A Typical Snorkeling Tour
There are several daily snorkeling tours at Silfra to discover the wonders of the fissure from the inside. Have a closer look at the colorful algae in the clearest water on the planet. The underwater world of Silfra has a lot to offer! From the surface, it doesn’t look like a whole different magical world, but as soon as one gets into the water, it is hard to get back to reality.
The day tour will begin by the pick up in Reykjavík, or directly at Silfra, in Þingvellir, for those who already are on location. The parking lot has been turned into a suiting area, where the guides will provide snorkelers with an overall, a dry suit. They’ll also give you other special gear such as a hood, gloves and a choker to make sure the water doesn’t go inside the suit via the neck.
It is a bit hard to get equipped alone, but our guides are always here to help. For the ultimate comfort, it is recommended to wear fleece or wool thermals and socks under the suit.
The dry suits are specially made to float on the surface of the water, it is really hard to get underwater as there is air inside. It will also keep the body warm and in most cases dry. However, the hands and the head are protected by neoprene, which is made to heat the water that gets trapped into it. A diving mask, flippers and a snorkel will also be given.
Next up, your instructor will give you a safety brief so you understand what to do and how to behave in the water. You’ll also learn some interesting information about Silfra. The big moment has come: everyone in the water! For the first few minutes, it will be a little hard with the cold water brushing against the face and the hands. In time, your limbs will become a little numb for the rest of the journey, but it’s just a matter of getting used to it.
The tour will last for about 30 to 40 minutes as the guide will show around the four main parts of Silfra: Big Crack, Silfra Hall, Silfra Cathedral and Silfra Lagoon. First, Big Crack is Silfra’s narrowest section, where the continental plates are so close that it is almost possible to touch them both at the same time.
Then, Silfra Hall is where the bright colors and the clarity inside the fissure can truly be seen. It is also possible to see lake Thingvallavatn, which is 150 meters (492 feet) away from here.
Next up is Silfra Cathedral, at a depth of 23 meters (75 feet). There, it really feels like flying above the magnificent landscape of the fissure. The snorkel ends into Silfra Lagoon, where it is possible to stay a bit and swim around in the clear water to discover the surroundings. Back on the surface of the Earth, a hot chocolate and cookies are offered to get warm.
To make the most out of your trip to Iceland, the snorkeling tour can also be combined with other activities such as horse riding or lava caving, or also with sightseeing such as the Golden Circle. Book a combo tour to do two tours in one!
For those who already have a dry suit certification, you can join us on a scuba dive tour in the cold waters of Silfra.
Good to know before joining a Silfra Tour
Here are some of our guides’ best tips for making the most of your Silfra tour:
- It is always a good idea to bring some spare clothes, including socks, to change after the snorkel.
- Underwater pictures are taken by our friendly guides during the tour so it is not necessary to bring a waterproof camera. For a small fee, all the pictures of the day will be sent by mail, including the ones from other guides to be sure to have the best landscape picture of the day.
- Don’t wear glasses. Unfortunately, you can’t fit glasses under a snorkel mask and so they’re not allowed at Silfra. You can either buy a special mask with a prescription or wear contact lenses.
- Keep your hands warm. The best way to keep them warm is to not move them too much inside the water. We recommend to let them float beside your body and don’t use them to swim. The goal is to limit the amount of water getting into the gloves so that the temperature of the water that is trapped into them can rise slowly.
- Snorkeling in Silfra is locally known to be the ideal hangover cure, thanks to its refreshing waters. But don’t show up intoxicated! It’s not fun for anyone and dangerous to do any tour activity. We reserve the right to refuse anyone who is intoxicated from joining a tour.
- The main difference between a dry suit and a wetsuit is that the dry suit will keep you dry, it is as simple as that. Dry suits are perfect for cold waters as wetsuits are more common in warm countries.
Snorkeling with Combo Tours
Combine snorkeling with another activity to make the most of your day trip. Silfra makes a great add-on to a Golden Circle minibus tour, or an afternoon of whale-watching, horse riding or soaking in the Secret Lagoon.
There is no need to worry about the cold as overalls and dry suits are provided during the tours. Everyone will stay mostly dry underneath the suit if they don’t move too much inside the water. Hands and faces will be wet, but the neoprene protections are made to keep people warm in the cold water. The refreshing waters of Silfra are perfect for a good start in the day or also to wake up if one is feeling a bit sleepy.
Your snorkeling guide will provide you with all the gear you need: neoprene dry suit, hood, gloves and choker. Be sure to wear the best layers that will keep you warm underneath your suit! We recommend you wear thermal underwear and socks as your base layer, then a layer of fleece or wool to keep your body warm.
