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Snorkeling The Silfra Fissure In Iceland


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Cassi Perales



When it comes to captivating natural wonders, Iceland has no shortage of breathtaking sights to offer. From mighty waterfalls to glacial lagoons, the country’s landscapes are a feast for the eyes. One such wonder that stands out is the Silfra Fissure, located within the famous Thingvellir National Park. This remarkable geological formation not only offers stunning views but also provides a unique opportunity for adventure enthusiasts to experience snorkeling like never before.


The Silfra Fissure is a rift valley situated between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. This rift, which continuously widens about 2 centimeters each year, has created the perfect conditions for an otherworldly snorkeling experience.


Snorkeling in the Silfra Fissure is unlike any other snorkeling adventure you have had before. The crystal-clear glacial water that fills the fissure offers unparalleled visibility, allowing you to witness the mesmerizing underwater landscape up close.


The fissure’s location within Thingvellir National Park adds to its allure. This UNESCO World Heritage site is not only geologically intriguing but also holds immense historical and cultural significance for Icelanders.


If you are ready to embark on an extraordinary snorkeling adventure and discover the wonders of the Silfra Fissure, join us as we delve into its history, geological formation, unique features, and all the essential information you need to know to make your visit a memorable one.


History of Silfra Fissure

The Silfra Fissure has a fascinating history that dates back thousands of years. It was formed as a result of the movement of the tectonic plates that make up Iceland. The country sits directly on top of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where the Eurasian and North American plates separate.


This geological activity has been shaping Iceland for millions of years, with the rift valley of the Silfra Fissure serving as a prominent example. The gradual movement of the plates has created a rift where the land has been pulled apart, resulting in the formation of the fissure.


The word “Silfra” in Icelandic translates to “silver female.” It is believed that this name was given to the fissure due to the shimmering appearance of the glacial water that fills it, resembling liquid silver.


While the Silfra Fissure has been in existence for centuries, it gained international recognition in the 18th century when scientists and explorers started studying Iceland’s unique geological features. The rift valley became a place of significant interest for researchers seeking to understand the processes shaping our planet.


Today, Silfra Fissure is not only a geological marvel but also a popular tourist attraction, drawing snorkelers and divers from around the world. Its historical significance and natural beauty continue to captivate visitors and leave them in awe of its remarkable formation.


Geological Formation of Silfra Fissure

The Silfra Fissure is the result of the separation between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. This unique geologic phenomenon occurs due to the movement of the two plates in opposite directions, creating a rift valley.


Located within Iceland’s Thingvellir National Park, the Silfra Fissure is part of the larger Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a submarine mountain range running through the Atlantic Ocean. This ridge marks the boundary between the Eurasian and North American plates.


Over millions of years, the tectonic plates have been steadily moving apart, causing the land in between to crack and create a fissure. The Silfra Fissure, which measures approximately 63 meters in length and 2 meters in width, is the result of this ongoing geological activity.


What makes the Silfra Fissure particularly unique is the fact that it is filled with crystal-clear glacial water from the nearby Langjökull glacier. This water originates from the Hvítárvatn Lake, which melts and flows underground until it reaches the Silfra Fissure.


As the water travels through the porous lava rock surrounding the fissure, it undergoes a natural filtration process. This filtering removes impurities, resulting in astonishing clarity and purity of the water. In fact, the visibility underwater in Silfra is among the best in the world, exceeding an impressive 100 meters.


The volcanic activity in Iceland further contributes to the fascinating geological formation of Silfra. The country experiences frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions due to its location on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. These natural forces continuously shape the landscape and influence the movement and widening of the Silfra Fissure.


Overall, the Silfra Fissure stands as a remarkable testament to the powerful forces of nature and serves as a stunning example of the ongoing tectonic movements and volcanic activity that have shaped Iceland over millions of years.


Unique Features of Silfra Fissure

The Silfra Fissure is not only a geological wonder but also possesses several unique features that make it a truly exceptional place to visit and snorkel. Let’s explore some of these distinctive characteristics:


1. Crystal-clear visibility: The glacial water that fills the Silfra Fissure is renowned for its extraordinary clarity. The water is incredibly pure, filtered through the porous lava rock over decades, resulting in unparalleled visibility underwater. Snorkelers and divers can enjoy a visibility range exceeding 100 meters, allowing for breathtaking views of the underwater landscape.


