Among other things, Iceland is an amazing place to visit because of its impressive geologic features. When traveling around the Ring Road, one can see lava fields, green rolling hills, tall mountains, moon-like black sand, lakes, ocean, rivers, and more all within a four hour span. Although Iceland has been formed by a plethora of events, the main factor in its creation has been its position on the mid-Atlantic Ridge in the Atlantic Ocean. The mid-Atlantic Ridge is the largest mountain range on the planet, invisibly stretching over 10,000 underwater miles. It is also the boundary of North American and Eurasian plates, which have been moving apart for over one hundred and fifty million years. This movement has caused a continuous flow of magma from the Earth’s core into the ocean, forming the Ridge, and Iceland itself. On a yearly basis, the plates continue to move approximately 2 centimeters further apart. As a result of this movement, in 1789, this pressure was released in the area now known as Þingvellir National Park with the creation of a series of rifts (fissures) in the surrounding region. After it was created by seismic activity, the main rift immediate filled with water from an underground aquifer, and is now known as the Silfra Fissure.
Today, the Silfra Fissure is known as being one of the top diving and snorkeling locations in the world because of its incredible visibility – some one hundred meters, in pure glacial melt water – and because of the one of a kind opportunity that it provides to swim between two tectonic plates. Silfra’s location also provides a specific temperature challenge for divers and snorkelers, as the water is always between 33-35 degrees Fahrenheit. While this may sound tempting on an extreme heat Death Valley day, in Iceland, such temperatures are nonexistent. Because of the pristine nature of the water; the temperature challenges, and a few other items, access to the Silfra Fissure is restricted to guide services. When I visited Iceland, I knew that I wanted to experience this one of a kind region, even if I ended up as an ice cube midway through the dive. After conducting some research, I elected to go on Arctic Adventures “Into the Blue” Snorkel Tour of the fissure.
The Experience: Artic Adventures is one of Iceland’s oldest tour operators, having been in business since 1983; and one of the highest rated from a number of independent travel websites. The “Into the Blue” tour is offered year-round, and I would suspect is likely one of their most popular tours. Overall, visitors can either travel with the tour operator from Reykjavik to Þingvellir National Park, for a four hour experience, or can meet the group there for a two hour tour. Because I had a rental, we elected to meet the group there, which surprisingly, turned out to be a mistake. Even though we had traveled around much of the Ring Road prior to this tour, and knew how driving in Iceland was, and how much time to allot to get places, on that day, we were late. And not just 5-10 minutes late, but over forty minutes late (What can I say, it was vacation, sometimes it happens). Because we had no cell service, I assumed that we had missed our tour, and that was that as it was our fault. Since we were there (albeit late), we decided to stop by the site to find – our group still waiting for us! Now, a word of caution. Obviously, if you are driving yourself, you should be on time (or early), and should not expect (or impose) on your group to wait for you; nor expect them to wait for you. But for me, the fact that they independently waited for us speaks volumes about the type of service you get from Artic Adventures.
Once we were sorted at the spot, and had overcome our embarrassment about having made our guides and five total strangers wait nearly an hour, we began to get ready. Since Silfra is cold, one has to wear special equipment to snorkel, which AA provides, starting with a basic wetsuit, which is then covered by a larger, heavier “Teddy Bear” suit, along with heavy gloves, boots, and hat, and face mask. Once the guides had everyone set, it was a short “walk” (shuffle) to the actual fissure. Probably the most difficult part of the experience was descending the ladder apparatus, but overall even that was no big deal. After we descended the ladder into the water, we could feel the cold pressing in around all areas of our suits, but inside, we were nice, snug, and dry. From the ladder, we followed our guide slowly down the entire stretch of the fissure, which is just both mind-blowingly clear, and amazingly spectacular. I’ve snorkeled in numerous areas around the world, and I can’t think of a similar location that is even remotely as clear or has a similar assortment of colors as the Silfra Fissure. My only complaint about the experience was simple: it was over too soon. I would highly recommend this experience as it is a one of a kind experience in that one cannot snorkel between two tectonic plates anywhere else on this planet; and I would also highly recommend Artic Adventures for their professionalism in both leading the excursion, and dealing with our late arrival.
Cost: Currently, as of 2016, this experience costs 17,990 Islandic Kroner, or ~160.00 USD per person, which covers the equipment, guide, and experience as a whole. Interested parties should check the website of Artic Adventures for current rates, and should also compare such rates to whichever applicable national currency they have. There is an additional charge to rent a waterproof camera for those parties that do not have one, or a waterproof housing for their camera.