Iceland Adventures: Snorkeling in a Glacier Lake

February 28, 2013 | By

Silfra_cathedral_Peter_R2When people think of Iceland, a couple of things come to mind: snow and volcano eruptions. Both are true at times, but there is also a great deal of adventure to enjoy in this amazing country, whether you travel in winter or summer.

One of the most interesting adventures I experienced on my trip to Iceland in February was snorkeling in a glacier lake known as the Silfra Rift, between the European and North American tectonic plates. As they pull apart, the rift becomes larger from the water that seeps through lava from the Langjokull Glacier over 30 miles away. The water is the purest you will find, since it has been filtered over decades as it drizzles and pushes its way into the rift. The clarity was incredible and we were encouraged to take a taste

Stuffing ourselves into fluffy snowmobile type suits was not too difficult. However, wedging into dry suits with those suits on was more challenging. Covering my head with a hood and feet with boots, I was almost choking and felt a tight squeeze on my wrists. My suit was a little different from the rest – more like a wetsuit with tight rubber, compared to a waterproof, canvas-type, looser style the others had. I was assured that mine was the “cool” suit. We squatted and did a type of tai chi to be sure the air pushed out of the suit. Staying warm and dry was the key. We grabbed a mask and pair of flippers, thinking we were crazy to do this, and off we went into the clear, fresh water at 36 degrees Fahrenheit. (I think the air was warmer.)

Our snorkels stayed pretty clear and allowed us to see the rock formations, ledges, lava walls and occasionally, the close sandy bottom. In my case, the water penetrated my dry suit – I guess that is why it was the “cool” suit…  The icy water on my forehead reminded me of an ice cream headache, but was soon forgotten as I glimpsed the scenery below. If you imagine the Grand Canyon filled with water (but on a MUCH smaller scale) you could understand the scenery we viewed, being careful not to disturb anything. It was breathtaking.

The 50 minute snorkel seemed much shorter as we followed our leader through the beautiful forms and canyons, enjoying this peaceful experience. When the time came to climb out of the water, we were almost reluctant, since the silence of the journey had penetrated our minds and relaxed us in a way that is difficult to explain. Ethereal?

Try something new and different and enjoy Iceland and all it has to offer. Adventure awaits.