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The Silfra Fissure: Ice Cold Snorkeling In Iceland


by Madlen Tripp



Welcome to the mesmerizing world of the Silfra Fissure, a natural wonder nestled in the heart of Iceland. Known for its crystal clear waters and awe-inspiring underwater landscapes, the Silfra Fissure is a haven for adventure enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.


Located within the Þingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Silfra Fissure is a rift between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. This geological marvel offers a unique opportunity to snorkel or dive between two continents, immersing yourself in an otherworldly experience.


Snorkeling in the Silfra Fissure is unlike any other adventure you have ever encountered. The glacial meltwater that fills the fissure is remarkably transparent, providing unparalleled visibility of up to 100 meters. You will find yourself floating weightlessly, surrounded by vibrant hues of blues and greens, as you explore the enchanting underwater realm.


For those seeking an adrenaline rush, the Silfra Fissure offers the opportunity to snorkel or dive in water that hovers near freezing temperatures. This unique mix of extreme cold and utter serenity creates an unforgettable and exhilarating experience that will leave you in awe.


Whether you are an experienced diver or a novice snorkeler, the Silfra Fissure caters to all skill levels. You can choose from a variety of guided tours that offer different routes and depths, ensuring you find the perfect adventure that matches your comfort and excitement levels.


In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the wonders of the Silfra Fissure and provide you with all the information you need to embark on this extraordinary adventure. From learning about the gear you will need and the safety precautions to follow, to discovering the unique underwater landscape and the fascinating marine life that inhabits it, we will leave no stone unturned.


So, prepare to be captivated by the enchanting beauty of the Silfra Fissure and get ready for an adventure of a lifetime. Let’s dive in!


Exploring the Silfra Fissure

When it comes to exploring the Silfra Fissure, there are several options available to suit every diver’s preference. The most popular choice is snorkeling, which allows you to float effortlessly on the surface of the water and admire the jaw-dropping underwater scenery.


As you enter the Silfra Fissure, you’ll be greeted by water so clear you can practically see to the bottom. The shades of blue and green are surreal, creating a magical ambiance that is sure to leave you breathless. The visibility is unparalleled, allowing you to observe every rock formation, crevice, and even the fine details of the surrounding moss-covered cliffs.


Snorkeling in the Silfra Fissure involves swimming along a moderate current, guided by a rope that ensures you don’t drift away from the designated path. The water temperature ranges from 2 to 4 degrees Celsius year-round, so it’s essential to dress in appropriate thermal clothing for maximum comfort.


For those more experienced and daring divers, scuba diving is also an option in the Silfra Fissure. Descending into the depths of this underwater wonderland unveils an entirely new world of exploration. From narrow caverns and swim-throughs to dramatic rock formations and mesmerizing color changes, scuba diving in the Silfra Fissure offers a thrilling adventure for the more advanced divers.


No matter which option you choose, you can expect to be completely immersed in the serenity and beauty of the Silfra Fissure. The stillness of the water and the tranquil surroundings create a sense of tranquility that is hard to find elsewhere.


Exploring the Silfra Fissure is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will ignite your sense of adventure and leave you with memories that will last a lifetime. So, get ready to immerse yourself in the captivating wonders of this unique geological phenomenon and embark on an unforgettable journey.


Snorkeling Gear and Safety Tips

When it comes to snorkeling in the Silfra Fissure, having the right gear and following safety guidelines are crucial for a safe and enjoyable adventure. Here are some essential equipment and safety tips to keep in mind:

1. Drysuit and Undergarments:

Due to the frigid water temperatures, wearing a drysuit is highly recommended. A drysuit seals out water, keeping you warm and dry during your snorkeling experience. Don’t forget to wear suitable thermal undergarments to provide an additional layer of insulation.

2. Snorkel and Mask:

Ensure you have a well-fitting snorkel and mask that provide a comfortable and watertight seal. A high-quality snorkel will have a purge valve to make it easier to clear any water that enters the tube.

3. Fins:

Invest in a pair of fins that fit properly and are suited for snorkeling. Fins provide propulsion and maneuverability, allowing you to navigate the waters of the Silfra Fissure with ease.

4. Safety Rope and Buoyancy Devices:

During your snorkeling adventure, you will be following a safety rope that guides you along the designated route. Make sure to hold onto the rope at all times to avoid drifting away or becoming disoriented. Additionally, buoyancy devices, such as a snorkel vest, can provide extra support and allow you to float effortlessly on the surface.

5. Diving Gloves and Hoods:

Consider wearing diving gloves and a hood to protect your extremities from the cold water. These additional layers will help retain heat and keep you more comfortable during your snorkeling experience.

6. Buddy System:

It is highly recommended to snorkel with a buddy or in a guided group. Not only does this enhance safety, but it also allows you to share the excitement and beauty of the Silfra Fissure with someone else.

7. Follow the Guide’s Instructions:

Listen carefully to the instructions provided by your guide before entering the water. They will brief you on safety protocols, the specific route to follow, and any potential hazards to be aware of.

