Snorkelling & Lava Caving Adventure From Reykjavik
Go snorkelling between the continents of Europe and America and lava caving in a typical Icelandic lava tube on this full day, small group, adventure tour, available directly from Reykjavik. The tour starts with a pick-up from authorised pickup points in Reykjavik at 9 am. Accompanied by your guide, visit Thingvellir National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, situated on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, and drink in the geological wonders and magnificent history of this phenomenal place. Thingvellir National Park holds the magical fissure of Silfra, where you will be snorkelling. The heavenly blue colours and incredible visibility of Silfra are simply a mesmerising sight. Float around the current of the fissure and admire its amazing rock formations before setting foot on dry land again and continuing towards the hidden underworld of a typical Icelandic lava cave that was formed in a volcanic eruption once upon a time. Iceland is worldly known for its volcanic activity so make sure to listen carefully as your guide explains all about the country‘s volcanic history and how these powerful forces of nature can create a hidden world of lava tubes underneath the surface.
This tour offers you the chance to step out of your comfort zone, joining 2 adventures on the very same tour and explore the jagged rock formations of a typical lava tube cave after a refreshing snorkelling adventure in Silfra fissure.
Your adventure day tour concludes with a drop off back to Reykjavik at approximately 5 pm.
This tour is available all year round and is suitable for those in a good physical condition.
Please note that the order of the itinerary can change whereas your day would then start with a visit to the lava cave.
All participants need to be comfortable in water and be able to swim to be able to participate in this adventure tour. It is important to note that all snorkelers must fill out a medical form before going on the tour.
- Available: All year
- Duration: 8 hours
- Activities: Snorkelling, Caving
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Minimum age: 12 years old
- Languages: English
South Iceland is the most popular part of the country and contains some of the most beautiful natural attractions in Iceland, among them the Golden Circle, some of Iceland's most famous active volcanoes as well as the beautiful Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon.
South Iceland is usually divided into the fertile South Icelandic lowlands between Hellisheidi and Eyjafjallajokull volcano on the one hand - and on the other hand the eastern part with the big volcanic glaciers Eyjafjallajokull and Myrdalsjokull (home of Katla) and flattened sands stretching towards the sea.
The South Icelandic lowlands
The South Icelandic Lowlands stretch nearly 100 km from Hellisheidi in the west towards Eyjafjallajokull in the east as a very flat and fertile farming land. From the shore the lowland stretches about km towards the inland. This is the best agriculture area in Iceland. The whole area is geologically very young, mainly of tuff type, formed during the Ice Age by the lava flows of the numerous volcanoes of the area. The area is indeed surrounded by volcanically active mountains on all sides. The glacier rivers of the area have helped filling the lavas with sand and clay, leaving it more and less smooth and fertile. Very strong earthquakes are found in this area as well.
The most active volcanoes of the area are Hekla and Eyjafjallajokull. No less active and not far off, but on the east side, is Katla, which we’ll adress in the eastern part-section. South of the mainland are the volcanic Westman Islands, famous for the 1973 eruption as well as the eruption in 1963, when Surtsey island was formed. Closely linked to the volcanic activity in the south is the geothermal heat found in many places, the best known being the Geysir area, which forms a part of the famed Golden Circle, which also consists of Gullfoss waterfall , Iceland's most famous waterfall as well as one of its most beautiful, located in the popular rafting river Hvita and Thingvellir National Park, comprising three of Iceland's most beloved natural attractions.
The earthquakes of the area bear witness to the fact that Iceland is still in shape. This is further evidenced by the endless number of fissures in the lavas, fractures in the mountains and certain pieces of lands sinking. The area of Thingvellir is the best known example of this, showcasing the continental drift. Thingvellir is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the location of the old parliament, Althingi, (now situated in Reykjavik) and one of Iceland's most important sites.
Another of Iceland's most popular attractions is the beautiful Thorsmork valley, situated between Myrdalsjokull and Eyjafjallajokull.
