The Goodmans community adventure in Iceland
A diverse natural playground of glaciers, volcanoes, waterfalls, forests, deserts and mountains, Iceland was a spectacular destination for our very first client/staff overseas adventure. Here's why we did it and how it went.
Why we took our clients to Iceland
Something we’re really proud of at Goodmans is the connection we have with our clients and the long-term relationships that come from that. For us, financial planning is never just a transaction, it’s a way to empower good people to live the great lives they deserve. As well as a strong sense of community, most of our clients share a fierce spirit of adventure – you won’t find many ‘boring’ retirements here. What you will find is plenty of hiking, cycling, camping, climbing, wild swimming, sailing, paddleboarding, travelling… and general enjoyment of the great outdoors.
It made complete sense, then, for us to join the dots and start thinking about planning a Goodmans community adventure – a ‘bucket-list’ experience for and with our clients. And Iceland – a diverse natural playground of glaciers, volcanoes, waterfalls, forests, deserts and mountains – seemed like the perfect place to kick things off.
The road there
The seeds were first sown when Goodmans’ Directors, Andrew and Finbarr, were on a walking tour of Iceland together last summer (read more about that here). While enjoying the exhilaration and challenge of the adventure, they found themselves saying to one another, “Wouldn’t our clients love this?” before it turned to, “Why shouldn’t our clients enjoy this?” and, “How can we make this happen?”
Fast forward to early 2022, and, thanks to Karen from The Travel Counsellors, the logistics were formed for a bespoke trip. Once the invitation was out with the client community and we had a show of hands, the wheels were well and truly in motion.
So it was in June 2022 that a team of seven clients and six staff members, including Andrew and Finbarr, set off from Plymouth, Exmouth, Bristol, Cheltenham and South Wales to embark on a most excellent adventure.
A setback turns into an opportunity
The five-day trip was to start with a night in Reykjavik before embarking on four days walking the Laugavegur Trail, a 34-mile (55 km) trek across the South West of the island. That was the plan, anyway. But Iceland’s temperamental weather had other ideas. Mid-June is the very start of the walking season, but this can be delayed by ongoing wintery weather, and that’s exactly what happened here. Late snowfall had transformed the road at the start of the mountain trail into a meltwater lake, making access too difficult, even for Iceland’s incredibly sturdy, all-terrain 4WD mountain buses. On arriving in the capital, it was confirmed that our original route just wasn’t doable at this time.
Our experienced local guide worked with Andrew to hatch a new plan. The bad news was that we’d miss out on the Landmannalaugar portion at the start of the trek, with its hot springs, bubbling geysers and multicoloured mountains. The good news was that this gave us the chance to go completely off-piste and explore the lesser travelled spots known only to locals. And with most travellers waiting it out until the path cleared – and travelling in the opposite direction when it did – we’d also have much of the trail to ourselves. A silver lining indeed!
Exploring the land of fire and ice
What lay ahead was spectacular.
Starting amidst an Arctic birch forest, we ventured through the glacial valley of Thórsmörk, across an oasis of purple lupins and colourful alpine wildflowers before encountering landscapes more associated with Iceland. Mossy hills soon gave way to regal peaks with icy tongues, and ravines opened out into canyons. Walking the Tindfjöll circle we hiked the steep zigzag path of the mountain Rjúpnafell, our efforts rewarded with panoramic views of the Highlands beyond, with its intricate canyons and the velvety crags of the valley below. Not seeing any other hikers throughout, it seemed we had it all to ourselves.
The following day, we picked up on day three of the original route in reverse, walking from Thórsmörk to Emstrur, with the alpine tundra transforming into lunar landscapes punctuated by ancient volcanoes. We forded fierce, icy rivers by foot and by gravity-defying bridges spanning narrow canyons. (For some of us, who had already taken an icy dip in a glacial river at the crack of dawn, this may not have been so daunting!)
We spent Father’s Day exploring the Emstrur desert, beginning with a detour to the majestic Markarfljótsgljúfur Canyon. One of the largest in the country, plunging 200m into the earth, it was the most epic of backdrops. Going off-piste, we ventured deep into the glacial folds, and were thrilled to spy an Arctic fox sprinting across the thick floor of ice below!
Our last day picked up on the original trail once more, through familiar, yet completely different landscapes – huge, rugged glaciers, deep canyons, black, dusty deserts, raging rivers, tranquil streams and imposing mountains still showing signs of winter.
Reflections on an epic adventure
Over those four days, we’d encountered scorching sun, ferocious wind, persistent drizzle and panoramic mist. Icelandic weather! We’d also found nature in the most remote of places, as wildflowers clung to mossy rocks, ptarmigan gamebirds scoured dusty stones for food, and that solitary Arctic fox sprinted across the otherwise desolate glacial floor.
What we came to do was a trek of 55km (34 miles). What we ended up doing was 76km (47 miles)! Averaging a daily distance of 19km (12 miles) over 5-9 hours of walking, we were burning around 2,500–3,000 calories a day.
A physically demanding challenge it may have been, with basic facilities and rugged terrain that tested the limits of comfort at times, but that made the rewards all the richer and the sense of achievement all the greater. It’s bucket-list stuff for a reason!
Majestic, magical Iceland was, of course, the star of the show, but it wouldn’t have been the amazing trip it was without the people involved. Within that incredible, awe-inspiring experience there were inevitably moments of tiredness and discomfort, but there was also a lot of laughter, camaraderie and support. That’s why we’re proud to call our network of clients and staff the Goodmans community, and that’s why we’ll keep doing what we do.
Bring on the next adventure!
Our clients can read more about our Iceland adventure in the autumn issue of the Goodmans community magazine, Unleashed.