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SNORKELING BETWEEN CONTINENTS IN THE SILFRA FISSURE

Mary Kujawski
snorkeling silfra fissure iceland

THE ULTIMATE YOLO EXPERIENCE IN ICELAND

Truth:

If there is one singular thing that brought me to the Land of Fire and Ice above all others, it was for the opportunity to snorkel the Silfra.

I don’t remember the how or the when, only that at some point I learned about this one-of-a-kind experience in Iceland.

Perhaps I saw it featured on a travel show?

Read about it on a travel blog?

I honestly don’t recall.

All I know is that I learned of it and immediately a mighty glow began to blaze brightly from the lightbulb going off in my head.

This, I thought.

This I gotta do someday.

So, I did what I do when I’m enthralled and inspired!

I put it on The List.

(You have one of these, don’t you? Of all your dream destinations? If not, you must start your own The List and stat!)

Yes, I put it on The List and out into the universe that someday, I was going to go to Iceland and I was going to do THAT.

And then, one day, I did!

SILFRA WHO?

snorkeling silfra fissure iceland

Silfra is a fissure between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates located on the rim of Þingvallavatn lake in Þingvellir National Park, a 45 minute drive northeast from the Iceland capital of Reykjavík.

The rift formed in 1789 after earthquakes opened up several fissures where the two tectonic plates (and continents) diverge. Silfra fissure then filled with and continues to be fed from glacial meltwater from nearby Langjökull Glacier.

It is now home to what many consider to be some of the clearest water in the world, making it a stunning place to snorkel and dive.

GET THEE TO THINGVELLIR NATIONAL PARK

First things first: to snorkel the Silfra you must enter Thingvellir National Park, which is a world UNESCO site and home to much historical and cultural significance in Iceland. It’s also a popular stopping point along the famous Golden Circle route in south Iceland.

We arrived with time to spare before our booked tour, so away we went to do what we do best:

Explore!

snorkeling Silfra in Iceland
Getting a clear shot of Iceland’s flag at Þingvellir was a tough to capture with the fierce wind whipping about that day.
Do we get an A for effort?
snorkeling Silfra in Iceland
Check out these craggy rock formations and rifts!
snorkeling Silfra in Iceland
This park is geologically badass.
snorkeling silfra fissure iceland
Þingvallavatn lake. I know you’re down there somewhere, Silfra!
snorkeling silfra fissure iceland
Beautiful Öxarárfoss waterfall, a gem at the end of the walking path along Almannagjá gorge.

After a short hike around the park, it was time for our snorkeling tour.

No time to waste!

Let’s go!

SUITING UP

All companies who operate snorkel and dive tours through the Silfra convene in a single parking lot across the street from the point of entry into the fissure.

Here we located the van belonging to our tour operator, Adventure Vikings, and checked in with our guides.

The first order of business?

Suiting up, of course!

snorkeling silfra fissure iceland
Dressing for your snorkeling adventure happens here.
Just a van among vans in the middle of the elements!

But there is nothing easy about this “suiting up” business.

Oh no.

I spent the better part of 20 minutes stuffing my bod into my snorkeling ensemble.

First, I had to put on a cozy fleece onesie, much like the footie pajamas of childhood.

No problem, I thought. This is essentially my ‘Netflix and chill’ wear! I can do this!

But then.

Then I had to put on my dry suit.

And that thing is a struggle.

The goal of a dry suit is to prevent any water from entering the warm cavity that it provides. This means that along with the suit, the ends (at neck, wrists, and ankles) must be tied off with what I can best compare to dog collars and zip ties.

Everything istight.

Oh-so-very-tight. Guides walk around to assist. Thank goodness, because I cannot get into this on my own. I am feeling very much like Ralphie’s younger brother in ‘A Christmas Story’:

snorkeling silfra fissure iceland
I can’t move my arms! Or anything else, for that matter. Uncle!
snorkeling silfra fissure iceland
The final look. I’ve never felt more glamorous.

We are reassured that once we are in the water, things will “loosen” and we will feel much more comfortable. I am counting on this fact because right now? The best I can manage are slow, shallow breaths.

In fact, the guides even checked on me at one point because apparently?

Apparently, I was looking a little blue.

Can I just say it’s a little unnerving when the guides to whom you look for comfort and reassurance begin to look at you with grave concern?!

snorkeling silfra fissure iceland
One of our stellar guides giving us the 411 on what to expect and how to stay safe during our snorkel experience.

After several guides check me over, they give me the two thumbs up to continue on.

I guess a bit of blue never hurt anyone?

And so, with slow, awkward duck steps I made my way from the parking lot to the point of entry into the Silfra. It was time.

snorkeling silfra fissure iceland
All that stands between me and getting my mind blown is this staircase.

Goin’ under in 3,2,1….

snorkeling silfra fissure iceland
The moment of truth where fear meets excitement and determination!
This is happening, people!

This is it.

I am here, in Iceland, about to enter the Silfra.

Pinch me.

I make my way down the steps andput my face into the water and get a glimpse of what lay beneath.

What was it like, you might be asking?

That moment of finally seeing?

It. Was. Magic.

