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Enjoy Silfra Snorkeling in Iceland (Between the Tectonic Plates Fissure)

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People will call you crazy, but Silfra snorkeling in Iceland during the winter will surely be one of the most memorable activities from your trip!

Located along the Golden Circle, within Thingvellir National Park, travelers will find the crystal clear waters of the Silfra tectonic plates fissure.

With water temperatures that barely rise above freezing year round, you really aren’t that much better off trying this activity during the summer anyways. Snorkeling here during the winter means you can enjoy the fissure while snow covers the landscapes, creating a really unique experience.

For my visit to Silfra I booked a small group snorkeling experience that included my dry suit rental through Adventure Vikings.

Man wearing black dry suit entering Silfra Fissure to snorkel
Getting into the dry suit is quite the process – but it definitely keeps you dry and warm!

Keep in mind that you can’t snorkel here unless you visit with a licensed operator, so don’t get any crazy ideas!

You need proper gear and direction which Adventure Vikings will provide, otherwise getting into water this cold for very long can be dangerous.

Adventure Vikings will provide pickup from your Reykjavik hotel if you need it, but if you’re renting a car or staying in a camper van, I’d suggest driving yourself so you can explore Thingvellir National Park for a bit after your activity.

Snorkel vans near the Silfra Fissure in Iceland
This is what the parking lot looks like where the Silfra snorkeling vans hang out

If you’re renting a camper van like I did, there’s a campsite located within the National Park that’s just a few minutes down the road from the meeting point. I explored the park the prior night and then slept in and had an easy 5 minute commute over to the snorkeling meetup point the morning of.

The day of your activity, make sure you dress thoughtfully. Once you arrive, you’ll strip down to the base layer you’ve worn in a communal changing van before hopping into their warm coveralls and dry suit.

I’d suggest wearing two pears of warm socks, long underwear and a long sleeve top. The gear they provide is going to keep you plenty warm beyond that, just make sure you can strip down to your snorkeling layer easily in a group setting.

Man helping girl put on snorkeling dry suit
Our guide Cristo helped everyone into their dry suits

You’ll have a guide helping you get geared up since the dry suit isn’t the easiest piece of gear to put on. But our guide Cristo was super helpful and made the whole experience go really smoothly.

The gear fits a little tight as you can imagine, you do need waterproof seals after all, so just be cognizant of this if you’re someone who struggles with confined spaces or constricting clothing.

Silfra Guide exploring the area to a group of snorkelers in Iceland
We received a brief overview of the fissure before heading into the water

After getting geared up, Cristo gave our group an overview of the Silfra fissure, some history about Thingvellir National Park and safety instructions. Then it was time to walk over to the fissure!

You might be surprised, but the dry suit does such a good job that you really can’t even tell how cold the water actually is as you slowly step into it. The only exception is part of your face, which will be slightly exposed and get so cold that it will definitely go numb by the time you finish.

Snorkelers heading into the water at Silfra
You barely notice the cold as you begin stepping into the icy water at Silfra

Other than your face, the gloves you wear will let in a tiny amount of water as you work through the water. The less you move your hands, the less water that will get in. However, it’s such a small amount that your hands shouldn’t get very cold by the time you finish.

Once you’re in the water you’ll have about 30 minutes to explore the Silfra fissure. Make sure to keep up with your group and guide who will lead you through the continental divide. If you book with Adventure Vikings, they’ll even take a few free photos of you that you can download which is a nice touch.

Man snorkeling in the blue waters of Silfra Iceland
Here’s one of the photos that Adventure Vikings provided me after our activity

I brought my own GoPro which I recorded a ton of really cool images on. It’s definitely worth bringing, coming up with a water proof solution for your phone, or renting a GoPro from Adventure Vikings so you can capture this experience.

The views are so incredible as you look down through the fissure, I couldn’t believe how blue the water was and how colorful the rocks were. It was even more amazing when I’d pop up to check my surroundings to see everything around me covered in snow.

Snowy rocks around the Silfra Fissure in Iceland
The scenery above water is almost as impressive as your views under it!

As you work through the Shallows (the named area near where you enter), you’ll pass through Silfra Hall and the Cathedral area before having some free time to explore in the Silfra Lagoon near the exit.

One of my favorite things about snorkeling in Silfra is that you can drink the water! The water is from Langjokull Glacier and has been filtered through lava rock for decades before making it here. Make sure you take at least one drink of water from the continental divide.

Not only is the water drinkable, but it’s freshwater, which means you won’t have the unpleasant salty experience that you’d have snorkeling in oceans or other parts of the world.

Dive instructor removing fins from a snorkel student
When it’s time to exit the water, your guide will help you remove your fins and get out

Eventually your guide will exit the lagoon area and signal for your group that it’s time to go. I was sad to leave, but this is definitely an experience that’ll stick with me for a long time to come and I’m really happy with how much of it I was able to capture and share with others!

