Snorkelling Silfra & Golden Circle Tour
Fully immerse yourself in Iceland’s most famous sightseeing route, by snorkelling through Silfra during your exploration of the Golden Circle. This tour should not be missed by those who want to enjoy the country’s most essential experience, without losing out on a moment of adventure.
The tour begins when you are picked up from your Reykjavík accommodation, and driven to Þingvellir National Park, the first site of the Golden Circle. This is the only UNESCO World Heritage Site on the Icelandic Mainland because it was the original site of the world’s longest-running parliament, formed in 930 AD.
Though the history is fascinating, it is the geology that is likely to impress you more. Þingvellir is located right between two tectonic plates, which are pulling apart. This tension causes many ravines to open across the lava fields, which fill up with springwater travelling underground from Langjökull glacier. Silfra is one of these ravines.
After exploring the park, therefore, you will head to the carpark here and have a briefing on the route you are about to take through the water. You will be helped into your snorkelling gear before your guides will take you to the entrance.
As soon as you put your face under, you will see why Silfra is considered to be one of the world’s greatest snorkelling and diving sites. Due to the long filtration process through the lava, it emerges crystal clear and perfectly clean; the visibility thus exceeds 120 metres, and you can drink the water as you swim. The colours and geology under the water’s surface are incredible, and the journey is made easy and relaxing by a current pushing you along.
After the tour, you will have hot chocolate and cookies to warm up, before heading off to the next site of the Golden Circle. This is the Geysir Geothermal Area in Haukadalur. Famed for its geysers, you will be able to see Strokkur erupt to heights of thirty metres or so every five to ten minutes. While you wait for it to go off, you can admire the many hot springs and steaming vents that dot the area.
The final destination on the famed Golden Circle route is Gullfoss Waterfall. This iconic landmark has come to be a symbol of Iceland, representing its beauty and raw power. It surges in two tiers into a valley, which carves dramatically through an otherwise hilly, rural region. You will be able to marvel at it from several different platforms.
While most Golden Circle tours would turn back to Reykjavík here, yours has the bonus of also going to Kerið, a nearby crater lake. This feature is famed for its scale and its starkly contrasting colouration; the surrounding rocks are as vivid a red as the water is blue.
After enjoying this final site, you will be whisked back to Reykjavík to enjoy your evening.
Add some adventure to your sightseeing tour of the Golden Circle. Check availability by choosing a date.
- Available: Oct. - Mar.
- Duration: 10 hours
- Activities: Snorkelling, Sightseeing
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Minimum age: 14 years.
- Languages: English
- Highlights: Golden Circle,
The Golden Circle is a 300 km route to the 3 most popular natural attractions in Iceland. The Golden Circle consists of Geysir, Gullfoss and Thingvellir.
See this for Golden circle tours.
Geysir is a geyser that gives its name to hot springs all over the world. But although Geysir itself is not active anymore the area features spectacular hot springs such as the powerful Strokkur (spouting a vast amount of water every 10 minutes, regularly about 15-20 meters into the air), Smidur and Litli-Strokkur.
The 'Golden Waterfall', is the second part of the Golden Circle, and one of the most beautiful and powerful waterfalls in Iceland, plummeting 32 meters into the river gorge of the popular rafting river Hvita. It is Iocated about 10 km from Geysir.
Thingvellir national park
The largest attraction of the Golden Circle is Thingvellir National Park. The Icelandic parliament was founded there in 930 and remained until the year 1798.
Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most important places to visit in Iceland, not just for its historical and cultural values, but for also its magnificent landscape.
Thingvellir is surrounded by a beautiful mountain and volcano range and is the site of a rift valley, where the tectonic plates meet, marking the crest of the Mid-Atlantic ridge.
Of particular note at Thingvellir are the magnificent Almannagja gorge, and the beautiful lake Thingvallavatn, the largest lake in Iceland. The popular Gjabakkahellir lava cave is also in the area.
The fissure Silfra is located by Thingvallavatn, Iceland's largest lake, and is famous for its clear waters and popular for diving and snorkeling, as you can literally swim between continents.Geysir,
Geysir is a famous hot spring in Haukadalur valley in South Iceland. Part of the ‘Golden Circle', Geysir gives its name to hot springs all over the world.
