Snorkeling in Silfra with dive.is

Last weekend the boyfriend and I headed to Þingvellir National park and ticked off an item on my bucket list that has been there from what seems like the beginning of time: snorkeling in Silfra. I’ve actually had many opportunities to do this tour, the nice folks at Dive.is had for example invited me to join them numerous times, but the time was never right somehow. Plus I’m a bit of a wuss when it comes to the cold and in my mind the only way a snorkeling tour in 2°C (ca. 36°F) warm water could end was with hypothermia. I wasn’t exactly in a rush to jump in.

We could not have asked for a more beautiful day for this tour. The air was chilly but the golden sun lid up the gorgeous autumn colors in the national park: Þingvellir had never looked more amazing. We met our guides by the service center in Þingvellir and after signing some papers and waiting for the rest of our group to arrive we followed the guides towards Silfra fissure where the snorkeling would take place.

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I was surprised how many other groups were there at the exact same time and worried that this would impact our experience in a negative way. I later found out that these worries were unfounded because once we were in the water it was like we were in our own little world with no one around. But more on that later.

I can’t write this post without addressing some of the concerns I had the days leading to the tour. First of all I was convinced I would freeze to death so I spent the night before our tour googling bloggers that had snorkeled in Silfra in winter to see what they had to say about it. They confirmed my worst fears: they all practically froze to death. People complained most about cold hands and the walk back from the fissure to where you change into your clothes again. They also all mentioned that the tour had been worth it despite the cold which, I must admit, was reassuring.

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Second, every time I do activities that require me to borrow clothing from the company involved I get the same vision in my head: I arrive at the spot and the gear doesn’t fit me so I get left behind while everyone walks into the sunset laughing at the big fat Icelander. This, by the way, has never happened but for some reason the picture of the Michelin Man with my face on it wobbling around trying to get into tiny clothing always pops into my mind. I have some problems.

The equipment

The gear in question this time around was unusually complicated. You are supposed to wear thermal underwear underneath the gear you get from dive.is. Because I’m the master of being cold I wore two sets. I don’t necessarily recommend that though as you don’t need it. Then you get an insulating layer that you wear underneath your dry suit. It’s basically like a neat little sleeping bag that you happen to wear and its only purpose is to keep you warm. Finally you put on a dry suit that the guides will have to help you get into. You then get some mittens and a really sexy hood (think squashed ninja with big cheeks) and of course the mask, snorkel and flippers.

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Because all of these things need to fit quite tight dive.is asks you to send your height and weight to them when you book the tour so they can match you with the right size. Where their system fails is that height and weight alone doesn’t tell you how a person is built so I was faced with my worst nightmare when I put on my insulation layer: it didn’t fit. It was fine on top and around the legs but my butt was too big so I couldn’t zip it up. I was mortified and had to hold back the tears. They would walk into the sunset laughing without me after all.

Thankfully, the super nice guides (seriously, SUPER nice) were very sweet about my predicament. It also turned out that you don’t need to be able to zip the insulation layer, you just have to get it on. And that I could – success! However, it was very tight and made it difficult for me to move and had I known then what I know now I would have skipped the insulation layer all together since I was wearing two sets of really good thermals anyway.

The reason I mention this is not because I love revealing my weaknesses to the world. I simply want to suggest that you are truthful with your height and weight and if you know that you carry more weight in one place than another I would let them know about that too.

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The beautiful blue waters of Silfra fissure

After the big task of getting everyone into their dry suits it was finally time to get in. One by one we waddled down the stairs and into the clear blue water. The guides had warned us that the temperature of the water could be a little bit difficult to get used to at first but I can honestly say that it wasn’t bad at all. My hands were fine too. I do know that a lot of people that did this tour and complained about cold hands did it with another company so maybe they use a different type of mittens – at least I was not cold in these.The combination of the dry suit and the insulation layer does an excellent job of keeping you warm and the neoprene mittens and hood are almost as effective.

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Image via Dive.is

On top of that, you don’t really care whether or not you are cold once you’re in the water because you are too busy enjoying the amazing view. The water is so clear and the blues so blue that you get mesmerized on first sight and it lasts until it’s time to get out again. It’s beautiful and I’m so happy I finally did this.

Oh and the walk back was nothing to worry about either.

The conclusion

This tour is so worth it and I would recommend Dive.is to anyone wanting to try it. The equipment was really good, the guides really attentive and everything from the briefing before the tour started to the hot cocoa and biscuits at the end of it made the whole experience even more enjoyable.

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Image via Dive.is

The only thing I wish I had done differently was to not worry so much about everything. Now that I know how everything works (and that I’m not going to die of cold or get left behind) I really wish I could do it all over again. At the same time I’m quite proud of myself for conquering my fears and finally taking the plunge.

One small step for humanity, one giant step for the timid blogger.

A special shout-out to our guide Louis

When it was finally time to get into the water I felt really uncomfortable and was on the verge of having a panic attack. I felt very constrained by the gear and was still worried about the cold. This of course was all my problems and had nothing to do with Dive.is, the equipment or their guides. I’m also not used to the snorkel and having to breathe through it overwhelmed me. Until the moment I actually put my face into the water every fiber in my body wanted me to get out of there.

