When we rented a car to explore Iceland, the folks from the rental car company told us that we could also book activities in the country via their sister company Iceland On The Web. We didn’t exactly know what things we’d want to do yet. But one thing is for sure, snorkeling in Iceland during winter had never crossed our minds! Who on earth signs up to go inside the freezing waters of a glacial lake? Well, apparently us!…
Snorkeling in Iceland truly is a special experience. Unlike most snorkeling and diving experiences around the world, in Iceland’s Thingvellir National Park, no one gets wet for the sake of appreciating the underwater flora or fauna. Silfra, where this snorkeling tour took us, is the tectonic divide between the North American and Eurasian continental plates. This world of lava rocks known as the Silfra fissure is bathed by groundwater that originates in the Langjökull glacier so, as you can understand, the water is indeed freezing.
Silfra is a popular snorkeling and diving spot because of its amazingly clear waters. The shades of blue you can experience here, and the visibility that easily extends to 70 or 80 meters is simply exceptional. The water is this crystal clear not only because it is pure glacier water, but also because it passes by several volcanic rocks on the way to the Silfra fissure and eventually to the Thingvellir Lake. These volcanic rocks work as a filter, leaving behind any elements that would make the water unclear. No particles in the water also means no noticeable algae or fish.
A snorkeling tour in Silfra starts with an explanation of the geological characteristics of the area. You’re here not only to appreciate the wonders of nature but also to learn a thing or two in the process. Because this activity takes places inside a national park, there are no permanent facilities for you to get ready. A heated van works as changing room and, believe me, you will want to sit inside there for some solid minutes after snorkeling in Silfra for almost an hour.
To go inside the water in Silfra the first thing you have to make sure of is that you won’t get wet. Or almost! High-quality dry suits are provided, but you should still bring thermal inners and two pairs of woolen socks. The water at Silfra is pure and very tasty. I certainly do encourage you to take a few sips. But you won’t want to drink too much as you float around so that your dry suit stays indeed dry until the end of the tour!
Suiting up to snorkel in Silfra is a tough process, but your guides will help you get equipped. The dry suits are very, very tight and because the water can be as cold as 2°C, you really don’t want to let anything in. If you think things get easier during summer, well, they don’t! Water temperatures in Silfra are 2-4°Celsius all year round, so at the most, during summer, you’ll get a few more rays of sun to help you acclimatize when you come out of the water. Either way, you get hot cocoa and biscuits at the end of the activity and that, my friends, will put some life back into you for sure!
Snorkeling in Silfra is part fun activity, part endurance challenge. It’s a hardcore experience, I’m not going to lie! Even with all the pro equipment, you do feel cold when you get inside the water. And, precisely because you have so much gear on you, moving around is not easy. But the truth is that you don’t have to barely move to explore the fissure, as the flow of the water will take you along during most of the route.
Being underwater in Silfra is an exceptional privilege though. Not only you get to enjoy the fantastic views ahead of you, you also get to feel what it’s like to have a “hole” of about 63 meters beneath your floating body, in the sections where the crack is at its deepest. This is Mother Nature putting you in your right place, as she so often does in Iceland!
Silfra is so unique that it is often highlighted as one of the world’s top snorkeling and diving sites. If you have the stamina, do not miss it!
More info and bookings:
Iceland On The Web