Scuba Diving in Iceland

Scuba diving in Iceland
Scuba diving in Iceland
Scuba diving in Iceland

SCUBA DIVING IN ICELAND

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ICELAND DIVING HIGHLIGHTS

Iceland's best-known dive is the famous Silfra Gap, a unique experience diving between continents. However, there is also some notable shore diving to be discovered along the island's southern shore.

 

ICELAND DIVE RESORTS

Diving in Iceland is exclusively land-based, and there are several well-established dive operators that specialize in cold-water diving.

 Diving in Iceland

 

INTRO TO Iceland

Located just outside the Arctic Circle, Iceland is a small and sparsely populated island nation that offers a one-off dive experience for those brave enough to endure its icy waters. Famous for its volcanic beaches, huge glaciers, and iceberg lakes, diving in Iceland may not be everyone's first choice. However, this prehistoric landscape has a surprising amount to offer below the surface.

Iceland is one of the few places in the world where it is possible to experience subsurface thermal geology firsthand, and the beauty of some of the island's freshwater sites is breathtaking. Most notably, Silfra Gap is a one-way journey through a 230-year-old rift between two continents.

Diving in Iceland

 

Shore diving is equally fascinating, with healthy coldwater sites and an abundance of North Atlantic species that most divers will not have encountered before.

 

WHEN TO GO

Diving in Silfra is possible year-round, however, shore diving is confined to the summer months when the weather is more favorable.

 

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ICELAND DIVING INFORMATION

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MARINE LIFE & PHOTOGRAPHY SUBJECTS

Marine life is surprisingly abundant around coastal Iceland, with varied cold-water ecosystems supporting healthy marine life. Visibility on shore dives is very varied depending on the weather, however, it is possible to spot unusual species large and small on most dives. Some of the most abundant and unique marine life is found in the protected reserve at Strytan.

For those keen to photograph unique underwater topography, Iceland's inland sites don't disappoint. The sparkling clear water provides perfect conditions for capturing unusual rock formations in a variety of bright colors.

Diving in Iceland

 

TYPICAL DIVE IN Iceland

Diving in Iceland for all but the hardiest of divers requires a drysuit. While you will need to be qualified or experienced as a drysuit diver, operators have a large number of suits available to rent. Dive operators are well-aware that many visitors will not be accustomed to cold water diving, and so they offer hot drinks between dives and a heated van or trailer to warm up in during the surface interval.

Silfra Gap is diveable year-round as it never freezes and water temperatures remain the same. So it just depends on the topside weather as to whether you are happy to dive or not! Other sites tend to be seasonal as the water freezes and the weather blows out. Even in the summer, diving can be disrupted due to bad topside conditions, however, most operators expect this and will have a backup plan in place.

Diving is from shore, and entry/exit points are well set up with metal ladders to aid getting in and out of the water. 

 

DIVING CONDITIONS

  • Water temperature: Silfra 35.5-39oF (2-4oC) year-round, ocean diving averages between 39 and 45oF (4-7oC).
  • Visibility: Silfra offers some of the clearest water in the world!
  • Depth Range: 32-131+ft (10-40+m).
  • Diving Difficulty: Silfra is suitable for all abilities, including snorkelers, and ocean diving varies depending on the site.

 

BEST DIVE SITES

Iceland's Best Dive Sites:

Silfra

Iceland's flagship dive site, Silfra is an inland fissure located an hour's drive from the capital, Reykjavik, in Thingvellir National Park. This freshwater site is a rift between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates that is widening by around 2/3 inch each year. Diving Silfra gives divers the unique opportunity to swim between two continents, and at one point it is even possible to rest a hand on both continents at the same time.  The water in the gap has been filtered through the surrounding volcanic rocks for over 100 years to create crystal-clear visibility, however, this has also removed almost all nutrients and so there is very little life to be found. 

Divers enter the water from a metal platform at one end of the fissure and follow the gap between the rocks as it winds to its deepest point at 60 feet (18m). The surrounding volcanic rocks are brightly colored in red and purple, and the excellent visibility makes it easy to forget you're underwater. After 20 minutes of exploring, the rift opens into a shallow 'pond' lined with green algae. Metal steps at the edge of the pond lead to the exit point and a path that walks you along the edge of the fissure back to the entry point. 

