Iceland Inspection Trip
Searching for that jaw dropping picture to make people jealous on Facebook then look no further than the awe-inspiring country of Iceland.
The scenery here is nothing short of spectacular and is so dramatic that the landscape speaks for itself without the need for an accompanying travel book. Combining raw energy and power that rises to the surface, Iceland is home to some of the most extraordinary geographical features in the world. Appropriately labelled the Land of Fire and Ice, Iceland is a geographical freak of nature with volcanoes that can shut down European airspace for 6 days. It is therefore little wonder that the producers of Games of Thrones decided to use the rugged landscape of Iceland as the backdrop to set their chilling story of power, greed and deception against.
My whistle stop tour of Iceland began at a place I have always wanted to visit and experience- the Blue Lagoon. If you are visiting Iceland, the Blue Lagoon is a must see as it synonymous with Iceland, its people and identity. Set in a black lava field that resembles something you would see on the film set of a sci-fi film, the idyllic deep blue lagoon is Iceland’s most popular visitor attraction. Replenishing your skin with its white silica mud, it is a mineral-rich milky blue bath tub that submerges you with its tranquil and relaxing atmosphere. Boasting numerous health benefits, the Blue Lagoon is a marvel to behold with its rising steam swirling above you on the cloudy blue waters.
After starting the trip with a relaxing break it was time to explore the more rugged aspects of Iceland beginning with the popular tourist route known as the Golden Circle. Consisting of some of Iceland’s most stunning sights, the tour kicks off at Strokkur geyser which shoots a column of water up to 30 metres in the air every few minutes. Waiting for the geyser to propel water and steam up into the air is a truly unique and thrilling experience however be sure to have your finger on the camera to snap the illusive moment. From here it was on to the most powerful waterfall in Europe, Gulfoss, the highlight of the Golden Circle with its spectacular views of untouched wild nature. As you make your way down the wooden stairs to the waterfall, you are greeted by a crescendo of sound and spray that hits your face from the huge volumes of waters cascading down to the canyon floor. Staring out from the edges of the waterfall it is difficult to fathom the sheer power of water tumbling and plunging before you but one person who did was Sigriour Tomasdottir. Her story adds to the charm of the waterfall as Gulfoss was saved by her perseverance to protect it against it becoming a hydroelectric power plant becoming Iceland’s first environmentalist in the process.
To conclude the Golden Circle and our first full day in Iceland it was onto Thingvellir National Park to see where the story of Iceland and its people all began. Considered a national shrine of Iceland, Thingvellir is the site of the oldest existing parliament in the world and is also a visual representation of two tectonic plates pulling away from each other. If you are a Game of Thrones fan you will recognise much of the scenery here with the weathered and harsh landscape acting as the perfect setting for fillming scenes from their intriguing narrative. The next day was spent ambling around Reykjavik trying to find shelter from the icy winds sweeping through the city. Shelter was conveniently found in Hallgrimskirkja church, Reykjavik’s most iconic and architecturally distinctive building. Designed and built to reflect the fascinating shapes and forms created when lava cools into basalt rock, the church was a welcome break to the bitter cold winds and was the meeting point later on that day for our Northern Lights Tour. Leaving late into the night we were pre-warned that due to the time of the year and current weather conditions the possibility of seeing the Northern Lights was slim and our journey into the unknown would be to no avail. However just when all hope of seeing the mysterious illusive multi-coloured show had gone, our patience was rewarded and a light green glow lit up the night-sky before us drawing gasps of amazement and wonder. It was a great moment and made our arduous journey into the cold April night well worth it.
Our final day in Iceland was spent exploring the South Shore of Iceland and it was a visit that didn’t disappoint proving to be the highlight of an amazing trip. We clambered aboard our monster truck in the morning and powered along the icy roads until we came across Skogafoss, another striking waterfall nestled in between the craggy and weathered landscape that characterises the island. Rivalling Gullfoss as Iceland’s most famous waterfall, the spray against the sunshine gives off a vivid rainbow that appears in front of the waterfall enticing you to walk up the 400 stairs to see the wild and untouched countryside from the top.
Once back at ground level it was time to put our crampons on and follow our expert guide up onto Solheimajokull Glacier. As we tentatively made our way onto the raw and rugged ice field we were greeted by amazing ice formations, sinkholes and jagged ridges that create a cold blue mythical land of rock and ice. During the hike we learnt about how glaciers were formed, how volcanoes have affected them and how these giants are disappearing under the effects of climate change. After making our way off the glacier it was onto the remote coastal village of Vik to experience Iceland’s wild coastline and see the beautiful black sanded beach of Reynisfjara. The white icy wash sweeps up the beach and resembles a pint of Guinness being poured against the backdrop of the volcanic black sands. Basalt columns carved and eroded by sea and wind surround the beach and like art sculptures in a gallery they stand tall and complete the unique setting of Reynisfjara with the Atlantic Ocean rolling on by in the background.
To conclude our fascinating and spellbinding journey into the unknown, Iceland saved the best for last and from starting the day in glorious sunshine and blue skies we were surrounded by falling snow and icy blasts coming from our final waterfall Seljalandsfoss. As we carefully tackled the perilous climb up the frozen staircase to the viewing platform, the bitter cold spray and tumbling artic waters was a sight to behold with icy waters plunging from 60 metres high before you. The waterfall is unique in that you can walk around it but on this occasion we decided it was far too dangerous as the pathway was completely frozen and the staircase alone was an arduous task in itself. Walking back to the truck soaked to the core it dawned on me that I had come to Iceland with very high expectations and I was leaving completely satisfied having put into context all that I had heard and seen before embarking on the trip.
In short Iceland lives up to the hype and it is a country you have to tick off your bucket list...
Written by Senior Educational Travel Consultant Ricky Behan