Iceland Geography Tour 2017
By Ashley Bolger
On Wednesday, April 5th, a group of Colaiste Bride students and teachers set off on a once in a lifetime trip to Iceland! At 9:30am on that Wednesday morning passers-by would have seen a group of teenage girls with stuffed suitcases looking very excited.
We set off to Belfast and for the whole journey up the buses were full of excitement. We couldn’t wait to get to the airport and get onto hat plane!
We arrived at Aldergrove International Airport around 3pm and by 5 pm we were settled on the plane and ready to go. Before we even got onto the plane however, there was a bit of hysteria when Daniel O’Donnell was spotted in the airport and of course he was bombarded by us to get photos.
We arrived in Keflavik International Airport around 6:40pm and then headed off to our first hotel “Hotel Cabin”, which we arrived in at 8pm. It certainly wasn’t a 5 star luxury hotel but I think we were all happy to be fed and get to bed after the long day of travelling.
We were up the next morning for breakfast at 8 am and headed off with all our luggage at 9am for a day of sight-seeing. We had a national guide with us on the bus each day and he told us lots about Iceland and what we could see out the windows as we drove around. Or first stop on Thursday was at Hellisheidi Power Station. Here we saw how all of Iceland’s hot water is sourced and we learned that Iceland will never run out of hot water and Iceland’s hot water supply could possibly supply the whole world with heated water. We saw the turbine area from a viewing platform, got to experience the tremors of an earthquake in a stimulator and while we did all this we got to inhale the delightful smell of rotten eggs. Of course before we went into the power station we all had to play in the snow because how could we pass up that opportunity!
Our next stop was Seljalandfoss waterfall which looked incredible. Of course we did all get soaked trying to get photographs but we had waterproofs so we didn’t mind.
After a delicious lunch at Skogarsafn we headed off on the bus to Skogafoss waterfall which was over 200ft high. This waterfall looked amazing especially when rainbows came off the water so we had to get lots of groups photos there.
We then went to Solheimjkull, a glacier tongue that lies south of the Myralsjokull Glacier. We got to walk up towards the glacier and go down close to it .We learned from the tour guide that the glacier tongue once covered the lake that is there now and is rapidly melting away each year. This was disappointing to hear considering that it looked amazing but in the coming years it may ll be melted away.
Next we were brought to the black sand beach. This, I thought, was absolutely stunning to see. The beach gives a clear view of sea cliffs, caves and stacks. According to folklore, two trolls attempted to drag a ship to land but were turned to stone as daylight broke, turning them into the Reynisdranger stacks visible from the beach.
The black pebble beach featured an amazing cliff of basalt columns resembling a rocky step pyramid, called Holsanef. We climbed up the columns to get lots of photos.
That was our last stop for the day but we still saw so much more throughout the whole day when we were on the bus. We saw incredible mountains covered in snow and lots of lava fields.
That night we stayed at “Hotel Katla” which was great. We were given a great dinner of amazing lasagne and brownies for dessert and stayed in houses which were lovely. We had a great night there and we all had great fun.
On Friday, after a huge buffet breakfast, we packed up and set off on our second day of exploring. Our first stop was at Kerid crater. This is an almost perfect miniature volcano and northern most of a row of spatter cones formed by and eruption 3000 years ago. We walked around the top of the crater and also got to go down steps to the lake within the crater. This wasn’t what I had expected a volcano crater to looks like but it was great to see and to be able to go into it.
We then went to Gullfoss waterfall. This waterfall is said to be one of the most impressive waterfalls in Europe and it certainly didn’t disappoint. It has a 2.5km canyon. We stood along a barrier and got to look down into the canyon and see the waterfall. It was huge and amazing to see such a powerful waterfall up close.
We then went to see a group of geysirs including Strokkur, one of the most active in the area, which spots up to 25metres in the air. We were greeted at the geysirs by the lovely rotten egg smell again. We walked around to all the geysirs and you could feel the heat of the water coming off some of them. We all got to see the Great Geysir spout up into the air which was incredible. It happened every few minutes and was so interesting to watch especially the lead up to it when all he water would start to almost bounce up and down before it spouted up.
After watching the geysirs for a while we headed off to Pingvellir National Park. Here we saw a beautiful canyon running through the park which formed the meeting point of two of the earth’s tectonic plates. We also got the opportunity to see the mid-Atlantic Ridge which was a very unique experience. As we walked through the park we had some stunning views out over cliffs to see the ocean and nearby islands.
That night we stayed in the Hilton Reykjavik Nordica which was amazing. We had dinner in a local restaurant and judging by how fast we devoured our burgers the staff probably thought we had not been fed all day but it was only because they were delicious and we were all hungry. Unfortunately this was our last night staying in Iceland L but we definitely stayed in a fancy hotel for our last night.
The net day after we all stuffed ourselves with the delicious buffet breakfast available we packed away everything for the last time and left our luggage locked in a store room in the hotel. We walked into Reykjavik and had time to wander around the city ourselves. We went into Hallgrimskirkja, the largest church in Iceland. It was absolutely beautifully built and massive. After getting lunch and doing some shopping we all headed off for the much anticipated visit to the Blue Lagoon. I don’t think anyone was disappointed. It was amazing and beautiful. The water was such an incredible blue and so relaxing to be in. We were given complimentary face masks. I don’t think anyone wanted to get out. This was definitely the best way to end the trip. It was, sadly, the end of the most amazing trip I’ve ever been on because we then headed to the airport and returned home to Ireland. After the bus journey back from Belfast we arrived in Enniscorthy, all very sleepy, at about 3am.
This trip to Iceland was such an incredible experience for everyone. For me it was a once in a lifetime trip and I am so happy I got the opportunity to go. I saw so much amazing things, from a volcano crater to a geyser spouting water 25m high right in front of me. I loved every second of the rip and I don’t doubt that everyone else did too. I wish it could have lasted longer. I don’t think any of us will ever forget this incredible trip and the great experience it was!