Swimming In Silence: A Scintillating Snorkel Between Continents In The Silfra Fissure

Swimming In Silence: A Scintillating Snorkel Between Continents In The Silfra Fissure

Hannah Jane Cohen
Photos by
Art Bicnick

Even in a town as small and quiet as Reykjavík, it’s still easy to get caught up in daily urban stresses: Drinking too much caffeine, staying up too late, and djamming a little too hard. What can someone do to wind down and relax? Going into nature is one thing, but what does one do there?


Water Therapy

One foggy Monday morning, I found the answer to those questions about 40 minutes outside Reykjavík in Þingvellir national park. I was there to finally try out Arctic Adventure’s famed snorkeling tour through the Silfra Fissure. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I didn’t think it would be one of the most relaxing afternoons I’ve had in ages. Trust me, traveller: you don’t need therapy, or a massage. Nope—just grab a scuba mask and a wetsuit.

This tour is, first off, quite novel: the swimming area is directly between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates on the Mid-Atlantic ridge. This means that, theoretically, if you touch both sides of the narrow scuba path at once, you are in both Europe and America. Unfortunately, as our guide humorously explained to us, this gimmick is not technically true. The plates are actually 30 km apart, so while you are, of course, swimming in-between them, if you touch both sides of the walls at once, you aren’t in both Europe and America unless you have a 30 km wingspan. Of course, you needn’t tell your Facebook friends about this: it’ll still make a great profile picture!

The fissure is a deep, narrow trench filled with clear, ice cold water, surrounded on both sides by dark mossy stone. It looks just a few metres deep at first glance, but it’s much deeper. While I only did some scuba diving, the location is also supposed to be one of the 10 best in the world for deeper dives.


Into The Blue

Back at the park, we change into our warm suits and wetsuits. It’s still foggy and other attendees start voicing worries—will the water be too cold? Will we get sick? Our guide assures us that we won’t feel chilly at all. I feel doubtful—this is glacier water after all.

I’m the first one in the water, and as I submerge myself in icy glacial meltwater, I’m completely toasty and dry. Throughout the whole snorkel path there’s a soft current, which means you can just relax and mozy along while staring at the deep blue—there’s barely a need to swim. The suits also make you float, creating a sort of zero-gravity experience. I splay out my arms and legs, and every muscle in my body totally relaxes. It’s incredible. Even my neck, where I keep my tension, completely loosens. It’s better than any massage.


Completely at ease, I concentrate on the view. At first glance, there’s little wildlife—you won’t see any fishes or whales here, but rather a stony cavern. But as you get used to it, you start to notice more captivating details. Personally, I became obsessed with this orange/pink plant life on the tops of the stones. Was it algae? Lichen? Coral? I have no idea. Even so, these organisms float in the water perfectly straight upwards, covered with little glittering air bubbles. They’re gorgeous. I desperately wanted to reach out and touch them, but I kept my guide David’s words in my head, “No touching!” I wish I’d had an underwater camera so I could’ve taken pictures.

In the days after the trip, I dreamed of going back. The daily stresses kicked in, and there are some knots forming in my neck—maybe it’s time for more underwater therapy?

I’ll see you there.

Into The Blue
Discover the secret underwater canyon between continents that makes Iceland a most unusual snorkeling destination!
The Basics
Snorkel between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates!
Duration: 4 hours with pickup / 2 hours approx if you meet at Þingvellir. Included: certified diving guide, snorkelling gear & diving suit, entry to snorkelling area. Optional: rides there and back, camera equipment.