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!
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.
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”.
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!
Danielle is a travel finance strategist, writer, speaker and podcaster. She paid off $63,000 of student loan debt in 4 years, bought a house at 27 and has traveled to 25 countries. She refuses to let her financial responsibilities hold her back from living life on her own terms.