Natural harbour-sites are hardly any on the South shore, due to sand produced by the glacier rivers. A few towns are found in the area, Selfoss being the biggest one, Hveragerdi is another, then there are Hella and Hvolsvollur, all conveniently located by the ring road. By the shore are three fishing villages; Thorlakshofn, Eyrarbakki and Stokkseyri. Thorlakshofn the only one of those that can accommodate modern ships and ferrys. The ferry to the Westman Islands sails from there. A new harbour has been built on the sandy coast opposite the Westman Islands. The whole south shoreline offers some of the most gigantic braker waves that you are likely to see.
Culturewise, in addition to Thingvellir, we reccomend the ancient bishop seat of Skalholt (weekends at Skalholt further offer rich music life). Also, Iceland's most famous saga, Njal's saga takes place in the South lowlands. We further recommend the large reconstructed turfhouse near Stong and the ancient excavated ruins.
For sports, horse riding is popular in the area as well as catching salmon or trout, hiking, and river rafting in Hvita.
The east part of South Iceland.
This is the area south and east of Myrdalsjokull. The volcanic glaciers Eyjafjallajokull (near the border of the eastern and western part) and Myrdalsjokull, dominate the view. The landscape has been shaped by volcanic eruptions and vast sands stretch to the sea. Some agriculture is found here, however, with the farms in a row alongside the mountains. A few large glacial rivers fall down in this area which also has striking waterfalls, such as Skogafoss and Seljalandsfoss.
Eyjafjallajokull is already well known for its 2010 eruption, disturbing air communication all over Europe for many days. Much more serious,however, would be an eruption from Katla, a volcano in the eastern part og Myrdalsjokull.
Katla’s last eruption was in the year 1918, when an enormous flood of water exploded from the glacier in a matter of minutes, threatening the local farmers of the area. Large amounts of ash and muddy material were brought to sea to form a new land of sand, Kotlutangi, later washed away by the sea. No people were killed in this eruption. Eruptions in Katla throughout the ages have further created the vast sand area Myrdalssandur. Sixteen eruptions have been recorded for Katla since 930 at intervals of 13-95 years and the volcano is being closely monitored, as time may draw near to its next eruption.
In the same volcanic system as Katla (geologically speaking), are the Lakagigar craters, northeast of Myrdalsjokull. Those erupted in the years 1783-84; producing the largest amount of lava known in historic times. The ashes hindered the sunlight from reaching down to the surface of Earth, resulting in cold climate over northern Europe.
In this area – what we call the eastern part of South Iceland -, there are many places worth visiting: Solheimajokull is a beautiful glacier in a walking distance (an outlet of Myrdalsjokull); Skogar has a very interesting museum of older time traditions and Skogafoss is only a few km away from there. One of Iceland’s most famous hiking routes, Fimmvorduhals, starts from Skogar. Southwest of the village Vik is one of Iceland’s most spectacular beaches, Reynisfjara. Together with the promontory Dyrholaey, which is the southernmost tip of the mainland of Iceland, it offers a breathtaking view with amazing rock formations, a black pebble beach, an abundance of birds and the powerful waves of the North Atlantic Ocean crashing on the beach.
Further east stretches the world's most vast sand plain, Skeidararsandur. North of the sand is the fascinating Skaftafell preservation area. At its east end, south of Hvannadalshnukur, Iceland's highest peak, is Ingolfshofdi cape, with its rich birdlife, old fishermen's shacks and its lighthouse. Following the shore further east is the incredibly beautiful and ice-filled Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon. Not far off is the region of Sudursveit, featuring the culture center and heritage museum Thorbergssetur, erected in the memory of Icelandic author Thorbergur Thordarson.
Thingvellir is one of the most important sites to visit in Iceland for its landscape, history and cultural value.
The Icelandic parliament was founded in Thingvellir in 930 and remained there for centuries.Thingvellir 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 Almannagja, which marks the eastern boundary of the north American plate and into which the beautiful waterfall Oxararfoss falls.
Other notable attractions within the park include the beautiful lake Thingvallavatn, the largest lake in Iceland, the Silfra fissure, one of the world's top dives, and Gjabakkahellir, one of Iceland's most interesting lava tubes.
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.
Gjabakkahellir (a.k.a. Helguhellir or Stelpuhellir ('Girl cave')) is a lava tube, located in the area of Thingvellir National Park.
