I returned to Iceland at the beginning of March with a group of geography and photography students from Teign School in South Devon. We experienced a typical mix of Icelandic weather – starting with a biting east wind when we arrived, and moving on through rain, and then snow – but thankfully mixed with a lot of bright sunshine.
The group visited most of the usual haunts, and many looked different in the spring weather conditions. At Thingvellir, we walked to Oxarafoss – only to find the waterfall (left) totally frozen. The students were shocked when I showed them some photos of it in full flow earlier in the year.
Thingvallavatn Lake (right) – the largest in Iceland – was visible again following a spring thaw, and we were able to carefully pick our way along the slippery path around Kerio crater – although the crater lake was frozen solid (below).
Gulfoss looked impressive against a background of snow and ice, but the lower path that takes you right up close to the waterfall was still closed because of the weather.
We stopped to view the waterfalls at Seljalandfoss and Skogafoss, and I enjoyed experimenting with the panorama setting on my camera to capture the impressive scenes.
However, my favourite photo using this operational setting was the one I grabbed at Hellisheidi geothermal power station in the bright sunshine of our final day:
The Teign School geography students were keen to visit Eyjafjallajokull as they were using it for a case study in their exams. We called at the Visitor Centre to watch a documentary film about the 2010 eruption, and enjoyed chatting with members from the family who were evacuated from their farm directly below the volcano.
We were able to get our coach to the car park close to the Solheimajokull glacier, and the path to the snout of the glacier was safe enough to navigate. Here we had great views of the moraines, kettle holes and meltwater lake, as well as some of the tourists who had donned crampons to venture onto the ice surface itself.
At Reynisdrangar, we were able to walk onto the black basalt beach and get a good look at the columnar basalt cliffs – but with a high tide and a strong wind whipping up some impressive waves, we were not able to venture into any of the cliff caves. Since my last visit, a number of new signs had appeared on the path to the beach warning visitors about the ‘sneaker’ waves that can be exceptionally dangerous at this spot on the south Iceland coast. This followed the unfortunate incident here only a few weeks ago, when a tourist paid insufficient attention to the dangers of the sea, and was washed off the rocks to his death.
This group was booked into the Hotel Cabin in Reykjavik – and this gave us chance on the last day to explore the city, including a visit to the fantastic Harpa concert hall, a wonderful piece of modern architecture. We also make use of the thermal baths at Laugardalslaug, just ten minutes walk from our hotel. I was pleased that we managed to get to see and do virtually everything we had planned on our programme, and it was a fitting end to the trip to have the chance to enjoy a great view of the Northern Lights on the penultimate night. I checked the aurora forecast at the beginning of our stay, and although it was encouragingly listed as ‘active’ on that night, I didn’t expect to see much through the light pollution of the city. However, a short walk of a couple of hundred yards across the road from our hotel gave us a view over Mount Esja where there were few lights to break the darkness of the night sky. We had the pleasure of a good hour of green bands and streaks dancing and playing in the sky.
** One of the Teign students sent me this link to a You Tube presentation of some of his photographs. Thankyou, Sam Crowe for sharing this!