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Silfra Rift and Fissure in Iceland: Where East and West Meet

Silfra Rift and Fissure in Iceland: Where East and West Meet

Silfra is a fissure between the tectonic plates, and the rift runs through Iceland. Silfra has stunningly clear waters that are filled with a number of fish and other sea creatures. You can dive or snorkel in this magical area, where you will see impressive caves and mountains.

With incredible visibility and an ever-changing environment to explore, the Silfra fissure might be the best and most unusual place to practice the skill of scuba diving. It’s an important location on the planet.

When you swim into the mid-Atlantic ridge, you’re actually swimming into the rift that separates the Eurasian tectonic plate from the North American plate.

Silfra Dive

You’ll find the Silfra fissure in Þingvallavatn Lake at Þingvellir National Park, and for an added bit of unique flavor, you can even drink the lake water if you want. However, The images you’ll see are far more memorable than the flavor of wild glacier drinking water.

What is Silfra in Iceland?

Metal platform at Silfra rift on a cloudy day
Nora Yusuf / Shutterstock

The Silfra is a fissure in the earth’s surface between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. The fissure is located in Thingvellir National Park in Iceland. This is the only place where you can snorkel between two continents.

The fissure is about 100 meters wide (328 feet) at its narrowest point and has an average depth of 120 meters (394 feet).

You’ll get to dive into this unique spot wearing your dry suit, which allows you to experience both fresh and saltwater at once, as well as see marine life that thrives in both environments. The water in the rift is some of the clearest in the world, and it is also very cold.

It’s like diving into a natural aquarium!

How to Get to Silfra

Getting to the Silfra fissure is easy, as it is just a short drive from Reykjavik. Once you arrive, plenty of tour companies offer trips to the Rift. These tours typically include all of the gear that you need, as well as a guide.

Thingvellir National Park

Thingvellir National Park landscape and aerial view
elxeneize / Shutterstock

Thingvellir National Park has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its historical and cultural significance. The park covers a portion of Iceland’s most popular Lake Thingvellir.

The region is located near the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, where North American and East European plate tectonic plates diverge rapidly in their direction. The continental rift created fissures that are now submerged, like Silfra and nearby Davsgjá, and enormous rifts and canyons below water.

From 930 AD until 1798, Thingvellir served as the home for Iceland’s national parliament, Althing, from which Thingvellir was named.

What to Expect When You Visit

Divers scuba diving between two tectonic plates in crystal clear underwater of  Silfra
VicPhotoria / Shutterstock

When you visit the Silfra, you can expect to see some of the most amazing views in Iceland. The water is so clear that you can often see to the bottom. You can also expect to get wet, as you will likely be swimming in the Silfra lagoon at some point.

Snorkeling and Diving Activities

Silfra Dive 2

If you want to explore the Silfra lagoon in the water, which is the best experience, you can snorkel or scuba dive the entire Silfra fissure.

You’ll need to be licensed for diving, and it’s recommended that you’ve done some real dry suit diving before going. You’ll dive into cold water at the bottom of the Earth’s crust.

Either way, the underwater visibility here is amazing. You’ll love exploring the cave systems and seeing the tectonic plates firsthand. It’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Scuba Diving at Silfra

If you’re not rated to dive as of yet, you’ve still got a few options. You can either go through a 24-hour course that will let you see some of the underwater sights first-hand if you wish.

If you don’t want to lose part of your holiday to training, however, and you don’t have time to get certified in advance, the snorkeling that can be done on the lake will still provide incredible views.

Because of the cold and crispness of the water, you can see up to 300 meters on some days from the surface.

What is unique about the lake water itself is that it is at least 50 years old by the time it reaches this area of volcanic activity. Depending on when the melting of the glacier began, it could already be up to a century old as it trickles into the lake!

Remember that you are diving into an area where the continents are coming together. There is a major earthquake in the area every decade or so because of the pressure buildup.

After entering the initial diving point, you’ll see an almost alien vista before you. The clear water provides colorful hues that dance about and play with the barren desert of the floor below.

There are several caves to explore as you continue along with the dive, many containing once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for exploration.

The best part of the dive in Silfra is the Cathedral, which is over 100 meters long. The water is so clear that you can see from the beginning to the end of the Cathedral at all times during the dive!

