Friday 20th February 2015
Upon arrival at Reykjavik Airport, the pungent smell of the geothermal power plant filled the air as we boarded our coach heading towards the Perlan. This building stores the hot water for Reykjavik and the viewing platform gave us a great view of the capital city. For dinner, we went to the best burger restaurant in Iceland – The Hamburger Factory, a small walk from our hotel. After dinner we all went to the outdoor swimming pool, just up the road from the hotel. The pool was a great experience, despite the smell, as we were able to relax in the geothermal heated water – 2C outside, 30C in the water!!
As we walked back to the hotel, careful on the foot, due to the icy conditions we were treated to a brief glimpse of the Northern Lights, to end the night on a high.
Saturday 21st February 2015
On the second day we set off from Hotel Cabin to make the long journey to the south coast, to Vik. On the way, we stopped off at a geothermal power plant to we could see how Iceland utilises this green energy for the benefit of its people. Again, the smell of sulphur was apparent.
From here, we then travelled along the South Coast, past the greenhouse village of Hervagerdi to our first waterfall – Seljalandsfoss. Normally you are able to walk behind this waterfall but due to the icy conditions it was best not to! Next we then went to the highlight of the day – the Solheimajokull glacier. This translates as ‘sun house glacier’ and is an outlet glacier from the much larger Myrdalsjokull glacier. It has been retreating for much of the 20th century at a rate of 100m per year. At the source lies one of Iceland’s most active volcanoes – Katla! The glacier walk was fantastic, walking onto the glacier to see the glacial features first-hand! Everyone loved the crampons but more so – the ice pick!!
Due to the weather forecast for the next day we went to an exhibition of the Eyjafallajokull eruption of 2010. The film was great as it captured one farmer’s real life story of the effects of the eruption. From here we drove further east towards Vik. We stopped off at the black sand beach of Reynishverfi where we saw fantastic columnar basalts and sea stacks. The impending storm was on its way – the winds were ferocious.
Onwards to Vik and our accommodation for the night, Hotel Katla. Our evening meal was to be Fish and Chips, after which some brave individuals took a dip in the hot tubs in the gardens.
Rob O Toole.
Sunday 22nd February 2015
The day started with great anticipation for most students who were waiting to see the beautiful surroundings that we had been promised. However there were two factors that seemed greatly against this, the driving snow and the mighty wind.
The first step outside, to travel the mere 10 metres to breakfast was met with a sheer wall of ice battering into or faces trying to rip the skin from our heads. During breakfast we were greeted with the delightful news that we were trapped and could expect to spend another night cooped up inside the log cabins.
The day progressed extremely slowly but, as always, we were able to use what we had to keep us occupied. The hotel wi-fi was a godsend and helped to keep everyone at bay. Through the day the storm gradually worsened. Snowdrifts grew all around the buildings reaching heights of over 8 metres. Those brave few who valiantly ventured out into the snow to build a snow man of a size never seen before by man were very quickly forced back indoors by the pure agony of the blizzard.
When the worst of the storm hit at around 14:00 we were met with complete blackness, and then worst of all, the wi-fi completely went. The most emotion that was shown throughout the trip had to be to the loss of our dear friend. Within the hour however the wi-fi and power soon returned and smiles soon flooded back and the calm soon returned.
The day laboured on and was soon met with the reward of a beautiful and warm evening meal. Soon after which many turned in after a day stuck in the hotel.
Monday 23rd February 2015
Due to the snow and strong winds yesterday we had a lot to cram in today. We started off by shopping in Vik, the southernmost ‘town’ in Iceland – 250 population! After that we looked at fantastic coastal scenery at Dyrholaey to reaffirm what we had learned in Swanage. The waves were immense and the wind bitter! Our next stop was the Skogafoss waterfall, an iconic sight. Despite the river discharge being, much lower than in the past, the sight was breath-taking! From there we travelled west and joined the tourist Golden Circle tour, visiting the main geological wonders of Iceland. We stopped off first at Kerid a volcanic crater. We then moved onto the Gulfoss waterfall – meaning Golden Falls. The cold wind meant that we did not appreciate the wonderful view, as maybe we should. From there, we travelled the short distance to Geysir to see Strokkur spurt out hot water every 8 minutes or so. This is an area of high heat flow and so is tectonically active.
After lunch we then went on to Thingvellir National Park where the North American plate is moving away from the Eurasian plate on the Mid Atlantic Ridge. It was great standing on two continents!! It is also the site of the oldest parliament in the world, established in 930AD. From here we travelled back to Reykjavik. After dinner in a downtown Reykjavik restaurant, we had a swim in the local outdoor pool again.
Tuesday 24th February
The trip had come to its final day but the itinerary lined up was one of the best. With bags packed, we got on the coach, ready to embark on a city tour of Reykjavik.
The atmosphere was dampened but the sights on show were intriguing, mesmerising and jaw dropping. We passed such sights as Reykjavik’s Hallgrimskirkja Church, the tiled crystalline Harpa concert hall, the old port, Tjornin central lake and the Iceland President’s residence.
Shortly after the tour we arrived at the Blue Lagoon for a relaxing experience as the swan song of the trip. In luxury conditions we piled into the lagoon, making full use of the specialist skin remedies and various poolside bars. While it lasted, it was paradise and an experience none of us will forget. As we took in our last breath of the sulphurous and clean Icelandic air, we prepared ourselves for the flight back to Heathrow.
The lucky handful of us with window seats were treated to a sensational view of the moonlit London skyline and as a farewell gift from Iceland, coupled with the in-flight movies, capped off a fantastic holiday.
Iceland 2016 – February 11th – 15th.