2. Vibrant underwater flora and fauna: The Silfra Fissure is teeming with plant and animal life, creating a vibrant and diverse ecosystem. Moss and algae cover the rocks, adding a vibrant green hue to the underwater scenery. Snorkelers may also spot various fish species, including Arctic char and brown trout, as well as invertebrates such as freshwater sponges and snails.


3. Geological significance: As part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the Silfra Fissure holds immense geologic importance. It serves as a visible representation of the ongoing movement and separation of tectonic plates. Visitors can witness the unique basaltic rock formations and fissures, gaining insights into the powerful geological forces shaping our planet.


4. Straddle two continents: The Silfra Fissure offers a unique opportunity to straddle two continents. As you snorkel or dive, you will be swimming between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. This experience is a literal representation of standing between two continents, an exhilarating thought for adventurers and geography enthusiasts alike.


5. Pristine and frigid waters: The glacial water in Silfra is remarkably cold, with temperatures hovering between 2°C and 4°C (36°F and 39°F) year-round. While the water is frigid, it also adds to the purity and clarity of the experience. Snorkelers are provided with drysuits to keep them warm and comfortable during their immersion in the icy waters.


6. Incredible photo opportunities: The beauty and clarity of the Silfra Fissure offer outstanding photo opportunities. Underwater photographers can capture stunning shots of the colorful rocks, the interplay of light and water, and the unique flora and fauna. The striking contrast between the vivid hues of the moss-covered rocks and the clear turquoise water creates a captivating visual spectacle.


These distinct features make the Silfra Fissure an unforgettable destination for snorkelers and divers. It offers an unparalleled opportunity to witness the awe-inspiring beauty of nature up close, providing a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.


Silfra Fissure as a Snorkeling Destination

The Silfra Fissure has gained a well-deserved reputation as one of the world’s premier snorkeling destinations. Its remarkable geological formations, pristine glacial water, and unparalleled visibility make it a paradise for underwater enthusiasts. Here’s why Silfra Fissure should be on your bucket list for snorkeling:


1. Crystal-clear visibility: Snorkeling in the Silfra Fissure offers an unmatched visibility range. The water is so translucent that you can see the rock formations, vibrant flora, and even the tiniest details underwater with remarkable clarity. It’s like entering a different world where the underwater landscape is unveiled in all its glory.


2. Unforgettable underwater experience: Swimming through the Silfra Fissure is a truly surreal experience. The pristine glacial water, surrounded by basaltic rocks and vibrant green moss, creates a surreal and magical ambience. You’ll feel as though you’re floating in a crystal-clear aquarium, completely immersed in nature’s beauty.


3. Unique geological formations: As you snorkel through the Silfra Fissure, you’ll be immersed in mesmerizing geological formations. The rift valley showcases a stunning contrast between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. You can witness the intricate cracks and fissures in the rock formations, offering a firsthand glimpse into Iceland’s geological history.


4. Thrill of swimming between continents: One of the most exhilarating aspects of snorkeling in Silfra is the opportunity to swim between two continents. With the Eurasian and North American plates on either side, you can literally glide over the divide. It’s a unique and awe-inspiring feeling to be in a place where two continents meet.


5. Suitable for all skill levels: Whether you’re an experienced snorkeler or a beginner, Silfra offers something for everyone. The slow-moving current and calm waters make it accessible to snorkelers of all skill levels. With the guidance of knowledgeable instructors and all necessary equipment provided, even first-time snorkelers can enjoy this incredible adventure.


6. Environmental preservation: Silfra is located within Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its pristine natural beauty. The park has strict regulations and guidelines in place to ensure the preservation of the delicate ecosystem. Snorkeling in Silfra allows you to appreciate the importance of conservation and experience nature in its purest form.


7. Bucket-list-worthy experience: Snorkeling in the Silfra Fissure is an experience that will stay with you for a lifetime. The combination of the unique geology, extraordinary visibility, and the sheer beauty of the surroundings create a magical adventure that will leave you in awe. It’s an opportunity to create unforgettable memories and tick off an incredible experience from your bucket list.


Whether you’re a nature lover, an adventure seeker, or simply seeking a one-of-a-kind experience, snorkeling in the Silfra Fissure is an absolute must-do. It’s a chance to immerse yourself in the wonders of Iceland’s natural landscape and witness firsthand the geological forces that have shaped this extraordinary country.


