I do not know if it requires more madness or sheer stupidity to go and voluntarily dive in a 3 ° C water, and be willing to pay almost 300 euros for it. Probably a little of both, at least based on my experiences on our trip to Iceland. Iceland has been a country, where we have been meaning to travel for years. From the beginning, it has also been clear that we have to dive there. Diving in Iceland? I really doubt that is something that most people would consider possible, sensible, nor an attracting idea. But in fact, it is! In Iceland, it is possible to dive in the clearest water in the world – and in between tectonic plates at the same time. If these two factors combined does not make you convinced that this is one of those once in a lifetime experiences, I do not know what will. Actually, Silfra, the only well-known dive site in Iceland, has been voted as the best one in the world several times, and for a reason.
What on earth is Silfra?
Thingvellir natural park, about an hour’s drive from Reykjavik, is one of the Golden Circle attractions, mainly because of a UNESCO-site located there. Here you can find the country’s first Parliament, Althingi’s residues, in where the ruling and the wise gathered all the way from the 930’s all the way until the 1700’s. However, right next to this there is also another place worthy of a visit – Silfra, the rift that has formed after the Eurasian and American plates gradually drift apart a few centimeters every year. The rift is filled with the water melting from Lanjökull glacier and many divers dream of getting to dive in these unique waters at least once in their life. Yes, the water from the melting glacier is literally ice cold. Cold but extremely clear. The water takes some 50 years to reach Silfra after it melts. During the years, it has time to filter several times, thus leaving all impurities behind, so that once it reaches Silfra, it is the purest and clearest water in the world.
Diving in Silfra
Reykjavik has a few dive companies that do the dive trips to Silfa. We did our dives with Dive.is, but all operators’ prices and packages are very similar. The day started from Reykjavik at around ten when we were picked up and taken to the Thingvellir where we arrived at around 11 am. However, before we made it into the water, there was a lot of hassle, questions, wondering, fixing and waiting, so by the time we finally started our first dive, it was already 1.30pm.
Fast forwarding the feelings on the first dive? Okay, it’s not so bad … Wow, what a view …. How on earth does this drysuit work… Wow, how clear the water is…. Oh, I think a suit is leaking – the water is, after all, freezing… (A quick fix on the collar). Wow, what a great place for a dive… I’m cold, could we please move forward faster … Wow, this is a pretty amazing place … Okay, I do not feel my fingers anymore …. What an amazing experience… Finally, the dive is over…Wow!
Jumping into the water, the first feeling was, that it is not so cold after all. Sure, your face is partially in direct contact with the water, so your cheeks and lips will freeze. Luckily the drysuit will keep you dry from the neck below. But your head… It will get wet! And cold. Mainly because the neoprene hood will allow some water inside. After some twenty minutes, I could barely feel my fingers. When we finally wrapped up the dive, I was completely freezing and more than happy to get out of the water. But oh boy, it was still great! Really, a Once in a lifetime experience. The visibility in Silfra is something quite amazing and underwater landscapes very much different from the tropical coral reefs that I’m more used to seeing during dives. And really, it is a groovy feeling to hang in the fissure so that one hand is holding the Eurasian plate while the other one holds on to America. Although, I must say these two look very much the same when looking from close up…
Usually, the day consists of two dives, that are identical. With a duration of about 30 minutes and the depth that varies several times during the dive from 0,5 meters to up to 20 meters, the dives are easy and pretty straight forward. Between the dives, you have a small break and are offered a cup of hot cocoa. The breaks are usually something between 30 minutes and one hour, just enough to get warmed before jumping back in.
Can I dive in Silfra?
Sure, if you are willing to spend six hours of your day, are moderately tolerant for cold water, almost 300 euros in your pocket and have successfully passed an open water diving course. You do not need to have prior dry suit diving experience, although it does make the dives lot easier if you do. However, the two dives are made along an identical route, so on the first dive it is possible to focus more on learning the tricks behind driving with a dry suit whereas on the second you can focus more on the amazing dive site. If you do not want to dive, it is also possible to do a snorkeling trip. Whether you decide to dive or snorkel, it is worth having your thermal underwear and woolen socks with you. Also, before and after each dive, you need to be able to walk with full gear on around a hundred meters between the parking lot and the water.
Yes, it was amazing, but … I’d want to say that diving in Silfra exceeded all my expectations, but I can not. It is undeniable that it is an incredible experience, but my expectations were perhaps still a bit too high compared to what the dive was in reality. In addition, I must say the price is simply absurd, and I doubt that I would go there again. For sure this was one of the best dive sites in my life, but still, almost 300 euros is just too much for me to be able to praise the experience, whether it as rated as the best dive site in the world or not. Still, this was an unforgettable experience, and I am more than happy that I did dive in Silfra and yes, I would recommend the experience to anyone despite the high price, just do not expect it to blow your mind.
And to finish off, I did a small video of the dive. As you might notice, some parts of the dive were indeed very close to the surface, or even on the surface. The video was also taken on the second dive of the day, when the visibility was much worse than on the first one, thanks to the tens of divers and snorkelers before us, who had been kicking the sand and the growth on the rocks off…