Snorkeling in Silfra – going between tectonic plates
Snorkeling at Silfra fissure at Thingvellir is one of Iceland’s top activities. Silfra is a narrow and deep channel of clear water in a huge lava field. Silfra’s claim to fame is that in it you can snorkel or even dive between tectonic plates. I have been on my way to snorkel in Silfra for years and finally, I went with my daughter last weekend. In fact, we had been a long time coming, I bought the tour as a Christmas present for us!
The historic location of Thingvellir
A huge bonus for those who are looking to snorkel into Silfra is that it is located at the historic site of Thingvellir. Thingvellir is a UNESCO heritage site and famous for being the site of the founding in Althingi by the Icelandic settlers in 930. Thingvellir is a beautiful place, it is really a huge rift valley where tectonic plates are drifting apart. Silfra is just a ‘symptom’ of the land being torn apart. In any case, I love Thingvellir. It is a beautiful place with a lot of history, both positive and negative.
Pure glacial water
The clear water at Silfra comes from Langjökull glacier which is about 50KM away. Langjökull is the second-largest glacier in Iceland and is the site of the amazing 500 long ice tunnel called ‘Into the Glacier‘. The water is filtered through lava fields for one or two centuries (!). This is the reason for the water’s clarity. The water in Silfra is so pure that the visibility there is over 100 meters. That is just amazing.
Revealing a new world
This clearness of the water, combined with the incredible ‘landscape’ in the fissure makes the whole experience just incredible. It is a bit like flying actually. You start off in a shallow part of Silfra but soon the crevice opens up and a new world is revealed. Snorkeling in Silfra is one way, there is gentle current which nudges you forward.
I went with Arctic Adventures and as my readers might know I pay a lot of attention to the guides and their performance. They were really professional, they made sure everybody understood perfectly what they were getting into. Everybody got really good equipment and warm clothing. You are required to wear a base layer of fleece or wool, cotton is forbidden. Then you get warm coveralls and over that, you wear a drysuit. You get warm gloves, a balaclava, snorkeling mask, and flippers. All of this is necessary, the water in Silfra is cold. But I could hardly felt the cold.
Floating and meditating
The drysuit is really buoyant so you just float in the water. Floating above the deepest part of Silfra, looking down on the world below is just like flying. For me, it became a meditation. I put my hands behind my back, kept my legs straight and gently floated in the gentle water. It was amazingly calm and beautiful.