When most people think about snorkeling and diving in crystal clear waters, their mind immediately starts thinking about the turquoise waters in the Maldives, Bahamas, or other hot and tropical places. Would you believe me if I told you that one of the world’s clearest and cleanest snorkel and dive sites is actually located in Iceland? Yup, you read that correctly. Iceland is home to one of the top snorkel and dive sites in the world and like the rest of the country, it’s unbelievably beautiful.
The Silfra Fissure is the large crack in between the two shifting continental plates of Eurasia and North America located in Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park, which is located within the famous Golden Circle route. It’s the only place on the planet where you can snorkel or dive between two tectonic plates and touch two continents at the same time. The Silfra Fissure consists of four sections: Silfra Big Crack, Silfra Hall, Silfra Cathedral, and Silfra Lagoon. The water in the Silfra Fissure has an outstanding visibility of over 100 metres, or about 300 feet, making it one of the world’s most beautiful snorkel and dive sites. The temperature of the water sits at a chilly 2-4 degrees Celsius and comes from the nearby Langjökull Glacier, which is why the water in the fissure is SO clear and extremely cold all year round. The water is filtered through porous underground lava and rocks for approximately 30-100 years until it finally makes its way to it’s destination in the north end of Thingvellir Lake. The water within the Silfra Fissure is so pristine and clear that you can actually drink it directly from the fissure itself.
It was the morning of my snorkel tour with Dive.IS and I couldn’t have been more excited. Snorkeling in the Silfra Fissure is something that most underwater enthusiasts have high on their bucket lists. Truthfully, I haven’t done much snorkeling in my life, mainly because my vision is horrendous and I refuse to wear contacts, but that’s another story. Promptly at 8am, both my driver and guide, Sioban from Dive.IS came to pick me up at my hotel downtown Reykjavík and immediately greeted me with a cheerful, welcoming smile and an upbeat attitude. From that moment on, I knew it was going to be a great day.
Read more: A Complete City Guide to Reykjavík, Iceland
When we arrived at the snorkel and dive site, we were given a safety briefing for being in the water and then suited up with all the necessary gear to prepare ourselves for our icy plunge. Sioban walked us through getting dressed in the many layers needed for this snorkel experience and explained what each piece was for and how to properly put it on. We were told to arrive dressed in thermal pants, shirts and socks as our base layer. We were then given a thick body hugging suit that was to go on as our second layer, which resembled a welding workshop suit. The outer layer consisted of a thick waterproof dry suit complete with a headpiece, which felt like seal skin and was super unflattering, but warm as hell. I was actually sweating inside this thing! Our final pieces of gear were fins, goggles, neoprene gloves and of course, a snorkel mouthpiece. Sioban then made sure our suits were leak proof and made necessary tightening adjustments to each of us if needed to make sure none of the cold water would sneak into our suits. Once we were dressed up in our outfits, we walked over to the entrance to the fissure and patiently waited our turn for our group to enter the chilly water.
When our turn came up, we made our way down the metal staircase into waist deep water and I was shocked that I couldn’t feel the cold water at all through the suit. The only part of you that WILL get wet will be your face, some of your hair and maybe your hands a little bit if you wiggle around too much in the gloves. As we waited for Sioban to give us the OK to get fully into the water and make our way through the fissure with the current, I handed over my glasses to Sioban, who put them in a pouch attached to her belt for me and at that point I was thinking I wouldn’t be able to see anything, but luckily I had my trusty Safari action camera to capture the experience in full high definition for me. Don’t worry if you don’t have an underwater camera, as your guide will be snapping photos of you and your group during the entire experience, which you can then purchase after. When we were finally given the OK to start floating along, I was absolutely amazed at what I saw next as I stuck my face into the water.
The Silfra Fissure was absolutely beaming with brilliant colours of turquoise, green and blue, with massive chunks of the tectonic plates visible on either side of me. The rays of sun danced below and around me with the current while bouncing its reflections off the water and rocks. What shocked me the most was that I could actually see CLEARER underwater than above water due to the crisp cold and clear water, everything became magnified. Now don’t get me wrong, I still couldn’t see clearly because of my terrible vision, just clearer. I am pretty sure I gasped a little underwater at the site I was witnessing. It was one of those surreal moments when you have seen photos of it on the internet, but once you experience it yourself, it is pure magic.
As I relaxed and blissfully let the current and buoyancy of the dry suit carry me through the fissure, I was marveling at the underwater landscape beneath me and was fully taking in the once in a lifetime experience I was having. I thought about how each year, the fissure moves approximately two centimetres apart and knowing that the Earth around me was constantly shifting only fascinated me more.
As I kicked my way around the final corner and into the more shallow Silfra Lagoon area, the rays of sun were beaming through the water’s surface and glistening like diamonds along the bottom of the lagoon with the current, making for some very dramatic and stunning photos and video footage. I was the first to arrive into the lagoon, so I took the opportunity to enjoy the underwater views some more before kicking my way to the metal staircase to exit the water.
As I exited the water, and looked back at the lagoon, it was amazing to think about what lay beneath the water’s surface. Once everyone was out of the water, we all walked back to the parking lot to get out of our suits and warm up with a nice cup of hot chocolate and some cookies, which was much needed after that swim. We all stood around and chatted about the incredible experience and spectacular underwater landscapes we had just saw before heading back into the van to begin our drive back to Reykjavík.
Having the opportunity to snorkel within the Silfra Fissure was one of the most breathtaking and stunning experiences I have ever had. The sheer magnitude of natural beauty and geological wonder that make up the fissure is mind blowing. To be in the presence and touch two continents and swim between them is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced and takes the term being in two places at once, to an entirely different level. The team at Dive.IS are fun, personable, professional and highly safety oriented, which makes the entire experience a complete blast from start to finish.
- Who: Dive.IS
- Website: https://www.dive.is
- Meeting Time & Place: Your downtown Reykjavík hotel at 8am, or Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park (check site for updated times)
- Cost: Check website for updated tour costs
- Operates: Daily All Year
- Included: Snorkel or Diving gear, neoprene gloves, flippers, goggles, snorkel mouthpiece, Pick-Up & Drop Off from your downtown Reykjavík hotel, hot chocolate and cookies after the experience
- Not Included: Thermal under layers, Photos from the snorkel/dive (these are available for an additional cost)
- Wear: Thermal layers and thick thermal socks (bring extra clothing for afterwards)
- Tour Duration: From Pick-Up to Drop-Off is about 4-5 hours total (You will be in the water for 30-40 mins, so the rest of the time is getting gear on and transportation)
*Click here and scroll down for important Tour Requirements*
A HUGE thank you goes to Sioban from Dive.IS for showing me an incredible time, holding my glasses and for taking some incredible shots of me while I floated along the fissure.