HomeNews & LifestyleSnorkeling Between Tectonic Plates in Iceland’s Silfra Fissure

Snorkeling Between Tectonic Plates in Iceland’s Silfra Fissure

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Snorkelling in Iceland is unlike any other place in the entire world… partly because it’s the only place in the world where you can dive or snorkel between two continental plates.

Yes that’s right. You can touch the tectonic plates of North America and Eurasia at the same time when you go snorkelling in Iceland.

If that’s not a reason to get down with super cold water and squeeze yourself into a dry suit, I don’t know what is.

In addition to the unique experience of snorkelling or diving in between tectonic plates, the Silfra Fissure is also famous for having the clearest fresh water on the planet. And it goes even further than that: It also offers the longest underwater visibility in the world.

Because of this, divers and snorkel fanatics from all over the world come to Iceland’s Silfra Fissure to cross this incredible experience from their bucket lists.

Silfra fissure
Photo: @swimtrek on Instagram

Scuba Diving and Snorkelling in Iceland    (Overview)

The island of Iceland is the product of a massive and violent movement between two gigantic tectonic plates. These plates have been drifting apart continuously over the last 18 million years. As a result, the islands landscape is diverse, different, and totally unique.

The water is so cool in Silfra partly because it’s so darn cold. The cooler the water, the clearer it is. The water temperature at Silfra is between 2 degrees and 4 degrees Celsius, (25 – 38 degrees Fahrenheit).

The other reason the water is so clear is that it comes from beneath the ground. It’s basically the meltwater from Langjökull, which is Iceland’s second largest glacier. This precious water takes 30 to 100 YEARS to travel 50 KM through the lava field.

This lava field provides the finest natural filtration of water available on the planet. So, before it even flows into the fissure, the water is super clear and clean.

Then you have the natural spring’s force, which is strong enough to create a gentle current, ensuring that the water never becomes cloudy or dirty because it’s never static.

Gentle-Flowing Water

It’s not just divers who benefit from this gentle-flowing water. Snorkelers are also better off in this environment. You can rest on the water, without even swimming or using your flippers or any of your special snorkel gear. The water itself will guide you into the fissure. This helps to make it one of the most easy and effortless experiences when it comes to world-class snorkelling.

As a result, the current has another advantage: The constant flow of the fresh water keeps the temperature at a stable 2 to 4 degrees Celsius, as we already discussed.

Because of this, the water is in motion at all times, and is never able to freeze. In other words, diving and snorkelling are possible at Silfra through the entire year!

What to Wear Snorkeling In Iceland?

It’s imperative that you have all the right supplies and gear in order to embark upon this epic adventure. The water is cold as heck in Silfra Fissure. Thick, durable dry suits made from very special materials will help you to not only prevent freezing your buns off, but will also keep the water out.

These special suits are designed to resist freezing, and to keep your body’s core temperature at safe and healthy levels.

Under your dry suit, you’ll also wear your own, long-sleeved shirt. You’ll also want to sport long johns and socks, as these will increase your thermal insulation and comfort.

Whether you are diving or snorkelling, your guide will be able to provide you with everything you need. Keep in mind that they deal with all of the questions, all of the time. So you can come at them with anything you want to know, and you’ll get an accurate and satisfactory response.

In most cases, your concern will be the undergarments. Your guide will help you deal with the gear itself.

Snorkelling in iceland
The Photo: @thejetlagged on Instagram

What is the Silfra Fissure?

After a major earthquake in 1789, what is now known as the Silfra Fissure appeared. This was then followed by many more earthquakes. The plates have continued to move further apart every year, by around 2cm each year.

The weightlessness of diving or snorkelling is one of the most incredible experiences in the world. But the unique geological and hydrological characteristics of Silfra make it even more of an incredible experience.

Once you get under the water of the Silfra Fissure, you’ll see a rough but absolutely breathtaking wonderland of bare rock. There are shades of blue that you can’t even imagine, and the bottomless crack reaches into invisible depths.

Even though the gentle current will help you along once you get in the water, you will need to gently swim the length of the Big Crack. This section here will contain both the most shallow and the deepest levels. The shallowest point has a depth of a mere half a meter.

Touch Two Continents at Once!

This, my friend, is where you will be able to touch both side of the rock at once. I can imagine that this would make me feel like some kind of a superhero. Maybe that’s just me, but come on! The underpinnings of two continents, one in each hand?! That sounds like a once-in-a-lifetime experience if I’ve ever heard of one.

In the summer, algae of brilliant greens and blues are thriving on the rock. The shallow area will give you the best visibility here. It’s contradictory too, because the water is so cold it seems to be hostile, but underneath is an entire ecosystem of thriving life.

Keep your eyes peeled for all the sea creatures as well. They’re shy, but you can catch them if you go slow and don’t move too quickly in any direction.

How to Get to Silfra Fissure

To get to this incredible destination, you’ll need to fly to Reykjavik. It’s only a short drive from there — around 50 minutes which isn’t bad at all. You’ll also be surrounded by beautiful scenery on the way there. You’ll pass through the town of Mosfellsbær, and be able to enjoy so much of the land and visual that the country has to offer.

Snorkeling vs. Scuba Diving at Silfra Fissure

One of the most important factors for scuba divers and snorkel enthusiasts is the clarity of the water. As you can imagine (if you’re not a scuba or snorkel person) the activity is totally different when you can see as far as possible in front of you.

It’s kind of like having a flashlight that reaches further than other flashlights, enabling you to be able to see just that much further in the dark.

So why is the visibility so important? This is a very valid question, because beyond just being able to see so far and see so many things, it’s the clarity of the water that gives you the unique feeling of flying.

One of the coolest things about this spot is that the water is almost as clear as the air. Because of this, you get the sense that you’re flying without a care in the world. The fish become birds, and all of a sudden your whole world feels weightless and unlimited.

Um, take me there now please?

Snorkelling in Iceland
Photo: @davidmarfilraurell on Instagram

So, the big decision is upon us now: should you scuba or snorkel?

I mean, that decision may already be made for you based on your activities of choice. Or you may already be travelling with a specific sport in mind and have all of your gear. But if you are debating whether or not you should snorkel or dive at this epic, world-renowned location, let’s take a look at some of the facts.

When it comes down to it, it depends on how much you want to see. Obviously you will be able to experience the full beauty of the surroundings more if you scuba dive. You’ll notice also, however, that the length of the fissure itself is actually not long enough to test the outer edges of the visibility! Isn’t that incredible? The water is so clear that the underwater geography is what limits your visibility!

Cold Water, Anyone?

Another thing to consider is that the water in Silfra Fissure is extremely cold. You can’t even THINK about going swimming down there without all of the proper, official gear. As a result, that could also affect your decision to either snorkel or dive.

And because cold water breeds some of the most unique underwater environments on the planet, it’s natural that there are a lot of options when it comes to equipment.

Curious divers and snorkelers the world over have always been interested in exploring these places. As a result, they haven’t let the cold water stop them. It’s a fairly recent development though, because technology has advanced so much through the evolution of diving.

Previously, there was no way possible to submerge in these kinds of freezing environments. But now, with all of these advancements when you’re snorkelling in Iceland, what was previously impossible is now not only possible, but accessible!

In fact, waters this cold don’t even count as being “extreme” anymore!

In Conclusion

Is Snorkelling in Iceland in the Silfra Fissure now on your bucket list? It sure is on mine!

One last thing! Whatever you do, don’t forget to have your “Dive Between The Continents” photo taken.

You’ll cherish it for the rest of your life!

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