Snorkeling in Silfra fissure: The Viking rite of passage
Snorkeling is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Iceland. I mean, we named it ICE-land for a reason, right?
But now you are in for a surprise. Snorkeling is getting to one of the most popular tours to do in Iceland and the water it’s done in originates at a glacier. I know scary BUT bare with me a little longer.
On the tours you get these overalls, we like to call them teddy bear suits. You put them on and then on top, dry suits. What the dry suit does is that it seals your body and prevents water from getting in. This is how your stay warm once in the glacier water.
I will though tell you that water will touch your face and hands but after the first minute you stop feeling it and the enjoyment really kicks in.
Now that I have secured the glacier water thingy not being too scary let me move on to the best part: The Location.
The experience takes place in Silfra fissure at Thingvellir National park.
Thingvellir is to start with a really historic place, it’s where Icelanders started their first parliament (one of the world’s first actually), it’s a UNESCO heritage site, it’s where they used to drown women who had babies out of wedlock and it’s the location Gunnar and Hallgerður met in the famous Brennu-Njálssaga book. But not only is Thingvellir all of that, but it is also where the North-American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet and that’s exactly where you will be going, in between the tectonic plates.
So Iceland is sitting on one of the meetings of the tectonic plates (actually three, but I will try not to make this to complicated) The plates drift apart in some places, like at Þingvellir. In Silfra the tectonic plates drift apart and the fissure is filled with water, glacier water. The glacier water comes from Langjökull glacier.
Langjökull glacier is about 50 km away and the water has been filtering through lava for over a 100 years before reaching Silfra. This causes the water to be unbelievably clear.
The visibility at Silfra is actually more than 150 meters on good days. Silfra fissure truly is a visibility wonderland and perfect for snorkelers who can without diving see to the bottom the whole time. There is no life at Silfra, or more like no animals. Sometimes you will see a fish but it will very quickly turn around and head back to Þingvallavatn lake. They are usually not so happy about the cold water, as they don’t have a dry suit.
The life in Silfra is, well, other snorkelers and divers and then beautiful algae and plants which make the place colorful on oh so many ways and then there are numerous gorgeous blue shades. I don’t think I have ever seen as many blue colors as found in Silfra. The place is stunning, to say the least, and the serenity as soon as you have entered the water is intense.
Silfra fissure is the perfect place for meditation, a liquid meditation one might say and the perfect zen found through the tour is very memorable.
I would say that snorkeling in Silfra fissure is the perfect balance between an exciting adventure and the ultimate calm.
The feeling when snorkeling in Silfra fissure
The feeling of floating in between tectonic plates is an adventure that will not be beaten. You simply must try and the feeling when you get out, let’s just say that you will not be able to stop smiling. You have just swum in glacier water, gone in between the tectonic plates in Iceland. If you are ever to become a true Icelandic Viking it is just then. You have officially gone through the Viking rite of passage.
Good things to know before trying out a snorkeling tour in Silfra:
- If you are joining the tour in winter: Try wearing thermal underwear or wool long johns. They will help a lot with the cold after the tour.
- Have fresh warm socks to put on after the tour.
- Arctic Adventures, Dive Silfra and Scuba Iceland all offer the chance of having your pictures taken in the water so you don’t have to worry about getting the perfect selfie in these new and different surroundings. Recommend that option.
- Try not to move your fingers to much, then you pump in glacier water again and again into your gloves and your hands will have a more difficult time as they have to heat the new water each time.
- The tour is only about 4 hours and there are so many things around the area. Check out this Golden Circle blog for some tips on before and after the activity.
- We have made this helpful video on how to put on a dry suit. It’s super helpful to watch before visiting. You’ll be the pro on site!
Snorkeling at Silfra fissure is an activity like no other. It's the only place in the world where you can snorkel or dive in between tectonic plates. Instagram is filled with great captures from this place, we gathered a few.
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