8. Health Considerations:

Ensure you are in good physical health before embarking on your snorkeling adventure in the Silfra Fissure. If you have any medical conditions or concerns, consult with a healthcare professional before participating.


By following these snorkeling gear and safety tips, you can maximize your enjoyment while ensuring a safe and memorable experience in the Silfra Fissure. Remember, safety should always be a priority in any adventure, and with the right equipment and precautions, you can fully immerse yourself in the wonders of this natural wonderland.


The Unique Underwater Landscape

Prepare to be transported into a surreal and captivating world as you explore the unique underwater landscape of the Silfra Fissure. This geological wonder offers a sight unlike any other, with its enchanting rock formations and vibrant colors.


One of the most mesmerizing features of the Silfra Fissure is the Silfra Cathedral. This is a large opening in the underwater landscape that resembles a towering cave, with sunlight streaming through the cracks above. Snorkeling or diving in this majestic underwater cathedral is an awe-inspiring experience that will leave you feeling humbled by the sheer beauty of nature.


The rock formations within the Silfra Fissure are a testament to the power of tectonic activity. As you navigate through the water, you will encounter dramatic walls covered in algae and moss, displaying a kaleidoscope of colors. The constant shifting of the tectonic plates has carved intricate patterns on the rocks, creating a captivating and otherworldly environment.


One of the fascinating aspects of snorkeling in the Silfra Fissure is the opportunity to swim between two continents – the Eurasian and North American plates. The visibility in the water allows you to see the undeniable line where these two plates meet, offering a profound reminder of the Earth’s geologic processes.


The visibility in the Silfra Fissure is truly remarkable. The glacial meltwater is incredibly pure, with no sediments or pollutants, resulting in an astonishing clarity that allows you to see with incredible depth. As you glide through the water, you’ll be mesmerized by the crystal-clear views, with near-perfect visibility of up to 100 meters.


The contrasting blues and greens of the water, combined with the fascinating rock formations, create a magical underwater landscape that is sure to leave you in awe. Every twist and turn of the Silfra Fissure reveals a new marvel, inviting you to immerse yourself in its ethereal beauty.


Snorkeling or diving in the Silfra Fissure is truly an experience that will ignite your sense of wonder. The unique underwater landscape, with its majestic caves, vibrant algae-covered walls, and the opportunity to swim between two continents, offers a visual feast that is second to none. Prepare to be enchanted by the beauty that lies beneath the surface and create memories that will last a lifetime.


Marine Life in the Silfra Fissure

While the Silfra Fissure may not be teeming with a diverse array of marine life like coral reefs or tropical waters, it is still home to some fascinating organisms that have adapted to its unique environment. Although the cold temperatures and lack of sunlight limit the diversity of species, there are still some interesting creatures you may encounter during your snorkeling or diving adventure.


The most commonly seen marine life in the Silfra Fissure is the curious and playful Arctic char. These fish are known for their distinctive pink and silver coloration and can often be seen swimming around the fissure. It’s a true delight to watch them gracefully navigate the crystal-clear waters, adding a vibrant touch to the already mesmerizing scenery.


In addition to Arctic char, you may also spot the occasional stickleback fish. These small, slender fish have a unique ability to adapt to various environments, including freshwater and brackish waters. Their size and rapid movements make them a bit harder to spot, but if you have a keen eye, you might just catch a glimpse of these agile creatures.


However, the true beauty of the Silfra Fissure lies in its geological marvels rather than its marine life. The underwater rock formations and stunning visibility are the main attractions here. The lack of large fish and coral reefs allows you to fully appreciate the intricate details of the landscape, the varying colors of the algae-covered rocks, and the pristine nature of the water.


Snorkeling or diving in the Silfra Fissure is more about immersing yourself in the beauty of the underwater world and feeling a sense of tranquility rather than encountering an abundance of marine creatures. The focus is on the unparalleled clarity of the water and the breathtaking rock formations that have been shaped by centuries of geological processes.


So, while the Silfra Fissure may not be a destination for vibrant marine life, it offers a unique glimpse into a geological wonderland that is sure to leave you in awe. Lose yourself in the beauty of the underwater landscape and embrace the tranquil ambiance of this extraordinary natural phenomenon.


Weather and Seasonal Considerations

When planning a snorkeling adventure in the Silfra Fissure, it’s important to consider the weather and the different seasons to ensure the best possible experience. The climate in Iceland can be unpredictable, with rapid changes in weather conditions, so it’s crucial to plan accordingly.


Summer, specifically June, July, and August, is the most popular time for snorkeling in the Silfra Fissure, as the weather is relatively mild and the water temperatures are slightly warmer. During this time, the average air temperature ranges from 10°C to 15°C (50°F to 59°F), and the water temperature hovers around 2°C to 4°C (36°F to 39°F). It’s important to note that even in summer, you will still need to wear a drysuit for insulation due to the chilly water temperatures.


Spring and autumn offer their own unique charms, with fewer crowds and slightly cooler temperatures. In spring (April and May), the air temperature can range from 5°C to 10°C (41°F to 50°F), while the water temperature remains consistent throughout the year. Autumn (September and October) sees similar air temperatures, providing pleasant conditions for exploring the Silfra Fissure.


