complete darkness, whilst the guide told us stories of the hidden people, trolls and Christmas traditions in Iceland. After this short break we began our journey out of the cave manoeuvring the pot holes and jagged edges.
The Iceland trip was simply, magnificent. Every experience was spellbinding yet I do have a couple of favourites. The lava tube caving and the glacier climb stand out for me. The lava tubes were endless and there were so many different landscapes, in some places it was ever so wide and tall, the tallest person could stand and still have space in between their head and the ceiling, yet in some other places it was so small we had to crawl in single file. We were amazed that we could actually drink the water droplets dripping off the ceiling! The glacier however was totally different. The Gravel and ash blended in with glacier so well and the track we walked on let as see the sights 360, it was a winter wonderland . It was truly spectacular! – Anya Lu- Year
On night three we were fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of the aurora borealis (northern lights). Thank you to Letizia for taking this fantastic photo.
Every second in this adventure was the best but if I had to choose the best one it would be to see a glimpse of the northern lights. It was really late and I was really tired and sleepy but my good friends waked me up and we walked together the path to see the northern lights. If it wasn't for the teachers and friends that woke me up I would have regretted until I die- Daehee Han- Year 9.
Although the sightseeing and all the activities we did in Iceland were amazing, the main highlight of the trip to me was either the northern lights or the snowball fights.
I loved the northern lights over everything else because it was truly beautiful. It was so magnificent, it wasn't able to be described in words. All I can say it is exactly like the ones you see in movies and documentaries. Although you may not believe it, but it is true.
The snowball fights were self-explanatory. I'm pretty sure everyone had a great time with that -- sneaking up upon each other and blaming others for throwing the snowballs. Some were even daring enough to throw it at the teachers, which entertained us greatly to see the war of students versus teachers. The guide we had with us was right -- Snow always brings endless joy. I still remember when everybody slid down hills upon hills of snow in a valley we visited to. That was a few days ago, actually. All a part of the fun – Yvonne Chen- Year 8.
Golden Circle Tour
We ended our tour of Iceland with the traditional golden circle tour and an obligatory stop at the Blue Lagoon. The tour began with the fabulous waterfalls of Gullfoss. After we had finished taking in the breath-taking view; in what felt like the coldest day of the year, we headed to Geyser. At Geyser we got a chance to see the hot water springs erupt which was fabulous. After we had finished at Geyser we were all ready for a pit stop at the Dairy Farm where we got to taste the amazing fresh ice cream. Our next stop was Þingvellir National Park, where we got another glimpse of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates.
To see more of our fantastic adventure to Iceland, check out our blog!