Iceland Adventure by Hannah Rahman

Hannah Rahman in Iceland.

Iceland Adventure

By Hannah Rahman

Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to Iceland for a 12-day adventure with the University of South Florida’s Outdoor Recreation Program. I found myself feeling hesitant because it was the first time I flew internationally alone; I was traveling to a foreign country and I did not know anyone joining me. This was quite nerve-racking. However, the trip quickly turned into a journey of a lifetime, with some of the most incredible people. I made not only wonderful memories, but I fell in love with the country. Additionally, I made friends of a lifetime. This trip put the world into a whole new perspective for me. It showed me the kind of person I strive to be and the kind of people I want in my life. More so, it ignited my love for geology, traveling, the great outdoors, and cultures.


Reykjavik, Iceland @2018 Hannah Rahman


Iceland’s capital and largest city, Reykjavik ©2018 Hannah Rahman

Our first couple of days were spent exploring Iceland’s capital and largest city, Reykjavik. Reykjavik is a very modest, vibrant, colorful city filled with graffiti, statues, coffee shops, yummy (but expensive) foods, and the kindest people.

Iceland graffiti

Beautiful graffiti, Reykjavik, Iceland @2018 Hannah Rahman

Also, I learned that it is unbelievably eco-friendly—everything from the toilet paper in the bathrooms to the confetti thrown at parades. Our trip began with visiting several museums, the Perlan Museum being the most informative and fascinating. Here, we wandered through an ice cave that was -12 degrees Fahrenheit, where I found my lips turning purple. My group and I learned about the extreme richness of the water in Iceland; there is clean groundwater, geothermal springs, direct runoff and glacial rivers, bogs, moors and multitudes of waterfalls. This was proven to me when I discovered our water bottles could be filled with faucet water, tap water, and unfiltered river water. To my fascination, there is a vast amount of volcanic activity in Iceland that scientists typically talk about as “volcanic systems” rather than individual volcanoes. Iceland is known as the land of ‘Fire and Ice’ for this very reason.


Hallgrímskirkja – Church of Iceland, Reykjavík, Iceland ©2018 Hannah Rahman

Another intriguing stop we made was the church (Hallgrímskirkja). This church is the tallest building in Iceland located in the heart of Reykjavik’s downtown. Another prominent feature, public pools, weigh in as a popular hangout location for the locals. These pools are not only a great social atmosphere and provide health benefits, but they are geothermally heated, meaning they are naturally heated, while making a small positive environmental impact. Our team quickly fell into the routine of enjoying the warm water as a break from the tireless cold weather.

Possibly the most remarkable activity we partook in was a once in a lifetime snorkeling tour. This snorkeling trip was unlike any other—beautiful and magnificent.  Wearing dry suits, we snorkeled between Silfra, a fissure formed by the separation of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. This is the only place in the world where it is possible to scuba dive or snorkel between two tectonic plates. I am stoked that I had the opportunity to experience such a unique venture; excitement strides through my veins when I imagine storytelling my journey.


Silfra rift, Iceland @2018 Hannah Rahman

From this tour, I acquired an intellectual understanding of how the fissure formed: the divergent movement of the two tectonic plates along with earthquakes in 1789 formed the rift; the continents continue to drift apart about 2 cm per year. Glacial water that has been filtered underground through porous, lava rock keeps this fissure full of water. The water was incredibly clear, engulfed in all shades of pure blue coloring, illuminating the massive boulders and rocks.

snorkeling Silfra

Snorkeling the Silfra fissure, Iceland @2018 Hannah Rahman

The finale of the trip was a 5-day, 55km backpacking trek across the popular Laugavegur trail in South-West Iceland. The eye-quenching landscapes throughout the hike were unbelievable. I felt as though I was in a fairy tale—an enchanted land where red dragons fly through purple skies. The color scheme of the mountains ranged from numerous shades: greens, blues, browns, oranges, reds, whites, greys, and blacks.


Iceland ©2018 Hannah Rahman

This hike was undeniably the toughest encounter I have ever braved through, both mentally and physically. The trek began in the hot springs area of Landmannalauger and ended in the glacial valley of Porsmork.

Iceland hike

Iceland Hike Plan ©2018 Hannah Rahman

The first day in Landmannalgauger we completed a day hike up a vast Sulphur Hill. The purpose of this was to test our rain and hiking gear, as well as gage the different hiking experience levels. The official first day entailed a 12-km hike across an outstanding lava field sight named “Laugahran.” Our team trekked through hot springs, around fumaroles, across colorful cotton-grass meadows and through large amounts of slippery, cold snow.

Hannah Rahman

Hannah hiking through Iceland. ©Hannah Rahman

Unexpectedly, these 12 km hikes quickly turned into 24 km hikes due to increasingly incompetent weather. Once my group and I made it to Day One’s campsite in the early afternoon, we soon realized the weather was taking advantage of our minimal resources. Considering the dramatically increasing snow and wind, we became aware of how miserable it would be to sleep in a tent in these horrid conditions. Fortunately, the group unanimously voted to complete day two’s hike during day one. We would be sleeping in toasty, warm huts rather than struggling to find comfort in the bitter, cold tents.


Camping in Iceland ©2018 Hannah Rahman

Before we continued our trek that day we took a much-needed break and ate lunch, fueling our bodies. The second 12 km of that same day brought us across small snow-filled ravines, rhyolite mountains, rivers, and dark palagonite mountains and glaciers. It is of importance to note that this was not just any hike; we each carried a 40-pound pack on our backs, which included food, warm clothes, sleeping materials, pots and pans—basically everything needed to survive.


Backpacking in Iceland. ©2018 Hannah Rahman

Our team hiked in seemingly unbearable conditions from 6 am until 12:30 at night on day one, totaling 24 km. It took pure will power to accomplish this task. Luckily, because we completed two hikes of the trail in one day, our day two became rest day. The time was spent in the hut playing card games, talking, sleeping, and eating. Here I found myself enjoying the company of new friends; in this moment, I felt at a state of total bliss.

Our third day on the trail can be easily compared to Day One. It held a total of 15 km over ridges, into ravines, across fast flowing rivers, and around canyons. Never did I reach a point where the view was dull. Instead, my eyes pondered indescribable views.


Iceland. ©2018 Hannah Rahman

Even with these breathtaking sights, I found myself distracted by the difficulties of crossing rivers because it was simply a hard and numbing process. It was necessary for us to take off our hiking boots and put on water shoes to cross. I have never felt water so cold; I thought my feet were going to freeze off!


Hiking through Iceland. ©2018 Hannah Rahman

Day four, the final day on the trail, was about 15 km. Like the other days, we hiked over volcanoes, around canyons, across bridges that created pathways over deep rivers and canyons, and through a birchwood forest. To my surprise, I saw very few animals, the only ones being ducks and sheep. Making it to the end of the trail was a true accomplishment.

With this direct, positive experience I encountered on my adventure to Iceland, I highly recommend everyone to participate in university travels. I believe it to be worth it, even with the physical and mental hardships that come with it. Additionally, I advise the general population to travel as much as they can because from my personal experience, I have found it to be the best way to learn and grow. I have become more aware of the world and its physical vastness.


Iceland. ©2018 Hannah Rahman

Note from Sandie: Hannah has recently started her Master’s degree in hydrogeology at the University of South Florida and is a student intern where I work. Thank you for sharing your amazing experience with us, Hannah!

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