Review: Snorkeling Iceland’s Silfra fissure

A dozen expletives flew out of my mouth the moment I touched the water in the Silfra fissure.

And, no, that wouldn’t be the last time profanity would be said through clenched teeth on this snorkeling tour. Ironically, though, profanity was sometimes the only words that adequately expressed what I was feeling — it left me that speechless.

Me, a natural thesaurus, was left fumbling and trying to find words to describe this unparalleled phenomenon.

Well, that and because my lips had swelled up and could be the face of a botox advertisement. 

Now, I should preface this review by saying that I did not record my dive in the Silfra Fissure, nor did I take any photos. Instead, I focused on experiencing the moment experiencing, what should be considered one of the seven wonders of the world, old or new. As of now, Silfra Fissure is only considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Silfra fissure, sometimes called Silfra in shorthand, is a crack between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. So, technically, I snorkeled in no man’s land, which is unreal. It’s the only place in the world where you can do this.

Before I plunge into my Silfra Fissure experience, I’ll outline a few basics about the tour and the company that guided me on my adventure.

Basic tour information

I embarked on my Iceland road trip in November. I didn’t book my Silfra snorkeling tour until two days before because I was on the fence about whether I should spend a large portion of my budget on one tour. After convincing myself that this was a once in a lifetime experience, I began searching the web for what company to go with.

There are dozens of companies that offer Silfra snorkeling or scuba diving tours. I ended up booking with Arctic Adventures and found them through the Guide to Iceland website. 

Arctic Adventures was one of the budget-friendly tours that I stumbled across on the website. The tour cost $169 but included admission to Þingvellir National Park (sometimes spelled as Thingvellir National Park for non-Icelandic speakers) and a dry suit. Photos and a GoPro can be rented at an additional cost. As an added bonus, there is hot cocoa and cookies included in your ticket. This doesn’t seem like a perk, but believe me, it most definitely is!  

I opted to meet my tour at the location, which meant I had to pay $5 for parking, but there is also an option where you can be picked up in Reykjavik and transported to the dive site. Either way, the site is easy to locate.

Dry suit drama

Now, if you’ve never been in a dry suit before, this is going to be an experience in itself, which was the case for me. The dry suit is two layers and can be difficult to put on. Yes, you might have to get a little personal with your tour guides. Especially, if you end up getting stuck in the suit like I did. (Long story short: I have short legs and the suit’s legs were far too long for me. It took a lot of shimmying and helpful bounces from one of the tour guides to finally get the legs situated correctly!)

Overall, dry suits aren’t super uncomfortable. If you’ve been in a formal gown before, it’s a similar feeling. The suits are slightly constrictive, but will definitely be a life saver once you step into the cold water.

If you are claustrophobic, you might feel uncomfortable in the suits. It’s ultimately your decision. The tour guides’ jokes about the suits will put you at ease and you’ll soon forget how silly you might feel.

How fit do you have to be?

Most Silfra snorkeling or diving tours have a health clause in their booking. Most state that participants need to be “physically fit” in order to engage in the tour. Many sites do not hard-set definitions about what it means to be “physically fit” other than it requires a moderate level of exercise.

The most important of these is feeling comfortable swimming in open water. The extra room in the dry suits can be filled with air, which helps the snorkeler stay afloat. I found this uncomfortable because I lacked control and felt like I was on an inflated raft. Yet, this function definitely helps put participants at ease.

In the Silfra fissure, there aren’t any strong currents. In fact, there’s a steady current and it will require very little effort on your part to get to the end.

As a snorkeling novice, this tour was a breeze. The only thing you need to worry about is enjoying yourself and fully taking in the crystal, blue water below.

Experience in the water

I was cursing at a higher power when I first dipped my flippered foot into the Silfra Fissure. All year round the water temperature is an average of 3 degrees Celsius (37.4 degrees Fahrenheit). The cold temperature of the water is in part why it is so crystal clear.

Don’t be fooled. If you’ve participated in a polar plunge before, it will not prepare you for this experience. Being a native of Minnesota, I was even shocked at how cold the water was and had a hard time not mulling about it over and over while on the tour.

In part, the water is crystal clear because it is derived from a glacier. The water flows from nearby Langjökull Glacier (The Long Glacier). For the next 30-100 years, the water is filtered through porous underground lava fields before it reaches Þingvellir Lake (Thingvellir Lake). After which, it seeps into the underground wells and fills the Silfra fissure.

