Iceland: Snorkeling at Silfra (with kids in tow)

One of the activities for which we were most excited while we were in Iceland was snorkeling in the Silfra fissure in between two tectonic plates. It’s the meeting point of the North American and European continental shelves, and is the only place where you can snorkel in the water between the moving plates. The water goes through a nearly-100-year filtration process through all the lava rock, and is thus some of the clearest and purest in the entire world.
You know how sometimes really exciting opportunities are super built up, and maybe even because of the build up, they just don’t really live up to expectations? This was not one of those times.
Snorkeling in Silfra was one of the top travel experiences we’ve ever had.
The history and culture of the place (it falls within Thingvellir National Park, which was the founding place of the Althing – the Icelandic parliament, which is the oldest parliament in the world) is truly incredible, as are the geologic formations. We’d read a bit about both the historical significance as well as the ecological/geological importance and knew we wanted to make snorkeling happen, but we weren’t sure how with our kids along (you must be at least 12 years old to swim in Silfra). So I did lots of research and found a dive company that provided two runs per day. It was tight, but they said we could switch off if we did so quickly.
So we took turns taking the kids around the Thingvellir historical and cultural sites, and going snorkeling in Silfra. It took a bit longer than it would have otherwise, but not a ton, and it was 100% worth it.
I get cold very easily, so I was really concerned about the snorkeling in barely-above-freezing waters in the middle of January in Iceland. Turns out, it was cold, but definitely tolerable. The company was great about providing information beforehand (wear wool or thermals, no cotton, etc.) and providing all the gear necessary. They got us suited up in “dry suits,” which were even warmer and more protective than wet suits. They were definitely a bit uncomfortable and heavy, but became manageable once we were in the water. The current sort of pushes you along so you do very little swimming, but you should be comfortable doing so if needed in the event the current shifts, and at the curves in the river.
We were each in the water for probably 30-45 minutes, but it took about an hour before that to put on all the equipment, get briefed, get settled with our groups, etc. In fact, the coldest part was waiting outside BEFORE getting into the water. But once I was in, it was magical. It was peaceful and quiet floating along, and you get to mostly relax and look at the beauty underwater. I felt a little uncomfortable/nervous right at first, but got comfortable within a few minutes.
Dan managed to keep himself right at the very back of his group, so was the last one out and had the most time in the water. We saw amazing rocks, colors, and, of course, the deep rift between the plates. It’s incredible to think how they are still moving, and how our earth is structured. We’d taught our kids about the plates, and we knew they existed, but it’s something else to actually see the division.


The water was so clear and magical, and tasted delicious, too. It was truly incredible seeing all the colors underneath, and seeing where the plates connected. And our kids were happy running around, and even learned a little about the park in the meantime.


All in all, whether you go with our without kids, make snorkeling at Silfra a priority – you will not regret it.

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