Diving and Snorkeling Equipment Required

When preparing for your snorkeling adventure in the Silfra Fissure, it is essential to have the appropriate diving and snorkeling equipment to ensure your safety and comfort in the frigid waters. Here’s a list of the equipment you’ll need:


1. Drysuit: A drysuit is the most crucial piece of equipment for snorkeling in Silfra. The glacial water remains chilly throughout the year, with temperatures hovering around 2°C to 4°C (36°F to 39°F). A drysuit helps keep you warm and dry during your underwater exploration.


2. Undergarments: Layering is key when it comes to staying warm in the cold water. Wearing insulating undergarments such as thermal or fleece clothing beneath your drysuit will help to retain body heat and provide additional insulation.


3. Hood and gloves: To protect your head and hands from the cold, it’s recommended to wear a neoprene hood and gloves. These accessories will provide extra insulation and help prevent heat loss from your extremities.


4. Snorkel mask: A well-fitting snorkel mask is essential for clear vision and proper breathing while exploring Silfra. Look for a mask with a silicone skirt that creates a comfortable and watertight seal around your face.


5. Snorkel and fins: A snorkel allows you to breathe comfortably while keeping your face submerged. Modern snorkels often feature a dry-top design that prevents water from entering the tube. Fins provide propulsion and help you move effortlessly through the water, enhancing your snorkeling experience.


6. Safety equipment: While snorkeling is generally a safe activity, it’s crucial to prioritize safety. A safety buoy or snorkel vest can provide added security and visibility, especially if you need to rest or signal for assistance. It’s also recommended to have a whistle to alert others in case of an emergency.


7. Camera or underwater housing: Lastly, don’t forget to bring a camera or an underwater housing for your smartphone to capture the incredible beauty of Silfra. You’ll want to preserve the memories and share the awe-inspiring sights you encounter while exploring this unique underwater wonderland.


It’s important to note that many snorkeling tours in the Silfra Fissure include the necessary equipment as part of the package. This ensures that you have access to well-maintained and properly fitting gear. However, if you prefer to bring your own equipment or have specific requirements, it’s essential to communicate with the tour operator in advance.


By having the appropriate diving and snorkeling equipment, you can fully immerse yourself in the extraordinary underwater world of the Silfra Fissure, knowing that you are prepared for the frigid temperatures and ready to experience the magic that awaits beneath the water’s surface.


Safety Guidelines for Snorkeling in Silfra Fissure

Snorkeling in the Silfra Fissure is an exhilarating adventure, but it’s important to prioritize safety to ensure a enjoyable and risk-free experience. Here are some essential safety guidelines to follow during your snorkeling expedition:


1. Use a certified snorkeling tour operator: It’s highly recommended to book your Silfra snorkeling excursion with a reputable and certified tour operator. They will have experienced guides who are knowledgeable about the area and can ensure your safety throughout the activity.


2. Attend a thorough briefing: Before entering the water, you will receive a detailed safety briefing from your guide. Pay close attention to the instructions provided, including how to use the equipment, the designated snorkeling route, and any potential hazards to be aware of.


3. Follow the buddy system: Always snorkel with a buddy or stay within sight of your guide. This ensures that there is someone available to assist you if needed and enhances overall safety during the activity.


4. Wear the proper equipment: Make sure you are wearing the appropriate snorkeling gear, including a well-fitting drysuit, hood, gloves, mask, snorkel, and fins. The equipment should be in good condition and properly maintained to ensure functionality and safety.


5. Take note of your physical condition: Snorkeling in Silfra requires a moderate level of physical fitness. Inform your guide of any pre-existing medical conditions or concerns you may have, as these could impact your ability to snorkel safely.


6. Equalize your ears: As you descend into the water, it’s essential to equalize your ears to prevent discomfort or potential injury. Learn and practice proper equalization techniques to alleviate pressure in your ears as you go deeper.


7. Stay hydrated and warm: Drinking enough water and staying hydrated is essential, even in cold environments. Additionally, wearing appropriate layers of thermal clothing and insulating undergarments will help keep your body warm during long periods in the chilly waters of Silfra.


8. Respect the environment: Thingvellir National Park is a protected area, so it’s vital to adhere to environmental guidelines. Avoid touching or disturbing any marine life or structures in the fissure, and be cautious not to damage the fragile ecosystem.


