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Diving in Iceland

Iceland’s diving will have you touching two continental shelves in some of the world’s clearest waters. Enjoy underwater, geothermal chimneys, volcanoes and whale watching.

Diving in Iceland

Quick facts

A special place in Iceland has earned legendary status among the international dive community. It’s a relatively small geological feature where, literally, worlds collide. Massive rifts at Silfra hold crystal-clear spring water straight from Iceland’s second largest glacier. Divers can bridge the gap between the continents and touch the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates at the same time. Visibility can exceed 100 metres/330 feet and one of the prettiest spots, the aptly named Cathedral, is breathtaking. It’s about 20 metres/70 feet deep and 100 metres/330 feet long, with sheer walls. The water is so clear that divers can see from end to end. Diving here is unique and unforgettable, and offers world-class adventure for everyone from casual freedivers to hard-core tec divers, and you don’t even have to wash your gear when you’re done. Travel thirty minutes from Reykjavík and you can dive in a geothermal hot spring at Kleifarvatn Lake. On its shore the scent of Sulphur will greet you, and during the dive, if activity is strong enough, you can feel the pressure from air bubbles vibrating through your body.

Advanced divers, time permitting, can travel 400km north to Akureyri, and the dive site of Strýtan with its 180 foot (55 meter) limestone chimneys caused by coagulating minerals. As you pass the chimney’s funnel at 50 feet (15 meters), your buddy’s image will distort like they’ve become a diver shaped mirage, the blurring caused by the 174° F (79° C) water that's expelled from the chimneys. This site offers some of Iceland’s best marine diversity. Expect to see the wolffish’s 747 jumbo jet shaped face with its fang like teeth, orange nudibranchs, and sea anemones – the ocean’s fluffy mushrooms.

With all that Iceland’s diving offers, you’ll soon forget about your cold fingers.

When to go

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What to see

Unlike many of the world’s diving destinations, Iceland’s dive sites aren’t necessarily about marine life, but more about the unique experiences that Iceland’s waters can offer.

However, Silfra’s crystal waters have boulders covered in algae which float above the rock’s surface like an intricate, neon green spider’s web blowing in a breeze. Amongst the chimneys of Strýtan you will find pollock, Atlantic cod, starry ray nestling under the seabed’s sand, and orange lumpsuckers with their almost frightened expression.

Your dive log may not be full, but you won’t be disappointed either.


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This Nordic country is located in the North Atlantic, just below the Arctic Circle. It’s volcanically and geologically active, and the least densely populated country in Europe. Warmed by the Gulf Stream winter temperatures in the southern lowlands still average 32° F (0° C) in winter. The summer, characterized by the ‘midnight sun’, has average temperatures of 50–55° F (10-13° C) in the warmer south. Warm clothes are recommended all year round, and as the water temperature can be just above freezing, expect dry suit diving as you navigate fissures in pristine water.

The capital, Reykjavík, is located in the south-west and is home to two-thirds of the country’s population. The city was awarded UNESCO City of Literature in 2011. You can walk amongst the brightly painted buildings, cycle out to the velvety Elliðaárdalur Valley, or try on a Viking costume at the Saga Museum. In the evening – assuming you’re not booked in for an early start – enjoy the vibrant nightlife and live music as the city’s residents celebrate the bright sky. 

During the summer solstice you can even run a marathon under the ‘midnight sun.’ Maybe you'll just drink Icelandic beer, eat local produce in its diverse restaurants, and offer the runners moral support instead.

Other attractions

Iceland can be adventurous or relaxing – you can choose. The summer months of May to September are the best time for whale watching, but they are present all year. If you’re fortunate enough to witness water crashing after a humpback whale breaches, the humbling experience will remind you that you’re a guest when diving in the oceans. On a clear night in the darkness of winter, you can watch the aurora borealis – a light show without lasers or trickery, just electrically charged particles entering the earth’s atmosphere. In Landmannalaugar you can explore ice caves, mountainous Mars-like landscapes, lava fields and a volcano.  After resting your tired feet in the geothermal waters of the Blue Lagoon, head back to Reykjavík, sample some Hákarl – fermented shark – and enjoy a panoramic view of the city from the nature inspired Hallgrímskirkja church. The extended daylight hours during the summer months make it easier to fit more into your schedule.

Getting there

Iceland’s Keflavík International Airport is 30 miles (48km) southwest of Reykjavík, and is served by Europe and North America – although some carriers only fly from June to August.

Buses transfer to Reykjavík for $15, and are recommended over taxis ($110). Cars can be rented at the airport, but it is advised to pre-book.


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Note - Travel to any destination may be adversely affected by conditions including (but not limited) to security, entry and exit requirements, health conditions, local laws and culture, natural disasters and climate. Regardless of your destination, check your local travel advisory board or department for travel advice about that location when planning your trip and again shortly before you leave.

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