It was snorkelling in 2°C water, between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates with Arctic Adventures.
“Greig, do you want to go snorkelling?” I was asked by a colleague, recently. “It’s mid-December!” I retorted. “You must be joking!”
As it turns out, it most definitely wasn’t a joke, and since this is Iceland, it most definitely wasn’t regular snorkelling either. It was snorkelling in 2°C water, between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates with Arctic Adventures. But before my date with the ice—and perhaps with destiny—at the Silfra fissure in Þingvellir National Park, the company’s Black and Blue Tour would first show me fire at the Leiðarendi cave, where magma flowed over 2,000 years ago.
Leiðarendi, meaning “end of the road”, is a 900-metre-long circular lava tube near a volcanic crater south-east of Hafnarfjörður. First mapped in 1992, the cave was named after the carcass of a several-hundred-years-old sheep found inside, which presumably got lost and couldn’t work out how to escape.
When we arrived, we were greeted by a stunning sunrise; the winter morning’s pink and blue hues accentuated by the desolate white-out of the snowy landscape. After navigating the cave’s treacherous, icicle-ridden entrance, the magma-smoothened walls and the ashen floor could be appreciated, with both serving as a reminder of the chaos that once occurred within. The ceiling, comprised of myriad drip stalactites, strangely resembled the wood-chip wallpaper your grandma used to have, only beautiful and igneous, not trashy.
In the second phase of the tour, we crawled through some of the more intricate, claustrophobic formations, before turning off our flashlights and immersing ourselves in complete darkness. When a whole 30 seconds had passed, the group became paralysed by fear that crawlers from ‘The Descent’ would emerge and we turned our flashlights back on, and briskly headed for the exit.
Next came the pièce de résistance. After a short break for lunch and a 30 minute drive, it was time to do the unthinkable. In the biting -10°C midwinter, we layered up, pulled on our drysuits and mentally prepared ourselves for the plunge. On went the flippers, de-misting spit was applied to the goggles, and we were ready to go. “What am I doing?” I pondered.
I flopped into the stinging water and began to float along with the gentle current, face-down, the drysuit acting as a buoyancy. From the moment I disembarked the pier, Silfra’s beauty became apparent. If it hadn’t been so punishingly cold, the sublime, jagged rock formations could have convinced me that I was wearing a VR headset. “I know I’m awake, but it feels like I’m in a dream,” I thought.
When the ridge’s 18 metre depth was fully revealed, the previously turquoise shades descended into total darkness. For a few uncomfortable moments, I snapped out of my state of childlike mesmerisation and felt like I was a naive horror film protagonist, who after being lulled into a false sense of security, was about to be eaten. Thankfully, any ancient river monsters lurking beneath were kept at bay, probably by the terrifying presence of floundering, clueless foreigners such as myself.
Our adventure starts with the black as we explore the hidden world of the lava field under the Þingvellir National Park. The park is located in the tectonic rift valley between America and Europe and littered with quirky, interesting lava caves. Walking down into a cave and discovering the marvels that volcanic activity has created in the past is a trip that everyone can do. The Gjábakkahellir cave is a perfect example of an Icelandic lava tube and is situated in one of the most active volcano areas in the world. After the cave you have time to grab lunch before moving on into the blue and your second adventure.
Snorkeling in the Silfra fissure is our second adventure. The Silfra fissure is one of Iceland’s best-kept secrets, an otherworldly scene that is world famous for its heavenly shades of blue. Frequently rated as one of the worlds top ten dive sites, the Silfra offers up to 100 meters of underwater visibility. The crystal clear water in the deep fissure gives you a feeling of being weightless as you float down with the lazy current. The snorkeling is a relaxing but exotic trip in an environment most will only encounter in their dreams.
- Certified Padi® Diveguide / Divemaster and expert cave guide.
- All necessary specialized snorkeling gear, including a specially made down suit to keep you warm in the glacier water.
- All necessary specialized caving gear including helmet and headlight.
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