If you have ever wanted to get the sensation of flying, Silfra snorkeling is the adventure for you. With crystal clear (and perfectly drinkable) water, you can swim over the Silfra fissure that goes as deep as 63 meters in certain parts. All you need to do is squeeze into a dry (or wet) suit and get in the “refreshing” glacial water.
Being the product of the amazing geologic activity, Iceland sits on many secrets and unique sightings. One globally-unique sighting is the Silfra fissure and the stunning water landscape in it. We gathered everything you need to know to prepare you for the perfect Silfra snorkeling adventure in Iceland.
What is Silfra?
As you may already know, Iceland is a geological marvel that happens to be the result of two continental plates drifting apart. The Eurasian and North American tectonic plates divide with one part of Iceland in the east and the other part in the west. This has created cracks in various places along Iceland, and the Silfra fissure is one of them.
Snorkeling in Silfra is for sure one of the best things you can do in Iceland and has even been voted one of the best experiences in the world.
There are some similar locations around the world with water-filled fissures, but the Silfra fissure is unique in the sense that it has one of the clearest waters in the world, which is also drinkable! Yes, when you go through a Silfra snorkeling tour, you can literally remove the snorkel and have a sip of water if you’re thirsty.
Silfra is in Þingvellir National Park, which makes it a possible stop on the Golden Circle tour outside Reykjavik. This is the Þingvellir National Park snorkeling option you have if you want to get into cold waters in the park. Later, you can always visit one of the many hot springs to get the core temperature back up.
Snorkeling in Silfra
The absolute best way to explore the Silfra fissure is on a Silfra snorkeling tour. This is your one option to be snorkeling between tectonic plates in Iceland, and you might even be able to hover between the plates and touch both sides at the same time. This is something you can’t do (safely) in any other part of the world!
When you go Silfra snorkeling, you will not simply go down in a crack, touch some stone, have a sip of ancient water, and then come back up. Silfra fissure snorkeling usually takes up to 30 – 45 minutes, depending on who you are with, the time of the year, and the weather conditions. The route of these tours looks almost the same, though, since the Silfra snorkeling tour companies need to adhere to the park rangers in charge.
There are four main locations in the Silfra fissure that you are going to visit, regardless of which tour company you are going with: Silfra Big Crack, Silfra Hall, Silfra Cathedral, and Silfra Lagoon. You will swim between these locations, but you don’t need to worry if you’re not a strong swimmer – there is a weak current along the swim route that will give you some extra help.
The first deep body of water will be Silfra Hall. This is the entry point to a vast and unexplored underwater cave system that continuously changes with every earthquake that hits the area. If you are not Silfra snorkeling, but rather diving, this is where you will most likely have a blast. From here to the Cathedral is a 200-meter swim.
Silfra Big Crack
Probably the most famous and photographed part of the Silfra fissure is Silfra Big Crack. This is where you can be suspended between the two continental plates on your Silfra snorkelling adventure and where you can take the photo that proves on socials that you “currently swim between tectonic plates Iceland!”.
The far most impressive part of Silfra snorkeling is the Cathedral. On a Silfra snorkeling adventure, you will hover above an incredibly massive, blue, awe-inspiring emptiness. The Cathedral is 20 meters deep, and since the visibility is clear up to 100 meters, you will literally feel like you are hovering at the ceiling of a cathedral.
This is the calm end-station of the Silfra snorkeling tours. After being suspended over these large bodies of water, having a calm swim in the lagoon is the perfect way to relax for a few minutes. Here you will be able to see across the 120-meter-wide lagoon under the water. A priceless ending to an amazing tour.
Temperatures and Safety When Snorkelling in Silfra
Now that you know where you’re going to go in the Silfra fissure, let’s get an answer to the burning question in your mind: What are the Silfra Snorkelling water temperatures going to be like?
