SNORKELLING – it’s all blue skies, balmy waters and tropical fishes, right?

Not in Iceland. Here, the hardy or insane — depending on your view — take to waters that drop to minus 10 degrees.

But boy, is it worth it to snorkel in the only place in the world where you can swim between two tectonic plates — the Silfra Canyon in Thingvellir National Park.

The water in the fresh-water canyon is among the purest in the world, having filtered through porous underground lava for up to 200 years before it reaches the fissure.

As a result, visibility can reach a staggering 100m, making it one of the most sought-after dive and snorkel sites for plucky fanatics — and now us, too.

“At least we’ll get a warm shower afterwards,” I said hopefully on the one-hour coach ride from our hotel in Reykjavik, as I gazed at the frozen and unforgiving wonderland out the window.

The driver who overheard cackled almost cruelly: “Oh there are no showers, hot or otherwise, by the Silfra Fissure.”


When he spotted my horrified face, he added: “You’ll be in drysuits so should remain warm during the snorkelling.”

The temperature of the water, we were told upon arriving in the UNESCO-protected park, typically remains between 2C and 4C all year round.

This is due to its source being the second largest ice cap in Iceland, the Langjokull glacier some 30 miles away.

As a result, the excursion, run with Arctic Adventures (, takes place all year, for those who are happy to brave the cold.

Before I knew it, it was time to do the unthinkable and I found myself hauling into a rubbery drysuit in the bitterly cold winds.

“Your face will go numb as soon as it touches the water but don’t worry, this is totally normal”, our guide unsuccessfully tried to reassure us before the plunge.

After getting over the punishingly cold water that nipped and gnawed at the exposed parts of my face around my mask, I was taken aback by the astonishing beauty of the Silfra site.

We were told that the only fish that live in the fissure are the dwarf char, which typically are a few centimetres in length.

These tend to live in the dark depths of the canyon and are rarely spotted by divers or snorkellers — and evaded us, too, during our trip.

But even without any marine life to spot, it was a jaw-dropping 45 minutes, and I marvelled as I drifted past other-worldly jagged rock formations under the surface.

Little swimming work was required, as you float face-down with the gentle current that flows between the North American and Eurasian continental plates.

The transparent water felt almost hypnotic as you take in the magical turquoise underworld, which is completely silent.

Before we were ready to stop, it was time to peel off our buoyant suits and seriously de-thaw in the minibus with a steaming mug of hot chocolate.


OUT & ABOUT: Arctic Adventures offers a five-hour tour to snorkel at the Silfra Fissure including pick-up, guide, snorkelling gear and admission fee.
See for details.

Despite all reservations, it had been one of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever done — and I’d unwittingly ticked off a bucket list item I never knew I needed to have.

And with excursions that let you explore the spectacular Skogafoss waterfall and glaciers on snow-mobiles, plus seeing the Aurora Borealis over hallgrimskirkja church in Reykjavik, Iceland allows you to race through your bucket list in one trip.

But next time I think I’d book a snorkelling trip there in summer instead!

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