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Snorkeling Between Two Continents In Iceland’s Silfra Fissure


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Bertha Pohl



Iceland is known for its breathtaking landscapes, from vast glaciers to volcanic mountains. But did you know that this small Nordic island also offers a unique snorkeling experience? Enter Silfra Fissure, a mesmerizing underwater wonderland where you can swim between two continents.


Located in Thingvellir National Park, Silfra Fissure is a rift between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. It is one of the few places on Earth where you can witness the continental drift in action. The clear, pristine waters allow for unparalleled visibility, making it a haven for snorkelers and divers alike.


Snorkeling in Silfra Fissure is not only an adventure but also a geological journey. As you glide through the chilly waters, you’ll be surrounded by stunning rock formations and vibrant marine life. It’s an experience that will leave you in awe of Iceland’s natural wonders.


Whether you’re a seasoned diver or a first-time snorkeler, Silfra Fissure offers something for everyone. In this article, we will explore the fascinating geological significance of this site, delve into the unique aquatic life that calls it home, and provide essential information to help you plan your snorkeling adventure.


So grab your snorkel and dive in as we uncover the hidden gems of Silfra Fissure in Iceland!


The Silfra Fissure: A Unique Snorkeling Spot

Nestled within Iceland’s Thingvellir National Park, the Silfra Fissure stands as a truly remarkable snorkeling spot. This fissure is a result of the divergent boundary between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, making it an ideal location to witness the continental drift in action.


What sets Silfra Fissure apart is not just its geological significance but also its crystal-clear waters. The glacial meltwater from Langjökull, Iceland’s second-largest glacier, seeps through porous lava fields for decades, resulting in incredibly pure and transparent water. In fact, the visibility here is unmatched, often reaching up to 100 meters.


The pristine waters of Silfra Fissure provide an extraordinary experience for snorkelers. As you glide through the rift, you can witness the underwater world in remarkable detail. The sunlight plays off the rocks, creating mesmerizing colors and patterns. It’s like entering a whole new realm, where tranquility and beauty collide.


One of the highlights of snorkeling in Silfra Fissure is the opportunity to swim between two continents. Placing your hands on the steep walls of the fissure, you can feel the tremendous force of the tectonic plates pulling apart. It’s a humbling experience, reminding us of the powerful geological forces at work beneath the Earth’s surface.


The Silfra Fissure is also known for its stunning rock formations. Over time, the shifting plates have created intricate crevices, caves, and canyons. These geological wonders provide mesmerizing vistas as you make your way through the underwater landscape.


Furthermore, the unique geological conditions of Silfra Fissure have led to the development of diverse flora and fauna. Mosses, algae, and other plant life cling to the rocks, adding pops of vibrant green to the underwater scenery. Snorkelers may also have the chance to encounter a variety of fish species and other aquatic organisms that have adapted to this unusual habitat.


Overall, the Silfra Fissure offers a truly immersive and awe-inspiring snorkeling experience. It combines the thrill of exploring an underwater world with the geological wonder of swimming between continents. Whether you’re an adventure seeker or simply a lover of nature’s beauty, snorkeling in Silfra Fissure is an experience that will leave a lasting impression.


Location and Geological Significance

Silfra Fissure is situated within Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in southwestern Iceland. It is easily accessible, being only 45 kilometers east of the capital city, Reykjavik. The national park itself is renowned for its unique geological and historical features.


The fissure, which stretches approximately 63 meters in length, lies within the Thingvellir Rift Valley. This valley is formed by the divergence of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates, which are steadily drifting apart at a rate of about 2 centimeters per year. This ongoing geological process makes Thingvellir National Park one of the few places on Earth where you can observe the continental drift above sea level.


The geological significance of Silfra Fissure draws in scientists, researchers, and geology enthusiasts from around the world. It offers a remarkable opportunity to study the effects of tectonic activity in real-time. The unique diving conditions inside the fissure have also attracted explorers looking to uncover the mysteries of the underwater world.


Snorkeling in Silfra Fissure allows visitors to experience this geological wonder firsthand. By donning a wetsuit and snorkeling gear, you can actually float above the gap between the North American and Eurasian plates, immersing yourself in the force that shapes our planet.