Throughout the rest of this post I’ll answer some common questions you’ll have about snorkeling at the Silfra fissure in Iceland. I’ll let you know any tips I have after snorkeling here firsthand and share with you some images I captured from my activity.

You’ll notice some links and advertisements from partner or affiliate sites throughout this post. I typically earn a small commission on any purchases made through those links at no additional cost to you. If you check those out, great. If not, I’m still happy you’re here! 

Where is Silfra located?

The Silfra Fissure is a 60 minute drive east of Reykjavik Iceland and resides within Thingvellir National Park. Thingvellier is a UNESCO World Heritage site and after visiting the area I can easily see why.

With sites like Silfra, Oxararfoss and the Almannagjá gorge, the park is packed with unique natural beauty. Thingvellir’s proximity to Reykjavik make this area one of the most popular stops amongst Golden Circle tours.

Man putting on snorkel gear in Iceland
You’ll get dressed and situated at the meetup spot before heading into the water

Adventure Vikings will provide additional directions after you book, but when I visited, they had us park in the Thingvellir P5 parking lot and then you walk back along the road to the meeting point. They’ll provide GPS coordinates in your booking details to ensure you get to the right place!

Where is the best place to stay when visiting Iceland?

A lot of travelers will stay in the capital city, Reykjavik, for at least a couple nights. Its convenient location, near the Keflavik International Airport, makes it a practical starting or ending point for your trip.

If you’re working with Adventure Vikings, they offer pickup from the Reykjavik area which makes getting to your snorkeling activity super easy.

For anyone who has rented a camper van, like I did, there’s a campsite located 5 minutes up the road from Silfra inside Thingvellir National Park. It was really nice being able to sleep in that morning and leisurely roll over to the meeting point!

If you’ll be staying in the capital city but haven’t booked your accommodations yet, you can browse deals on hotels in Reykjavik here. You could also check out the Reykjavik Lights Hotel, one of the better reviewed hotels in the capital.

Spending at least a couple nights in Reykjavik will make it easy to knock out some of my other favorite activities like the Fagradalsfjall volcano hike, a walking food tour through Reykjavik or whale watching in Reykjavik Harbor.

While I spent two nights in the capital, I had a camper van and spent them at the Eco Campsite. You’ll want to budget some time for Reykjavik, but to get the most of your Iceland trip be prepared to adventure far outside of the city. A camper van is a great way to accomplish this!

Man standing in front of a camper van in Iceland
My camper van rental with Go Campers allowed me to explore Iceland’s south coast over the span of two weeks!

I ended up renting a Go Campers camper van. I didn’t have any issues with my rental and the company even provided a free roundtrip airport shuttle to their facility from the Keflavik Airport.

What time of year can you snorkel in Silfra Iceland?

Visitors can snorkel in Silfra Iceland year round. Tour operators continue to offer snorkeling excursions here even in the winter months.

You might be surprised to learn that the water temperature at Silfra barely changes throughout the year. It typically ranges between bone chilling temperatures of 35°F to 39°F (2°C to 4°C). This means that water temps won’t vary much between summer and winter seasons.

Dive instructor teaching students safety precautions in Iceland
If you have the opportunity, I’d recommend snorkeling at Silfra during the winter!

I might be biased, but I think this makes for a great winter activity. While the air temperature outside of the fissure will be warmer and more pleasant during the summer, entering the water when the landscapes are covered in ice and snow is going to make the experience much more memorable!

How long does snorkeling take?

You’ll spend between 30 and 45 minutes in the actual water during your snorkeling activity. However, once you arrive at the meeting site to get geared up, your total time commitment will be about 2.5 hours.

Large rock formations near a snorkeler in the Silfra Fissure
We spent between 30 and 45 minutes in the water at Silfra

If you’re taking advantage of the shuttle pickup from Reykjavik, you’ll need to budget another 2 hours for roundtrip driving.

It’s really worth driving yourself to this activity if possible. You can see the highlights of Thingvellir National Park in about half a day, which means you can knock it out before or after snorkeling in Silfra if you have your own vehicle.

What do you wear while snorkeling in the Silfra Fissure?

Rest easy knowing that your tour operator will take care of all the technical snorkel and diving equipment that you need. A warm thermal under suit will be provided that goes on underneath your dry suit along with gloves, fins and all the necessary head gear.

Dive instructor putting a dry suit on their student
Putting on a dry suit alone isn’t easy, but our guide Cristo made it go quickly and smoothly

The most important thing you need to remember is to wear two pairs of warm socks, long underwear and a long sleeve top.

From there keep in mind that you’ll need a waterproof pouch to bring your phone along or a GoPro with a floating extension attachment like I had. Adventure Vikings does offer GoPro rentals and you can take the memory card home with you, just be sure to ask before your tour!

Vivid blue water of the Silfra continental divide
Make sure to bring a waterproof camera so you can take photos of your surroundings!

People who wear glasses should either bring a prescription mask or contacts since you won’t be able to wear them in the water.

