When you think of snorkelling, clear, warm water and tropical fish normally come to mind. Iceland, admittedly has super clear water… however it is 2 degrees. Just above freezing! The appeal of getting in this stupidly cold water is the fact that this is the only place that you can swim between the worlds largest continental plates – the Eurasian and North American.
Located in the middle of Thingvellir National Park, it is around a 40 min drive from Reykjavik. A perfect adventure stop if you are doing the Golden Circle day trip from the city.
When you arrive at the dive / snorkel site you are given a dry suit, fins, a snorkel and mask. I would recommend dressing accordingly for this, with thermal clothes and thick socks to wear under the dry suit. You then walk a couple of minutes to the entrance of the ‘Big Crack’, the narrowest section of Silfra. Before you get in we were given the following advice “Keep your head under for at least a minute to let it go numb, and try not to move your hands in the water”. WHAT?!! At this point I thought ‘how much do I really want to get in that water? Why am I doing this?’.
Once we were in (and our faces had gone numb) it was quite an amazing sight! As with the cenotes in Mexico, You can’t imagine how beautiful the rock formations look below water, and they just go deeper and deeper down. From above it just looks like a little stream, yet once you are in, there is this whole under water world! As the water comes from a nearby glacier it is really old, really pure, and really clear – visibility is over 100m. You can also drink the water you are swimming in it is so fresh!
Once you have swum through the ‘Big Crack’ (which takes about 20mins) you turn into the ‘Silfra Lagoon’, and then have about 15mins to explore this area before getting out. I’m not going to lie, it was ridiculously cold! So cold that a fews tears came to my eyes when we got out at how painful my hands had become, and how I never though I would experience warmth again! Dramatic, I know!
*One thing to note is that a lot of the photos you see make it look like you swim through a narrow point, put your arms out and literally touch each of the tectonic plates. This is not true. At the point that you swim, the plates are 70m apart. From above water you can see the boundaries of each plate, and you are technically swimming between them, but not so close that you can touch them both.
Once you get out of the water you then have a 10min walk back to the starting point, which really is a blessing in disguise as it gets your blood pumping again. You then have the fun task of trying to get your wet, dry suit off! Once normality feels like it has been restored again you are rewarded with a steaming cup of hot chocolate and a cookie!
I am really pleased that I went through with this once in a lifetime snorkel, and experienced the Silfra! It was challenging in a way I couldn’t have imagined, but completely worth it when you are rewarded with the under water views! We booked our tour through Iceland Adventure Tours and they were super easy to liaise with prior to our arrival in Iceland, and really nice and helpful on the day. We had a hire car, so met them at the snorkel site, however they do also offer to pick you up from your accommodation if staying in Reykjavik, and drive you back post swim. There were about 8 of us in my snorkel group, and Brendan was lucky enough to be diving on his own with his guide. It is not a cheap activity, however when you think that this is the only place in the world you can do this kind of snorkel / dive, I completely think it is worth it!
Costs: £123 – Snorkel | £290 – Dive