If you’re looking for a unique experience to cross off that bucket list of yours- and let’s be honest, to tell all your family and friends about- look no further as I share Happy Campers’ experience snorkeling in Silfra. Last weekend, we were graciously invited by Scuba Iceland to snorkel between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates and couldn’t refuse their offer! The best part is there are a couple of campsites close to the activity where you will be able to crash the night before or after.
Whether you’ve visited Iceland previously or are planning to, you probably heard of this fun activity exclusive to Þingvellir National Park (Thingvellir), a UNESCO Heritage Site and popular attraction located 45 minutes southeast of Reykjavík. Not only is Þingvellir home to Silfra, a rift connected to Þingvallavatn lake, it’s also a land of historical significance. Alþingi (Althingi), located not too far from Silfra, is the oldest parliament established in 930A.D., a must-visit sight.
Astrid, our guide for the day was friendly from the moment we stepped into the car for pickup. She was able to answer all of our questions and inform us of our itinerary for the morning, which was straightforward. Once at the meeting point, all participants of our group checked in and signed a waiver, and then we quickly drove to base camp to begin the fun! Although we asked for car pickup from Reykjavík this time around, driving to the national park via Happy Camper is as easy as following the signs along the ring road. Alternatively, you can take along our handy Garmin GPS so you’ll never get lost in Iceland!
At this point, the rain picked up. But no one was bothered, because we were going in the water anyways. We were given a lot of equipment including the base layer to keep us warm, dry suit to keep us, well, dry, a hat, “lobster”-like gloves, and a set of snorkels, goggles, and flippers. Okay, let me tell you it wasn’t easy to slip into the dry suits. I did need to switch into another, so I had an extra go at shimmy-ing. Luckily, the guides were plenty helpful! This was an experience in itself and I have the utmost respect for the guides who do it every day.
Once geared up, our group was given a briefing of the cultural and historical significance of the park and Silfra. Astrid let us know the water was only 2 degrees that day, yikes! Not to worry, though, because our gear would keep us mostly warm. She also told us snorkeling in Silfra is the only location in the world to be able to swim between two continents. And by the way, it’s the clearest water in the world with up to 100m of visibility!
A quick walk across the road brought us right to the steps of Silfra. We were all so excited, but before we stepped in we had to do one more thing: spit in our goggles for optimal vision. Yes, apparently our saliva contains particular chemicals, which help prevent the goggle’s glass from fogging up. Pretty neat (and gross)!
So off we went, waddling into Silfra. The one word I can describe this once-in-a-lifetime experience with is “WOW”. The moment I submerged in the water and looked around, my breath was taken away by the clarity (and the cold!). Completely forgetting how numb my lips and fingers had gone, I couldn’t believe at what I was able to see in terms of distance, depth, and the blues. When on top of a deeper area it felt as though I was flying or hovering above the water, too, something I’ve never experienced before.
Due to our buoyant suits, we technically bobbed along the surface unable to free dive, making this activity a breeze for anyone comfortable with swimming. I tried my luck to go under, but it ended up being more of an entertaining sight than a success. Throughout the 40 minutes, Astrid managed to snap almost 100 underwater photos of our group, allowing us to relive the experience. Scuba Iceland does sell the photos afterwards if you are interested in excellent keepsakes. Alas, our time was up when we reached the lagoon at the end of the tour where we were able to swim around freely for as long as our bodies could handle the temperatures.
It was only a few minutes walk back across the road to base camp where we quickly wiggled out of the heavy, wet gear. In the end, I was thankful for the suits. They really did keep us dry and warm considering the almost freezing temperatures. Hallelujah! After dressing, the guides treated all of us to a lovely cup of hot chocolate and some cookies, the cherry on top to an exceptionally cool experience. After a satisfying morning snorkeling in Silfra, Astrid drove the Happy Campers back to the city so we could continue our weekend on a high note.
Overall, my colleagues and I had a wonderful time exploring by snorkeling and floating in the clearest water in the world. It’s highly recommended by my colleagues, with the Happy Campers’ stamp of approval and myself. And if you ever find yourself taking a dip in Silfra with Scuba Iceland, do me a favour and drink the water. It was refreshing and way better than the bottled stuff!
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To read more about Lea’s Happy Camper Adventures in Iceland check out these articles:Happy Campers’ Basic Guide to IcelandicWhat to Do in Reykjavik on a Rainy DayA Happy Camper’s Guide to Vestmannaeyjar