What made all the difference was the guide Louis. He first went out of his way to make me comfortable during that whole equipment debacle and when I mentioned I was feeling uncomfortable on our way into the water he calmed me down by talking me through it. Once we were in the water he held my hand while I was getting used to the water and he didn’t let go until he was sure I was OK. He never once made me feel bad about myself and I was amazed how nice he was. When we left I was so thankful that I had to stop myself from hugging him.I didn’t want to be that girl.

 

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24 thoughts on “Snorkeling in Silfra with dive.is”

  1. Silja says:

    I went snorkeling in Silfra when I lived in Iceland and it was an amazing experience. Being in the water with the gear was almost dream like because you don’t really need to do anything to stay on top of the water. And the coldness was so refreshing to me, ahh. When I first got into the water I started laughing so much because of the floating effect of the suit that the guide had to ask me if I was alright 😀 I will definitely be doing this again when I get back to Iceland some day.

  2. Wendy Busch says:

    Dive.is is wonderful! I snorkeled with them in April and have to agree; great guides, good equipment and an incredible experience. I’ll go again!

  3. EuroTripTips says:

    I loooooved snorkeling in Silfra with Dive.Is. It was such a memorable, fun experience. Definitely something I’ll recommend to everyone I know going to Iceland.

  4. Katherine says:

    I am going to Silfra in about three weeks time so this was so timely! Thanks for the information and your thoughts on the tour.

  5. Caoileann says:

    I dived at Silfra in December with dive.is a few years ago and survived too. Even more extreme perhaps, we discovered when I got in that the neck seal on my drysuit was leaking… we tried a few different ways to fix it, but when we couldn’t they offered me another trip the following day. However I didn’t have another day to spare so decided to go ahead with my two dives in 2C water as I was already there and already in the suit. Hardest thing I’ve ever done but I can’t fault the team on the day…. looking forward to going back with a fully-operational drysuit next time. The water is like nothing else!

    1. mm Auður says:

      Mine also leaked through one sleeve despite our best efforts to tape it (the guide noticed it was a bit loose). However, I didn’t actually feel it much. I felt that the water was getting inside but it wasn’t cold. I think I was the only one with that problem though. Maybe I have proportionally small wrists 🙂

      1. Caoileann says:

        Haha, maybe I just have a small neck!

  6. Lily says:

    I am going to Silfra in 1 1/2 weeks and am panicking about the cold and swimming in it, I’m so glad to have found your article I feel a great sense of relief now! =) Thank you!

    1. mm Auður says:

      Glad to hear it helped – it really was no big deal 🙂

  7. Deborah Ellison says:

    Can this be done in mid-March? That’s when we will be in Iceland (from Boston), and I am not sure what activities are available….thanks.

    1. mm Auður says:

      Yes, it’s available all year round. The water temperatures stay the same all year and they give you good gear to wear.

  8. Sarah says:

    Okay so I looked at the web-site and it says you must be “physically fit”. How fit are they talking? Run a marathon fit, or can climb several flights of stairs without passing out fit?

    1. mm Auður says:

      Well, I definitely can’t run a marathon and I was fine. It is a bit difficult to move in the dry suit and you have to swim a little bit to get back to land (you have gear to help you with that though) so they just want to make sure you can handle that. I’m not sure this is a tour for anyone with mobility problems for example or if they are very unfit (passing out after the flight of stairs kind of unfit). Does that help? 🙂

      1. Sarah says:

        It does. I can swim and do not see stairs as an obstacle – so I guess we’re good.

        Thank you!

  9. Sarah Courtney says:

    Awesome Post Adour! You convinced me. I noticed they offer several times during the day. Do you recommend morning, noon, or late afternoon for and August/September dive? Does it really matter? thanks!

    1. mm Auður says:

      I think I would rather do it in the morning but it doesn’t really matter at that time.

  10. Corinna says:

    Would you recommend doing the snorkelling as part of your day trip through the Golden Circle, or doing it on another day? I have rented a car and will be doing a self-drive of the route. Also, do people usually wear a swimsuit underneath all the gear or just thermal underwear? Thanks!

    1. mm Auður says:

      If you are driving the Golden Circle yourself I would absolutely recommend you do it as a part of that. You don’t need swimsuit under your thermals because you don’t get wet.

  11. VanessA says:

    Thanks for the post- I’m doing this tomorrow 🙂

  12. Val says:

    Your story reminded me of my snorkeling experience last year. I was very nervous, but my guide calmed me in the same manner yours did. The only part of my body that was cold was my face, and it was tolerable. I got a mild “ice cream headache” but it was nothing compared to the experience of being able to float in such an incredible place and view something I thought I never would see. If you’ve wanted to do it, go for it. As a non diver I had several concerns, but they were all dashed. The guides are wonderful, and it’s an incredible experience.

    1. mm Auður says:

      I agree, as long as you can swim and are reasonably fit I think you should go for it 🙂

  13. jan says:

    Hi,
    Similar trip was on television in Holland: http://www.rtlbasecamp.nl/item/250/freediven_met_30_extreme_roadtrip_1
    (in dutch, but very nice pictures).
    greetings,
    jAn.

  14. Tanya says:

    After reading your story, I booked snorkling for our family of 5. We will be Iceland for 2 days while enroute to The Netherlands from Canada. My teens are very much looking forward to this little adventure!

    1. mm Auður - I Heart Reykjavík says:

      Great! Make sure you read the medical release form thoroughly since they’re quite strict on that thing!

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