Facing the Notoriously Cold Icelandic Waters – Scuba Diving & Snorkelling in Silfra

When in Iceland, right? This is what I thought to myself as I booked my “snorkelling in Silfra, trying to focus on the supposedly outstanding water visibility instead of the dangerously-close-to-zero water temperatures. After all, where else in the world could I possibly swim between two tectonic plates? This was an epic opportunity, and I would not let my comfort come first, not this time.

But man was I dreading the moment where I would have to pretend I’m a big girl and enter those crystal clear yet misleadingly frigid waters. My husband Alex and I both wanted to go scuba diving but he ended up going underwater without me; because my ears are silly and because I have asthma, my doctor has advised that I stick to snorkelling. Which isn’t a bad thing per se; Alex and I had two completely different experiences to talk about that night :-)

We opted to go with Dive.is, which is pretty much the best option when it comes to Silfra scuba diving and snorkelling – they’ve been doing this for almost 20 years and they know their stuff. Also, their dog is listed as the security manager and head of hospitality on their website, and I find that completely adorable. #MustLoveDogs

The experience

The tour, for both scuba divers and snorkelers, comprises a hotel pick-up in central Reykjavik, transportation to the diving site in Silfra, all the equipment and even cookies & hot chocolate after the tour. Believe it or not, but what took the longest is not the drive to Þingvellir or the dive itself, but rather… putting on the many layers and the dry suit (which, by the way, is the least flattering thing in the world regardless of your body shape – everyone kind of looks like a love child of the Michelin man and a black bear).

I liked the fact that we were in a mixed group of snorkelers and scuba divers – given that divers get to go in the water twice, snorkelers have a bit of free time to explore the area on foot, which looked wonderful in the 6PM light. It was actually one of my favourite parts of the day!

Snorkelling in Silfra was a magical experience, and definitely a must-do in Iceland, even if you are not planning on hiring a car and venture outside of Reykjavik. Obviously, you quickly get past the fact that these are the coldest waters you’ve ever been into, because the feeling of being between two continental plates in one of the world’s most rugged islands is just amazing.

Scuba Diving & snorkelling in Silfra

Useful tips for scuba diving and snorkeling in Iceland

  • Snorkelling in Silfra costs ISK 16,900 (roughly $150).
  • Most of the tours are available year-round, but I highly suggest going in the summer months to benefit from the amazing daylight hours.
  • The water at Silfra is very cold, just a couple of degrees over zero. Don’t think that the drysuit will shield you from that if you have a tendency to get cold easily; it merely keeps you afloat. Make sure to bring many layers, especially for your hands and toes (wool socks and thick gloves are pretty much compulsory). For your face, well, there just isn’t much to do, it is going to be cold – but your skin will get used to it and you will soon not feel much at all. Think of how young you will look afterwards with your face half frozen :-)
  • For those interested in scuba diving, either get your PADI dry suit course certification before your trip or plan enough time to do it in Reykjavik (Dive.is offers courses). Scuba diving in a dry suit is completely different than in a wetsuit, and requires very specific and possibly life-saving skills. Your open water certification won’t do it.
  • It is NOT recommended to attempt scuba diving or snorkelling in Silfra on your own, if you happen to be driving to Þingvellir National Park. Don’t think that booking with a tour company is unnecessary; they are professionals and they are familiar with the risks of diving in such cold waters. Don’t underestimate the dangers.
  • Book your snorkelling trip to Silfra here, with Dive.is.

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