Winter, from November to March, is the most challenging season for snorkeling in the Silfra Fissure. The air temperature drops significantly, ranging from -5°C to 5°C (23°F to 41°F), and the water temperature remains the same. The combination of cold air and freezing water makes it essential to wear appropriate thermal layers and follow safety guidelines if venturing into the Silfra Fissure during winter.


Due to the ever-changing weather patterns in Iceland, it’s important to monitor the forecast and be prepared for sudden changes. Cloudy, rainy, or windy conditions may impact visibility, so planning your visit when the weather is more favorable can greatly enhance your experience. Remember that safety should always be a priority, and if conditions are deemed unsafe, it’s best to postpone your adventure.


Regardless of the season, it’s recommended to book your snorkeling tour in advance. The popularity of the Silfra Fissure can lead to limited availability, especially during peak travel seasons. Booking ahead ensures that you secure a spot and have the best chance of enjoying this incredible Icelandic adventure.


So, whether you choose to explore the Silfra Fissure during the vibrant summer months or embrace the tranquility of the off-season, be sure to consider the weather and seasonal conditions to make the most of your snorkeling experience.


Choosing a Snorkeling Tour

When it comes to snorkeling in the Silfra Fissure, selecting the right tour is essential for a safe and enjoyable experience. Several factors should be considered before choosing a snorkeling tour that suits your preferences and skill level.

1. Tour Operator Experience and Reputation:

Research and choose a tour operator with a proven track record of providing professional and safe snorkeling experiences in the Silfra Fissure. Read online reviews and check their certifications and affiliations to ensure they meet industry standards.

2. Group Size and Guide-to-Snorkeler Ratio:

Consider the group size and guide-to-snorkeler ratio that the tour operators offer. Smaller group sizes allow for more personalized attention and a better overall experience. Ensure that the guide-to-snorkeler ratio ensures individual attention and safety throughout the tour.

3. Equipment Quality and Maintenance:

Check that the tour operator provides high-quality and well-maintained snorkeling equipment, including drysuits, snorkel masks, fins, and other necessary gear. Well-fitting and properly maintained equipment will enhance your comfort and safety during the snorkeling adventure.

4. Tour Duration and Route:

Consider the duration of the tour and the specific route chosen by the operator. Some tours may offer shorter durations, while others provide more comprehensive experiences. Research the routes to understand what you will be exploring and choose one that aligns with your interests.

5. Safety Precautions and Briefing:

Ensure that the tour operator emphasizes safety precautions and provides a thorough briefing before entering the water. This should include information about the current, potential hazards, and what to do in case of an emergency. The emphasis on safety shows the professionalism and commitment of the tour operator.

6. Additional Services and Amenities:

Consider any additional services or amenities offered by the tour operator. Some may provide transportation to and from the Silfra Fissure, while others may offer photography services or underwater video footage. These extra amenities can enhance your overall experience.

7. Price and Value:

Compare the prices of different snorkeling tours, keeping in mind the reputation, services provided, and overall value offered. While it may be tempting to choose the cheapest option, prioritize quality and safety to ensure a memorable and worthwhile experience.


By taking these factors into consideration, you can select a snorkeling tour in the Silfra Fissure that aligns with your preferences, provides a safe environment, and guarantees an unforgettable adventure. Remember to book in advance, especially during peak seasons, to secure your spot and embark on a journey through the magical underwater world of the Silfra Fissure.



Exploring the Silfra Fissure through snorkeling is an extraordinary adventure that offers a unique and captivating experience. From the enchanting underwater landscape to the crystal-clear waters and the opportunity to swim between two continents, the Silfra Fissure is a geological wonder that leaves visitors in awe.


As you embark on your snorkeling journey in the Silfra Fissure, remember to choose a reputable tour operator that prioritizes safety and offers high-quality equipment. Dress appropriately in a drysuit and thermal undergarments, and ensure your snorkeling gear fits properly for maximum comfort and enjoyment.


Throughout your adventure, immerse yourself in the serenity of the Silfra Fissure and marvel at the intricate rock formations and the vibrant colors of the underwater world. Keep an eye out for the Arctic char and other unique marine life that call this fissure home, although the true beauty lies in the geological marvels and the clarity of the water itself.


Consider the weather and seasonal variations when planning your visit, as each season offers its own charm and considerations. Whether you choose to explore during the summer months when the air is milder, or brave the colder temperatures of winter for a quieter and more serene experience, be prepared for the elements and check the weather forecast before your excursion.


Finally, don’t forget to book your snorkeling tour in advance to secure your spot and avoid disappointment. The popularity of the Silfra Fissure means availability may be limited, especially during peak travel seasons. Planning ahead ensures that you can fully embrace this once-in-a-lifetime adventure.


So, get ready to be mesmerized as you swim in the crystal-clear waters of the Silfra Fissure, explore its unique underwater landscape, and connect with the awe-inspiring forces of nature. The memories and experiences gained from snorkeling in this remarkable fissure will stay with you long after you’ve left, leaving you with a deep appreciation for the beauty and wonder that exists in Iceland’s natural wonders.