Humanities

Memories That Last: Iceland Trip 2024

11th April 2024

Erupting geysers, hiking on glaciers, spectacular waterfalls – the Geography trip to Iceland during the Easter holidays created a wealth of wonderful memories for both students and staff. 

A group of  51 students and 6 staff set off bright and early for Manchester Airport on Sunday 23rd March. Upon arrival at Keflavik Airport we met our lovely guide Helgi and driver Jens who were to spend the next few days showing us the very best of what Iceland has to offer. 

The sightseeing began immediately with a view of the eruption near Grindavik from the road we first visited the “Bridge between continents” and were able to walk between the North American and Eurasian plates. A scenic bus journey then followed to Borgarnes and the evening was capped with our first sight of the Northern Lights.

The second day was full of adventure. We began with a trip into Vidgelmir Lava Cave where we walked  approximately 750m along and up to 39 m deep and got to spend some time in absolute darkness and silence.. which was then broken with a patchy rendition of the school song and a perfect performance of “Let it go”, appropriate for the giant ice formations surrounding us!

After this we boarded monster trucks to drive up to Langjokull Glacier to visit caves that had been carved out 60 metres below the ice. A highlight of this was seeing the Chapel that had been built as an incredible wedding venue and also a place where proposals are common.

The sights didn’t stop when visiting Hraunfossar Lava Falls, the beautiful blue water being a result of the high levels of silica in the water. Our guide Helgi told us an Icelandic folk tale about this area which was rather dark (like all of them!) 

Our third day was the “Golden Circle” day, the most touristy of touristy days! We amazingly left our hotel on time and with all of our luggage and set off for Thingvellir national park to see the site of the first Icelandic Parliament and again walk around the mid-Atlantic ridge. 

The Secret Lagoon was our next stop which was a geothermal pool where we all cooked for an hour out of the cold.

Then it was a real gem, the Fridheimar Greenhouse where 40% of the tomatoes in Iceland are sustainably grown using heat from geothermal energy. We got to sample some of the crops and many of us tried the unbelievably delicious tomato sorbet!

Strokkur was next. A geyser that erupts every 4-7 minutes. Initially a bit tame when we arrived “Is that it?!?” was heard from one disgruntled student! It quickly put on a show for us including a rare double eruption. We then arrived in our second hotel and settled into our cabins to see the northern lights once again!

We set forth on the fourth day to see some more waterfalls at Seljalandsfoss and Skogafoss. It might sound like “just another waterfall” but they truly are something you never, ever get tired of seeing.

Then it was time for the Solheimajokull Glacier Hike. We donned our crampons, hardhats and harnesses and set off up to the top of the glacier. A customary flag picture at the top and the most incredible views. You could really see the extent of the retreat of this glacier which has been several hundred metres in the last decade.

Finally, it was to the black beaches at Vik to see basalt columns and magnificent headlands 120 metres high. The waves were incredibly powerful and we saw several people knocked off their feet by them on the beach.

Near to our cabins was a geothermal swimming pool which we took the opportunity to visit. It was freezing cold outside but lovely and warm in the pool. We then ransacked a local supermarket of every single snack it sold and returned to our cabins to see the northern lights once more!

Day five and the Westman Islands was what I was most looking forward to. A 40 minute ferry to Heimay where an eruption occurred in 1973 was a fascinating day out that is so rarely visited by schools and tourists. We visited a museum that told us the story of the eruption and heard about Helgi’s efforts in rescuing people from the volcano. We then drove around the very small island seeing some amazing examples of headlands and sheltered bays.

Then it was time to hike up Eldfell, the volcano that erupted in 1973. The pictures do not do the views justice. The ferry took us back to the mainland and we saw some dolphins and whales on the journey!

We then set off for Reykjavik and heard one final tale from Helgi about the volcano “Heckla” which was thought to be the entrance to hell and which is where our expression “what the heck?” comes from.

On arrival in Reykjavik we said goodbye to Helgi and Jens but not before making sure that they got a picture with the flag! We had dinner, all signed the flag and then we walked into downtown Reykjavik to see the Cathedral lit up at night. A half an hour walk but everyone agreed it was well worth it!

The next morning we departed our hotel at 4:30am for our flight back to Manchester and were fortunate enough to have an incredibly easy journey back to Wakefield.

It was a magnificent trip to which I am eternally grateful to Mrs Vare, Dr Durrell, Mrs Smith, Mrs Besford and Mrs Jenkins for accompanying us and making sure that everyone had a memorable time.

Here are some memories from the students: 

  • My favourite day of the trip was when we got a tour of the lava cave and then a monster truck to the top of a glacier which we explored. All the tour guides were nice and friendly. I also liked that you made a big effort to make sure that everyone was in rooms and put in groups together with their friends. The secret lagoon and second swimming pool we went to was also one of the best parts of the trip.”
  • “Funniest moment: pushing Mr Ryding down the small hill inside the glacier.” 
  • “The best part was seeing Gullfoss from several different viewing platforms.”
  • “My favourite part of the trip was seeing the northern lights, my favourite place we went to was the glacier. Overall I found the trip very enjoyable and would love to visit again. I also enjoyed spending time with my friends and seeing a different side to my teachers.”

Mr J Ryding

Geography teacher

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