Snorkelling between Continents; What you need to know.

snorkeling at silfra

So you have decided as part of your relaxing holiday in Iceland to snorkel between tectonic plates in glacial waters. Well. It’s a once in a lifetime activity that you will always remember. Crystal clear waters, incredible rock formations, and really, really cold water.

We are talking 3°C or 37°F cold.

wet suit snorkeling silfra
wet suit snorkelling at Silfra

The snorkelling tour location is at Silfra in Thingvellir, the large national park near Reykjavik, and home to one of the longest running parliaments in the world . You can visit Thingvellir on our Golden Circle trip.

The fissure between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates cuts right through the park and in 1789 the rift was formed due to massive earthquakes and plate movement. The snorkelling and diving spot is located there, where the continents meet, and they are drifting apart at a rate of 2cm per year, which is, geologically speaking, super speedy!

Totally unique, this is the only place in the world where you can swim between tectonic plates!

Silfra fissure - snorkeling location
The underwater fissure at Thingvellir

In 1789 the earthquakes opened up may fissures, but the fissure at Silfra hit an underground spring, fueled by the glacial melt water from a nearby glacier, Langjökull – the long glacier. This isn’t a quick process, it takes between 30 and 100 years for the water to filter through the porous underground lava and reach the spring.

Glacial water is amazingly clean as it is, when we go on glacier hikes we drink straight from the streams on them! However after this long filtration process the water coming out at Silfra is unbelieveably pure, resulting in incredible underwater visibilty, easily over 100 metres! This is some of the purest and cleanest water in the world…so clear you can drink it – cleaning out your snorkel is not a problem.

Understandably, as it comes from a glacier the water is cold but as fresh water is constantly coming in it never freezes over.

Diving down whilst snorkeling in Iceland
Snorkeling in a wetsuit

How to stay warm snorkeling!

Firstly, when we say it is cold we mean it, but it is bearable, and you can make it more so with these top tips!

  1. Eat breakfast. Its about a 45 min drive to Thingvellir from Reykjavik so you’ll have time to digest, don’t worry. Even if you aren’t normally a breakfast person then try, eating raises your body temperature from the inside.
  2. Wool socks. Ideally knitted by an Icelandic grandma, they weave warming magic into them! Even if you opt to wear a dry suit instead of a wetsuit then you will still wear wet suit boots, gloves, and hood. Woolen socks provide an extra layer of insulation for your feet, which often feel the cold most.
  3. Wear your thermals. You’ll be given a thermal layer but another one makes all the difference especially if you are prone to feeling the cold Think leggings and long sleeve top…jeans are a no no.
  4. Gloves, a hat, and easy to put on snuggly clothes. Once you are out you will strip off your wet or dry suits and will want to get into something warm as soon as possible. Now is not the time to wear your skin tight leather trousers catsuit! All the companies change in their minibuses, the toilets on site are just that – there is no space to change in them. So you want to bring things you can change into easily.
  5. Most companies will offer around hot chocolate to warm you up afterwards, but if you can’t drink it for any reason bring a small thermos of your favourite warm drink.

An honourable mention to this list is follow your guides instructions. They know best and snorkel every day, often multiple times! And before you book…yes, you need to be able to swim!

A happy Swimmer!
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