[ICELAND 2015] Day 8: Snorkelling in Silfra & Aurora Hunt

Today would be my last day in Iceland, and I've saved the best activity for last.

When I googled for activities to do in Iceland, I stumbled upon a blog detailing their Silfra snorkeling trip at Thingvellir Park. What caught my interest about this seemingly innocuous snorkeling trip was the fact that you would literally be swimming between two continents!

Due to Thingvellir's unique geological formation, the Thingvellir Park houses the North American and the Eurasian tectonic plates, which drifted apart and became known as the Silfra ridge. The crystal clear water at the Silfra lake came from an underwater spring, and yes you can drink the water if you wish to do so - be warned though, the water itself maintains a constant temperature of 2-4 C all year round so the drink would be a cold one!

I wasn't going to be missing the chance to swim through two continents, even though it's winter! Yep, you read that right, you can go snorkelling or even scuba diving in Iceland during winter!

I was picked up by Arctic Adventures at my hostel early in the morning - to my surprise, I met up again with one of my fellow travellers from yesterday's South Coast tour, Haley! Another two girls who came from the UK joined us for the trip and we made our way to Thingvellir.

The winter wonderland scenery still awes me - another beautiful day :)
When we got there, we met with our snorkelling guides who gave us a briefing on what we were to expect during our little underwater journey.

And then it was time for the hardest part of the tour: putting on our drysuits.

All the blogs I've read on the Silfra snorkelling tips and tricks couldn't prepare me for the drysuit, tbh (and I've read up on a lot). I mean, first things first: in winter, make sure you have enough layers for you to survive obvs. On this particular day, I wore two layers of thermal and a layer of wool socks - I forgot about gloves because I was an idiot. To be safe you could even wear two layers of socks!

But again, nothing could truly prepare you for the experience of putting on the damned drysuits. I have a love-hate relationship with it because the suit keeps you warm and toasty, but the ordeal of putting it on was so excruciatingly embarrassing. I needed help from two men just to put them on!!! Suffice to say, give up about feeling embarrassed and awkward about it and just accept all the help you can get because frankly, you're gonna need it.

Also, it would be helpful to bring another layer of clothes just in case your drysuit doesn't work all that well and you do get wet (I've heard it happened to Haley, but luckily only my headscarf got slightly wet and it wasn't that bad, it dried up in like 5 minutes or so).

Speaking of Haley, hi! And yes that's the drysuit we had to put on.
After we all finally got through the ordeal of putting on these penguin suits, we made our (slippery) way to the lake!

Let's start the swim! (Richard, our instructor, is the one in the red beanie cap. Hi Richard!)
When I first got into the water, I was surprised to find how strong the current of the lake was. We were warned that at some of point of the swim we would have to fight the current and follow the snorkelling path, so that was something to keep in mind.

I'm a pretty good swimmer if I do say so myself (lol) and I've had my fair share of snorkelling in the open seas, but I felt pretty exhausted trying to swim against the current - we were only in the water for 45 minutes, but with the current and the cold it definitely felt longer than that.

Self-professed good swimmer coming through!
The swim through the Silfra ridge felt surreal (I've had a lot of surrealistic experiences in Iceland). The drysuit thankfully kept me warm throughout the swim, but your face and hands are exposed to the cold (even though you're given gloves, your hands do get cold), which is a shocking reminder of how cold the waters is throughout the year.

Everything underwater was in shades of blues and greens, and the faux-silence would make you feel as if you're there alone if it weren't for the other flapping fins in the area. There are no fishes or corals to be found here; there are only rocks from the two tectonic plates, which is honestly the main attraction. Visibility in the water was spectacular, and yes I did take a gulp or two of the waters  - tasted refreshing ;) (God I hope everyone kept to the rules and no one peed in their drysuits, lol.)

If you were to go scuba driving through the Silfra Cathedral, the experience would be amazing.

The stairs signifies the end of your snorkelling. 

Getting out of the lake and getting onto the icy platform was an experience in itself lol, and yes you will somehow or rather get stuck on the icy railing or stairs.

Getting out of the drysuit was as "fun" as it was getting in, so again I had help from Arctic Adventures' finest men (thanks Richard & Isaac, two frostbitten thumbs up!).

After the awesome snorkelling session, we were dropped off at our respective hotels, and I went back and crashed on my hotel bed - I'm unashamed to say that the rest of the evening was spent chilling on my bed because I've had 7 packed days full of adventure and I deserve a rest dammit - before I get ready for my last aurora hunt tonight.

Also it was snowing, and snow always want to make me curl up in bed
Who wouldn't want to sleep in this kind of bed during a snowstorm?

My last tour in Iceland was with Gateway to Iceland - initially, my BLA friends had booked an independent Northern Lights tour with them, as they had no booking fee and an excellent refund policy. Due to inclement weather and low probability of seeing the lights a few nights before this, the company had cancelled the tour for the previous 5 nights. I was lucky that my last night showed excellent probability of seeing the lights (low cloud cover aka clear skies, high aurora activity on the meter), and so our tour guide picked us all up and I made our way once again to Thingvellir Park.

My last night in Iceland made me sad as I would have to make my way back to Amsterdam tomorrow and leave this wondrous island and its beautiful landscapes behind - it seems that the country was determined to show her beautiful sides on the last 3 days, and I was again blessed to see the aurora dancing in the skies.

Lucy in the sky with diamonds~

I heard over the next few days there would be a severe snowstorm in Iceland - in fact, it was one of the worst snowstorms Iceland has ever experienced in 25 years! Thankfully my flights weren't cancelled due to the snowpocalypse and I narrowly escaped being stranded in Iceland (although tbh I wouldn't have minded too much if it meant I could see more of Iceland :P Probably not so during a snowstorm though...) and so I made my way to Amsterdam the next morning.

As a bonus, here's a video I made of my Iceland trip :D

Iceland 2015 (wanderlustraveller) from Nadirah on Vimeo.

Go to Day 7 (Ice Caving & Jökulsárlón Lagoon)  | Go to [Netherlands 2015] Day 8-11 (Amsterdam)