Snorkeling in Iceland
We offer the most exciting snorkeling tours in Iceland! This unforgettable activity makes for a fantastic day trip from Reykjavik that almost anyone can do. Snorkeling at Silfra Fissure is becoming one of the most popular tours to do here. Snorkel between Iceland’s tectonic plates in the clearest water in the world!
Nowhere else on Earth can you snorkel within a tectonic rift, the Eurasian plate on one side and the North American on the other. The glacial water, filtered through porous lava rock, reaches a visibility of 100 meters! It’s no wonder then that Silfra was rated one of the top ten activities in the world by Tripadvisor.
The best part? You don’t even need a special diving certification to snorkel at Silfra. An afternoon of snorkeling in Iceland’s continental rift is a great add-on to your visit to the historic Thingvellir National Park on the famous Golden Circle.
Snorkeling in Iceland Quick Facts
- Silfra Fissure in Iceland has the best underwater visibility in the world at 100 meters
- Iceland’s freshwater snorkeling is considered the best in the world
- Iceland’s cold waters require dry suits when snorkeling
- Snorkel between two tectonic plates
- Silfra snorkeling site is open to divers all year round
Thingvellir National Park
Thingvellir National Park (or Þingvellir) is Iceland’s largest park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition to its natural beauty–cliffs, mossy hills, and clear waters–the park is also a geological marvel.
This isn’t surprising as Thingvellir is located right on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the meeting point of two tectonic plates. Thingvellir is one of the only places on Earth where you can see both North American and Eurasian tectonic plates rising up from the ground. And the only place where you can snorkel in the rift between them!
History of Thingvellir
Thingvellir is also an important historical place. In this valley, Icelanders established the first democratic parliament in 930 CE. For centuries, Icelander chiefs and lawmakers traveled by foot or horse every two years to meet at Thingvellir and determine the laws of the land. They gathered beneath the Almannagjá Gorge, a cliffside that runs behind a large mound known as the Logberg that exists to this day.
On Logberg, the Lawspeaker stood and declared laws to the assembly. From this practice we get the name Thingvellir, which literally means “the Parliament Plains”. Known as the Alþingi, this system exists today, of course in a modernized form.
Thingvellir is a place of great historic significance. Step where the Vikings created a country from scratch. But there are also some dark parts of their history, which echo on in the valley.
In the 16th-17th centuries, Öxara River and Öxara Waterfall at Thingvellir was a place of punishment. Women convicted of adultery were drowned here in Drekkingarhylur, the “Drowning Deep Pool.” It’s believed that 18 women were drowned there at the height of witchcraft paranoia in Iceland.
Silfra Crack in Iceland is a small section of Thingvallavatn Lake, whose name means “Lake of the Parliament”. As the largest natural lake in Iceland, Thingvallavatn measures about 84 sq km (52 sq mi) and 100 m (328 ft) above sea level. At its deepest point, the lake is 114 meters (374 feet), meaning that it actually reaches below the sea level. The lake has several little pools and it feeds into Silfra Fissure. It also has one outflow, the river Sog.
Thingvallavatn is home to Arctic Chars, a local fish species that has adapted over time. Ten thousand years ago, Iceland was home to just one species of char. Over time, the one evolved into four different subspecies. You’ll also spot brown trouts and the three-spined stickleback.
An ancient Icelandic proverb says, “Fertile is the water that runs under lava”. Nowhere else is this more appropriate than for Lake Thingvallavatn. The soil in the region is fertile and rich in vegetation, despite the cold temperatures. A third of the lake bottom is covered by plants, mostly algae. There are a total of 150 types of plants and 50 kinds of invertebrates.
Snorkeling in Silfra
Snorkeling between two continents
So why is everyone so crazy about snorkeling in a cold country like Iceland? Simply put, Silfra is the only place in the world where it is possible to swim between two continents!
The Mid-Atlantic Ridge of course goes all the way through the Atlantic Ocean, so theoretically you could dive in some places. But since the rift is deep underwater, it’s difficult to dive–not to mention snorkel.
If Silfra is not on your bucket list yet, what are you waitig for? Snorkeling in a tectonic rift is something not to be missed!
The experience of snorkeling in Silfra combines a unique location with the clearest water on Earth. As Silfra is located right at the heart of two tectonic plates, it’s truly a “living” dive site. This means that the environment is constantly changing, making each snorkeling tour totally unique. Silfra was rated #15 on the World’s Best Dive Sites by CNN News.
Drift slowly with the current in pure glacial water. Admire the most vivid colors you’ll ever see. Silfra is a true gem, ideal for serene meditation. Though usually there’s no wildlife in the fissure, you might just meet a fish from time to time. It just might scurry away back to Þingvallavatn lake!