9. Stay within your limits: While the Silfra Fissure is a remarkable snorkeling spot, it’s important to know your own abilities and limitations. If you feel uncomfortable or fatigued during the activity, communicate with your guide and take breaks as needed. Don’t push yourself beyond your comfort zone.


10. Listen to your guide: Your snorkeling guide is there to ensure your safety and provide guidance throughout the experience. Listen attentively to their instructions and follow their lead. They are knowledgeable about the area and will help make your snorkeling adventure safe and enjoyable.


By following these safety guidelines, you can have a fantastic snorkeling experience in the Silfra Fissure while ensuring your well-being and protecting the delicate ecosystem of this remarkable natural wonder.


Best Time to Visit Silfra Fissure

The Silfra Fissure is a breathtaking snorkeling destination that can be enjoyed throughout the year. However, certain times of the year offer unique advantages and considerations. Here’s a breakdown of the best times to visit the Silfra Fissure:


1. Summer (June to August): The summer months in Iceland, particularly June to August, are the most popular time to visit Silfra. During this time, the weather is relatively mild, with average temperatures ranging from 10°C to 15°C (50°F to 59°F). The longer daylight hours provide ample time for exploring the national park and enjoying extended snorkeling or diving sessions.


2. Shoulder seasons (May, September to October): The shoulder seasons of May and September to October also offer favorable conditions for visiting Silfra. The weather is still relatively mild, with temperatures ranging between 5°C to 10°C (41°F to 50°F). The advantage of visiting during the shoulder seasons is that you may encounter fewer crowds compared to the peak summer months.


3. Winter (November to April): While the winter months in Iceland can be harsh, they offer a unique and enchanting perspective of the Silfra Fissure. The cold temperatures give the landscape a serene beauty, with a possibility of snowfall. However, keep in mind that the temperatures can drop below freezing, averaging -3°C to 2°C (27°F to 36°F). It’s essential to be prepared with suitable cold-weather gear and to check weather conditions and safety warnings before visiting.


When deciding the best time to visit Silfra Fissure, it’s crucial to consider factors such as weather, water temperature, and personal preferences. Keep in mind that the water temperature in Silfra remains cold throughout the year, ranging from 2°C to 4°C (36°F to 39°F). Proper insulation in the form of drysuits, undergarments, gloves, and hoods is necessary to stay comfortable in the water.


It’s also important to note that Silfra Fissure is a popular destination, and advanced booking is recommended, especially during the summer months. By planning in advance and considering the weather conditions and crowds, you can ensure a fantastic and memorable snorkeling experience in this magnificent geological wonder.


How to Get to Silfra Fissure

Reaching Silfra Fissure, located within Thingvellir National Park in Iceland, requires some planning but is well worth the effort. Here are the primary transportation options to get to Silfra:


1. Self-Drive: The most convenient way to reach Silfra Fissure is by renting a car and driving yourself. From Reykjavik, take Route 1 (also known as the Ring Road) towards the town of Selfoss. Then, follow signs leading to Thingvellir National Park. Once inside the park, you can park your car in designated parking areas and follow the walking trails to Silfra Fissure. This option provides flexibility and allows you to explore the national park at your own pace.


2. Guided Tours and Transfers: Another popular option is to join a guided tour or transfer service that includes transportation to Silfra Fissure. Many tour operators in Reykjavik offer snorkeling and diving tours to Silfra, providing transportation to and from the site. Check with various companies to find a tour that suits your preferences and includes transportation.


3. Public Transportation: While public transportation is limited in accessing Silfra Fissure directly, it is still possible to get to Thingvellir National Park using public buses. The Strætó bus service offers a route from Reykjavik to Thingvellir, but the frequency of buses may be limited, so it’s essential to check the schedules in advance. From the parking area in Thingvellir, you can follow the walking trails to reach Silfra Fissure.


4. Private Transfer: If you prefer a more personalized and hassle-free experience, you can arrange for a private transfer service to take you from your accommodation directly to Silfra Fissure. Several companies in Reykjavik offer private transfers to Thingvellir National Park, allowing you to enjoy a comfortable and convenient journey.