Gjabakkahellir formed around 9000 years ago. With its many beautiful lava formations and ice sculptures, it is considered a prime example of an Icelandic lava tube, offering breathtaking sights.
Starting time : 09:00
Small group guarantee
Pick up from Reykjavik with return transfer
An expert caving guide
Experienced snorkleing guide (Dive Master)
All necessary snorkelling gear, including a specially made down suit to keep you warm in the glacier water
Specialized caving gear, including a helmet and a headlight
Hiking shoes (can be rented as an extra)
Food & drinks
What to bring:
Warm and waterproof outdoor clothing, waterproof pants and jacket, packed lunch, head-wear, gloves, good hiking shoes, towel and a change of clothing
Good to know:
Prior to diving or snorkelling, you will be provided with the document; "Diving and Snorkelling in Silfra Fissure: A Handbook to Prepare You for your Adventure".
This handbook will guide you through the entire process of snorkelling and diving at Silfra, from how to put on a drysuit to information about the fissure itself. The handbook will also contain a questionnaire asking whether you have suffered, or currently suffer, from issues relating to the tour, such as lung disease or allergies to the cold.
If you answer yes to any of these preconditions, you may need medical clearance from a doctor before joining, or you may be refused outright. If you have any queries regarding your eligibility for these tours, please don't hesitate to contact the tour operator directly. You will also sign a liability waiver within the handbook itself. The following regulations must be met:
be at least 150cm tall
be at least 45kg
be at least 16 years of age
be comfortable in water and be able to swim
be physically fit
be ready to wear a sometimes tight & constricting dry suit
not be pregnant
Amazing experience! Snorkeling in Silfra was the high light of the day. Visiting the lava tube was also interesting. The tour company made sure everyone was comfortable on both excursions. Great value for the price!
Great adventure tour. We were a bit scared that it would be too hectic to do this in one day but it was perfect. Highly recommended and great value!
This was a great tour. Our guides were really friendly and knowledgeable. Caving was a lot of fun (and a little physically taxing so avoid if you have leg/foot injuries) and the experience of snorkeling in Silfra was amazing and something that is not to be missed if you have the opportunity.
What a fantastic day, amazing view and visibility in Silfra. As a first time snorkeller it took a little bit of time to get used to the dry suit and equipment but the time spent in the water made up for it. The caving part was informative, got to see all those things that you learn about in school, only this is more interesting with amazing colours and formations. Our guide was friendly and patient with our silly group, and knew the answers to all the questions we asked, regardless of topic.
Caving and snorkeling was an amazing experience. Our tour guide Teitur was the best guide ever ! He made the experience even more enjoyable. We went snorkeling first to experience the morning colours of Silfra. The dry suit was extremely uncomfortable for me but Jack, the guide for snorkeling, put me at ease with my many concerns ! He was so helpful & friendly. The colours of Silfra was beautiful. After, we went caving with Teitur which was just epic - an amazing experience & I was buzzing after we emerged from the cave. I would recommend taking durable, extra clothes & an underwater camera
Putting on the suit in the cold, was the worst, but the underwater view was well worth it, even when a bit of water got into my suit, the proffesionals were there to guide me and asure me i would be fine. The hot chocolate helped too! Wal was our tour guide, and he was awesome! Thanks to the "Guide To Iceland" Crew for one of the best experiences in my life!
The water was very cold but the scenery was incredible. I very much enjoyed seeing the two continents meet. The lava tube was very interesting too. I can recommend this tour.
Awesome excursion! About 30-40 minutes "actual" time in the water. Visibility is amazing! The guides (Wal, Juan, and Hermes) are great! The scenery around the lake is pretty cool. The worst part was putting on the suit outdoors as it was very windy and cold. The best part was jumping in the water and getting to experience snorkeling between the two continents. No need to clear your snorkel as the water is so clean you can just drink any water that gets in. The only body part that really gets cold would be your lips. The less you move your hands, the warmer they stay. Takes about an hour to get there from Reykjavik. The caving tour is cool. However, you go to Leidarendi cave and not Gjábakkahellir...At least in the winter time. The good thing is that Leidarendi is only 20 minutes from Reykjavik.