The location of Silfra Fissure within Thingvellir National Park also holds cultural significance. The park served as the gathering place for Iceland’s ancient parliament, the Althing, as far back as 930 AD. The Althing, considered one of the world’s oldest parliaments, held its sessions outdoors, making use of the natural amphitheater-like setting provided by the rift valley.


Overall, Silfra Fissure’s location within Thingvellir National Park adds to its appeal, as visitors can combine their snorkeling adventure with a journey into Iceland’s rich history and natural beauty. It’s a unique opportunity to appreciate the geological forces at play and immerse oneself in the awe-inspiring landscapes that make Iceland a truly remarkable destination.


Crystal Clear Waters: Understanding the Visibility

One of the most remarkable aspects of snorkeling in Silfra Fissure is the exceptional visibility of the water. The crystal-clear nature of the waters here is a result of several factors that contribute to its unparalleled clarity.


First and foremost, the source of the water in Silfra Fissure plays a significant role. The water that fills the fissure comes from the nearby Langjökull glacier, which is fed by Iceland’s abundant rain and melting ice. As this water trickles through the porous lava fields surrounding the fissure, it undergoes natural filtration, purifying it from impurities and sediment.


The second factor is the absence of algae and plankton in the water. While these microorganisms are usually found in most bodies of water, Silfra Fissure’s freezing temperatures make it an inhospitable environment for them. The lack of algae and plankton means that the water remains remarkably clear, allowing for maximum visibility.


Another crucial factor is the constant flow of water. The water in Silfra Fissure is not stagnant; it flows continuously from one end to the other. This constant movement prevents the buildup of sediment and ensures that the water remains clear and free from debris.


Furthermore, the composition of the water also contributes to its clarity. The water in Silfra Fissure is primarily glacial meltwater, which is low in minerals and sediments. This pure water enhances the transparency and adds to the stunning visibility that snorkelers and divers can enjoy.


The exceptional visibility in Silfra Fissure allows for a truly immersive experience. Snorkelers can witness the vibrant colors of the submerged rocks, the intricate details of the fissure’s formation, and the various marine life that calls this place home. The clarity of the water also makes it easier to navigate through the fissure and appreciate the geological wonders that lie beneath the surface.


It is important to note that with great visibility also comes great responsibility. Snorkelers should be mindful of their movements and avoid stirring up sediment or disturbing delicate ecosystems. By respecting the environment, we can help preserve the pristine and crystal-clear waters of Silfra Fissure for future generations to enjoy.


Snorkeling Gear and Safety Precautions

When embarking on a snorkeling adventure in Silfra Fissure, it is essential to have the right gear and take necessary safety precautions. Here is a guide to the equipment you’ll need and the measures you should take to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.


Snorkeling Gear:

  • Mask: Choose a well-fitting mask that provides a clear field of vision. Anti-fog coating or a defogging solution can help prevent the mask from fogging up during your snorkeling session.
  • Snorkel: Opt for a snorkel with a comfortable mouthpiece and a purge valve, which allows for easy clearing of any water that enters the snorkel.
  • Fins: Use fins that fit properly and are suitable for snorkeling. Fins help enhance propulsion and maneuverability in the water.
  • Wetsuit: Silfra Fissure’s water temperature hovers around 2-4 degrees Celsius (36-39 degrees Fahrenheit) throughout the year. It is essential to wear a thick wetsuit or a drysuit to protect yourself from the cold.

Safety Precautions:

  • Health Considerations: Snorkeling in Silfra Fissure involves exertion, so it is advisable to ensure you are in good physical health and able to handle the physical demands of swimming and floating in cold water.
  • Guided Tours: Unless you are an experienced snorkeler or diver, it is highly recommended to join a guided tour. Certified guides will provide instruction, lead the way, and ensure your safety throughout the snorkeling session.
  • Stay Hydrated: Even in the cold water, it is important to stay hydrated. Make sure to drink plenty of fluids before and after your snorkeling experience.
  • Listen to Briefings: Pay close attention to safety briefings provided by your guide. They will cover important information such as entry and exit points, potential hazards, and proper snorkeling techniques specific to Silfra Fissure.
  • Don’t Touch or Disturb: The ecosystem within Silfra Fissure is delicate, so it is crucial to avoid touching or disturbing the environment. This includes refraining from touching rocks, corals, or any marine life you may encounter.
  • Snorkel Buddy System: Always utilize the buddy system and never snorkel alone. Keep an eye on your snorkel partner and communicate any concerns or issues you may have during your time in the water.