There are other portions of the trench that reach a depth of 65 meters for professional divers to explore as well. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, you’ll find something perfect to see in this bizarre location on Planet Earth!

It’s not just below the waters where wonders can be seen. The barren Icelandic landscapes surrounding the lake are also a photographer’s dream.

There are plenty of exploration opportunities in the surrounding area for those who prefer not to get wet, but the best way to explore Silfra is to allow for a day in the water… and then stay dry.

Snorkeling the Silfra fissure

People divers diving in a famous crack between two tectonic plates in Iceland Silfra
VicPhotoria / Shutterstock

Snorkeling in Silfra is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and one that you should definitely try. The water is clear, cold, and so deep you’ll feel like diving with sharks. Because of this, it’s only accessible during the summer months (June to September).

Snorkeling tours allow you to explore this vivid underwater world and learn about its geological history from an experienced guide who will teach you how to use your gear properly before getting into the water with them!

What to Bring Snorkeling at Silfra

Snorkeling equipment for driving on wood platform
Prextimize / Shutterstock

If you’re planning on going snorkeling at Silfra, bring a mask and snorkel. You can rent these items from the tour company, but bringing your own from home will be cheaper. Ensure the mask fits properly and doesn’t leak before putting it in your mouth.

In addition to this equipment, sunscreen is a good idea for protecting yourself from sunburns since you’ll be immersing yourself in icy water for an extended period (and therefore spending less time swimming).

You may also want to bring a waterproof camera like a GoPro or phone case so that if there is ever any chance of seeing an underwater creature up close and personal, you’ll be able to capture those moments forever!

What to Expect Snorkeling the Sifra

Snorkeling at Silfra
Hoiseung Jung / Shutterstock

The first thing most people notice when they walk through the Silfra fissure entrance is how cold it gets—it can feel like walking into an icebox! But don’t worry—the guides will provide plenty of warm clothing and give each person a dry bag with extra-warm socks and gloves before beginning their journey into Iceland’s only freshwater rift valley.

Once inside their wetsuits (kept warm by inflatable tubes), they can begin exploring their surroundings comfortably. The water temperature ranges between 2°C/36°F during summer months up to 4°C/39°F during wintertime; however, due to constant circulation caused by wind blowing over the top surface area where the river meets ocean currents below ground level.

Temperatures are relatively constant all year, so guests may anticipate receiving the same experience every time, no matter what season the journey is. The fissure is narrow but big enough to swim through—and what an incredible feeling it is.

The water flows over your head and down into the depths below. You get a sense of perspective as well as see firsthand how nature has created something truly spectacular here on Earth.

Things to do Near Silfra

Silfra is located in Thingvellir National Park, a half-hour drive from Reykjavik. Pavements and gravel roads can both take you there. A metered park lot will be nearby for those on the snorkeling or diving excursion to Silfra.

The Information Center is located in Thingvellir National Park, between Road 36 (the main route from Reykjavik) and Road 361 (a highway that leads into the park). An office, cafe, and restrooms are all available at the Information Center.

There are plenty of things to do in the area around the Silfra Lagoon. In addition to swimming in the deep rift valley, you can also go snorkeling, diving, kayaking, and hiking. Many tours will take you to other nearby attractions in the Thingvellir area, such as glaciers and waterfalls.

Snorkeling in the glacial waters of the Silfra Fissure and Silfra Hall is a magical experience. This is the only place where you can snorkel between two continents. It’s truly where the West meets the East. The Silfra Fissure is one of Iceland’s most famous attractions and an absolute must-see while visiting this country. One thing is for sure: Silfra Hall is magnificent. Experience it.


How deep is the Silfra crack?

The Silfra Cathedral consists of 310 feet of fissures, and it has almost full visibility. A shallow point at the entry points of the fissure, Silfra drops to its highest possible height of 63 meters.

Why is the Silfra fissure so clear?

The glacial water running through the fissure is some of the clearest in the world, thanks to its filtration through porous lava rock.

Can you swim between the two tectonic plates in Iceland?

You can swim at the Icelandic Silfra fissure, representing a crack between Europe and North America. This is the only place on Earth to swim between the tectonic plates.

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