When planning your visit to Silfra Fissure, consider the logistics and timing required to reach the site. It’s important to allow ample time to travel to Thingvellir National Park and arrive at Silfra with sufficient time before your scheduled snorkeling or diving activity. Remember to factor in weather conditions and any additional stops or sightseeing you may wish to include along the way.


By selecting the transportation method that best suits your preferences and needs, you can embark on an exciting journey to Silfra Fissure and immerse yourself in the wonders of this remarkable natural wonder.


Tips for an Unforgettable Snorkeling Experience in Silfra Fissure

Snorkeling in Silfra Fissure is a truly extraordinary adventure that offers a unique opportunity to explore the crystal-clear waters and mesmerizing geological formations. To make the most of your experience, here are some tips to ensure an unforgettable snorkeling adventure:


1. Book in advance: Silfra Fissure is a popular snorkeling spot, so it’s recommended to book your snorkeling tour well in advance. This ensures availability and allows you to secure your preferred date and time slot.


2. Dress appropriately: Be prepared for the cold water temperatures by wearing suitable thermal undergarments beneath the drysuit. Layering helps to retain body heat, keeping you warm and comfortable during your time in the water.


3. Listen to your guide: Pay close attention to the instructions provided by your snorkeling guide during the safety briefing. They will inform you about the snorkeling route, safety measures, and important guidelines to follow. Following their guidance will ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.


4. Equalize your ears: Equalizing your ears is essential as you descend into the water. Practice proper equalization techniques to prevent discomfort or potential injury to your ears.


5. Respect the environment: Silfra Fissure is part of a protected national park, so it’s crucial to respect the environment. Avoid touching or disturbing any marine life or structures and refrain from littering. Help in preserving the pristine nature of the fissure for future generations.


6. Enjoy the visibility: Take full advantage of the exceptional visibility in Silfra by taking your time to explore the underwater scenery. Slowly glide through the water, observing the vibrant flora, moss-covered rocks, and unique geological formations.


7. Capture the moment: Don’t forget to bring a waterproof camera or an underwater housing for your smartphone to capture the beauty of Silfra. Photographs will serve as cherished memories of your incredible snorkeling experience.


8. Relax and breathe: Snorkeling can be an exhilarating experience, so be sure to relax and take steady breaths. Focus on enjoying the moment and taking in the breathtaking sights around you.


9. Stay hydrated and nourished: Drink plenty of water before and after your snorkeling adventure to stay hydrated. Additionally, have a light snack or meal before your activity to keep your energy levels up.


10. Embrace the adventure: Lastly, embrace the adventure and immerse yourself fully in the wonder of Silfra Fissure. Allow yourself to be captivated by the beauty of this geologically significant and visually stunning location.


By following these tips, you can make the most of your snorkeling experience in Silfra Fissure and create memories to last a lifetime. Embrace the magic of the crystal-clear waters and the remarkable underwater world that awaits you in this captivating Icelandic gem.



The Silfra Fissure is a remarkable geological wonder nestled within Iceland’s breathtaking landscape. From its incredible visibility to its unique geological formations, Silfra offers a truly unforgettable snorkeling experience. Swimming between two tectonic plates and witnessing the vibrant flora and fauna create a sense of awe and wonder.


Whether you visit during the summer months to enjoy milder temperatures or venture out in the winter for a serene and magical experience, Silfra leaves a lasting impression. Booking with a certified tour operator, following safety guidelines, and respecting the environment will ensure a safe and responsible snorkeling adventure.


As you dive into the crystal-clear waters of Silfra, you’ll feel as if you’ve entered another world—a world where the beauty of nature reigns supreme. The moss-covered rocks, colorful marine life, and the ethereal clarity of the water will leave you mesmerized.


Take your time to explore the underwater wonders, capturing the experience with a camera or simply etching the memories in your mind. Admire the unique geological features of the fissure and embrace the thrill of straddling two continents.


Visiting Silfra Fissure is not just about snorkeling—it’s about immersing yourself in the power of nature and witnessing the relentless forces that shape our planet. This magical place stands as a testament to the beauty and wonder that Iceland has to offer.


So, if you’re ready to embark on an extraordinary adventure and create lifelong memories, make sure to add snorkeling in Silfra Fissure to your travel bucket list. Explore its geological history, relish the pristine waters, and experience the thrill of swimming between continents. Your journey to Silfra promises to be an unforgettable experience that will leave you in awe of the natural wonders that can be found in this extraordinary part of the world.