By following the proper safety precautions and using the right equipment, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable snorkeling experience in Silfra Fissure. Remember to respect the environment, stay aware of your surroundings, and cherish the unique opportunity to explore this captivating underwater realm.


The Challenging Water Temperature

Snorkeling in Silfra Fissure offers a thrilling adventure, but it also presents a challenge: the water temperature. The temperature of the water in Silfra Fissure remains frigid throughout the year, with temperatures ranging from 2-4 degrees Celsius (36-39 degrees Fahrenheit). As such, it is crucial to understand and prepare for the challenging water temperature before diving in.


The primary reason for the low water temperature is the glacial origin of the water in Silfra Fissure. The glacial meltwater is sourced from Langjökull, one of Iceland’s massive glaciers. This freezing cold water, combined with the lack of direct sunlight reaching the depths of the fissure, contributes to the sustained frigid conditions.


To ensure a safe and comfortable snorkeling experience in Silfra Fissure, it is important to take appropriate measures:

  • Wetsuit or Drysuit: Wearing a thick wetsuit or drysuit is essential to protect yourself from the cold water. These specially designed suits offer insulation, keeping your body temperature regulated and minimizing heat loss during your snorkeling session. It is recommended to rent or purchase them from snorkeling tour operators who provide appropriate gear for the conditions.
  • Layering: Layering is key in cold-water snorkeling. Underneath your wetsuit or drysuit, wear thermal base layers to provide extra warmth. Opt for fleece or wool materials that offer insulation even when wet.
  • Gloves and Boots: Consider wearing neoprene gloves and boots to provide additional protection against the cold and to maintain dexterity in your hands and feet while snorkeling.
  • Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to your body’s signals while snorkeling. If you start feeling excessively cold or experience numbness, it may be time to exit the water and warm up. Knowing your limits and respecting your body’s response to the cold is vital.

It is important to note that while the water in Silfra Fissure may be cold, adequate preparation and the right gear can make your snorkeling adventure enjoyable even in these conditions. The breathtaking beauty of the underwater world and the unique experience of swimming between two continents make it a worthwhile endeavor – just be sure to prioritize your safety and comfort by adequately preparing for the challenging water temperature.


Swim through Tectonic Plates: The Continental Rift Experience

One of the most captivating aspects of snorkeling in Silfra Fissure is the opportunity to swim between two tectonic plates. As you glide through the crystal-clear waters, you’ll find yourself literally immersed in the continental rift, an experience unique to this remarkable location.


The Silfra Fissure is located within the Thingvellir Rift Valley, which marks the boundary between two massive tectonic plates: the North American Plate and the Eurasian Plate. These plates are slowly moving apart, creating a rift that stretches for kilometers. Silfra Fissure, measuring approximately 63 meters in length, serves as a tangible connection between these two powerful geological forces.


Snorkeling through the rift offers a humbling perspective on the sheer magnitude of the Earth’s geology. Placing your hands on the rift walls as you swim, you can physically feel the continuous forces of the plates pulling apart. It’s a reminder of the ever-changing nature of our planet and the incredible power of geologic processes.


The swim through Silfra Fissure not only offers a geological experience but also provides a visual feast. The walls of the rift boast stunning rock formations, shaped by thousands of years of tectonic activity. Delicate crevices, canyons, and caves decorate the underwater landscape, offering a mesmerizing backdrop for your snorkeling journey.


While snorkeling, you may also encounter the iconic Silfra Hall, a wider section of the fissure with a breathtaking depth of up to 23 meters. The stunning shades of blue and green dancing across the rock formations, combined with the astonishing visibility, create a surreal and awe-inspiring scenery.


Swimming between the tectonic plates in Silfra Fissure is not something you can experience just anywhere in the world. It is a truly unique and thrilling adventure that allows you to connect with the forces that shape our planet. The serenity and beauty of the underwater world in this continental rift will leave you with a renewed appreciation for the wonders of nature.


Whether you’re a geology enthusiast or simply seeking a one-of-a-kind experience, snorkeling through the Silfra Fissure offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to swim between tectonic plates. It’s a journey that will leave an indelible mark, reminding you of the extraordinary geological processes that continue to shape our world.