During the tour, your face and hands will become wet, which will not ease those chilling shivers you’re already experiencing. Dry suit gloves are designed to let water it and form an insulating layer. That’s if you do not move them vigorously in the water, this was the mistake I made. My tour guide actually suggested keeping your hands out of the water so they’ll stay warmer. You can either do this by placing your hands on the back of your head while you’re snorkeling or on your back.

Obviously, it’s impossible not to get your face wet during the snorkeling tour. You’ll wear hoods that will cover the majority of your head and face, but your lips and part of your forehead and cheeks with be exposed.

You’ll spend about 35 minutes in the water. You’re going to want the tour to go faster because the water temperature is so cold, but bear with it — it’s impeccable!  

Quirks of the Silfra fissure 

Immediately, once submerged you’ll be able to see meters ahead of you. Water in the Silfra Fissure is claimed to be the clearest water on the planet.

There are trout and numerous other species of fish that live in Þingvellir Lake (Thingvellir Lake). Yet, the fish do not venture into the Silfra fissure. The only living organism you’ll see in the fissure is your fellow snorkelers and what is considered as “troll hair.” Troll hair is a bright green algae, that resides within the fissure.

On your tour, you’ll explore the four sections of the Silfra fissure: Silfra Lagoon, Silfra Deep Crack, Silfra Cathedral and Silfra Hall. The formation of this geological features has evolved over time due to earthquakes, minor and major, that have remodeled Silfra’s appearance. Roughly, every year, the fissure shifts two centimeters.

Each of the sections is dyed a dark, cerulean blue hue and visible up to 100 meters. The rocks are a greenish, black hue and almost look like neon signs popped into the bright blue water. Especially with troll hair spotted throughout the fissure, it feels a little psychedelic at times.

Each meter of the fissure is different from the last. Parts resemble a coral reef while others are similar to deep sea diving in an underwater canyon. The views are impeccable and so hard to describe.

And yes, do taste the crystal, clear, glacier water. It’s the freshest water that you’ve ever tasted and will quench your thirst. This was surreal for me because I’ve only snorkeled in salt water before. I had to convince myself numerous times that I heard the tour guide correctly and could actually swallow a gulp.

Would I do it again?

Most definitely. Though the water will chill your skeleton in mere seconds, staring into that crystal, blue water is unlike anything I’ve experienced. I’ve snorkeled in tropical places all around the world, but after one dip in the Silfra fissure, I realized how diverse the underwater world can be.

No, there weren’t any starfish or crustaceans that preoccupied my time. Instead, I had to admire the rocky canyons that I swam between and the endless clarity that the water provided. Taking a few gulps of that cold water goodness was also worth the shivers I lived with after the tour.

About the Author

Quirky Globetrotter

Hi! I'm Martha! The mastermind behind Quirky Globetrotter a feminist travel blog. Quirky Globetrotter is devoted to telling narratives devoted to female solo travel and hidden gems worldwide with an emphasis on intersectional feminism and how that impacts travel on a global and local level.

39 thoughts on “Review: Snorkeling Iceland’s Silfra fissure

  1. I went to Iceland a few years back in March/April period and snorkeled Silfra. As you say, the water is cold but I found the dry suit did it’s thing to help once I was in the water leaving only my face exposed to the ice cold water. Great details – can’t wait to do it again next time we are back in Iceland.

    1. I think I forgot to mention that they day I went snorkeling was particularly cold, -15 degrees Celsius. But otherwise I think the dry suit would’ve done the trick! Definitely an experience I would gladly do again and again.

  2. Getting the suit on part 😂😂😂 you damn well know that would be my ass. Another fabulous post love! Makes me want to do that like yesterday!

    1. The tour guide also made a few slightly crude jokes, which helped ease the tension as well! Thank you, dear! Already want to go back and look at Silfra!

  3. I have tried to put on a dry suit before and yes its tricky and should be done completely alone in a really large change room! Well worth it though. I am wanting to visit Iceland this looks like something I would like to add to my list of things to do when I finally get there.

    1. I actually preferred having the tour guides help. The suits are so bulky and hard to adjust, I definitely needed a helping hand. And it helps us not feel ashamed of our bodies!

      And I hope you have a fabulous trip to Iceland! I would recommend going during the fall/winter so you have a chance to see the Northern Lights. Whatever time of year you go, it’s guaranteed to be magical!

