Snorkelling in a Blizzard

All too soon, it was my last day in Iceland. The five days flew by far too quickly and I was in no way ready to leave. I have enjoyed travelling all over Europe, but I can only name two or three places I have visited that I have loved so much that I have actually wished I could stay indefinitely.

Reykjavik is one of those places.

So since it was my last day, I was determined to make the most of it! It was time to actually do the very thing I had come to Iceland for, snorkel Silfra.

Silfra is a tectonic fissure in Þingvellir National Park, where the Eurasian and American tectonic plates meet. You can snorkel between these plates and touch both continents at the same time.

Not only that, but Silfra offers some of the greatest water visibility in the world. Despite it being significantly colder in the winter months, the decreased sunlight results in less glare and reflection coming off the water, so water visibility is about 150m in winter as opposed to about 100m in the summer months. So despite it being a touch more physically demanding due to the pretty intense cold, winter is the best time of year to get in there! There are also scuba diving trips for those with scuba certification, but snorkelling is pretty fantastic too.


I went out in a small group of only five people (myself included) and that was a really good sized group. Of course I had chosen the coldest day of my trip to go snorkelling though. It was pretty much a veritable blizzard!

After we got into Þingvellir park, it was time to suit up! This proved to be substantially more difficult than I had anticipated. Getting into the teddy bear suit (basically a fitted sleeping bag) was not too hard, but then getting the dry suit over the top of that? Pretty much impossible. If it weren’t for the big British men who essentially held up the suit as I fell into it from the side of the van, I probably wouldn’t have managed it.

On a summers day, I don’t think I would have had anywhere as much trouble, but on a day in winter when it was -10 degrees celsius with wind speeds of 40m/s, good luck using your hands in an even a semi efficient way. I think it would have to be hands down the coldest I have ever been in my life. My body was okay, the teddy bear suit was pretty effective, but my hands literally turned blue. I could barely feel them, and getting them to do even the most basic of motor skills was incredibly difficult.

Once I had successfully gotten into the dry suit, the tour guide came up to me and said this:

“You have a strange body. The suit fits you perfectly everywhere except your neck. You have a very skinny neck. I will need to put a collar on you.”

He then proceeded to literally put a collar around my neck, and that was certainly an unexpected part of the day.


Then it was finally time to get into the water! It was a pretty cold 100m walk to the entrance, and I was eager to get in. Everyone else on the tour was worried about how cold the water would be, but with how cold and windy it was out in the open I had a feeling it would actually be warmer in the water; and surprisingly, I was right!

I was the first to get in, so I got to entertain everybody else by awkwardly waddling my way down the steps with my big flippers on. Once I got in up to my knees, I bent over to look in the water.


Amazing. Clear. Blue. Cerulean. Turquoise. Every shade of blue imaginable. The purest water I had ever seen. It was like leaving the real world and entering a fantasy.

The 45 minutes we spent in the water was absolute perfection. The swim itself is not physically demanding in the slightest, so it is easy to really enjoy the entire experience. I even made sure to drink some of the water, as it is literally just water from a melted glacier, it is the purest water I will most likely ever drink.


After getting back to my hostel and warming up with some hot chocolate and biscuits, I met a group of British girls and their one male friend and ended up gatecrashing their birthday celebrations! They invited me out to dinner with them, and seeing as it was my last night I wasn’t going to say no.

We ended up going to a restaurant called Fishmarket. It didn’t sound overly fancy so the prices on the menu were definitely a surprise and a half. I hadn’t done much in the way of splurging in Iceland so I decided to say bugger it and get a fancy dinner. I proceeded to eat hands down the greatest seafood of my entire life. I started with a lobster soup and then followed it with some incredible sashimi.



The lobster soup certainly didn’t look like much but wow was it amazing. It was a fantastic way to finish off my incredible time in Iceland, and I know that I will be back very soon.


So what do you think? Would you be keen to snorkel at Silfra?


Getting to Reykjavik: This is a major hub between Europe and North America, but I highly recommend Iceland Air for reliable flights and connections
Loft Hostel: This is my favourite backpackers in all of Reykjavik, click here for more info
Camera: Images captured with an iPhone 4S and a Nikon Coolpix
Remember: When I wrote this post Iceland was still very under the radar. It has now grown into a hugely popular destination for tourists – to avoid the crowds, I recommend visiting in the winter months

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20-something year old Australian backpacker writing her way around the world.

32 thoughts on “Snorkelling in a Blizzard

  1. I’d love to snorkel at Silfra. The water is so crystal clear it’s like you’re in another world! We have glacial lakes here in British Columbia, but I haven’t snorkeled in them just yet. The food you posted looks amazing.. OMG.. I am jealous! XD

      1. I’m thinking dog sledding and blue lagoon are musts! I might do the midnight dog sledding so I can try and see the Northern Lights too!

  2. Amazing! The idea of touching both continents at once, and underwater in a blizzard no less! Wow, it just gives me goosebumps. I love that kind of stuff!

  3. This looks amazing… Iceland is one of the countries at the very top of my places to visit and snorkelling at Silfra just got on the bucket list as well. Such a lovely post, Ellen!

    1. Thankyou! I’ll be heading back to Iceland in September so there may be some more bucket list additions later in the year 😊 Iceland is just amazing!

  4. What a fun adventure to read about! I have to admit one thing: you’re a braver lady than I to snorkel in such a cold place. I’ve always thought of myself as courageous, but truth be known, when it comes to cold weather — I’m a wimp. I loved the turquoise water in the picture and the whole story line. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Hi Ellen, looks like you have had yet another amazing adventure. We have only snorkelled in the balmy waters of the Great Barrier Reef so being in the dry suit would be very different. Your seafood dinner sounds excellent too. Cheers, Mark

  6. Brings back memories of being at Gullfoss in Winter with a temperature of – 20 plus wind chill. I can so totally relate to the hand inefficiency. My fingers found it immensely difficult to press the shutter on my digital camera and the shortened life span of my video camera batteries in such intense cold was also an eye opener for an Aussie. I had pain in my earlobes and fingertips that I have never anticipated. But I love the cold and rain and it sounds like you do too!

  7. I’m heading to Iceland in 3 weeks and we are snorkeling Silfra the first day we get there!! I’m so excited. Any suggestions on how to get photos like the beautiful pictures you took?

    1. Buy a cheap and cheerful underwater camera! You can get decent ones by Nikon for around $100 and they do the job really well! Enjoy your adventures!

  8. I’m so excited to be going to Iceland in the next few weeks. I already have my snorkel trip to Silfra booked. Any tips for the trip or suggestions on how to take such amazing pictures as you did?

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