Taucher in Silfra, Island

Scuba diving between the continents: Silfra in Iceland

Update: If you are considering a trip to Iceland after reading this, you might want to check out my Iceland travel guide

One part of my multi-day dive tour in Iceland fortunately led me to do two dives to Þingvellir. This historic place is surrounded by four active volcanoes, notably Hrómundartindur, Hengill, Prestahnjúkur and Hrafnabjörg. The valley is part of the Golden Circle of Iceland and is  part of the Unesco World Heritage site as of 2004. Here you can find the place where one of the oldest parliaments in the world took place, since the year 930  Vikings met once y year to discuss and enforce legislation.

The fissure itself is located on the fracture zone between the North American and the Eurasian lithospheric plates (tectonic plates).

This is where earth is literally torn apart.

Silfra

Silfra

Right here, I should experience the most spectacular dive of my young diving career. The idea of coming here came up right after I did my OW in South Africa and googled for the best diving spots in the world. Eight weeks later, I jumped into these crystal clear waters.

Silfra

Silfra

The Silfra fissure runs through the entire National Park and ends in Þingvallavatn lake. In large parts it is filled with soil, but at one point fresh glacial water comes out of the ground after traveling for decades through the lava stone. During this time the water was forced through huge amounts of lava and freed of any suspended solids and impurities. Even though the water is traveling that long and so far from the icy glaciers, it remains at the same temperature as at the beginning of the journey, about 2°C.

Silfra

Silfra

When talking about good visibility in tropical waters, you’re talking about 30, maybe 40 meters. That already feels like a huge range. In Silfra the visibility is more than 130m. The water is so crystal clear that in the moment in which it is deep enough to look up, it is no longer apparent where the water surface actually begins: The space lying below it is reflected perfectly and seamlessly back, so you get the illusion of infinite space in front of you. This place has something infinite, which is so breathtaking that you start wondering where all the bubbles went that were around you before. Until you breathe again.

Silfra

Silfra

But back to the beginning: We drive over the back of the North American plate into the Valley of the parliament and stop briefly at a tourist information to put on the undergarments. From here, we continue to the entry point that is called „toilet“ by the locals – I will refrain from asking why. We put on our diving suits very quickly and continue towards the entry point where a steel ladder guides the divers into the fissure. We pull the gloves on, spit in the mask and start the cameras.

Silfra

Silfra

When entering, the air hisses from the diving suits and one after the other feet, legs, stomach and chest get cold. Only the air in the vest is holding us afloat now. I eagerly await for the others to come into the water and do not risk looking down because I want to save this moment for our actual descent. While one after the other enters the water, I take a look at the astonishing rock walls around me. This is where the foundation of earth is, the plates that carry our every square meter of land. Here they come together or move apart.

Silfra

Silfra

When we are all together, we raise our BCD hoses and with every powerful hiss we sink a little deeper, slowly until the cold temperatures cool just our lips and cheeks. The view is cold, blue and breathtaking. Even here, in the small entry pool one will quickly realize how special this dive will be. Even if you still have no idea what is still expected.

The dive starts in a larger pool of about 15m depth. From here it is a few meters along the rift to the south. Over a less deep – max. 1m – section the way leads  into the hall of Silfra. This is also the area with the entrances to the 45m deep caves of Silfra. Large boulders block the way on a regular basis and threaten to collapse at every earthquake. Another reason why it is forbidden to dive into the caves or below 18m.

Silfra

Silfra

After 150-200m you get into the heart of this exceptional dive spot, the Silfra cathedral. Here unfolds the beauty of this place for a length of about 100m and to a depth of more than 20m. Taking one look into the cathedral – where you already clearly see the sand at the end – many divers will actually freeze for a moment because of the sheer wastness of this area. Most pictures of Silfra that  you will find on the internet probably have been taken here.

Silfra

Silfra

At the end of the cathedral, the trail leads one to an underwater beach, where you can turn left into the lagoon of Silfra or to the right were a current will suck you out into the lake. Although there is a bit of a temptation to go right, I decide to follow the group into the lagoon. In here you can also see directly from the entry to the exit point, where a steel ladder helps you get out of the water. The distance is about 120m.

Silfra

Silfra

Overall, I was allowed to experience this amazing place four times, twice during my drysuit speciality course dives and two more times with the tour. I would probably happily cancel every other dive in the tour though, just to be able to dive into the blue infinity again!

Facts about Silfra

  • The Silfra fissure is the real reason why islands such as Iceland and the Azores exist, because they are right on top of it
  • Basically the fissure is  over 65.000km long, it just only surfaces in a few places
  • Not only does it divide the North American and Eurasian but also the South American and African tectonic plates
  • The fissure expands by about 2-3cm every year

In cooperation with Dive.IS.

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