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. ★

Travel Planning Resources For Snorkeling in Iceland
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!


Hi, I’m Matthew Karsten — I’ve been traveling around the world for the last 10 years as a blogger, photographer, and digital nomad. Adventure travel & photography are my passions. Let me inspire you to travel with crazy stories, photography, and money-saving travel tips.
Matthew Karsten
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Comments (34)

  1. 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? :-)

  2. 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?

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. HI I would like to ask about the diving tour, is that the only company who provides this service? ?Besides that you mentioned there’s tour at ice cave, did you go? I didnt manage to find your side for your tour at ice cave during your visit at Thingvellir National Park! Oh btw I will be visiting end Sept this year, do you think i can visit a spectacular ice cave?


  6. Matt,

    Myself and an old friend are renting a car and hitting Ring Road in 7 days. We’re planning on short hikes along the way and camping. I’m wondering if it’s acceptable to park the car on the side of the road and leave it there overnight while we hike to our camping spot for the night?

    Thanks for all the good travel info! Keep up the good work my friend!

  7. Great post. Heading to Iceland at the end of May, for 9 days, day 2 I will dive Silfra. Number one on my dive bucket list. But thanks also for your post about the ring road it helped me greatly planning our trip around Iceland. While I still think I’m a little crazy for planning a trip to Iceland it’s too late now because I’ve paid for the tickets and booked my dive trip.

  8. Hello Matthew, diving in Iceland seems wonderful. I would like to dive there in November. Do you think it’s a good idea given the fact that the water might be too cold?
    Thank you for sharing your experience ! It’s very useful !

  9. Hello Matthew,

    First of all for making such an informative website.

    I will only be 4 days in Reykjavik and I have some questions.
    If you finish the Golden Circle route and want to continue on the Ring Road you can stay the best in Arburg ?
    And the 2nd day , you just take day 1 from the Ring Road ?
    Are both possible with 2WD ?
    My planning is like this :
    Begin October leave together w my father.
    Wednesday 14:00 : Arrival plus staying in Reykjavik for the night
    Thursday early : Leave for the Golden circle route , stay in Arborg in the night.
    Friday early : Take day 1 of the Ring Road and overnight in Reykjavik
    Saturday : undetermined ( Maybe the North ? Possible in 1 day )
    Sunday : Explore Reykjavik
    Mondaymorning go back.
    Do you think this doable and what do you advice ?
    Do you think its possible to fit in the snorkeling in this schedule ? :)
    Do you think I can fit the snowscooter in this schedule ?
    Sorry for the many questions, but already 1000 thanks in advance.

  10. Great photos! I’m planning this trip soon, and will take my GoPro. Do you remember what setting you used for photos, they are awesome! What do you use for a handle? I have a silver 3+, so cannot pull photo frames from video, would you recommend spring just video our just photos on this snorkel trip?

  11. I did the trip 3 days ago (July 2015). It is the best snorkelling I have ever done! As you say, the visibility is stunning and the feeling of floating over the depths is wonderful. The tour guides are exceedingly good and helpful and make absolutely certain that everyone is properly fitted and even help the less agile to get the suits on properly. You have a padded under garment and then the drysuit on so you are so buoyant that trying to dive even a bit lower is very, very hard. The fluro colour of the weed (algae) is startling. I am 70 and would love to take my granddaughter but that will have to wait a few years until she reaches the minimum height requirement. I’d recommend that any visit to Iceland include this — it was much better than slobbing around in the Blue Lagoon’s warm water which is really much like taking a warm bath at home.

    • Glad you had fun Bernice! The clarity of the water is insane. That’s what years of filtration will do.

  12. Hi, Matthew Karsten! I’m planing to go to Iceland on 8th of Now this year.. I’m still thinking how many days i will stay..(a week or more?!)
    Your info really helps me to plan my trip!
    (In Korea little hard to find info about trip in Iceland..)
    Can i ask you 2 questions?! (sorry for bothering you)
    1.Is it possible to Ring road trip on Nov with a 4×4 car? (I just little worry about North part of Iceland)
    2.Do you think a week is enough for ring road trip? or more?
    Thanks for all information from Korea!

    • Hi Mika! The roads up North will be snowy in November, you’ll probably want a 4×4 car. While you can do the Ring Road in a week (I did), it will feel rushed. Ten days is better, but if you don’t have that much time, it’s still possible in 7.

  13. Those colors are truly amazing! Amazing that you were able to see so far out and capture these awesome pictures!

  14. Wow! So excited to go to Iceland on Monday. Do you know if you can just hire wetsuits or do you have to snorkel with a tour?

  15. Wow that is amazing cant believe how beautiful Iceland, love to go do it once but we would freeze there since we live in South Florida.

  16. Oh my! I am an avid snorkeler and am always searching online for unique snorkeling experiences. I have no idea why I’ve never stumbled upon this one before. Amazing! I’m not sure if I’d travel to Iceland specifically for the snorkeling, but if I ever find myself there for other travel purposes, I’ll be sure to check this out!

  17. Just yesterday I purchased $713 worth of scuba/snorkeling gear for only $160 on sale! I cannot wait to finish my Scuba class and get certified!

    Matt, where is your favorite place to scuba/snorkel?

  18. Did you say 35 degrees…I think I would freeze! What an amazing trip though. Iceland is at the top of our list for 2015.

    • Yeah, photos were from the GoPro. Shooting photos with the phone would be difficult with thick neoprene gloves on. I brought it down to test the case in these extreme conditions.

  19. This looks absolutely amazing! I’m getting a little cold just reading about it but, wow, what a cool sight and experience it must have been! All of those colors and the water clarity/visibility… fantastic! Am totally adding this to our bucket list. Thanks for sharing this awesome piece of travel inspiration!

    • It is John! While the water was cold, it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting it to be. However by the end I was certainly ready to get out and warm up.