Diving in Silfra is tightly controlled and it is not possible to explore without an official guide. The water temperature remains between 35.5 and 39oF (2 and 4oC) year-round, so diving and snorkeling Silfra is possible 12 months of the year. 

Gardur

Iceland's most popular shore dive, Gardur is located an hour south of Reykjavik on the island's southwestern tip. This dive site is notable for its variety of colorful marine algae and giant kelp forests alongside a fascinating topography of patches of sand interspersed with cold-water corals. Divers can discover wolffish, scorpionfish, monkfish, and a variety of flatfish hidden in the sand. There is also the potential for some macro diving here, with nudibranchs and other invertebrates making their home amongst the kelp.

Strytan

Another dive that provides rare access to Iceland's fascinating geothermal geography. Strytan is a huge underwater chimney created when minerals released from a thermal vent hardened in contact with the surrounding cold seawater. Created over the past 11,000 years, this 180-foot (55m) tall limestone tower reaches 50 feet (15m) below the surface and is home to a very unique ecosystem of flora and fauna. Currents here can be strong and it is vital that divers don't come into contact with the chimney as it is a protected natural reserve, therefore, it is recommended for advanced divers only.

Bjarnagja

Bjarnagja offers divers a freshwater and ocean dive in one, where the continental fissure meets the ocean in a 60-foot (18m) coastal ravine. While the water in the rift is predominantly fresh water, it is influenced by the ocean only a couple of hundred feet away. The dive involves some experience in overhead environments.

Kleifarvatn

This is a dive site like no other, located in Iceland's largest lake. Undereater hot springs were recently discovered around 30 feet (10m) from the edge of the lake, and divers can explore the large crater that emits this hot, bubbling water and gas. The gas is released under such pressure that it makes the surrounding rocks vibrate, which can often be felt during the dive. Because Kleifarvatn Lake freezes during the winter, this site is only diveable during the summer months.

El Grillo

In the far east of Iceland, the tiny fishing village of Seydisfjordur is home to the El Grillo wreck, a British oil tanker that was sunk during WWII. This 490-foot (150m) wreck rests between 92 and 147 feet (28 and 45m) and so is best suited to divers with a deep or technical qualification. 

 

 

BEST TIME TO DIVE ICELAND

Diving in Silfra Gap is possible year-round, however, the summer months of July and August provide the best top-side temperatures. Dive operators only offer shore diving during the summer season when weather conditions are most favorable.

Diving in Iceland

There are direct flights to Iceland from both Europe and the USA which means the country can get very busy with tourists during the US Christmas Holiday season and the European summer vacation season. It is vital to book your diving ahead of time as most operators cater to snorkelers as well as divers and book up well in advance.

 

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TRAVEL INFORMATION

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HOW TO GET TO ICELAND

There are direct flights to Reykjavik's main airport, Keflavik International Airport (KEF) from numerous US cities including Seattle and Portland on the west coast, Denver and Chicago, as well as Orlando, Washington, New York, and Boston on the east coast. =

Visitors departing from Europe can fly direct from almost every European capital.

 

OTHER THINGS TO DO IN Iceland

Iceland is a fascinating country to discover, and simply hiring a car and driving through the breathtaking landscape is an adventure in its own right. Drive the island's south coast road past huge glaciers merging into the sea, and visit iceberg lake where huge chunks of ice are washed out onto the black volcanic sand and the sea beyond.

A visit to one of the island's many hot springs is not to be missed, either the famous but fairly tourist Blue Lagoon or one of the remote mountain spring sites at the end of a short hike. The Golden Circle is another popular day trip taking in the three spectacular sites of Gullfoss Waterfall, the Geysir Geothermal Area, and Thingvellir National Park.

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OTHER USEFUL INFORMATION

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Practical INFORMATION

  • Currency: Icelandic Krona (ISK)
  • Language: Icelandic, although most of the population is fluent in English.
  • Time Zone: Western European Time (GMT+0.00)
  • Electricity: 230V, 50Hz 
 

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