OMG I’m so happy I get to write this Silfra snorkeling review! If anyone would have told me that I’m going to snorkel in almost freezing water and live to tell the story, I wouldn’t have believed it. But here we are! And here I am, telling you everything you need to know about Snorkeling in Silfra, Iceland.
What you need to know before you snorkel in Silfra
This place is absolutely stunning and I can safely say it’s unique (and I don’t use this word as freely as most bloggers do). It’s the only place in the world with water so clear you can see virtually unlimited, your only limit being your vision, not the water clarity.
I haven’t tried this, but the guides have told us that you can even take a sip from the water while snorkeling in Iceland between the tectonic plates, if you can imagine that. The visibility goes up to 100 meters, and the unlimited blue will make you feel like you’re in Avatar, but under water.
The temperature is around 2 degrees Celsius (36 F) all year round, so even in winter, you can actually do this activity. At the same time, there’s little marine life here, but the views are not about you finding Nemo, but about feeling that you can see until the Earth’s core.
This also means that your GoPro might die in a few minutes (mine lasted for the whole 24 minutes, but the guides told us other people had cameras that weren’t this sturdy), so don’t forget to ask for the pictures your guide is going to provide to you.
And last, but not least, this means that you’re going to need a dry suit, which might just be your first time using this fashion statement. Wearing this type of suit sure sounds simpler than it is, and you’ll get to know more soon.
And lastly, something that actually surprised me. If you’re going there in the summer, you’ll have the “honor” to enjoy what feels like a gazillion flies going in your eyes, mouth, nose, and any other orifice you might leave open. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Snorkeling in Silfra – everything about the drysuit
If you’re anything like me, and I assume you are, you may have not ever worn a dry suit. I have snorkeled in plenty of other places before (The Maldives, Sicily, and Cape Verde being just a few of them), but my focus was always to protect myself from the sun, and never to no get my body wet.
Well, this is not the case here. In order for you to not suffer hypothermia, you need to keep yourself as dry as possible. But be aware that no matter the taken precautions, you might still get wet a bit, especially on your hair, so bring some dry and warm clothes with you to wear after this amazing Iceland experience.
Your hands and face will get wet, this is just how the costume works. You’ll have some gloves that work in a mysterious way: your hands will be wet, but there will be a thin layer of water between your hand and the glove. If you don’t move a lot, this layer of water gets warm and it won’t feel that bad after.
If you do move a lot, like trying to free dive, be aware that water might get in your suit. You might not feel it right there, as the adrenaline rushes through your body, but you will feel it when getting out of your suit.
When choosing your drysuit, provide the best measurements possible. You want it to fit you like a glove, pun intended. The better it fits, the warmer you’ll feel. In any case, be aware that the costume is VERY constricting against your neck and wrists, so don’t do this if you have any blood circulation problems.
This costume is not meant to keep you warm, but to keep you dry. You’ll wear your own base layer, and I suggest you use merino wool layers and one or two wool pairs of socks. Choose these layers to be as snug as possible, without adding any constriction though.
Don’t even think of peeing in the water! It’s not only gross and awful for the surrounding nature, but in this case, you’ll actually pee in your own clothes, and the pee won’t get in the water, you’ll get to keep it all. So, don’t do it!
As for the breathing tube, you’ll use a normal mask and snorkeling tube system. You cannot really wear a full-face snorkeling mask, as you’ll have a minimum amount of skin exposed, and this is not enough. If you’re not comfortable breathing through your mouth, practice this at home before snorkeling in Silfra.
Rules you need to know before snorkeling in Silfra, Iceland
1. Remove your jewelry
I have only left my wedding and engagement rings as they’re very small and body-fitting. But you should definitely remove bigger rings, necklaces, and earrings. You’ll understand why when you’ll dress and undress your drysuit.
2. Listen to your body
Don’t do this if you’re asthmatic, have breathing or heart problems, are pregnant, or suffer panic attacks when in water. If you have any medical history that you think might interfere with the experience, talk to your guide to get the best possible advice.
3. Don’t fly
At least for a few days after your Silfra snorkeling experience. This is a general rule when snorkeling or, even more so when diving. It reduces your chances of getting any ear problems due to water getting trapped in your ear canals.
4. Do a flip
If in distress, flip on your back, and call for help. Your guide will provide plenty of information about this. That’s why it’s important to tell them everything. Even if you just panic a bit for whatever reason, flip on your back and your instructor will come and guide you towards a shore.
5. Don’t touch
Be very aware that everything around you is a national park. You know those pictures “Look, ma, I’m touching two continents at once!”? Don’t be that guy! Be the guy or gal that respects the environment.
Useful tips when snorkeling between tectonic plates in Iceland
- Minimize movements
Move as little as possible as to not get water in your suit. You’ll be very buoyant due to the drysuit, and you basically need to just push yourself further (there’s even a slight current that pushes you forward, making this easier). You don’t even need to use your hands, to be frank.
- Be fast
Put your face in the water as quickly as possible. Won’t that feel cold? You bet! But doing it quickly will get it numb and you won’t feel a thing after. Your lips will look cool when you get out though, it’s like you’ve done some plastic surgery you may have always wanted.
- Be an early bird
If you get to choose, go in the morning or midday. The sun is higher in the sky and will get you better water clarity, and it might even be less cold outside.
