Iceland was one wet, windy and wonderful week! Even though the weather was against us, we didn’t let that get in the way of experiencing everything this amazing country has to offer.
On our first day, we visited Hallsgrímskirkja, the largest church in Iceland, and the town hall. Both of these venues offered tactile experiences, the church font, organ and architecture, a sculpture garden and a large tactile map of the country. We then headed to Þingvellir, the site of the first Icelandic Parliament, and one of the oldest in the world, having first been formed in 930AD.
After lunch we explored the ‘Geysers’, a geothermal area full of spouting hot springs. One of the highlights of this visit was the geyser shooting out higher than normal, and drenching the group with lovely warm water! Providing a great sensory experience. The size of the eruption even took our Icelandic tour guide by surprise – a sure sign that our week in Iceland was out of the ordinary! We then visited the Golden Waterfall before arriving at a lovely farm in the middle of nowhere where we spent our second night.
We set off early the next day to another waterfall. This one was particularly popular with the group, as participants had the opportunity to climb part way up the waterfall and go behind it. Another soaking! We then drove through a vast expanse that had been shaped by the Laki eruption, and wouldn’t have looked out of place in a post-apocalyptic movie, before arriving at the Glacial Lagoon, definitely a highlight of the trip. The lagoon was a beautiful, almost mystical blue, and full of large icebergs, slowly drifting out to see. Even those who couldn’t see the icebergs enjoyed hearing the sound of them crunching together and banging into each other. We then walked down to Black Beach, which is littered with lumps of ice of all shapes and sizes. Upon hearing that the water that forms the ice is around 1000 years old, there was nothing left to do but lick it (obviously)! We then arrived at our third accommodation, another lovely remote guesthouse.
Thursday was one of the most challenging days of the trip, but definitely one of the most rewarding and another highlight for many. The schedule was for a 2 hour walk on Europe’s second largest glacier. Due to the weather, many other tour companies had cancelled their plans, however our guide was confident enough and our group were brave enough, and so we continued regardless. On a day when most sighted people weren’t brave enough to battle the elements, our VI group was. We donned crampons and headed out across the ice in the driving rain. It definitely proved to be a unique experience, and one that had a positive effect on the confidence of each individual in the group.
On Friday, we arrived at some rather smelly boiling sulphur mud pools – more popular with some than with others! The rain had finally eased and the landscape was spectacular and the sound of the boiling mud pools plopping away was surreal. We even had a snow flurry, which everyone enjoyed. The afternoon was pure relaxation as we spent several hours floating around the gloriously warm Blue Lagoon painting each other with face masks.
The pace wound down a little as we returned to Reykjavik and had a few days in the city. Due to popular demand we visited the Icelandic Phallological museum (!) then spent the afternoon souvenir and Christmas shopping. On Sunday, the group enjoyed visiting Hallsgrímskirkja again, this time for an Icelandic Christmas service, which was a great cultural experience. In the afternoon, we visited the local pools and enjoyed one last relaxing afternoon in the hot tubs. Those with a bit more energy had great fun on the water slides! In the evening, we had a wonderful last meal together, with many members of the group trying local Icelandic delicacies – the reindeer proved popular (sorry Rudolf); the fermented shark on the other hand, was not quite so well received.
All too soon it was time to go home. The group had a marvellous time and many new and lasting friendships were formed. This trip gave each and every person on it experiences and memories that will last a lifetime.
By Felicity Poulton
Lead Activities Coordinator