What part of Eyjafjallajökull don’t you understand? Iceland part 1.

A few weeks back, two members of the Diverse team were lucky enough to spend three days discovering the magnificent country of Iceland! Famous for its spectacular landscapes and infamous for its high levels of tectonic activity – the result of its location on the Eurasian-Atlantic plate boundary – Iceland did not disappoint (not surprisingly, it’s our top destination for Geography trips). We took a late flight out from Birmingham and arrived into Keflavik airport in the early hours of the morning. Our Icelandic adventure began with a drive through the lava fields of the Reykjanes peninsula, eerily lunar in the darkness, which took us to Reykjavik and the Reykjavik City Hostel, a very popular accommodation choice for our schools.  We checked into the hostel and went straight to bed, excited to see more of Iceland’s breath-taking scenery on our first tour the following day! The next day, we were picked up from our hostel for our Golden Circle tour, one of the most popular excursions for school groups visiting Iceland.  This tour focuses mainly on features that students will recognise from their “Restless Earth” module – Þingvellir National Park in Iceland is the only place in the world where a plate boundary can be seen above sea level – but visitors also have the opportunity to see one of Iceland’s most magnificent waterfalls!Our first stop was the Friðheimer greenhouse, an interesting example of Iceland’s innovative and extensive use of its natural geothermal energy resources, and an excellent brunch opportunity!  The use of geothermal energy to heat greenhouses in Iceland dates back to 1924, and the industry is heavily subsidised by the country’s environmentally-conscious government.We continued the geothermal theme at Geysir, where we made sure to snap the obligatory “erupting geyser” selfies at Strokkur geyser, a very active fountain geyser which shoots boiling water up to 40 metres into the air every 5 minutes. We had an Icelandic lunch of traditional sourdough bread and stew at the Geysir Exhibition Centre, and then immediately regretted it as we tested out the centre’s earthquake simulator!After lunch, our tour took us to the spectacular Gulfoss waterfall, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland and the largest volume falls in Europe. According to local legend, Sigriður Tómasdóttir, the daughter of the waterfall’s owner, was so upset by plans to turn the plant into a hydro-electric power station that she threatened to throw herself into Gulfoss and thus saved the waterfall. Our final visit was the historic Þingvellir National Park, where the first Icelandic parliament (and the nation of Iceland) was founded in 930. Þingvellir has played a central role in Icelandic culture, although many visitors are more likely to recognise it as a key filming location in the Game of Thrones saga! The park lies in a rift valley that marks the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, and is famous for the high level of tectonic activity that it experiences. Students visiting Þingvellir can see continental drift in action, the faults in the ground marking the lines where Iceland is slowly being pulled apart.We arrived back in Reykjavik in the early evening, and headed into the city centre in search of dinner and sightseeing. We weren’t quite brave enough to try the traditional Icelandic delicacy of fermented shark, but did enjoy some of the more easily recognisable fish delicacies! We also fitted in a visit to the ultra-modern Hallgrimskirkja church, whose soaring belltower (built to reflect Iceland’s rugged natural landscape) can be seen from all over Reykjavik. We headed back to our hostel exhausted, but delighted with everything that we had seen. Our next daytrip would be to the South Shore, whose breath-taking attractions will need a whole new blog post to describe!To find out more about Diverse School Travel and our outstanding Geography trips visit our website at www.DiverseSchoolTravel.co.uk. By Laura Whitaker and Jamie Gardiner. 

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