Claire Rhodes, Year 13, recounts a fascinating Geography trip to Iceland, where the icebergs, waterfalls, lava caves and geysers provided a truly memorable landscape.
A short flight from Bristol to Keflavik International Airport brought us to one of the most amazing places on earth. Iceland is famous with geographers, so being an A-Level geography student myself, I could not contain my excitement.
Having been initially taken-aback by the flatness of the land and the freezing cold temperatures we made our way to the Bridge Between Two Continents, spanning the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which runs through Iceland between the Eurasian Plate and the North American Plate. We were quite literally standing on the effects of continental drift.
We then visited the vigorously bubbling Gunnuhver, Iceland’s largest mud pool with a diameter of 20m. The steam vents were huge and bombarded us all with an overwhelming stench of rotten eggs! We also learnt about a mad female ghost called Gunna, who would hang around Reykjanes peninsula mud pools so she could kidnap or kill unsuspecting travellers.
Arriving in the capital, Reykjavik and walking down the streets, we passed street performers playing jazz music, giving the area a magical and Christmassy vibe. It almost felt like Paris, or on some picturesque movie set for an American Christmas film. On the way to dinner we passed Hallgrímskirkja (good luck pronouncing that), a modern cathedral with a breath-taking tower, which is composed of large circular tanks, which hold the city’s naturally heated water reserves.
Even dinner at The Hamburger Factory was interesting, as they had the number of the population of Iceland stuck up on their wall and whenever a new baby was born they would pick a customer to ring the bell and increase the number by one. I asked a waitress what they did when someone died, and she simply replied “We wait till everyone has gone home and then lower the number”.
My personal highlights for day two was walking under two waterfalls, Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss. Fun Fact: You can see it featured in Justin Beiber’s recent music video for ‘I’ll show you’.
At night we stayed in cozy little cabins where we sat out on the balcony and marvelled at the Northern Lights - the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.
Our trip amongst the icebergs on the Jökulsárión Glacial Lagoon was unforgettable. The glacial lake is one of the deepest in Iceland, and scattered with enormous icebergs the size of houses, which were carved off the Breiðamerkurjökull. Just before sunset, we went for a hike on the glacier Svínafellsjökull, where our guide showed us around a wonderland of ice sculptures, ridges and deep crevasses and let us loose with our own ice axes.
Highlights of the final day included a visit to Keriö, a ginormous volcanic crater lake, formed after a volcanic eruption; a trip to the geysers in Geysir; and lava caving where, when we got to the deepest part of the cave, our tour guide told us to switch our lights off. If there is one thing I will remember from this trip it is how dark it was in that cave - the sort where if someone waved their hand right in front of your face, you would have no idea it was there!
Finally, we went to visit Iceland’s most popular tourist attractions and one of the wonders of the world, the Blue Lagoon. It is indescribable how amazing it feels to be floating in the warm water, with a cold slushy in hand and looking up at the stars!
Iceland is a must visit destination. I can truly guarantee to anyone who is planning on visiting Iceland that you will have a magical time and see things that will stay with you for a lifetime.