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One of the most unique and memorable experiences of my life was snorkeling Silfra earlier this month. Silfra is a freshwater fissure located in Thingvellir National Park in Iceland. The fissure was created as a result of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates breaking apart, and the water in the fissure is one of the clearest in the world – only rivaled by the cenotes (“sinkholes”) of Mexico. DIVE.IS takes adventurous travelers on scuba and snorkel expeditions through Silfra, and my experience with DIVE.IS far exceeded my expectations.
DIVE.IS offered to pick us up from our hotel in Reykjavik, but we opted to meet our guide at the Information Centre at Thingvellir National Park because we had rented a car and wanted to continue our tour through the Golden Circle after our snorkel. Note that there is a separate Visitors’ Centre and Information Centre at Thingvellir, and the meeting point for DIVE.IS is at the Information Centre. It is easy to confuse the two locations, and we ended up arriving a few minutes late to our meeting point.
We provided our heights and weights to DIVE.IS before the trip so they could get us fitted with the proper drysuits, and our guide, Neil, immediately spotted us when we arrived at the Visitors’ Centre, as we are a 5’2” female and 6’4” male. After filling out a consent form and waiting for the rest of the group to arrive, we followed Neil to a parking lot near the snorkel site, where we parked our cars for the duration of our tour. Note that once you get into your drysuits, you will be in there for an hour or so, so it’s a good idea to use the toilets at the Visitors’ Centre before leaving for the snorkel site.
From the parking lot, we hopped into Neil’s DIVE.IS van for the short drive to the snorkel site. Neil gave us a rundown of how the wetsuit and drysuit we would be putting on would work to keep us warm, and then helped each of us into our gear. While waiting my turn, I observed many of the other groups preparing for their snorkel tours through different companies and felt grateful to have Neil as our guide, as he provided much clearer instructions than many of the other guides there that day. Neil got us into our suits efficiently and made sure we were as comfortable as can be. The whole process was easier and quicker than I expected, based on some other accounts I had read prior to my visit.
I would be lying if I said the drysuit felt comfortable. My body felt fine, but my neck felt constricted and I started to worry about being able to snorkel while it felt like someone had a chokehold on my neck. On top of that, when Neil checked the fit on my gear, he determined that the part of my drysuit protecting my neck was still too loose and put a rubber band over that portion of my drysuit. I was not excited about that to say the least but trusted that Neil knew what he was doing. In retrospect, I am very glad he did that because the alternative of having ice-cold water leak into my drysuit sounds absolutely awful. The boots on the drysuit were also much too large for my tiny feet, which made walking around the parking lot very awkward, but I didn’t notice it at all once I got in the water.
After donning our wetsuits and drysuits, we picked out gloves, a head wrap, and a snorkel and mask. The gloves and head wraps come in all different sizes, from extra small to large. I would recommend getting the smallest size possible for your gloves and whatever size fits snugly yet comfortably for your head wrap. You do not want your head wrap to be too tight as that might be uncomfortable for you, but you do want to get gloves that fit extremely snugly as that will help trap heat in your hands while you’re in the water. Finally, Neil handed each of us flippers, and we set off on our short walk to the water’s edge.
There were a couple of other snorkel and scuba groups waiting to enter the water when we arrived. One girl on the scuba tour had a panic attack just before entering the water and was sitting on the ledge when we arrived. She ended up deciding not to proceed on the tour, and her guide seemed very understanding and kindly brought her back to the parking lot meeting area where she could change out of her gear. If at any time you start to panic or do not feel like going through with your plans, simply let your guide know and you will be able to sit this one out.
Right before we entered the water, Neil gave us a couple of helpful tips for staying warm and relaxed in the water. First; rather than kicking our flippers like we normally would, a slight frog-like motion with our legs would be enough to propel us through Silfra. He next recommended to keep our hands on our backs and out of the water when we’re swimming so as to keep them warm. Since the gloves are made of a neoprene material and not the waterproof drysuit material we had on our bodies, water would get into our gloves and reach our hands. However, the neoprene material is designed to retain heat, so the cold water should soon turn warm from our body temperature. However, a majority of my tour group complained of cold hands by the end of our journey, Personally, I kept my hands in the water most of the time since I was holding my GoPro and filming the journey, and my hands did not feel extraordinarily cold by the end of our swim. You may want to just test it out yourself and see what’s most comfortable for you.
