Dive Sites Iceland

Diving in Iceland: Silfra Fissure

diving iceland

It’s glacier water that has filtered through underground lava for about 100 years before bubbling to the surface, flowing through a fissure to a lake.

And it is in this crack, between North America and Eurasia, that I find myself swimming through, blowing bubbles.

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I’m in Iceland — a mecca for divers determined to experience the novelty of swimming between the plates that slowly push further apart by 2cm every year.

Scuba diving in Iceland – Picture: Dive.IS

It may not be the “traditional” site of tropical fish, warm water and stunning colours that divers and snorkellers look for — but it’s stunning in its own right.

The Silfra fissure, surrounded by the rugged terrain of Iceland, is one of the most unique spots to dive, attracting thousands of keen divers and snorkellers every year.

The water is so clear that you can see for more than 100m and so fresh that you can take a sip anytime you want.

Having been picked up from my hostel by my dive guide early Saturday morning, the jaw-dropping underwater scene is just the extra cherry on top of the scenery that Iceland has to offer.

DiscoverScuba divingDry suitFreezingLavaIceland’s unique landscape rises to meet us as we drive into the UNESCO protected park, with the dramatic volcanic rocks more reminiscent of the fantasy land of Game of Thrones.

Teh Silfra fissure is a crack between Eurasia and North America. Picture: Dive.IS

(In fact, the crew and cast of the popular, bloody show, inspired by George R.R. Martin’s books, regularly travel to the Nordic island nation to film scenes.)

Fiction is not so divorced from fact as we would like to think though — as we drive to the site, our guide points out a waterfall and informs us that this is where the Vikings once held meetings — ones which would often end in men beheaded, with their bodies thrown into the pool below.

But the disarming fact is soon forgotten as we pull into the carpark for the dive site — conveniently marked by a yellow warning sign of a diver in full kit walking across the road.

While the site, which is about 50 minutes from the country’s capital of Reykjavik, can attract hundreds in just one day during peak tourist season, the rainy January day means our group is the first to arrive.

Our small group of three are given a briefing from Thomas, our Dive. IS guide, helped into our heavy duty dry suits ready for the cold.

Dry suits keep your body from the freezing water. Picture: Dive.IS

The suits limits how much of your body will touch the water — a good thing as the water temperature, which sits between 2-4C, would severely limit your enjoyment of the dive.

If you are a diver, I would recommend getting your dry suit certification first, with any prior experience helping to make you feel a little more at ease as you walk down the steps to the water.

Letting my head bob below the water, I am left stunned by the water.

It’s very different being told that the water is clear to seeing it in person — you can barely even tell you are even looking through anything.

We drift slowly down the fissure, careful not to disrupt the silt that has settled on the boulders, with the only sound echoing through the site our bubbles.

I pose for my obligatory photo (one hand on Eurasia, the other on North America, slightly pushing to see if I can add an extra mm to the distance between them), I can only marvel that from above, this site looks just like any other stream.

A hand on each continent. Picture: Dive.IS

It’s not a very deep dive and we have to almost paddle at the surface at some points to make it to the next section — spotting the unique green “troll hair” that somehow manages to prosper in the chilly water.

There are caves darting off from the fissure but they are forbidden to anyone — the area is hit by 100 earthquakes a day, on average, and while they are generally not felt, it’s not worth the risk.

And while the site is not known for its sealife, we manage to spot a couple of baby brown trout, even catching sight of a fully grown trout in our last few minutes of the dive.

Swimming through the four sections of the crack — the Silfra Big Crack, Silfra Hall, Silfra Cathedral, and Silfra Lagoon — we are out in little over half an hour.

 Picture: Dive.IS
The water is so fresh you can drink it.

Teeth chattering, the 300m walk back from the Lagoon to the carpark helps to warm us up with the ever prepared dive company (bless them) passing out hot chocolate and biscuits to aid in the process of heating up.

I’m almost tempted to opt out of the second dive — I’m cold, I’ve done what I came to do, and did I mention I’m cold?

But biting the proverbial bullet, I head back in and I’m so glad I did.

Second time around, you can appreciate the site’s clarity more than ever, with the freezing cold water not feeling quite so cold.

Adrenaline pumping through my veins, I clamber out of the water, desperate to submerge myself in the water for a third time.

Picture: Dive.IS
It doesn’t feel as cold second time around.

As we trudge back to the car, I even gallantly stop to let some tourists step out in front of me take a photo of the landscape.

A local laughs at me — “If you stopped for a tourist every time you got in their way in Iceland, you would never get anywhere”.

Some words of advice for the dive: bring two pairs of thermal socks, and bring good quality thermals to wear under your dry suit, as well as gloves, boots and beanies for the surface interval.

My trip was only for a weekend but Iceland is a land full of adventure activities — glacier walking, aurora hunting and snowmobile trips, just to name a few.

But if you want to experience something new, and possibly update your Facebook profile picture to you between two tectonic plates, go no further than the end of the world: Iceland.

This article was written by the Australian diver Brittany Vonow for the blogazine escape.

You can check out her blog here.

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