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You may have heard that the land of ice and fire is a spectacular and unique vacation destination, but did you know that Iceland hosts some of the most unbelievable underwater adventures unlike any others in the world? Freshwater fissures filled with pure glacier water, rivers warmed by geothermal activity, and marine coastal ecosystems, Iceland is a once-in-a-lifetime diving and snorkeling experience.
The Silfra Fissure, often rated one of the Top 10 dive sites in the world, is Iceland’s most popular snorkeling destination. Less-crowded and lesser known, Davidsgja and Nesgja, are also great options.
The only place in the world where you can dive or snorkel between two continental plates, Iceland’s Silfra Fissure, rated as one of the Top 5 activities in the world by Trip Advisor, has the cleanest and most pristine water on the planet with the highest visibility underwater.
Snorkeling in the Silfra Fissure is definitely an experience like none other on the planet. From the moment you step off the drop-in point, the water is so infinitely clear, the depth unbelievably drastic, and the vastness so dramatic that most people who have witnessed this say it feels like you’re flying and looking into an amazing blue abyss.
If you have a fear of heights, it might seem a bit daunting, so those with extreme fears should think twice , but experienced tour guides, equipped at helping first-timers, are there to help get everyone acclimated.
Tour operators will also provide drysuits, snorkeling gear, and other equipment, help you get dressed properly, and make sure everyone is safe and swimming together as a group.
Silfra lies at the rim of the Pingvallavatn Lake in Thingvellir National Park in southwestern Iceland, approximately one hour east of Reykjavik.
A relatively newly opened rift between the North American and the Eurasian tectonic plates, the Silfra Fissure appeared after a major earthquake in 1789. This 200-feet-deep (60 meters) crack continues to widen by about 0.79 in (2 cm) per year.
Melted snow from Langjokull, Iceland’s second-largest glacier, feeds into the fissure after being filtered through porous underground lava. Nature’s amazing filtration system makes Silfra’s water the cleanest and clearest on earth and allows swimmers to see as far as 300 feet.
Iceland has a cold climate, with cool summers and no dry season. June, July, and September are the warmest months, with an average temperature of 13°C/55°F, and January is the coldest month with an average of 1°C/33°F. Iceland’s tourist season peaks from mid-June through August.
From the end of November to January as winter’s darkness takes over, temperatures can be as low as -4°F/-20°C, limiting outdoor activities greatly.
Despite the drastically changing air temps, water temperatures are constant year-round, ranging from 36°F to 39°F (2°C to 4°C.)
Yes, snorkeling in Silfra is safe as long as you are in suitable conditions and follow the tour operator’s advice.
Although there is plenty of underwater life in Silfra, most of it is either plant life or macroinvertebrates. Silfra is home to a unique amphipod called Crymostygius Thingvallensis found only in Thingvellir Lake and the surrounding fissures, such as Silfra.
As far as marine life, there are three different species of fish that live in the lake: Brown Trout, Arctic Char, and Sticklebacks, however, Arctic Char only visits the fissure during mating season in August and September.
Throughout the rest of the year, the only fish who live in the Silfra fissure is the Dwarf Char, a subspecies of the Arctic Char, which can range in size from a few centimeters to 10 cm and live down in the darker recesses.
Even though snorkeling Silfra is safe and a great experience for most adults, some restrictions and precautions should be considered. Many experts and tour guides advise that snorkeling in Silfra is not suitable for:
No, you cannot snorkel or dive Silfra on your own. You must be guided and equipped by a professional tour guide in a small group.
Few experiences are as breathtaking as seeing the aurora borealis dancing across the dark winter sky in Iceland.
The Northern Lights is a phenomenon caused by the interaction of the sun's particles with the upper atmosphere which only happens around the earth's magnetic poles. The interaction creates the wonderful light effect known as the aurora borealis. Truly spectacular, they are often seen dancing across the Icelandic Arctic sky in fantastic colors and vibrant hues.
The long periods of darkness and the frequency of clear nights in the winter months provide many good opportunities to watch the auroral displays. Usually the best time of night to watch for auroral displays in Iceland is between 9pm to 1am. The best time to see Aurora Borealis in Iceland is from September to Mid April.