We’ve all hear about scuba diving in Silfra – the only place in the world you can dive between the American and Eurasian continental plates, and touch both continents at the same time!
The water in Silfra is as clear as pure air, the landscape is breathtaking and the colours are beautiful. Visibility can be 100 meters plus, in fact, the water is so clean that you can take out your regulator and take a sip of the 3°c cold water, which has been filtered for hundreds of years through the lava. It is paradise, and there’s no wonder why divers come from all over the world to dive in this continental rift between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. But it’s not only scuba divers; this is a heaven for free diving as well, due to the numerous holes and cracks to go through; you can even meet an occasional trout resting.
The unique water clarity comes from melting glacial runoff that is filtered through porous underground lava rock eventually reaching Thingvellir Lake. In total the underground wells that feed the drinkable glacier water to the lake takes about 30 to 100 years to filter the water.
The second reason, the Silfra is a top dive site, is that it is the only place in the world where one can dive between two continental plates, the North American and Eurasian.
The idea behind continental or tectonic plate theory is that geologically the outermost shell of the planet is sitting on top of a liquid mantle or core of the earth. That shell is split up into eight separate plates or pieces that all fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. These plates are always moving (very slowly that is) creating extraordinary natural landscapes and phenomenon such as mountain ridges, volcanoes, deep ocean trenches, and earthquakes
As Iceland lies far north the temperature is not what most divers dream of, there are many things to take into consideration before dipping into the cold waters. In summertime the warmest waters are maximum 14°C and in winter it can go as cold as down to freezing point.
What you will need to bring
- The suit. Drysuit and thick undergarment. Even two layers of undergarment is a must. It takes practise to dive in a drysuit so it is recommended to take a drysuit course before attempting to dive.
- Do not bring your own regulator unless it is made to tolerate frost. Freeflow is a common problem if the first and second stages are not made for extreme conditions. If the air temperature is below freezing point it is a must to test the second stage before entering the water. This is because even minimum condensation in the second stage freezes immediately and can get stuck or even rupture the membranes.
- Remember: As plastic gets stiff in cold conditions, most divers in Iceland use rubber fins.
- Hot drinks and a good buddy.
More things to know before you go
There are not many active scuba divers in Iceland as there are only about 350.000 people. That gives us a lot of space to dive without being crowded and waiting in line. By far, most of the diving tourism evolves around Silfra and there it can get crowded with divers and snorkelers (well worth waiting though), but if you want to explore and go different places, just go for a hunt to find a private dive guide or go with your buddy. However, be well prepared and ask, ask more, and then ask some more – local divers here are nice people and are willing to share experience and give some advice and recommendations.
Don’t worry too much about the cold, as long as you have the right equipment and are well prepared you will hardly notice.