If you’re someone who owns their own snorkel mask, feel free to bring that, otherwise Adventure Vikings will provide you with one.

Does Silfra have the clearest water in the world?

While exploring Silfra we enjoyed visibility beneath the water of up to 100 meters (over 300 feet). This equates to the full length of a football field. If you’ve snorkeled or dived elsewhere then you’ll know how difficult it is to find water this clear.

Snorkeler exploring the clear waters of the Silfra Fissure
The water is so clear that you can see all the way to the bottom!

The glacial water here has filtered through volcanic rock for years and this mechanism is what helps create some of the clearest water in the world.

Can you snorkel Silfra without a tour?

Visitors typically cannot snorkel in Silfra without being part of a licensed tour group. Safety is a major consideration due to the water temperature, which is just above freezing year round. The average traveler is unlikely to possess the proper gear to snorkel here safely.

Man preparing to enter the freezing cold water in Thingvellir National Park
No chance I would’ve gotten in this water without an experienced guide!

Additionally, Thingvellir National Park aims to minimize the environmental impact of snorkeling and diving in the area. Operators are educated on proper protocols for leading groups into the continental divide to help preserve its natural beauty.

If you’re really intent on snorkeling in Silfra without a tour, I’d suggest reaching out to Thingvellir National Park directly with the intent of receiving a permit. However, you’ll have to prove your diving experience and bring your own equipment at that point and I’m not sure that would really be worth the hassle!

Is it safe to snorkel at the Silfra Fissure in Iceland?

If you take the proper precautions and visit Silfra with a licensed operator, it’s generally considered safe to snorkel here. The primary risk relates to hypothermia since the water temperature here is barely above freezing. However, with a trained guide and proper gear, you shouldn’t have to worry about this.

Selfie of a person snorkeling in the Silfra Fissure of Iceland
It takes a minute for your face to get numb and accustomed to the freezing cold water

The dry suits provided by Adventure Vikings and other operators greatly reduce this risk as they keep you warm and dry during your activity. Not only that, but they add buoyancy which acts like a built in life jacket and prevents you from sinking while in the water.

Your guide will provide a brief safety into on how to communicate in the water, swim with your fins and call for help should you need it. Our group had two trained dive instructors assigned to it, so should anything go wrong, you’ll be in great hands!

How deep is the Silfra Fissure in Iceland?

The deepest sections of the Silfra Fissure are over 60 meters (about 200 feet). However, divers aren’t allowed to dive past a depth of 18 meters or about 60 feet.

Person snorkeling between two large rock formations in Iceland
Some sections of the fissure will be narrower than others, always pay attention!

While you can see all the way to the bottom during your snorkeling activity, you won’t really dip that far below the surface. Even if you try, the buoyancy of your dry suit will make it difficult to dive below the surface very far!

While some sections are quite deep, other sections like the Silfra Lagoon are on the shallow side. You’ll need to pay attention while snorkeling to make sure you don’t run into any rock formations. If you do, you could damager your dry suit or the delicate ecosystem that exists below the surface.

Check out these other great activities available near Reykjavik Iceland!

Looking for more ways to fill out your trip itinerary to Iceland? Be sure to check out the list of activities below from GetYourGuide.

Is Silfra Snorkeling worth it in Iceland?

Snorkeling at Silfra during your Iceland trip is going to be one of the most memorable and unique activities you enjoy during your travels. It’s even more of a must do if you’re visiting Iceland during the winter when the landscapes are covered in snow.

Group preparing to snorkel in the Silfra Fissure
I’ll never forget the feeling of stepping down into the icy water for the first time

Where else can you help into the continental divide, filled with pristine glacial water that’s been filtered by volcanic rock and swim around virtually unaffected by the bone chillingly cold waters? I haven’t found anywhere else, but if you do, let me know because I’d love to check it out!

Man snorkeling in snowy conditions
I had a blast snorkeling in the Silfra Fissure during my visit to Iceland

This is a really easy activity to incorporate into any Iceland itinerary given its proximity to Reykjavik and because Adventure Vikings offers shuttle pickup.

While there are other operators working in the area, I can confidently recommend snorkeling with Adventure Vikings after the great experience I had with them and our guide Cristo.

Drinking water from the Langjokull Glacier, inside the continental divide while you snorkel is something that few people can say they’ve experienced!

Person pouring a cup of hot chocolate
After snorkeling we enjoyed some hot chocolate while removing our gear

This activity pairs really well with exploring the rest of Thingvellir National Park. The only downside to visiting during the winter is that the Oxararfoss Waterfall is likely to be frozen over. It’s still kind of cool to see in person though since you can hear it crashing down between a solid wall of ice.

Just don’t expect to get any great photos of it while frozen!

If you’re looking for ideas of things to do after exploring Thingvellir National Park, consider heading down to Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon and enjoying an ice cave tour inside Vatnajokull Glacier.

Hopefully you found this post helpful. Let me know if you end up snorkeling in the Silfra Fissure during your Iceland trip in the comments below.

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