Once I got in the water and started snorkeling, all my fears and discomforts from the drysuit disappeared, and I felt truly relaxed. I have snorkeled many times before in tropical places with just my swimsuit, mask, snorkel, and flippers, and it can get tiring fighting against the waves in the ocean trying to find coral reefs and animals. In Silfra, there is a current that pushed us toward the direction we planned to travel in, so we hardly had to do any work other than float and admire the clearest, bluest water I have ever seen. Our drysuits also acted as flotation devices, so we could simply lie face down without doing any work, and we would stay afloat.
We did not see any animals or coral reefs in Silfra but rather meters upon meters of bright blue water and impressive rock formations. At one point we swam toward a group of scuba divers and observed the bubbles from their dive tanks rising to the water’s surface. At another point, we held onto shallow rock formations and stared down into a deep blue hole, all the while marveling at these impressive natural creations.
The most exciting part of the journey was approaching a narrow opening where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates sit closely enough that you can touch one of the tectonic plates with your hands and the other with your feet. Unfortunately at my wee size, I was not tall enough to reach both at the same time, and the current whipped me around quite quickly, but if you’re a little taller than me (which is not hard to do), you should have no problem with this.
After about 30 minutes or so in the water, we finished our tour and made the journey back to the parking lot to change out of our gear. My body stayed completely dry, and the only thing that was soaked was my hair. Neil helped us change out of our gear and set up a table with hot chocolate and cookies for each of us. After swimming through ice-cold water, a cup of hot chocolate was just what I needed to warm up my body.
Tips for Snorkeling Silfra
- If you have long hair, bring a hairbrush with you to your tour. You will be able to leave all your belongings in the DIVE.IS van during your snorkel tour, so you don’t need to worry about bringing too much stuff. My hair had gotten so tangled by the end of my snorkel, and I was stuck with wet, messy hair for the rest of the day.
- If you are worried about being too cold, bring an extra pair (or a few extra pairs) of socks. I wore a pair of my favorite thick wool hiking socks, and my feet did get pretty cold at one point despite being dry and covered with the drysuit.
- If you book a tour with DIVE.IS, your guide will bring a camera on your tour and take photos of everyone in the water, which you will be able to look through and purchase after the tour if you’d like. However, to ensure you capture the exact images and footage you want to capture, bring a GoPro or underwater camera. One of the girls on my tour left her GoPro in the van last minute because she thought it would be too much of a hassle to have in the water, but I kept my GoPro strapped to my wrist the whole time and barely noticed it was there when I wasn’t using it.
- Finally, if you are planning on touring the Golden Circle or doing any other activities later that day, make sure you allow for extra time in case others on your tour are running late, or everything just takes longer than anticipated.
Snorkeling Silfra with DIVE.IS was hands down one of the most unique and awesome experiences of my life, and I would highly recommend that you try it when you visit Iceland. After all, how many people can say they’ve snorkeled between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates and even touched both at the same time?
If you’d like to book a snorkel tour with DIVE.IS, click here and make sure you book early as the tours fill up fast.
Looking for more fun things to do in Iceland and the rest of the Nordics? Then you might want to check out these posts:
- A Weekend Getaway to Iceland
- Eat Like an Icelander: Food Tour With Wake Up Reykjavik
- 25 Free Things to do in Copenhagen
- Complete Guide to 3 Days in the Faroe Islands
- How I Traveled Scandinavia for 6 Days With Less Than $1000
- A Weekend in Oslo for Budget Travellers
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A big thank you to DIVE.IS for making this tour possible for us. As always, all opinions are 100% our own.
I never would have thought of Iceland as a snorkeling destination. These pictures are so beautiful! Coming from Canada, I totally understand your struggle with the dry suit…
I never would have thought so either! It was definitely a different snorkeling experience than what I’m used to and my first time snorkeling with a dry suit. Glad you can relate to how hard it was to put on, but I loved it once I got in the water because I was floating without even doing anything!