I had a snorkel in my mouth but I joke that if I could have spoken words upon my first views below the surface, it would have been a garbled mix of excited exclamations and jubilant expletives!

Instead, I took in the still wonder of this sublime, otherworldly landscape, the only faint sounds my breathing, the beating of my heart, and the swishing of my hands as they stroked through the water.

Otherwise?Silence.

snorkeling silfra fissure iceland

And BLUE.

Blue everywhere.

Shades of royal blue and cobalt…

Hues of aqua and turquoise…

All in the clearest, purest water I’ve ever experienced.

I talk about hiking heaven on Earth at another stunning Iceland locale: Reykjadalur Hot Springs.

This, then?

This was heaven under water.

We make our way through the fissure. A slight current carries us along at a comfortable pace.

Everywhere I look it’s a dazzling display.

Some areas of the fissure go down 120 feet deep or more…

snorkeling silfra fissure iceland

…while other areas are so shallow that my stomach, protected by my suit, nearly drags along the rocky bottom.

snorkeling silfra fissure iceland

I drift along lazily and lose all track of time.

It’s as if I’m in a dream.

snorkeling silfra fissure iceland
The clarity is unbelievable. Water so clear it’s like looking through glass.

Still, only 25 minutes or so later and I reach the ending point, climbing out of the fissure.

snorkeling silfra fissure iceland
A platform beckons.

As much as I hate to wake from this dream, I welcome the end. Despite the beauty that surrounds me, the cold has simply become too much to bear.

I’m numb.

I can’t feel my extremities.

But even so?

I’m blinking back tears of joy, feeling the cool air and harsh wind whip at my already frozen pink cheeks as I think:

I’m in Iceland!

And I just snorkeled the Silfra!

BEFORE YOU GO

A Silfra snorkeling trip is, in my mind, one of the most unique and unforgettable experiences you can have in Iceland! Nay, the world!

I highly recommend it!

That said, you might have some questions before you feel ready to commit, like…

WHEN SHOULD I GO?

The water temperature remains the same year-round, which means this is going to be a chilly experience in the middle of the winter or the height of summer. It’s of no consequence either way. We went on a rainy, brisk day and joked that hey, we were already wet and cold.

Why not get wetter and colder?

(I confess this is questionable logic indeed.)

The guides also insist that no matter the kind of day, be it sunny or overcast, it won’t prevent you from having a terrific experience. Everything is so clear here that even the drabbest of days can’t dampen the experience.

So, no matter what time of year or what kind of day weather-wise you find yourself in Iceland, the choice is easy:

Don those flippers! It’s snorkel time!

IS THE WATER REALLY THAT COLD?

Um, how do I put this so that I make myself clear?

YES.

There’s no getting around this fact: with water at a barely above freezing 35 degrees Fahrenheit, snorkeling the Silfra ‘tis muy frío, indeed.

Still, do not let that stop you from experiencing one of the most thrilling experiences you’ll have, ever!

After all, this is the only place on Earth where one can snorkel or dive in a crack between two tectonic plates.

Carpe diem! This is your opportunity!

Take it!

THE PRESSING MATTER OF DRY SUIT VS. WETSUIT

It depends on your tour company whether you will even have a choice.

Adventure Vikings did give us the option. They provide the breakdown on the differences of each to help you decide.

Personally, I ended up in a dry suit. I was convinced the wetsuit wouldn’t offer me much more in way of enjoying the experience and yet I would be considerably more uncomfortable (and wet) as a result.

The perceived reward did not outweigh the “risk”. In my mind.

That said, we were with a lovely (and brave!) couple who opted to go the wetsuit route. When they emerged from the water after snorkeling and removed their suits, their skin was a bright and gasp-inducing crimson.

Head to toe lobsters they were.

But other than desperately wishing to warm up, they seemed no worse for the wear and expressed no regret at their choice.

Verdict: you know yourself best. Make the choice that will allow you to enjoy this experience to its max.

WHAT ABOUT…FISH?

I know plenty of people who get really nervous about entering bodies of water and the possibility of encountering creatures. If this is a hang up of yours, fear not! The water is frigid and therefore not especially inhabitable! I don’t believe I saw a single fish or other alive thing, save for my fellow snorkelers, while I was in the fissure.

Just plenty of mesmerizing, dreamy scenery to make you feel profoundly happy and grateful to be alive.

And you don’t want to miss out on that.

I’M NERVOUS! WHAT IF I GET WATER IN MY SNORKEL?

Peshaw!

No worries, mate. This is a bonus

Drink up!

The water in the Silfra is the coldest and most refreshing H2O that I’ve ever tasted.

It puts all other water to shame and is the stuff of my hydration dreams!

Glug, glug, my friend! You won’t be sorry!

FINAL THOUGHTS

There are some experiences in life that sear into your soul and you just know:

I will never forget this.

Snorkeling the Silfra is one such experience.

Go, then, and experience it for yourself.

Experience the magic of the Silfra. Experience the BLUE.

snorkeling silfra fissure iceland

Snorkeling the Silfra is just one tour excursion of many that Nordic Green Travel can include in your itinerary and help you book. Peruse their tour options and get in contact with them here.

About the author

Mary Kujawski