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The Silfra Fissure: Ice Cold Snorkeling In Iceland

Cold Water Snorkeling Silfra

Snorkeling in Iceland at the Silfra Fissure!

Þingvellir National Park, Iceland

Snorkeling in Iceland? Tectonic plates are breaking Iceland apart at Silfra, creating a fissure flooded with crystal clear 35°F degree glacial water.

If you didn’t already know, Iceland has a lot of volcanoes. About 130 of them to be exact. The reason it has so many is because the world’s North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet here.

They are actually drifting away from each other about 2cm per year.

A huge rift cuts right through the country, which means Iceland is very slowly being ripped apart. Not only can you see this in the landscape at Þingvellir Valley, you can actually go swimming between the tectonic plates themselves!

Earthquakes pull the jagged cracks apart on a regular basis, dropping boulders into the fissures and constantly morphing the landscape.

Dry Suit Snorkeling Iceland

Cold Water Protection with Dry Suits

Snorkeling Silfra Iceland

Entering the Silfra Fissure

Icy Glacier Water

The water at Silfra is ice cold at around 2°C / 35°F, or just barely above freezing. Why on Earth would anyone want to go swimming in it? Well, apart from being the only place in the world where you can actually swim between continents, the water is also amazingly clear.

Ice from nearby Lángjökull Glacier melts and travels into an ancient lava field, filtering underground through 30 miles of porous volcanic rock over 50 years before it emerges again at Þingvellir Lake.

Due to this intense natural filter, underwater visibility is upwards of 100 meters, attracting snorkelers & scuba divers from around the world. It’s a very unique adventure travel experience in Iceland.

Underwater Silfra Iceland

Stunning Colors Underwater

Snorkeling LifeProof Iceland

Testing My LifeProof Case

Snorkeling Silfra

Diving Silfra was something I’ve always wanted to try in Iceland after hearing about it years ago. Kiersten from The Blonde Abroad joined me on a snorkeling adventure with Arctic Adventures.

It only takes 15 minutes for the human body to experience hypothermia in 35°F degree water, so diving here requires some specialized gear.

Unlike a wet suit designed to keep a layer of warm water next your skin, a dry suit has tight rubber seals around the neck & wrists, preventing water from entering. This allows you to wear thermal clothing underneath for further protection against the cold.

The only body parts exposed to the water are your head & hands, where we used thick neoprene hoods & gloves.

Clear Water Iceland

Crystal Clear Water

Tectonic Plates Iceland

Tectonic Plate Selfie!

Drifting Between Continents

We nervously entered the freezing water, but quickly forgot about the cold. The underwater environment seems to glow with brilliant shades of blue & green, right down to the very bottom. It’s like diving through liquid glass.

To test the waterproof and freeze-proof features of my new Lifeproof Case, I brought my iPhone along for the ride!

Incredibly it still worked underwater in these conditions…

A gentle current floats you down the long & narrow blue canyon. There are no fish, but the landscape is beautiful & serene, filled with colorful caves and crevices. We were snorkeling between tectonic plates, which is just awesome to think about. Witnessing the raw power of mother nature up close.

After 30 minutes of snorkeling Silfra’s fissure in complete awe, we began to feel the cold water again — eventually climbing out into the windy Icelandic weather to warm up with hot chocolate.

The perfect way to end this bizarre & unique experience in Iceland. ★

[su_box title=”Travel Planning Resources For Snorkeling in Iceland” style=”noise” box_color=”#333333″ title_color=”#FFFFFF” radius=”3″ class=”resource-box”]
Location: Þingvellir National Park, Iceland
Company: Arctic Adventures
Cost: €176 Euros (snorkeling & cave tour)

Packing Guide

Check out my travel gear guide to help you start packing for your trip. Pick up a travel backpack, camera gear, and other useful travel accessories.

Book Your Flight

Find cheap flights on Skyscanner. This is my favorite search engine to find deals on airlines. Also make sure to read how I find the cheapest flights.

Rent A Car

Discover Cars is a great site for comparing car prices to find the best deal. Also read my tips for driving in Iceland.

Book Accommodation is my favorite hotel search engine. Or rent apartments from locals on Airbnb. Read more about how I book cheap hotels online.

Protect Your Trip

Don’t forget travel insurance! I’m a big fan of World Nomads for short-term trips. Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Read more about why you should always carry travel insurance.

Recommended Travel Guide: Lonely Planet Iceland

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I hope you enjoyed my guide on snorkeling in Iceland! Hopefully you found it useful. Here are a few more wanderlust-inducing articles that I recommend you read next:

Ever been snorkeling/diving in cold water before? Have any questions? Drop me a message in the comments below!


Monday 7th of October 2019

Hey Matthew. Soooo you were snorkeling in Silfra with your "Lifeproof" iPhone case this autumn? Do you still have it and what kind of iPhone was in the case? :-)

kathy kiel

Saturday 21st of April 2018

Sometimes when I snorkel I feel like I need to stand and catch my breath (I get a bit claustrophobic sometimes) a couple questions I have, does the area on your face not covered by the neoprene get extremely cold and can you stand if needed or just come up for a normal breath?


Saturday 26th of August 2017

Can we just visit the silfra area to take some photos? I dont plan to snorkeling . Thank you!

Matthew Karsten

Tuesday 29th of August 2017

Yes you can! You can hike along the fissure and look down into the clear water at the divers if you want.


Friday 24th of March 2017

So glad I came across this, I think I'm adding it to my itinerary in June! I read on another tour website they recommend in summer going only in a wetsuit rather than a dry suit to be able to dive down farther. What do you think? Also, what time of day do you think is best/least crowded to go? Finally, if I was to bring a GoPro or my iPhone, do they have somewhere to hook them in so I don't drop it when my hands freeze? Thanks in advance for the help!


Monday 29th of August 2016

Hi I don't know if you will be back in time to answer this but I am going with Arctic Adventures on their Golden Circle and Snorkel trip 9/22/16 and I was wondering what to bring to wear under the dry suit. Also if there are changing facilities to change into regular clothes after the snorkeling to continue the rest of the Golden Circle portion of the tour. I want to stay as warm as possible in the water but not be too warm on the bus for the rest of the day. I bought a Nikon S33 for this trip, my main camera is not waterproof, do you know anything about that camera? Thanks for all your travel insights. Hope the adventure you are now on exceeds your expectations.

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