Snorkeling in Silfra Fissure in Iceland

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Snorkling at the Silfra Fissure at Thingvellir National Park was one of the highlights of our trip around Iceland’s Golden Circle (more about the Golden Circle here!). Fissures are long narrow cracks in stone that are the results of an earthquake and the Silfra Fissure is the only place on Earth where you can dive/snorkel between the American and Eurasian tectonic plates! Though there are multiple fissures in Iceland, another unique thing about Silfra is that it is filled with crystal clear water from an underwater spring.

We booked our snorkeling tour through Dive.is and were not disappointed! There is an option to get a ride to and from Reykjavik but as we were finishing our Ring Road trip we opted to meet the group at Thingvellir National Park. We met our snorkel guide, Eric, and he helped us learn about all the gear that Dive.is provided. The water in the Silfra Fissure varies between 2-4 degrees Celsius (33-39 degrees Fahrenheit) year-round so we definitely needed dry suits to stay warm! The point of the suits is to not let water inside so they can be fairly tight around the neck and wrists, it was a little hard to breathe in them before we got in the water. After suiting up, we grabbed fins and snorkel masks and headed over to the loading platform.

Before we got in the water we had to spit in our snorkel masks to keep them from fogging up. Saliva does the job and they don’t want to add any non-natural chemicals into the fissure. Getting in the water was a cold process. While your body is still warm (hopefully you don’t have leaks!), your face and hands can feel the chilling water. The gloves you wear allow water in, but are insulated so as long as you don’t move your hands through the water much they’ll stay fairly warm.

As we snorkeled through the water we were able to see the incredible underwater landscape of lava rock, sand and algae. While you won’t find any animals in the water, the visibility exceeds 100m making it some of the clearest water in the world! Luckily we brought our waterproof camera to capture some of the awesome views (note if you don’t have a wrist strap you cannot take your camera). But if you don’t have one your guide takes photos along the way that you can purchase afterwards.

After we got out of the water we got a couple of much needed cups of hot chocolate and cookies to warm up!

Snorkeling in the Silfra Fissure was awesome and it is a year round activity! According to our guide, there are a couple of  differences between the seasons: In the winter, the visibility gets better whereas during the summer you can see rainbows in the water. We snorkeled in mid September and loved the high visibility!

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Around Iceland’s Golden Circle – A Day Trip from Reykjavik

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If you don’t have much time in Iceland but still want to see some sights outside of the capital, Iceland’s Golden Circle is the perfect day trip from Reykjavik! The Golden Circle can be visited either by renting a car or going on a tour bus with one of the many companies leaving from Reykjavik. We did the route by rental car as the end of our trip around the Ring Road. Our first stop was at Thingvellir National Park. The park itself is beautiful with plenty of paths to explore and even Oxararfoss waterfall.

Thingvellir National Park is also home to the Silfra Fissure. Silfra is a freshwater fissure between the American and Eurasian tectonic plates. The water is some of the clearest in the world with visibility exceeding 100 meters! We opted to go on a snorkeling group with Dive.is to experience the 2-4 degrees’ Celsius temperatures for ourselves!

Our next stop on the Golden Circle route was at Geysir, the inspiration for the English word geyser. A geyser is an underground hot spring that intermittently builds up enough pressure from the heat to release a burst of steam into the air. In Geysir there are actually three different geysers: Geysir, Liti Geysir and Strokkur. Geysir can erupt to a height of 70-80 meters but typically only erupts after earthquake activity so it’s not very likely you’ll see Geysir or Liti Geysir go off on your visit. The main attraction is actually Strokkur.  Strokkur erupts regularly every 8-10 minutes and shoots between 25 and 35 meters into the air! The water in this geothermal area can get up to 100 degrees Celsius so be sure to stay on the designated paths!

 

The last major stop around our Golden Circle route was Gullfoss. With its proximity to Reykjavik, Gullfoss is possibly the most famous of Iceland’s many waterfalls (check out other awesome waterfalls here!). The total falls are 32 meters (105 ft) tall but it is split into 2 waterfalls. A combination of regular rains and glacier runoff makes Gullfoss the largest waterfalls in Europe by volume.

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To finish up our Golden Circle tour we made a quick stop at the small not very well known Faxifoss waterfall. Located just off of road 35, Faxifoss doesn’t even have a sign leading to it! Look for the sign “Faxi” and turn there for a pretty waterfall view all to yourself.

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The Golden Circle is a great way to see the beauties of Iceland on a tight time frame. If you have more time to travel, check out our favorite things along the Ring Road which wraps around the entire island!

 

My Top 10 Things to See & Do on Iceland’s Ring Road

 

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Iceland’s Ring Road is full of beautiful views and adventurous opportunities – these were my top 10 experiences (in no particular order) on our 8 day Ring Road roadtrip!

1. Snorkeling in the Silfra Fissure– In Thingvillir National Park you can snorkel (or scuba) between the America and Eurasian tectonic plates! The fresh water is some of the clearest in the world with visibility exceeding 100m!


2. Go on a Glacier Hike – There are multiple places in Iceland to do a glacier hike, but we chose the Solheimajokulsvegur glacier. Grab your crampons and your ice pick (both provided) and trek with your guide all along the ice learning about its features as you go. You can even drink from a glacier stream the “Viking way” aka doing a push up on your ice pick!


3. Dettifoss waterfall – Dettifoss is considered the most powerful waterfall in Europe! Though it’s a little ways off the ring road it’s well worth the detour

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4. Skogafoss waterfall – Skogafoss waterfall is located in southern Iceland right off the Ring Road and has a great hiking path behind it to wander above the canyon


5. Jokulsarlon Iceberg Lagoon – The lagoon is full of icebergs off the glacier Breidamerkurjokull mixing with water from the sea. Once you check out the lagoon be sure to check out the black sand beaches across the road covered with more chunks of ice!


6. Halligrimskirkja Church in Reykjavik – The church is one of the city’s most recognized landmarks and for a small fee you can head up to the clock tower for gorgeous views of the city.


7. Whale watching – We chose Akureyri as our point of origin but whale watching tours are available from many other cities throughout the island. From the boat we were able to see a few humpback whales breaching and diving in the ocean. The whales come to Iceland to feed during the summer and they have been spotted all the way down in the Caribbean and the Horn of Africa during the winter!

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8. Lounge at the Blue Lagoon – The Blue Lagoon is another famous landmark in Iceland, located near the airport it’s a convenient stop for travelers. Grab a swim suit and head to the lagoon to soak for hours in the geothermal spa with face masks and refreshments!


9. Explore Grabrok Crater – Grabrok is located just off Route 1 in the west and though it is not very well marked, it has steps and pathways to explore three different craters


10. Dyrholaey Arch – In Dyrholaey, near Vik, you can find basalt cliffs and black sand beaches with wonderful views to explore.

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While this is in no way an all-inclusive list of Iceland’s beautiful attractions, these were my favorite stops on our road trip around the Ring Road!