Though Geysir itself is hardly active anymore, the area features spectacular hot springs such as the powerful Strokkur, which spouts a vast amount of water every 10 minutes, around 15-20 meters into the air, Smidur and Litli-Strokkur.
North of Geysir are fumaroles, i.e. unlike the hot springs that emit hot water, only steam and gas emanate from these. You may be able to observe bright yellow stains at the fumaroles, this is native sulphur, which crystallizes from the steam. At the southern part of the geothermal area, called Thykkuhverir, you‘ll find various mud pots. Such mud pots are actually fumaroles that boil up through surface water/groundwater and may become steaming fumaroles during dry spells, rather than the usual boiling mud pots.
About 2 km from Geysir is an old preserved natural pool called Kúalaug. One can bathe in it and it has room for 3-5 people at a time, but care should be taken, as the area around the pool is very delicate. The temperature is 39-43°C, depending on how you are positioned in the pool. The water is slightly muddy, as the pool is built on soil, and the bottom is slippery due to algae, so caution is advised.
In Haukadalur there has also been tree planting in recent times and today the forest Haukadalsskógur is one of the largest in South Iceland. Aspen, various types of pine, and other plants have been tried out there and experiments and research continue. We also recommend visiting the tree museum, built in the memory of forester Gunnar Freysteinsson. There are good paths and roads in the forest and the wood is specially designed to accommodate wheelchairs.
Haukadalur has been a church site since ancient time. The current wooden church was last rebuilt in 1938 but the variety and appearance of the church dates back to 1842, making it one of the oldest of its kind in Iceland.
Haukadalur is indeed a historical place. It was settled during the age of settlement and scholar Ari “The Wise“ Thorgilsson grew up there. The first pastoral school in Iceland was also built there.
For accommodation, Hotel Gullfoss is about 7 km from the Geysir area, and closer still is the Hotel Geysir.Gullfoss,
Gullfoss (translated to ‘Golden Falls’) is one of Iceland’s most iconic and beloved waterfalls, found on the Hvítá river canyon in south Iceland. The water in Hvítá river travels from the glacier Langjökull, finally cascading 32m down Gullfoss’ two stages in a dramatic display of nature’s raw power.
Because of the waterfall’s two stages, Gullfoss should actually be thought of as two separate waterfalls. The first, shorter stage of the waterfall is 11m, whilst the second stage is 21m. The canyon walls on both sides of the waterfall reach heights of up to 70m, descending into the 2.5km long Gullfossgjúfur canyon (geologists indicate that this canyon was formed by glacial outbursts at the beginning of the last age.)
In the summer, approximately 140 cubic metres of water surges down the waterfall every second, whilst in winter that number drops to around 109 cubic metres. With such energy, visitor’s should not be surprised to find themselves drenched by the waterfall’s mighty spray-off.
In the early days of the last century, Gullfoss was at the centre of much controversy regarding foreign investors and their desire to profit off Iceland’s nature. In the year 1907, an English businessman known only as Howells sought to utilise the waterfall’s energy and harboured ambitions to use its energy to fuel a hydroelectric plant.
At the time, Gullfoss was owned by a farmer named Tómas Tómasson. Tómas declined Howell’s offer to purchase the land, stating famously “I will not sell my friend!” He would, however, go on to lease Howells the land, inadvertently beginning the first chapter of Icelandic environmentalism.
It was Tómas’ daughter, Sigríður Tómasdóttir, who would lead the charge. Having grown up on her father’s sheep farm, she sought to get the lease contract nullified, hurriedly saving her own money to hire a lawyer. The ensuing legal battle was an uphill struggle; the case continued for years, forcing Sigríður to travel many times by foot to Reykjavík if only to keep the trial moving. Circumstances became so difficult that Sigríður threatened to throw herself into the waterfall if any construction began.
Thankfully, in 1929, the waterfall fell back into the hands of the Icelandic people. Today, Sigríður is recognised for her perseverance in protecting Gullfoss and is often hailed as Iceland’s first environmentalist. Her contribution is forever marked in stone; a plaque detailing her plight sits at the top of Gullfoss.
