Ian Geddes, Geography Field Study tutor of over 20 years describes how after a forced pandemic break of not travelling to Iceland, the earth quite literally moved for him after returning with a school group.
Great to be back in Iceland
So much has changed over the last couple of years, but in some ways, little has changed in Iceland. The landscape is still awesome, the volcanoes have continued to rumble, and the lava continues to flow, the mountainous seas continue to wash against the basalt coastline, the Northern lights still light up the sky in a spiritual way, and the glaciers still move slowly to the sea (although a little shorter due to climate change).
Rayburn’s first group since early 2020 touched down in Iceland, all ready for a packed itinerary. There was some tension over the flight and arrival. Did we all have the correct paperwork, would exit from the European Union make any difference, and had we packed enough warm clothing for the November trip?
It all went well, passport control was fast and efficient, the welcome was clear, and we all had the correct paperwork. Within 40 minutes of touchdown, we met our coach and driver and set off on our adventure.
Since April, South West Iceland has been buzzing with the eruption of Fagradalsfjall. Whilst we were unable to get close to it on this trip, the eruption and lava flows have been spectacular. And all within an hour of the airport.
We had time for a visit to the ‘Bridge between the continents.’ Since Iceland sits across a plate boundary, this landscape is ideal to set the scene of this volcanic landscape. There is so much that groups can do in this area. There is the famous, ‘Blue Lagoon’, not only a famous 5-star spa but also a popular short experience for Rayburn groups, soaking in the thermally heated pools. Perfect at the end of a flight or during a day exploring the hot springs, mud pools and wild landscape.
Day 1 had been a long day and where better to sample a traditional Icelandic pizza at Papa’s, in Grindavik, a fishing port. We kept eating and they kept bringing food! Before driving to our accommodation, we had time to visit Reykjavik and relax in one of the awesome city thermal pools with flumes, slides, and hot tubs.
Husid, our Guest House
Jana welcomed the group to her lovely guest house. A warm welcome, shoes off at the door, cozy rooms, and wholesome food. The setting for our stay was perfect. From the house, the panoramic views were awesome, stretching down to the sea, across to glaciers, volcanoes, and waterfalls. When we were there in November the Northern Lights, regretfully did not put on a show, but we did see a spectacular lunar eclipse when the moon briefly turned red.
The South Coast day
Husid is the perfect site for the start of our ‘south coast experience’, a day packed full of waterfalls, thunderous waves, a glacier walk, some massive volcanoes, and the town of Vik (for a little souvenir shopping)
The Lava and earthquake Centre was our first stop and as we were the first arrive and we enjoyed the time and freedom to explore the interactive exhibits.
Thankfully the path around Seljalandsfoss was open, so we seized the opportunity to take spectacular photos from behind the waterfall, looking across the flat land down to the sea. Just as well we had our waterproofs on! The ‘Black Beach’ is always a scary place, and it was no different today. Spectacular scenery, all observed from the safety of the higher land. A good chance to revise all notes on coastal scenery.
The highlights just keep coming along. After a stop in Vik, a time to order a quality plate of chips, some shopping, a visit to the church, we then had time for a walk on the Solheimajokull Glacier. A perfect day for a walk. Of course, time to reflect on the impact of climate change in this part of Iceland. The day ended with a quick stop at the golden jewel waterfall of Skogafoss. The skies opened it rained and darkness descended. A glorious day.
The Golden Triangle
And yet another wonderful day. Again, the weather was kind to us. Our first stop was at the Secret Lagoon. We had the whole area to ourselves. Time to soak in the thermal spa, surrounded by the hot springs, little geyser, and thermal river. Two awesome stops followed at Gulfoss the mighty double waterfall, and then the classic visit to the Geyser Geothermal Park.
More time for retail therapy, more chips and quickly followed by a visit to Iceland’s first special ‘ice cream’ farm. So much choice! There’s something strange about eating ice cream in a frozen landscape!
…and still the day is not over! The Thingvellir National Park is UNESCO site for both its cultural and historical importance. We had time to explore the Alping and walk along a rip in the earth’s crust.
The final day
Regretfully the trip had to come to an end. This was the first Rayburn trip to Iceland since early 2020. Were we anxious? Yes. Did it all work out? Yes. So, be confident about planning and booking a return trip to this fantastic, welcoming and safe country.
Geography Field Study Tutor