Unique Fauna and Flora in Silfra

While snorkeling in Silfra Fissure, you’ll not only have the chance to swim between tectonic plates but also to discover the unique and diverse fauna and flora that call this underwater wonderland home. Despite the challenging conditions, Silfra Fissure supports a surprising array of life that has adapted to thrive in this extraordinary environment.


When it comes to aquatic life, Silfra Fissure may not be teeming with fish like a tropical reef, but it is home to a variety of fascinating organisms. Due to the low temperature and lack of sunlight penetrating the depths of the fissure, the aquatic life here is predominantly composed of small invertebrates.


One of the most common creatures you may encounter during your snorkeling adventure is the tiny copepod. These minute crustaceans are a vital part of the food chain, serving as a source of sustenance for other organisms. You may also spot freshwater snails and worms meandering along the walls of the fissure.


As you explore the fissure, keep an eye out for the intriguing mosses and algae that cling to the rocks. These hardy plants have adapted to the extreme conditions of Silfra Fissure, adding splashes of vibrant green to the underwater landscape. While they may seem subtle, they play an essential role in maintaining the delicate balance of the ecosystem.


One of the most unique species to look out for is the midge fly larvae, also known as “trolls of the fissure.” These tiny larvae have adapted to the cold environment and the absence of light by developing a remarkable ability to cling to rocks. They use their hooked appendages to anchor themselves despite the strong current, showcasing the incredible adaptability of life in extreme conditions.


To fully appreciate the diversity of life in Silfra Fissure, it is recommended to take your time and observe the fissure’s nooks and crannies closely. Each crevice may harbor a hidden gem waiting to be discovered, showcasing the resilience and adaptability of life in this unique habitat.


While exploring Silfra Fissure, it is vital to respect and protect the delicate ecosystem. Take care to avoid touching or disturbing the fauna and flora, as they play a crucial role in the balance of this underwater environment. Help keep Silfra Fissure pristine for future generations to enjoy by appreciating the beauty while leaving no trace behind.


Snorkeling in Silfra Fissure offers a remarkable opportunity to witness the remarkable adaptations and diversity of life in an extreme environment. By immersing yourself in this underwater world, you gain a deeper appreciation for the resilience and ingenuity of nature’s creations.


Exploring the Fissure: Routes and Highlights

Exploring Silfra Fissure is like embarking on a captivating underwater journey. With its unique geological features and stunning visibility, there are several routes and highlights to discover during your snorkeling adventure.


One of the most popular routes is the “Big Crack,” which takes you through the narrowest part of the fissure. As you navigate this section, you’ll witness the immense forces of the tectonic plates at work, with the gap gradually widening before your eyes. This route offers a thrilling experience as you squeeze through the narrow spaces and appreciate the raw power of nature.


Another exciting highlight is the “Silfra Cathedral,” an expansive section of the fissure known for its majestic scale and impressive depth. Here, the fissure widens, revealing a sight to behold. The vibrant colors of the rocks and the stunning clarity of the water create a cathedral-like ambiance, adding a sense of awe and wonder to your snorkeling experience.


For those seeking an even more immersive experience, the “Silfra Lagoon” route offers a chance to explore a larger and more open area. This route allows you to meander through a scenic lagoon-like section, admiring the unique rock formations along the way. The tranquility and beauty of this route make it a favorite among snorkelers looking to fully appreciate the essence of Silfra Fissure.


During your snorkeling adventure, keep an eye out for the remarkable “Bridge Between Continents.” This formation is not only a physical connection between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates but also a visual reminder of their ongoing divergence. Swimming across the bridge feels like being on an extraordinary journey from one continent to another, adding a sense of wonder to the overall experience.


Exploring Silfra Fissure is not limited to these specific routes. Each snorkeling session offers an opportunity to discover new pockets and formations within the fissure, providing a sense of adventure and discovery. The underwater world of Silfra is a playground of natural beauty and geological wonders, waiting to be explored.


As you navigate through the fissure, take the time to appreciate the stunning rock features, vibrant colors, and the unobstructed visibility that allows you to see every detail. Remember to swim at a comfortable pace, taking in the surroundings and capturing the memories of this exceptional journey.


