Snorkeling Silfra in Iceland - Danielle Desir

Ever seen a photo that made you want to book a flight and experience a destination immediately? Well, this is how I felt (and continue to feel) about snorkeling Silfra in Iceland. After seeing colorful underwater photos of Silfra, I knew that snorkeling between the North-American and Eurasian tectonic plates was one of the first experiences I wanted to have in Iceland.

Silfra is one of the top dive sites in the world. Located in the Thingvellir National Park, Silfra’s crystal clear waters are unmatched and perfect for underwater sightseeing. It takes 30-100 years for the glacial waters from the nearby Langjökull glacier to filter through the underground lava rocks and into the fissure.


Snorkeling Silfra Tour


Surviving Silfra’s Strong Winds

Since I didn’t have (and still do not have) my diving license, I booked an Iceland snorkeling tour with DIVE.IS. DIVE.IS is one of the few companies in Iceland that offers diving and snorkeling Silfra tours. The crew picked me up at my hostel and within an hour, we arrived at the snorkeling site.

Although lots of people talk about the freezing waters at Silfra, I’m not sure why no one ever mentions the wind chill. The wind was 10x worse than the ice-cold water in April.

While getting fitted with my base layer, gloves, snorkels, flippers and drysuit, the wind was so strong that I could barely feel my face, hands, and feet – this was before I entered the water.

I also forgot towels and warm socks so make sure you properly pack for Iceland!


Related: Iceland’s South Coast Glaciers & Secret Waterfalls


Overcoming Icy Waters

After a somewhat uncomfortable outfitting process, our instructor led my group to a small platform where we spat in our goggles before descending into the water. Did you know that saliva has chemicals that prevent goggles from fogging up!

Surprisingly, the water was cold but bearable. At 2-4°C, Silfra doesn’t get warm in the summer or freeze in the winter. Temperatures are stable all year round.

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I’m just happy that I had travel medical insurance because after Silfra’s strong winds and icy waters, I could have easily gotten sick – it’s better to be safe (and healthy) than sorry.

Besides my face (which was exposed), my hands were cold because water started to seep into my wrists. The instructor warned us of potential wardrobe malfunctions but I didn’t heed his advice. Take it from me, when snorkeling Silfra, tread carefully and try not to move too much.


Perfect Visibility Underwater

Although Silfra’s surface was deep turquoise blue, with perfect visibility (up to 100 meters) you can see a lot underwater. There’s a mélange of colorful boulders and rocks in the fissure. Orange moss and green algae covered just about everything. DIVE.IS calls the green algae “troll hair”.

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And as a result of frequent earthquakes in the area, falling rocks and boulders create a wide range of depth in the fissure.

Snorkeling Silfra is great for exploring the shallow areas since you can touch most of your surroundings. However, if you want to explore the deeper sections of the fissure, you’ll need proper diving gear.

It took about half an hour to reach the end of the lagoon where I had to swim against the current to reach the exit point.

Walking back to the parking area, I felt like a champion! I survived Silfra’s glacial waters and ferocious winds. I also had puffy eyes to prove it for days. DIVE.IS also treated us to hot chocolate and cookies to celebrate.

If you enjoy water sports, floating and snorkeling Silfra is a must in Iceland. Although I can’t guarantee that you’ll feel your face after, snorkeling or diving between shifting tectonic plates may be a once in a lifetime opportunity. This is the only place in the world where you can swim between continents!

38 replies
  1. John Krueger says:

    Last time i visited Florida . that trips was awesome , clean water , good for snorkeling . bt am afraid of cold water. thank you for your valuable post sharing with us

    • The Thought Card says:

      I want to get my diving certification so that I can go back and dive in Silfra. I used a GoPro for underwater photography =)

  2. Arzo Travels says:

    There is hardly anything I love as much as water – but I am totally scared of fish and cannot go snorkeling for that reason. But I love your pictures 🙂

  3. Evelina says:

    Wow, nice photos. I love the colors. You definitely had a great time. I didn’t know about the snorkeling opportunity in Iceland.

  4. Daylyn says:

    I did that while in Iceland!!! I was scared at first with the water seeping in through my mask but it was a really cool experience!

  5. Brianne says:

    I’m hoping to finally get to Iceland this year, so I will pin this helpful post for later! I’d like to think I’m brave enough to willingly submerge myself in ice-cold water 🙂 Sounds like a fantastic experience!

  6. Sarah says:

    Wow! I absolutely love snorkelling and this is a really unusual spot to do it. The cold scares me a little though I have to admit! I had to laugh at you choking yourself by speaking underwater – I thought it was only me that did that. It’s just so easy to forget isn’t it? You see something amazing and exclaim, or just gasp, and suddenly you’re floundering around trying to clear your tube and hoping nobody is watching you make a fool of yourself!