Snorkelling between two tectonic plates must be such an experience. I have only been to the plates above ground, I did not know about this. Iceland is such a wonderful country with so much to offer. On my next visit I should try this for sure!
Glad you did not get too cold, and there were some wonderful pictures you took. Gotta love the GoPro!
You will love it, Torgeir! It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. Really glad I decided to bring my GoPro along too. I thought it might be a hassle to have it in my hands, but the snorkel was so relaxing because of the drysuits that it was no problem having a GoPro in my hand. Would highly recommend you try it on your next visit!
Wowza. I have been planning an Iceland trip for years now, still undecided on the best month but I had no clue you could snorkel there. I love snorkelling, well the beach kind and would love to do what you guys did. Just to say I was near a tectonic plate :O Thank you so much for sharing this with us, I really had no idea. The photos are so amazing.
Thanks, Anita! Before this trip, I had only done the beach kind of snorkeling too. You’ve got to try snorkeling with a dry suit – it is so relaxing! I would say any time of year is a great time to go because even in the winter there are a lot of activities you can do. Plus, I just think there is something so authentic about visiting Iceland when its covered in ICE 🙂
This is definitely a bucket list item. I have seen divers holding onto both plates before but your writing and photography did a great job of taking me onto the tour. I could imagine Jenn having the same issues with the dry suit. She has broad shoulders and a short little body. We shopped for a jacket and farmer john wetsuit to compensate for this. I loved how you showed the walk to the fissure and the staircase leading in. I could really imagine myself on the trip.
Thanks, Ed! I hope you and Jenn get to do this one day – it was definitely one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. Next time I’m in Iceland I might try scuba diving Silfra since I had such a fun time snorkeling!
What an amazing experience. Honestly, this is my first time reading up on snorkelling Silfra, but I would definitely look into booking this tour after your post if I ever make it to Iceland. Your photos of you snorkelling in the clear, blue waters are absolutely stunning. Thanks for sharing.
So happy to share this with you, Riely! It was honestly one of the coolest experiences of my life. I would even do it again when I’m back in Iceland because I loved it so much – or maybe I’ll try scuba diving next time 🙂 Hope you make it to Iceland soon and get to try this!
You girls certainly get about. Your Icelandic snorkeling adventure sounds amazing, and your pictures are great – the one in between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates especially. I had a little chuckle to myself when I read your boots were too big – I can just imagine you waddling about the carpark in them. Good post!
Hahah the image you have of me waddling around in my big boots is pretty accurate. I felt like a duck walking around. But if you’re not super short and petite like me then you’ll be just fine. This was one of the coolest things I’ve done. I would even do it again next time I’m in Iceland, or maybe try my hand at scuba diving next time.
Wow! This is so beautiful. I never thought you could go snorkeling in Iceland. It must be super cold. Your pictures are beautiful and clearly you did the right thing by carrying your GoPro with you. Will remember this whenever i will visit Iceland 🙂
I never thought snorkeling in Iceland was possible either, Archana, and especially not in the winter! This was by far one of the coolest things I’ve done – would highly recommend it for when you have a chance to visit Iceland – and yes, do remember to bring your GoPro!
I have never tried snorkeling earlier though I have experienced deep sea scuba diving. Your post educates me about snorkeling and makes me want to do it. I hope I can plan something soon.
This was very different from any snorkeling I’ve ever done (in tropical areas off a beach). Since we were in drysuits, we didn’t have to work at all to stay afloat, so it was very relaxing. I hope you get to try snorkeling in Iceland sometime!
Ok – I have to admit that Iceland and being in the water aren’t things I would automatically think would go together! LOL! Reading about how they managed to keep you guys warm enough for that adventure was really interesting. We always travel with the kids and try to make it educational. Being in the water where the plates of the Earth meet would be fascinating!! Talk about making science come alive!!