They’re taking some pictures that are free to download after. So get your smile ready! I know you’ll look like a baby seal with huge lips, but hey, free photos are free photos!
- Wear contacts
If you wear prescription glasses and also own contacts, wear those instead. You cannot wear your glasses with the snorkeling mask, and it’s a shame to not see as far as you can.
- Braid your hair
And I’m not saying this in a Disney princess kind of way. I’m saying this as in “braided hair is easier in a dry suit” kind of way. If you don’t do this, you might pull your hair out when dressing and undressing, and who wants to do that?
- Be the first
If you want to appear in the pictures, be the first in line. The guide is the first person to get in the water, and the one taking the pictures as well. So if you want to be part of that, stay as close as possible to him or her.
- Don’t swim
Huh? This doesn’t make any sense! Well, it does, considering that you have the help of a tailwater current and a very floating suit. Just use a small frog-like kick and you’ll be on your way. This is the laziest place to snorkel, I can tell you that!
Silfra snorkeling – step by step
As this is quite a unique thing to do, I assume a step-by-step will be helpful for the most anxious and control freaks amongst us. My people, basically. These are the people I’m writing this Silfra snorkeling review for, in the end.
- Reserve your spot
There are plenty of options to reserve your spot. You can buy the experience with or without transportation, you can do this alone or as part of a bigger tour, you can reserve it directly from the company organizing this or by using GetYourGuide. Check out these options above!
- Fill in the information
You’ll get a form to fill, and please do so truthfully and carefully. This is a binding contract and it contains important information for the tour and your health.
- Watch a movie
Specifically, this video that is about wearing a dry suit. It’s better than any explanation I might provide.
- Reserve your parking
This is one of the few places in Iceland where you need to pay for parking and book it in advance. You can read more tips about driving in Iceland in this detailed guide.
- Be on time
Be there at least 15 minutes early. It takes a while until you know your way around the place, and the parking lot is not right next to the meeting point.
- Meet your guide
You’ll get to know everything there is to know from this very knowledgeable person. You get the chance to ask questions as well, so have them ready before. And give Becca a shout from me, she was our awesome instructor and we loved her!
- Go to the toilet
Even if you don’t feel like you need it. Trust me, when you’ll be in the cold water, you’ll feel like you really need to pee right then and there.
- (Dry) Suit up!
OMG, I’ve been willing to make this joke for so long (awkward laugh). It’ll take you a while to get dressed, and you might need help from time to time. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help, it doesn’t mean that you’re fat, it just means you have chosen your measurements properly and you won’t feel so cold.
- Go to the starting point
Take your gear and follow your instructor to the departure place. You cannot get in the water unless you use the special departure point. Again, this is a protected area, so all the rocks you see around you shouldn’t be touched.
You’ll hear some very important directions from your instructor. Listen carefully, not like you do when that annoying colleague tells you about her cats again. The guide knows what they’re talking about and it’s all for your safety.
- Get wet
Go in the water, I mean. You’ll feel some pressure against your legs, but it’s totally normal and will disappear when you get to a horizontal position. This is also the time to practice breathing through the tube and doing a backflip. Also, start your GoPro if you have one.
Follow your guide and enjoy the views. Focus on what you see after you are adjusted to the weirdness of this new experience. The water is amazing, isn’t it?
- Turn on your back
If you’re in distress for any reason, do the backflip and alert your guide. They will come and help you, don’t worry. Funny that this is number 13, right? I swear I didn’t plan it like this!
- Get out
When you feel you had enough fun, get out of the water using the special area designed for this. You won’t want to do this very soon, but you will get bored at one point though.
- Go back
Carry your gear back to the dressing point. It’ll feel easier this time around, as you’re full of adrenaline and are probably exchanging impressions with the rest of the group.
- Take it off!
Undress and see if you got wet. You’d think you’ll know this by now, but you don’t. If water entered your suit you have already warmed it with your body and you won’t even know it happened. But once you’re out of the water, you should definitely check this out.
- Be the change!
Like, change your clothes to some dry ones and keep warm. You’re full of adrenaline and don’t feel cold, but you are. And you want to address this as soon as possible.
- Get warm
Enjoy the hot cocoa and biscuits offered by the guides. It’s a nice way to get yourself warm again. And it just feels nice doing this together.
- Ask for the card
The guide will give you a card with the information to download the pictures. It’s free and they’re quite a good quality, and you can brag to other people using them. Who doesn’t love bragging?
- Thank and rate
Your guides will be very happy if you thank and rate them. You can also recommend them to other people, as they really deserve it. They’re so cool, right?
Silfra snorkeling review – is it worth it?
Do you want the short version or the long one? The short version: DEFINITELY!
The long version: DEFINITELY!
It’s an experience you cannot truly enjoy anywhere else in the world. It’s so out of the ordinary probably most of your friends don’t even know about it. It’s new, exciting, and fascinating. And it’s one way to realize the greatness of the world.
I hope this detailed information about swimming between two continents in Iceland had everything you were looking for and even what you didn’t know you were looking for. Before I did this, I had no idea I needed to know more about wearing a dry suit. Or that I really want to snorkel in almost freezing water.
But snorkeling in Silfra will teach you plenty of things you don’t know, some of them about you. And this, for me, makes for a great experience. This is why we travel, in the end.