Golden Circle & Snorkeling Between Continental Plates

After our extremely full day with Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, Diamond Beach, and glacier hiking, we had gotten back to our Airbnb in Reykjavik around midnight and didn’t sleep until close to 2am, but we rallied for another tour departing the next morning. Maddie and I, both early birds who love breakfast, ventured out around 7 to get pastries from this popular local bakery covered in colorful paint called Braud & Co. I got a croissant with vanilla nougat filling which was amazing. 

Our tour on Day 3 was a Golden Circle and Snorkeling excursion. The Golden Circle is a trio of three popular tourist attractions near Reykjavik – Gullfoss (The Golden Waterfall), the geothermal area with the Strokkur and Geysir geysers, and Þingvellir (pronounced Thingvellir) National Park, home of the Silfra Fissure in which we would snorkel. Gullfoss was our first stop, and it’s massive cascading beauty was a true sight to behold. 

We then headed over to the popular geysers in the Haukadalur geothermal area. The famous Strokkur geyser erupts every 6-10 minutes and is one of the most popular sites in Iceland. We waited around half an hour and saw it erupt three times. 

After eating lunch near Strokkur, our driver, a friendly man named Zaho from Arctic Adventures, took us to a creamery in the countryside where we were able to see cows, horses, and dogs roaming around while enjoying homemade ice cream with an amazing view. 

We then headed to Þingvellir National Park for our main event – snorkeling in between the continental plates. Þingvellir is unique in that it contains the ridge between the North American and European continental plates, and the Silfra fissure (Silfra meaning Silver Lady) is right between the continental plates, full of glacier water.

On the left: the North American continental plate. On the right: the European continental plate.

Since the fissure is full of fresh glacial water and is around 2 degrees Celsius, we couldn’t enter the water without these extremely (not) sexy thermal suits, topped with drysuits, a head mask, gloves, and skintight closures at every entrance to the skin to ensure we wouldn’t come in contact with the freezing water. It took about an hour and a half for the snorkeling guides to explain the route we would take through the fissure, show us the various pieces of equipment we had to use, and then to squeeze into all the layers of the drysuit. All the while, we looked completely ridiculous and my friends and I couldn’t stop laughing at each other. 

As we walked to the water, other tourists laughed and stared at us – we looked like weird aliens; I would’ve been laughing too. Once we got in, the frigid water numbed our lips (the only exposed part of our bodies) and we were able to simply float along with a gentle current pushing us through with the North American continental plate on our left and the European continental plate on our right. When we got out, our lips looked like Kylie Jenner, making for more incredibly funny photos. It was an absolutely crazy and amazing experience! 

We took a while to wiggle out of the skintight drysuit and then enjoyed some cookies and hot chocolate to warm up before stopping at one last waterfall, a man made one that dates back to the first settlement of the Vikings. 

Back in Reykjavik, we went out for dinner at Sæta Svínid (Sweet Pig), and I tried some traditional Icelandic food: smoked puffin, Flatkaka (flatbread topped with Arctic char), and Minke whale [shown in order below]. We also got some Icelandic pastries called Kleinur for dessert. It was such a great meal and was definitely my favorite of the trip as I was able to immerse myself in the culture a bit more through the food. 

After dinner we went for a two hour walk outside the city center near the shore, hoping to get away from the bright city lights for a chance of seeing the Northern Lights. We thought we might have seen some green streaks in the sky that were the aurora borealis but it might have just been obscured by the light pollution caused by the houses and streetlights near us. Either way, it was a nice walk to just talk and reminisce with my best friends.

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