  7. Flo @ says:

    Incredible photos! I went surfing in 16 degree Celsius cold water one time and was struggling – kudos to you for going snorkeling in Iceland!

  8. The Hopeful Traveler says:

    Whoa! It had never even crossed my mind that snorkeling in Iceland is a thing. How amazing, though. Those underwater photos are so stunning! Did you see much underwater life? I’m actually terrified of marine life, but I love the water…so from your pictures, it seems like snorkeling in Iceland might be a good spot for someone like me. I don’t see any fish swimming around! Then again…that sounds sooo cold. You’re tougher than I am, for sure. 🙂

  9. Laia says:

    Woooow this is absolutely beautiful, the colors of the rocks and water! The dry suit must be really good to keep you warm when the water was at 2ºC!! What an experience to snorkel in this geographical conditions!

  10. Karla Strand says:

    I’ve never been snorkeling but would love to! Although it sounds amazing, I think I will start somewhere warmer! 😉 But would love to see Iceland some day!

  11. Francesca says:

    Wow, what an experience! That’s something I’d totally do, even with the cold temperatures. The swim against the wind might not be too fun but I bet the underwater scenery made up for it!

  12. Jenna Fletcher says:

    This is incredible! I would have never thought to go snorkeling in Iceland. It looks beautiful but sounds so cold!

  13. Danielle Evers says:

    When did you go to Iceland? That is my next overseas destination!
    Also, that looks amazing and cold. Haha

  14. Wanderlust Marriage says:

    Wow, I’ve read quite a few posts about Iceland, and this is the first one about snorkeling there! Amazing photos and that is awesome you braved the cold, looks totally worth it!

  15. Vyjay Rao says:

    I think this experience is indeed something really special, after all snorkelling in ice cold water is no mean task. Congrats on braving the cold, ultimately you got your wow moments despite the hardships, which is what matters at the end.

  16. Wander With Jo says:

    This looks amazing. I love snorkeling (now.. my first time was pretty bad as it took me a while to get used to the gear.. but once I did, I was the last one to get back on shore haha). I can’t believe you dipped into the ice cold glacier waters, even with the dry suit its quite a feat. Kudos girl. Btw, the water looks so clear.. may I know which camera you used for these splendid underwater shots?

  17. Huub Ricardo says:

    I live on an island and I would suppose to love snorkeling and diving. I totally scared shitless to do it, so I applaud you to do so and in that kind of water even. Damnnn..collld!! 🙂

  18. Megan Claire says:

    This is amazing – we spent a week on Iceland and drove the ring road, but this was a little too out of the way to be able to make it happen. That being said Iceland is the one spot we really want to make a second trip happen for, and then when we do get back, snorkelling between the continental divide is definitely on the list!

  19. Colby says:

    This sounds like an incredible experience! Kudos to you for braving the cold! I don’t know if I would be able to do it lol.

  20. Izzy Pulido says:

    You went snorkeling in Iceland?? I think that takes the cake for coolest snorkeling experiences especially since you had to brave that frigid Arctic water! *props to you!* I don’t think I would’ve had the balls to do what you did which makes me even more envious of these super cool pictures!

  21. Jasmine @ Restless Heart says:

    I just discovered and fell in love with snorkeling in Hawaii and I’m so eager to do it again. Since I’m currently thinking my next trip will be Iceland/Ireland, I was really excited to read your article and discover I can do snorkeling there. I’ve already gotten used to -40 Celcius weather and 100km winds so I’m all set!

  22. Paige Brown says:

    When you mentioned this in a previous post, I was insanely intrigued! This is such a unique experience! I’ve snorkeled a handful of times, once over a shipwreck, BUT this is the coolest snorkeling trip I’ve ever seen! I think it’s crazy that the water is even safe to drink! Iceland just sounds more and more like a paradise every time I go! Thanks for sharing! Cheers!

  23. Bailey K. says:

    Wow!! I’ve seen a few photos of Silfra recently – it’s so mysterious and beautiful. I love snorkeling, but it would probably freak me out with the deep spots, too!! That’s why I’ve never been scuba diving. But I’d love to snorkel here!

  24. Chantell Collins says:

    What a unique experience! You did so well on your second time snorkeling too! I can’t snorkel (I have a phobia of having stuff on my face) but Darrell loves it and I could definitely see him doing this. The company that your snorkeled with sounds like they really looked after you too!

  25. Robert Doyle says:

    Really cool Danielle! I have a long list of adventure type things I want to do but never seem to manage it! Snorkeling is one of them so I am sure one day it will happen 🙂

  26. Grassroots Nomad says:

    Wow, stunning! It looks like the surface of the moon or mars!!! Sounds like a great trip – I will remember not to move my wrists too much!

  27. Marteen Lane says:

    Anywhere where there’s hot chocolate and cookies on offer I’m there. Seriously though what an experience! Do you have an underwater camera? The photos are amazing!


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