Whether you choose a specific route or opt for a more free-flowing exploration, Silfra Fissure offers an extraordinary opportunity to be at one with nature and witness the incredible forces that shape our planet. Prepare to be swept away by the breathtaking beauty and the sense of adventure that awaits you as you explore this unique underwater wonderland.


Snorkeling Tours and Guided Experiences

When it comes to snorkeling in Silfra Fissure, joining a guided tour is highly recommended. Snorkeling tours offer a safe and enriching experience, allowing you to make the most of your time in this underwater wonderland. Here’s why guided tours are the preferred choice for exploring Silfra:


Expert Guidance: Qualified and experienced guides accompany you throughout the tour, providing valuable information about the fissure’s geological significance, the unique aquatic life, and the safety precautions to be followed. Their expertise ensures you have a comprehensive understanding of the environment and enhances your overall snorkeling experience.


Proper Equipment: Snorkeling tours provide all the necessary equipment to ensure your safety and comfort. This includes wetsuits or drysuits, snorkels, masks, fins, and gloves. The tour operators are well-equipped with gear specifically designed to withstand the cold water temperatures of Silfra Fissure. Having reliable and properly fitted equipment enhances your snorkeling experience and gives you peace of mind.


Safety Measures: Snorkeling tours prioritize safety above all else. Before entering the water, guides provide comprehensive safety briefings, including information on how to use the equipment, how to handle potential challenges, and what to do in case of an emergency. The guidance and supervision of experienced professionals ensure that you can fully enjoy the experience while feeling secure throughout the snorkeling session.


Optimal Scheduling and Logistics: Guided tours take care of the logistics, including transportation to and from Silfra Fissure, ensuring proper scheduling, and managing the entry and exit points. This allows you to focus on the enjoyment of the activity without worrying about the details. It also ensures that you get to make the most of your time in the water and take advantage of the ideal conditions for snorkeling.


Educational Value: Snorkeling tours often provide an educational component, offering insights into the geological and ecological significance of Silfra Fissure. Guides share fascinating facts about the rift, the tectonic plates, and the unique flora and fauna that call it home. This adds an educational dimension to your experience, enriching your understanding of the natural wonders you encounter.


It’s important to choose a reputable tour operator that prioritizes sustainability and environmental preservation. Look for operators that follow responsible snorkeling practices, adhere to national park guidelines, and aim to minimize their impact on the fragile ecosystem of Silfra Fissure. By selecting a responsible operator, you contribute to the conservation efforts and help preserve this natural wonder for future generations to enjoy.


Embarking on a guided snorkeling tour in Silfra Fissure offers a safe, educational, and immersive experience. With professional guidance, proper equipment, and a focus on safety, you can explore the underwater beauty while learning about the geological and ecological wonders that make Silfra such a unique destination.



Snorkeling in Silfra Fissure is an extraordinary adventure that combines geological wonder, natural beauty, and a sense of awe-inspiring exploration. The opportunity to swim between two tectonic plates, witness the continental drift in action, and immerse yourself in crystal-clear waters creates a truly unique and memorable experience.


As you glide through Silfra’s fissure, you’ll be surrounded by stunning rock formations, vibrant flora, and fascinating fauna that have adapted to thrive in this extreme environment. The exceptional visibility allows you to appreciate every intricate detail of this underwater world with clarity and precision.


Exploring Silfra Fissure can be safely done through guided tours, where knowledgeable experts provide guidance, share insights, and ensure your safety throughout the snorkeling experience. Having access to appropriate equipment and the expertise of dedicated professionals enhances your enjoyment and allows you to fully immerse yourself in this natural wonder.


Silfra Fissure is more than just a snorkeling spot; it’s a testament to the Earth’s dynamic geological processes and the resilience of life in extreme environments. It offers a profound appreciation for the forces that shape our planet and the delicate balance of ecosystems that thrive under challenging conditions.


Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a geology lover, or simply seeking a unique adventure, Silfra Fissure in Iceland’s Thingvellir National Park beckons with its unparalleled beauty. It is an opportunity to connect with nature, explore the wonders of the underwater world, and create lasting memories.


As you plan your trip to Silfra Fissure, remember to choose a responsible tour operator, respect the delicate ecosystem, and appreciate the importance of preserving this natural wonder for future generations. Snorkeling in Silfra Fissure is an experience that will leave you with a profound sense of wonder and an enduring appreciation for Iceland’s remarkable geological and natural treasures.