Um, yes, your kids would love it! Since they put you in dry suits, it’s no work at all to stay afloat and makes for a really relaxing and safe excursion. I never would’ve put snorkeling + Iceland in the same sentence either, but this was by far one of the coolest things I’ve done. Hope you get to do it with the kids one day 🙂
Wow! Iceland never struck me as a diving destination. That looks like such a cool experience! Your pictures are beautiful.
Thanks, Maggie! I never would’ve thought of Iceland as a diving destination either, but snorkeling Silfra was one of the coolest things I’ve done and so different from your typical snorkeling/diving excursion. Hope you get to try it for yourself one day 🙂
Scuba diving in Iceland? Who would have thought? Thanks for sharing your adventures.
PS: The pictures look absolutely beautiful.
Thank you! Hope you get to experience it for yourself one day 🙂
This looks like a lot of fun. I would LOVE to see, and try to reach, both tectonic plates at the same time! That is so cool! I’m not into scuba diving but snorkling I think I could handle np! Would never have thought of going in Iceland though because of how cold it is…but with the suits as you mentioned keeps you warm enough I’d definitely try this 🙂
It was so much fun and totally different from the kind of snorkeling I’m used to (in tropical weather off a beach). My body stayed completely dry inside my drysuit, so I didn’t feel cold at all. Would highly recommend adding this to your Iceland itinerary when you have the chance to go 🙂
Beautiful pics – this looks like a fantastic experience. On my trips to Iceland, I’ve only hunted out places where I can enjoy the geothermal water but this looks like something I’d love to try.
Thank you!! Right after this we went to a hot spring, so we got the best of both worlds in a matter of hours! Iceland is such an amazing country – it’s got all types of terrain and activities. Would highly recommend trying this next time you’re in Iceland. 🙂
I had never actually thought of doing this before but it sounds like an incredible experience! What time of year did you go?
I went in early March, so it was definitely still winter, but I made it! The water is the same temperature year round (3-4 degrees Celsius), and we were fortunate to have gone on a beautifully sunny day. It wasn’t nearly as cold as I had imagined, and I’d definitely do it again in the winter!
Wow! This I should incredible! I have never thought of snorkel and Iceland together! Amazing! What an experience! I think this just found a spot on my bucket list 🙂
Yes!! I never would’ve put “snorkel” and “Iceland” in the same sentence either, but I am so glad I found out about this as it is by far one of the coolest things I’ve done. Add it to you bucket list for sure!
WOW! How amazing that excursion must have been. I am not sure I could bear the cold but seeing those photos might make it worth it. Thanks for the great article!
It actually wasn’t nearly as cold as I had imagined, but we also lucked out with the weather as it was beautifully sunny all day. I’m sure you would be just fine going in the summer if you’re nervous about the cold! 🙂
Wow! I would have loved to do this on our impromptu trip to Iceland! We looked for this area but never did find it. How beautiful!
Next time, Maegan! Visiting Iceland once is never enough anyway 🙂
This is such an amazing experience. I also wanted to do this when we were in Iceland but time did not permit. The water is really clear and it doesn’t look that scary. I wish we could try this next time, I’m envious! Haha! 🙂
It wasn’t scary at all! It was actually so relaxing, which I wasn’t expecting. We did this in the morning and used it as a starting point for our Golden Circle tour, and it worked out perfectly timing-wise. Hope you get to try it next time!
Wow this looks fantastic, I am going in June so think I might have to check this out and see if I can squeeze into my trip! I would be really worried about the cold as I honestly get freezing so quickly. How long were you actually in the water for?
We were in the water for about 30-45 minutes. June would be a great time to try this if you get cold easily since it’ll at least be warm when you come out of the water. It was by far one of the coolest things I’ve done, so if you can bear the cold for a short bit (and it wasn’t even THAT cold), I’m sure you won’t regret doing it! 🙂
I love blog posts where I actually LEARN something! I had no idea about this! What an awesome experience. And thanks for the tips!
I’ve been saying, if I only do one thing in Iceland it will be swimming between the tectonic plates (undecided between snorkelling or diving yet… it will probably depend on the final budget!), and after reading this I’m even more convinced that I need to do it! I love your writing style and your photos are beautiful! Great post!