Some plants like green and yellow algae, called “troll’s hair,” grow on the rocks and undulate gently in the water. Iceland snorkeling between continents in glacial water is a real Viking rite of passage.
How was Silfra created?
The story of Silfra Fissure is an ancient one. About 150 million years ago, the tectonic plates started shifting away from each other. Lava pushed out from beneath the Earth’s crust, and flowed out into the Atlantic Ocean. When crashing into the cold water, the lava hardened and solidified, forming the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and, later on, the island of Iceland.
Some parts of the country are on the North American plate while others are located on the Eurasian plate. It’s the only country in the world where this rift is visible above sea level. The Mid-Atlantic Ridge can clearly be seen in Thingvellir National Park — the visible part is the Almannagjá Canyon. The canyon’s huge, rocky walls are actually the edges of the tectonic plates.
The tectonic plates are still on the move. The Eurasian and North American plates move apart by approximately 2 centimeters (1 inch) per year. Over the past 10,000 years, Thingvellir Rift Valley has expanded to 70 meters (230 feet) in width and deepened to 40 meters (131 feet) in depth!
Many fissures including Silfra opened up in 1789, due to earthquakes along with the divergent movement of the plates. With each earthquake since then, the ground shifts and more fissures open up, while others close as rocks collapse into the cracks. Falling rocks can get stuck in narrow sections, creating tunnels and caverns, and changing the depth of the fissure.
The big difference between Silfra and other fissures is that when it cracked, it cut into an underground spring filled with glacial meltwater. The water is from Langjökull Glacier, only about 50 kilometers (31 miles) away.
Why is the water so clear?
Silfra has the clearest water on Earth, with a visibility of 100 meters (328 feet), even up to 150 meters (492 feet) on sunny days. This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime to swim at Silfra! Thanks to this high visibility, even on a snorkeling tour you can see all the way to the bottom of the fissure.
Silfra has the best visibility in the world because its pure water is filtered through porous lava rock for decades. It can flow from 30 to 100 years before reaching the spring that feeds the fissure. The constant filtering by the lava rock makes the water coming from Langjökull Glacier not only one of the clearest, but also one of the purest. Don’t miss out on tasting a bit while you’re snorkeling!
What to Expect at Silfra?
We offer several tours in Iceland to snorkel between tectonic plates. The glacial meltwater coming from Langjökull Glacier remains very cold in Silfra. But since freshwater continually fills up the fissure, the water doesn’t freeze and stays around 2 to 4°C (36 to 39°F) all year round.
There is no need to worry about the cold as overalls and dry suits are provided during the tours. Everyone will stay mostly dry underneath the suit if they don’t move too much inside the water. Hands and faces will be wet, but the neoprene protections are made to keep people warm in the cold water. The refreshing waters of Silfra are perfect to wake you up in the morning!
How to Get to Silfra
If you’re driving a car, it’s pretty easy to find Silfra Fissure. It should take less than one hour to drive the full 50 km from Reykjavik. Take Route 49 or Hringbraut out of town, then follow Route 49 eastward until it merges to Route 1. When you pass Mosfellsbaer, look for the turn off to Route 36. Follow road 36 into rural Iceland until you meet the parking lot P5.
FAQ about our Snorkeling Tours
Is Silfra snorkeling worth it?
Absolutely! Snorkeling at Silfra is unlike anything you will ever do in your life. Nowhere else can you snorkel between two tectonic plates. Crystal-clear glacial water, vivid colors, It’s a bonus that this fun activity is in the heart of the gorgeous Icelandic landscape.
Is snorkeling dangerous?
As with every activity that’s outside of your normal routine, there may be a few risks in involved. Be sure to listen to your guide’s instructions and the safety regulations. Silfra is incredibly safe for most people.
Can you snorkel Silfra on your own?
No, you’re not permitted to snorkel Silfra without a certified guide.
Can you swim in Silfra?
You don’t really swim much since swimming might make your core body colder. Snorkeling usually involves just gliding among the natural current.
How cold is Silfra?
The water at Silfra is ice cold all year round, around 2-4°C (35°F).
What to wear under a dry suit for snorkeling?
We’ll provide all the necessary gear you need for snorkeling such as a dry suit. But you should wear a few layers underneath to keep you warm and insulated even when damp. We advise you wear thermal underwear and socks as your base layer, then cover with a layer of fleece. Polypropylene also works, but avoid any clothes with cotton.
Can I snorkel without knowing how to swim?
Yes. It can help to know how to swim, but it’s not necessary as the natural current keeps you gliding along the fissure at a slow, steady pace.
Can I snorkel when I’m pregnant?
Pregnant people are not permitted to snorkel at Silfra.