The good news is that the water doesn’t freeze, not even in the winter. The bad news is that if you have never taken an ice bath (or have, but didn’t like it), this will be a unique experience in your life. The water usually varies between 2°C and 4°C all year round, making it possible to have a Silfra snorkeling winter experience. This is an unexpected attraction to have open all year-round, given the weather in Iceland.
The “snorkeling Silfra dangerous”-aspect is restricted to the cold water, and you will struggle to get yourself in any serious trouble there. Your experience of Iceland snorkel tectonic plates will be safe and sound with the trained guide, don’t worry. As for managing the cold and other safety concerns – that will depend on your suit, age and other prerequisites.
If you are not an experienced diver and not a big fan of hypothermia, we suggest you go for drysuit snorkeling in Silfra. These are made of special materials with thick linings that are designed to keep you warm during the dive. With a warm underlayer and a cup of hot cocoa (and maybe a cookie) at the end of the swim, you will be just fine with this setup. You will still be cold to a certain degree, but since you are continuously moving around, you will keep a healthy body temperature.
If you are an experienced diver and want to trade comfort for agility, you can always go for the Silfra wetsuit snorkeling option. This is not even close to as common as the dry suit and with good reason.
Not all Silfra snorkeling tours offer the ability to go into the water with a wet suit. This is more common for divers who are also required to prove that they are quite adept at handling diving as well as the cold waters.
Age and Pre-requisites
Even though equipment can make for a pleasant Silfra snorkeling experience, this isn’t an activity that is suitable for everyone. Different tours have different demands in terms of age, height, weight, physical fitness, and language. In general, these usually look as follows:
Age 12 - 60
Height: 145 - 200 centimetres
Weight: 45 - 120 kilograms
Fitness: Be able to swim, comfortable in water, and be able to wear a wet/dry suit
Language: English is mandatory to know
Silfra Snorkelling Tours
Since Silfra is protected under the Þingvellir National Park’s rules and regulations, you are only allowed to go in there with a guide from companies that have been given the “go” from the park board. Some of these include:
Dive.is – A sports diving school with roughly 25 years of experience and the most prestigious diving organization in Iceland. Silfra Snorkelling with Dive.is was voted 4th best experience in the world with TripAdvisor.
Adventure Vikings – A versatile tour operator that specializes in adventure activities and has roughly 12 years of experience.
Tröll Expeditions – Another versatile tour operator with fewer years in the business, but still boasting all the certifications and qualifications to be trusted by the national park.
How Much is Snorkelling at Silfra?
A Silfra snorkelling experience can cost you anything between 15,000 ISK to 140,000 ISK, depending on how you want it. The most expensive way to have a Silfra Snorkelling tour is to get a private tour with an “all-inclusive” kind of deal. This way you will be taken care of from start to finish, and you will have the luxury of having a guide completely to yourself.
If you are not willing to put that much money into an experience, the group tours are way cheaper and give you the most bang for your buck. The groups are generally around six people, so you will have plenty of time with the guide to ask your questions and get really good service. Some tours are a part of Golden Circle tours, making them more expensive, but might be a good package deal.
Is Silfra Snorkelling Worth It?
Definitely. Looking at Silfra snorkeling, you can deal with this question from two perspectives: is it worth it money-wise, or is it worth it temperature-wise?
To answer the first question: the money is equivalent to roughly 100 USD to 1,000 USD, which we think is worth it to get a full package of having this experience that can only be had in this spot.
Temperature-wise, it gets a bit trickier. Whenever you decide to go snorkeling in Iceland, you are going to get cold to a certain degree. This is, however, true for most experiences in Iceland and should simply be an accepted fact. In conclusion: we think it is worth an hour of being chilly to have this experience.
If you go in the summer, it doesn’t matter if you do Silfra snorkeling morning or afternoon. In fact, some tours will even allow you to experience Silfra snorkelling under the midnight sun! This is a must if you are around Reykjavik, so grab your rental car and go on the adventure!