Silfra is a world-renowned diving spot that offers a completely unique experience that can’t be had anywhere else. It consists of four main areas that all offer different mind-blowing experiences that you will want to photograph. Just make sure to have your camera tied to you, because if you accidentally drop it in the crack, it’s gone, and you can’t go down the many tens of meters to get it.
If you have ever wanted to dive into an amazingly cold, crystal-clear, and terrifyingly deep crack between two continents, you’re in luck! Silfra is an amazing diving spot in Iceland and will be an amazing stop to make on your Iceland vacation. Find out just what this geological marvel is and what it contains in the article below.
Silfra Fissure Creation and Location
As soon as you get into the diving scene of Iceland, you’ll come across Silfra as one of the most outstanding places to dive in the country as well as in the world. The reason for this is a mix of geological activity, clear water and one of the most breathtaking experiences you can have in the water. There is a reason why this is one of the top things to do in Iceland.
What Made Silfra?
First things first: how did this magnificent attraction come to be in the first place? Silfra is the product of Iceland’s location on the border between the North American tectonic plate and the Eurasian tectonic plate. It is called the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. These plates are kind of the rafts that the continents sit on while they’re floating around on the magma under the earth’s crust.
These two plates are slowly moving away from each other and are expanding the east-to-west size of Iceland by roughly 2 centimeters per year. When these plates move apart, they sometimes create volcanoes. And other times they simply create earthquakes and open rifts in the ground.
The Silfra rift is one of those rifts that have also been filled up with crystal clear glacier water. That makes for excellent (and incredibly cold) diving and snorkeling experiences.
Silfra is a baby in geology terms, as it was formed in 1789 by a couple of strong earthquakes in the area.
Where is Silfra?
Luckily, for all the adventurous visitors out there, Silfra can be found in one of the three Iceland National Parks: Thingvellir. It’s a small area in the northernmost part of Thingvallavatn Lake.
Going Into Silfra
Alright, so, unfortunately, you can’t just show up and jump in the water. Apart from all the necessary equipment, you need to have and the preparations you need to do, you’re only allowed to go into Silfra with a certified guide.
You see, the water here is incredibly cold, and the Silfra fissure is incredibly deep, so we don’t want anything to go wrong. The depth of Silfra becomes very apparent in many spots and can become a little overwhelming since Silfra has Iceland’s clearest water.
Before you dip your toes in the water, you need to step into the proper suit to keep you from becoming a Silfra icicle. Up until a while ago, you were allowed to dive here with a wetsuit, however, now the rules have changed, and you’re only allowed to go in with a dry suit on. This is a safety measure put in place to make sure that swimming in the Silfra crack is as safe as it is memorable.
As a side note. After diving in Iceland, it's recommended to have a warm beverage to help your body warm up, even though you'll be in a dry suit and kept warm during the dive.
The most common way to experience the Silfra Fissure is with a Silfra snorkeling tour. You only need to meet the basic requirements, and no certification or anything similar is needed to snorkel in Silfra. Simply follow the tour guide and keep close to the surface. If you’re there on a sunny day, you might even get some warm rays of sunshine on your back as you’re bobbing around in the water.
Even though snorkeling can feel like a second-hand choice, we know for sure that choosing the Silfra snorkeling option is just as good as any diving in Thingvellir. You are sure to have the most amazing experiences without having to deal with all the fuss that comes with diving equipment.
If you want to get some depth in the fissure, then the Silfra diving experience is what you want to aim for. This way, you can move freely in the water and explore Silfra way more in-depth compared to what you could have done while snorkeling. You will have to have a dry suit on here too, as the water will be too cold for a wetsuit and diving is more dangerous than snorkeling.
Keep in mind that the Silfra diving experience requires you to be fully certified. You need to have plenty of experience, and have many logged dives with certified instructors. Having some experience with diving in really cold water is also heavily recommended by tour companies and guides.
It's important to keep in mind that while diving in Silfra, safety should always be the top priority. Make sure to stick with the group and avoid any underwater caves or entries that your guide doesn't lead you into. There are some underwater currents that can be dangerous, and any tremor in the mountain can be devastating if you’re in an unsafe area.
So, how deep is Silfra, and what can you see there? Silfra is divided into four main areas, as can be seen below. On any tour, you will be taken through all of them.
This is where you start your journey. This is where the divers go nuts, as there are plenty of nooks and crannies to explore (and that are safe to explore). But don’t get cocky, so stay with your guide if you dive. For the snorkelers, you’ll have a 200 m swim to the first of the amazing spots to explore.
Silfra Big Crack
If you are ever to break out your state-of-the-art underwater camera, this is the place! Here is where you experience the Iceland dive between the tectonic plates. You can literally float between the continents and touch both of them at the same time!
If the Big Crack was the photography moment, this is where you take a moment and try to just experience what you’re being suspended above. This part is called the Cathedral because it is so incredibly massive. Clear water, 20-meter depth, and 100-meter visibility give you a feeling of being suspended in a cathedral ceiling.
The end of this awe-inspiring trip is the Silfra Lagoon. Here you can take the time to put in a couple of strokes in the clear water. It allows you to see from one end of the 120-meter-wide lagoon to the other, underwater.
Why Dive at Silfra?
It is a world-unique diving spot that allows you to experience things you will never experience anywhere else. Despite the water temperature and diving restrictions, Silfra offers a experience that you won't soon forget.
So, when planning your trip and wondering how many days you should stay in Iceland, book one day for Silfra. It will be worth it.
So, how cold is the Silfra water, do you ask? It ranges between 2 and 6 degrees Celsius, which is why a dry suit is not only recommended, but mandatory. Generally, the ocean around Iceland will range between 5 and 12 degrees Celsius. And that is the temperature of the ocean right outside the North Pole.
How deep is Silfra crack, then? The deepest ever measured at Silfra is 63 meters, but there might be some newly opened tunnels somewhere in the area that will be deeper. You’re normally not allowed to dive deeper than 10 meters in Silfra, which might sound shallow until you dive down a bit.
How do I Get to Silfra?
Silfra fissure is a possible stop along the Golden Circle and will most likely be the best option you have for a diving experience in Iceland. When you travel along Road 36 (Golden Circle main road), you’ll find the turn-off not far from the Thingvellir visitor’s center. Simply get on Road 361 and follow it until you reach the diving spot for the Silfra fissure.
If you don't have a rental car, don't worry! Most tour companies can pick you up at designated locations in Reykjavík and take you to Silfra for the diving experience.
If you rent a car in Iceland and drive yourself, you will have to head north from Reykjavík on Road 1 (Ring Road 1) and then get on Road 36 right after Mosfellsbaer. Driving from Reykjavík to Silfra will take you roughly 50 minutes, but bear in mind that you can have this as one of the stops along a Golden Circle route.