Ever thought about diving in Iceland? You may want to add it to your list. (Dive.Is)
Iceland offers visitors so much: moonlike volcanic landscapes, wispy waterfalls at every turn, a preponderance of trolls and elves (at least according to locals), hexagonal black columns of basalt rock, and of course, amazing scuba diving.
In case you hadn’t heard, the tough little island nation of Iceland is home to some amazing dives — and great snorkeling as well.
Admittedly, my own first snorkel experience in Iceland didn’t start out well, but, in the end, it was an incredible experience that was absolutely worth it.
Related: Meet the Elf Whisperer of Iceland
Situated aside a bog in Thingvellir National Park, we stood in a chilling, spitting, sideways rain. The last thing in the world we wanted to do was immerse ourselves in freezing North Atlantic water. But, we stripped down, geared up, and slowly worked our way down a metal ladder, passing strata of compacted Icelandic sod, into the water.
Covered in drysuit, hood, and neoprene mittens, we felt the cold slowly seep in around us. It wasn’t bad, at first, until it reached the only exposed skin on our bodies. As we immersed our exposed faces into the waters, it felt like we were being pricked with a hundred pins and needles there.
The view makes the cold worth it. (Dive.Is)
But the shock of the cold became absolutely worth it as we started to paddle around, taking in the incredible sites around us. The water was turquoise clear, so clear that visibility was virtually unlimited — or at least it felt that way. Muted sunlight refracted easily through the clear clean water to illuminate every corner of every crevasse below.
One by one our group exclaimed from behind (or sometimes through) their snorkels, “Oh wow!” and, “Hey, look at this!” and the simple, but oft-heard, “Amazing!” It was somewhat comical but, because we were in a bog, our guide simply strolled along the turf next to us, in his jeans and sweater, pointing from his elevated position where we should go next.
We bobbled above magnificent rock formations, dappled in broken sunlight. We explored sea grasses so green they seemed surreal, literally fantastic. We flippered on, forgetting the rain, forgetting the cold, forgetting our own trepidations from just 20 minutes ago — lost in the beauty and majesty of the incredible compilation of black lava rock, shocking green grasses, muted tan rippling sand, and brilliant blue water.
If you’re a scuba diver, then you can take the snorkeling experience and multiply that intensity many times over in Iceland. The country’s most popular dive is Silfra Fissure, which is filled with crystal clear glacial water filtered for years by subterranean lava rock. It’s usually Europeans or North American divers who take the short flight over to explore Iceland’s crystalline waters, but outfitters like Dive.Is have seen divers from Brazil, Australia, Korea, and much of the rest of the world.
Diving Iceland is unlike diving anywhere else in the world. (Dive.Is)
Notes Asdis Dangnyjardottir, office and communications Manager for Dive.Is, “Nationwide, we’ve seen a huge spike in the number of tourists visiting Iceland during the last year — and that certainly includes divers and snorkelers who come to us to have this very unique experience.”
Silfra is a relatively easy dive (enclosed space, slight current, superb 120-plus meter visibility), yet, according to Dangnyjardottir, its beauty impresses even veteran divers. Another draw to this dive is that it is a rift line between two continents. And don’t worry if, in the summer, you’re running late, because the island nation can have up to 21 hours of daylight per day during that season.
The clarity underwater here is unlike anywhere else. (Dive.Is)
Divers can also dive at Seyðisfjörður to explore the wreck of El Grillo, a British oil tanker sunk by German fighter planes during World War II. Other locations include Lake Kleifarvatn, dotted with active geothermal vents on the lake floor, and Strytan, the only location in the world where recreational divers can reach hydrothermal chimneys.
If you’re an experienced diver looking for a new exotic dive location or just an adventurous Joe looking for one of the greatest cocktail party stories ever, you need to consider diving into Iceland.
Check out our original adventure travel series, “A Broad Abroad.”