Join us for a once in a lifetime chance to swim between the continents
I always imagined that my first time snorkelling would take place in warm water off the coast of some Caribbean paradise—probably listening to Sean Paul, preferably with Sean Paul. Surely not in 2°C water in Iceland with a company called Arctic Adventures, in weather that can best be described as ‘Icelandic’. I would look for turtles and fear losing a leg to a shark attack, but how fortunate that instead I got to do it in Silfra in Þingvellir.
Silfra is one of Iceland’s most remarkable spots. The water in the river is so transpicuous that you almost forget that it’s there. I will probably never go into space (unless the world continues its descend into madness and we all need to leave Earth) and, therefore, will not get to fly around in zero gravity, so letting Silfra’s gentle stream float me on is without a doubt the closest I will get.
With depths of up to 18 metres and perfect visibility, my fear of heights kicked in as I entered the water. The river is a haunting blue and alien like green algae covers the underwater banks, with occasional strips breaking off and dancing away in front of your eyes.
I am much to anxious to meditate—I’d fear that clearing my mind would cause me to lose it—but snorkelling in Silfra is like a brutalist form of meditation. If Goethe had written a book on mindefulness it would be something a kin to the experience. Harsh, bare rocks and boulders cover the bottom and the only noise is the sound of your breathing.
The water is so cold that if it wasn’t for my double layered suit, it would take just minutes to turn my unreal experience into a Leonardo DiCaprioesque catastrophe. But what also makes Silfra unique is that it is the divergent tectonic boundary between North America and Europe. Every year it expands by 2 cm, as the Old and the New World drift a part—only Trump causes a bigger divide between the two continents.
The second part of the tour of Þingvellir took me underground into the Gjábakkahellir cave, which was formed by a volcanic eruption that took place around the time humans domesticated the cow. The 9000 years old lava tube is filled with brutalist rock and ice formations, and the walls are dotted with strangely coloured formations that could easily be mistaken for shiny silver, but are in fact ancient bacteria that live off water that drips through small cracks in the lava rock.
The high point of the subterranean trip (or low point in this case) was experiencing total and utter darkness. We sat down, turned off our lanterns and all light left our world. As you would say in Icelandic: “ég sá ekki rassgat” (lit: I didn’t see an asshole). This was only the third time in my life that I have wanted to be a bat.
The tour was one of the better ones I’ve done in Iceland and I’ve recommended it to anyone who has been willing to listen (which in my case are not that many).
Þingvellir is one of only two Unesco World Heritage Sites in Iceland—the other being the island of Surtsey—and it was here where a group of Norwegians fleeing religious persecutions founded the world’s oldest uninterrupted parliament in 930. And as it is only a 45 minute drive away from Reykjavík, you really don’t have any excuse.
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.
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