  4. Ohhh even though snorkeling on the Silfra fissure has been on my list for so long I couldnt help to click on your post. I have seen pictures of this place in other blog posts, I must say I wish there were some in this to…for other readers who has never heard of Silfra fissure before. That said, bravo for jumping in the cold water!

    1. Stay tuned and I explain in great detail why I didn’t take photos of the Silfra fissure in my next post! (To be published on Thursday!) You subscribe for updates below and follow me on social media to get notified of the new post.

  5. Seeing ‘Iceland’ in the title immediately made me excited as it’s next in my travel list! I’m always looking for things to do and snorkeling in the Silfra fissure seems so cool. Although I’m shuddering at the thought of immersing myself in cold water, I might just give this a try! Also, your description about getting into the dry suit was hilarious

  6. wow that must have been a wonderful experience snorkelling in clearest water on the planet! I actually never heard about Silfra Fissure before as normally people just go to Iceland for a road trip! I wish I could see some photos here as it seems like it was wonderful!

    1. I also did a road trip while in Iceland. Posts about that will be posted soon! And ironically, I have another post devoted to addressing why I didn’t take photos of the Silfra fissure coming this Thursday! You can subscribe to post updates below or even follow me on social where you can receive updates when I post new content!

  7. You must have lifetime experience while snorkeling in most clear waters and that too between the glaciers. Snorkeling in coldest waters sounds like a joke but this dry suit has made life easy. As it is double layered and has insulation inside, this looks like only option to swim in such cold waters. I was not knowing about Silfra fissure but would love to see this UNESCO listed World Heritage.

    1. The Silfra fissure is actually a crack between two tectonic plates, not two glaciers. The dry suit is actually mandatory this time of year. I’m not sure for spring or summer, but for fall and winter, it is absolutely required.

  8. Sounds right up my alley because I love adventurous stuff like this. I am sure it was absolutely freezing but you are right…there is so much to the underworld than starfish and sharks haha. Iceland has been on my list for a while but never knew about snorkeling here. It’s a must do!

  9. As someone who gets cold when the temperature dips below 70 degrees, I can only imagine what that water felt like. I’m sure it was worth it, though- Iceland’s natural offerings are something truly magical.

    1. Iceland is gorgeous! I definitely had a blast on my 10 days there! If you get cold easily, I would probably recommend not going on the Silfra fissure tour since the water never gets warmer than 4 degrees Celsius, ha! 😉

  10. Wow, the first thing that shocks me is that this is not as expensive as I would’ve thought it would be! Sounds almost like a bargain for Iceland! Good to know that this tour is suitable for total snorkeling novices. Also good to know that you’re not going to freeze in the nigh freezing point waters due to the dry suit! Although it does sound like feeling like an inflated raft would be very strange indeed!

    1. Yes, Iceland is so expensive so I was stoked that this tour didn’t cost me more than $200! And though the dry suit helped, it certainly didn’t stop me from being cold. I don’t think much would help honestly, hahah!

  11. That’s good to know that even us novices can do this snorkel. Though I don’t know if I’d be brave enough to get into these Icelandic waters, I was freezing when I last visited! The open waters sound lovely yet scary at the same time!

  12. This sounds like an absolutely incredible experience – I can imagine how COLD it was, but I am so glad that you braved the cold waters to witness such an amazing experience. To be snorkelling in what you call “no man’s land” would be so cool. I even googled this cause I was so intrigued and WOWWWWWW! I totally would love to do this. Even if I struggle to put on the dry suit, I will do it and brave the waters. What an awesome thing to do!

  13. We visited Iceland last September but didn’t do this, as unfortunately our budget at the time didn’t allow. After reading this, it’s clear we will need to go back. If only to to drink in, quite literally, the ice cold water. What an experience. And good on you for unplugging and just getting on with it!

  14. Silfra snorkeling tour sounds like something I’d love to indulge myself in. Iceland being my dream destination, I’d love to include this snorkeling trip in my itinerary. You are so brave to have gone inside cold waters!

  15. Snorkeling in the Silfra fissure sure sounds like a lifetime experience. I loved the fact that you literally unplugged and focused on really getting an immersive(pun intended) experience. If the water here is the clearest on the planed then the fascinating underwater world is going to look even more magical.

  16. I never hear about snorkeling in Iceland! This would be such a great experience. I can imagine the underwater life there would be amazing. A drysuit is definitely essential in those chilly waters!

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