Restaurant / Cafe
Besides Gullfoss, visitors can enjoy the views from Gullfoss Cafe, a locally run delicatessen that serves a wide variety of refreshments and meals. The menu has options to tantalise everyone’s taste buds; hot soups, sandwiches, salads and cakes. There is also a shop on site where visitors’ can browse and purchase traditional Icelandic souvenirs.Þingvellir,
Þingvellir is one of the most important sites to visit in Iceland for its landscape, history and cultural value.
The Icelandic parliament was founded in Þingvellir in 930 and remained there for centuries. Þingvellir is surrounded by a beautiful mountain range and is the site of a rift valley, marking the crest of the Mid-Atlantic range. Today it is a natural park, listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and considered a vital part of the ‘Golden triangle’ (with Geysir and Gullfoss). Of particular note is the magnificent gorge Almannagjá, which marks the eastern boundary of the North American plate and into which the beautiful waterfall Öxarárfoss falls.
Other notable attractions within the park include the beautiful lake Þingvallavatn, the largest lake in Iceland, the Silfra fissure, one of the world's top dives, Þingvallakirkja Church and Gjábakkahellir, one of Iceland's most interesting lava tubes.Strokkur,
Strokkur (Icelandic for "churn") is one of the most famous hot springs in Iceland and belongs to the famous Golden Circle.
Strokkur is a fountain geyser in the Geysir geothermal area in the southwest part of the country, east of Reykjavik. Strokkur is a powerful hot spring and an impressive sight. It erupts about every 4–8 minutes and spouts water to a height of 15 – 20 m, sometimes up to 40 m.Silfra,
Silfra is a fissure filled with fresh springwater within Þingvellir National Park, and one of the country’s most cherished wonders. Snorkelling and diving in its crystal-clear waters is an experience that is both thrilling and relaxing, and it is now considered to be one of the top five dive sites in the world. It takes around an hour to reach Silfra from Reykjavík.
- See this article on Diving and Snorkelling in Iceland
Geography of Silfra
Silfra fissure opened in 1789, due to the movements of the tectonic plates that frame Þingvellir National Park. The North American and Eurasian plates, which run all the way through Iceland, separate at about 2 centimetres per year, and when they do, tear open fissures in the land between them.
The ravines fill with water travelling underground through the porous lava fields in the area, originating from Langjökull glacier about 60 kilometres north. It can take the water up to a century to reach Silfra and this long filtration process results in the water being both extremely clear and drinkable.
Because the water travels underground, it maintains a constant temperature of two to three degrees Celsius and does not freeze over immediately at the source of the spring. Snorkelling and diving tours are thus open throughout the year.
The clarity of the water is what draws most visitors. The visibility can extend to over 100 metres, allowing you to see the canyon walls and bottom like you are floating over a great cathedral.
The last colour that water absorbs is blue, which means that when you look forward in Silfra, it is as if you are looking into an ethereal, vivid, azure world. The clarity also means that sun-rays refract through the surface of the water, creating rainbows on Silfra’s bed when the weather allows.
Snorkelling in Silfra
Snorkelling in Silfra fissure is a highly enjoyable activity, but you must meet some prerequisites to be able to join. These are as follows:
- You must be able to swim
- You must be over 16
- You must be in good physical health
- You must be at least 145 centimetres and 45 kilograms
- If you are over sixty, you will need a medical waiver
- If you are over forty-five with a history of heavy alcohol use and pipe smoking, you will also need a waiver
The most common option for snorkelling is to conduct it in a drysuit like is done on this tour. Drysuits work with a fluffy undersuit to keep your body free from water and insulated against the cold, making the task of swimming through the near-freezing temperature more than achievable.
While drysuit snorkelling is the most comfortable and popular option, a few tours allow you to go through Silfra wearing a wetsuit. Wetsuits, made of neoprene, allow water to surround your body in a thin layer, that your body then heats up and uses to protect you. Though they grant you more flexibility, they are not so warm, so this should be done by the daring; you will also need to be at least 50 kilograms to snorkel in a wetsuit.
