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The Nordic Explorer

The Nordic Explorer

Snorkeling in the Silfra fissure: An extraordinary Iceland experience

If you are searching for something extraordinary to do in Iceland, but not necessarily an experience that gets your adrenalin pumping? Then snorkeling in the Silfra fissure may just be the thing for you.

The Nordic Explorer snorkeling in the Silfra fissure. Captured by Arctic Adventures.
The Nordic Explorer snorkeling in the Silfra fissure. Captured by Arctic Adventures.

What is the Silfra fissure?

The Silfra fissure is an underwater canyon created by the shifting Eurasian tectonic plate and the North American tectonic plate. It is located in the national park Þingvellir, which is a very historic place in Iceland.

Back in the days of the Icelandic settlers, Þingvellir was an important point of gathering both to trade, resolve conflicts at the so-called “thing” (meeting for chieftains called “earls”) and to have trials and even executions.

The water in the Silfra fissure is amazingly clear, which makes it possible to look straight down the canyon as far as the light allows, while you float weightlessly through the gentle stream that takes you through this magical underwater scenery.

The water comes directly from the glaciers and has been filtered through layers and layers of lava and other terrain to get to the Silfra fissure. As such, it is some of the purest water you will ever taste – so make sure to take a sip!

What to expect?

Cold water

First of all, the water in the Silfra fissure is cold. Approximately 2 degrees celcius all year around. This means that you can go almost all year as long as conditions allow it. However, it is quite a cold adventure during the winter as you will be out in the cold before and after going in the water.

Underwater meditation

Eventhough snorkling in the fissure is a very popular activity, you feel quite alone while in the water. The silence is amazing and combined with the weightless feeling of floating around, gently following the soft stream is like meditation. It is a strangely moving experience to float above the up to 23 meter deep fissure while being able to look down as far as the sunlight allows. Silfra is very good for the soul indeed.

A lot of gear

To keep you safe and from freezing you will be dressed in a dry suit during you underwater, adventure. Here’s what you will be wearing:

  • Wollen base layer and wollen socks – you are responsible for this yourself
  • Thermo one piece suit
  • Dry suit
  • Dry gloves
  • Dry hood
  • Snorkel and mask
  • Flippers

You don’t need to be an expert to go snorkeling in the Silfra fissure. In fact, you don’t even have to have tried snorkeling before. The guides take great care of you and will make sure that your gear is in order before going in the water. Also, prior to floating down the stream you get a quick snorkeling 101 course on how to be safe and comfortable in the water.

Approx. 30-40 minutes in water

The duration of the snorkeling tours are fit to the conditions. Eventhough you are wearing the right gear to keep you warm the water is still close to freezing which means 30-40 minutes is the perfect duration for this sort of adventure.

Colourful algea and rocks

The surroundings in the Silfra fissure are magical and very peaceful. The colours are brightest on a sunny day, where the sunrays refelct beautifully in the water.

Don’t expect a lot of colorful fish and visible underwater creatures. In fact your are luckily if you even spot any. Also, Silfra is not about colourful corals. Expect a different snorkeling experience than a tropical one. In some ways more calm and soothing, but also barren as much life in Silfra is not visible to the human eye, but takes form as microorganisms.

Is it worth it?

Yes. Snorkeling between tectonic plates in the Silfra fissure is an extraordinary experience that you can only get in Iceland. It is different than going snorkeling in tropical waters. First of all, because it is cold, which means that you need to wear more gear. Second, because the marine biology is more subtle. There is lots of life in the fresh and pure water of the fissure, but it is far less visible, which makes the experience more about floating weightlessly through the gentle stream gazing down into the abyss. It is absolutely fascinating, calming and very meditative.

Small tip: Don’t bring you camera, just enjoy the experience and take it all in. Some tours can be booked with pictures included. With other companies the guide automatically takes photos during the trip with a GoPro. This allows you to take a look at the pictures after to tour and then decide whether you would like to buy them or not.

Looking for more extraordinary experiences while in Iceland? Check out this article about river rafting in North Iceland.

The Nordic Explorer snorkeling in the Silfra fissure. Captured by Arctic Adventures.
The Nordic Explorer snorkeling in the Silfra fissure. Captured by Arctic Adventures.

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