Snorkeling in the Silfra fissure, known as one of the top dive/snorkeling sites in the world, is something I will never forget. It was my third day in Iceland on a trip where each day just got better and better. I had already experienced Reykjavik and driven around the Golden Circle, but little did I know there was so much more to come, starting with Silfra.
The Silfra fissure is a crack between the North American and Eurasian continents. It is the only location on Earth where you can snorkel or dive between continents. That sounded amazing, so I obviously really wanted to go! At Silfra, the continental plates meet and drift apart about 2cm per year. The underwater visibility is over 100 meters, which is definitely something, so you can see very deep down. The water is so pure, as it is glacial water from the nearby Langjökull glacier. During our snorkel experience, we were encouraged to drink as we swam along! It all sounds pretty incredible, but there is just one catch – the water is very, very, very cold, 2°C – 4°C year round, in fact.
One thing I would highlight, is that the meeting point (if you are not being picked up from Reykjavik). It is at the Information Center in Thingvellir National Park, NOT the Visitor’s Center. I don’t think their website stresses this enough, and I’m sure many people end up doing exactly the same mistake as us. Luckily, we realised we were in the wrong place and the Information Center was only a 5 minute drive down the road. It would be a lot less stressful to just turn up at the right location in the first place though!
We were to wear thermal tops and trousers with two pairs of thick socks which would go underneath a suit (like a sleeping bag, buut in clothes-form) and then a dry suit on top which they would both provide. Getting the dry suit on was not the easiest task. No wait, it was near impossible to get it on!
When they realised that the suit they had given me would not fit, after much struggling to squeeze me in, I had to lie on a table and cling myself tightly to the edges while two people had to yank the suit off me. I also received a special treatment which involved me having to be lifted in the air to get the larger size on. There was also something called ‘The Strangler,’ a neck choker, to tighten the suit at the neck, to prevent water from entering. It was all very tight and uncomfortable, and we were assured that this was how it was meant to be.
It was also very difficult to walk, and as they had selected a Men’s medium size for me to wear instead, I ended up waddling everywhere, as the suit was not the right fit. It was all rather funny, and making jokes about it made us put aside the thought that we were very soon going to have to plunge into icy-cold water.
We were in the water for a total of thirty minutes. It may not sound like that much, but you don’t want to be in there for much longer. By the time I had got out, my lips were so numb and abnormally puffy. It was then that I knew what it must feel like to have had lip fillers/botox.
The dry suit worked incredibly well and my body remained dry. Only my face and hands were exposed to the cold which was painful enough. Still, Kam wasn’t as successful with her suit and water had leaked in everywhere. She was absolutely soaked and freezing which was not enjoyable at all, and needed to change into dry clothes afterwards. (tip: bring dry clothes in case this happens to you!).
They warned us that there is usually one person in the group who ends up getting wet, and for our group, that was Kam. Oh dear. Still, she did say that she would like to do it again, but next time not get wet, so she can better appreciate the snorkeling side and not only think of how excruciatingly cold she was. At least it hasn’t put her totally off going back!
As my neck was so restricted, it was difficult to breathe and while I was in the water, I developed a headache and didn’t want to move my head too much. It was such a relief to get the dry suit off and be able to breathe again when I got out.
I was also worried about the visibility. As I said, the water is so clear and I thought I would be afraid of the depth and wouldn’t enjoy the experience. Surprisingly, it wasn’t scary at all, instead it was incredibly fascinating to swim through the fissure and look at the natural wonder all around me. The colours and sights were so beautiful, which made the headache and the numbing pain worth it.
Although exhausted from our snorkeling, there was still much to get done. We managed to drive down to Vik, two hours south afterwards, with a short detour to Kerid crater after blasting the heating on in the car for a good while. In Vik, we ate at the Gas Station, where I ate the most delicious chicken burger and fries in my entire life. When travelling around Iceland, you soon begin to appreciate any chance at getting your hands on some good hot food!
I took the DIVE.IS Silfra Snorkeling Day Tour (16,990 ISK), but they have several other options to tailor your visit to Iceland.