In all tours, you wear neoprene on your head and hands to allow for better mobility, a mask and snorkel, and a pair of fins, all of which are provided on site. The course of Silfra takes approximately forty minutes, and there is a gentle current throughout, meaning it requires minimal energy to traverse.
Diving in Silfra
Diving through Silfra gives an extra dimension to its beauty, as you will be able to look up and see the sun glistening upon the surface as you cruise through the crystal clear waters. However, considering the risks associated with diving in cold water and cumbersome equipment, all who partake must meet all the requirements above, as well as one of the following:
- You must be a qualified diver with a certification in a drysuit speciality, OR
- You must be a qualified diver with at least 10 logged dives in a drysuit conducted over the past two years, signed by an instructor or divemaster.
Kerið is a volcanic crater lake in Grímsnes in south Iceland. It is a popular stop when traveling the Golden Circle.
It is believed that Kerið was originally a cone volcano that erupted and and emptied its magma reserve. Once the magma was depleted, the weight of the cone collapsed into an empty magma chamber, later to be filled with water.
The Kerið caldera is composed of red volcanic rock and is around 55 m deep, 170 m wide and 270 m across. There is little vegetation in the steep-walled crater, save for one wall with a gentler slope which is covered with deep moss. This wall is fairly easy to descend.
The lake itself is fairly shallow and is striking in its beauty. Opaque and aquamarine, surrounded by the red crater walls, Kerið offers a great contrast of colours and a highly impressive scenery.
The acoustics of the crater are considered to be fairly good, and a number of concerts have been held inside Kerið. There is a small admission fee to visit Kerið, 400 ISK per person (as of 2017).Haukadalur
Haukadalur is a geothermal valley in South Iceland on the popular Golden Circle route.
Lying to the north of Lake Laugarvatn, it is home to hot springs, fumaroles, mud pots and geysers, including the famous Great Geysir and the active Strokkur. The area is noted for the vivid colouration of its surrounding hills, caused by elements deep in the earth being brought to the surface by the geothermal activity.
History of Haukadalur
Haukadalur has been mentioned in historic writings as far back as 1294, in which its geysers were described following an earthquake that activated them. Since the 18th Century, it has been drawing visitors to this island, most notably being a favourite destination of Danish royals.
Throughout the 20th Century, images of the Great Geysir erupting at Haukadular began to symbolise Iceland. It’s activity, however, was unreliable, so unnatural efforts were made to stimulate it more regularly, such as lowering the water table in 1935 and pumping soap into it 1981.
These, however, limited the geyser’s long-term activity, so that it rarely goes off today, although, in the early 2000s, it did have a period where it was spouting water over 140 metres (459 ft) high. Even so, the geyser Strokkur is still very active, erupting to heights of 30 metres (98 ft) every five to ten minutes.
Today, most of the near-two million visitors to Iceland will see Haukadalur Valley on their travels.
Surroundings of Haukadalur
Haukadalur Valley is located about an hour and a half’s drive inland from Reykjavík, thus making many sites of the South and West easily accessible. The most notable of these are the other points on the Golden Circle: Gullfoss Waterfall (about five minutes away) and Þingvellir National Park (about forty minutes away).
Pickup time : 08:00, 09:00
Please be at your pickup location in time for your departure. Should your pickup location be at a bus stop and you need assistance finding it, seek guidance in your Hotel's reception or contact your tour provider directly.
Free hotel pick up and return
Guided snorkeling trip
All necessary equipment
Hot choclate and cookies after Snorkeling in Silfra
Entrance fee of ISK 1.000,- into Silfra
Guided tour to Gullfoss & Geysir
What to bring:
Suitable clothes for the weather of the day
Contact lenses if you wear glasses
Snorkeling Silfra Medical Statement | The Medical Statement Form will be emailed to you when you have completed your booking
Good to know:
This tour is not suitable for pregnant women. Please note that should you have any neurological, circulatory or respiratory problems or underlying diseases, battled any illnesses or have any physical problems you might have to turn in a physicians allowance to participate in this tour. If you are over 45 and partake/have partaken in pipe smoking or heavy alcohol intake, you might need a medical waiver. If you are over 60 years of age, you need a medical waiver. Please contact the operator for further information and application papers.