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Snorkelling Between Continental Plates in Silfra, Iceland

With just a short 48 hour stopover in Iceland, we weren’t sure how much we would really be able to see and experience. As it turns out, you don’t even need all of those 48 hours to have an amazing one-of-a-kind experience that only Iceland can offer.

Really, you just need a morning and a willingness to put on a (surprisingly flattering) drysuit. Because in Iceland, it is possible to snorkel your way through a fissure, to actually float between continental plates!

The unique place where you can do this is called Silfra. This was the best thing we did in Iceland – a land of many astonishing sights to see including geysers, huge waterfalls, volcanoes and hot springs.

Let’s just say it had some great competition…and still won!

snorkeler and cliff colors iceland fissure
Snorkelling above where continental plates meet in Iceland

An underwater world like no other

Silfra is a large fissure (or crack) caused by tectonic plate drift. When it was formed, the fissure broke through an underwater spring and hence the fissure is filled with water. Aside from offering a chance to float between tectonic plates, Silfra also offers a chance to snorkel in what must be the clearest water on the planet. 

We met Louis, our Dive.is snorkelling guide at the Þingvellir National Park Information centre. Þingvellir is one of the three top attractions on Iceland’s most popular tour route, the Golden Circle.

Less than an hour away from Reykjavik, the National Park sits on the border between the North American and European tectonic plates. Not only does the park feature a visual representation of continental drift (think canyons, lava fields, cracks and more) but it’s also the site of Iceland’s first parliament (930AD!)

Our snorkelling group going down the ladder all gueared up
Walking down the ladder to enter the freezing water
fissure iceland cliff and pretty colors
The clarity of the water in the fissure was amazing
snorkel fissure iceland dry suit
JR with mask and drysuit, snorkelling underwater
JR snorkelling in the fissure in Iceland

A serene floating experience

After a quick tour of the snorkelling area, we were suited and booted for our adventure. Snorkelling in 2 degree Celsius water is serious business. Participants are required to wear thermals, a dry suit and mask.

Even with all this, time in the water is limited to approximately 45 minutes to prevent…well, freezing. Tight fitting and a touch bulky, wearing the gear felt a little awkward outside of the water. As soon as we were in though, we were thankful for it!

Louis described the trip as a ‘floating meditation’ and I have to agree. The snorkelling was quite different to any other kind of snorkelling I have ever done. You see, there are no fish to look at in the fissure itself.

In the latter part of the snorkel, there is the chance to see Arctic Char in the Silfra lagoon near the end but I wasn’t lucky enough to spot any (JR did!) It is, however, a scenic experience, just in an unconventional way.

sun reflection on rock and blue water fissure iceland
The lagoon area
fissure clear water iceland
sun reflection on sand fissure iceland
iceland fissure rock and reflection

The clearest water in the world

The colours and the clarity underwater was incredible. It truly was like being in another world. Being almost about to reach out and touch two continental plates felt like fulfilling a dream I didn’t know I had.

It was an exceptionally peaceful, individual and surreal experience, helped by the light glittering on the surface and creating rainbows on the rocks.

I may have come out of the water with a slightly cold face, but I was also wonderfully relaxed. I was also pretty hydrated, having drunk plenty of the almost-too-pure-to-be-true water. 

The water, by the way, is naturally filtered – by lava. It is also naturally crystal clear, with a visibility of up to an incredible 100m. Yes, it doesn’t really get better than this!

Snorkelling between continental plates in Iceland: The details

We were very grateful guests of Dive.is for the tour, however our opinions (as always!) our 100% our own. We would both highly recommend a snorkelling or diving trip with Dive.is to anyone visiting Iceland.

The snorkelling tour is approx $160CAD per person at the time of writing. A big thank you to Louis for the photos of our morning at Silfra. They are our only pictures of Iceland since our camera was stolen in Italy less than 24 hours later.

gemma and jr snorkeling fissure iceland
pretty colors fissure iceland reflection
snorkeling fissure iceland

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James watkins

Friday 10th of July 2015

Awesome stuff, good to see you haven't slowed down exploring JR

Linda

Friday 10th of July 2015

Looks amazing. xx