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July 17, 2013 / Jim Fenton

Iceland Day 3: Snorkeling, Waterfalls, and Geysers

July 3, 2013

Today is our first day “on the road”. We got up early to check out of the apartment, grab a quick breakfast from Subway, pick up the rental car, and get to Þingvellir National Park around 9 am for snorkeling at Silfra.

Entrance to Silfra

Entrance to Silfra

Snorkeling in Iceland? Isn’t it rather cold, do I hear you say?  Yes, in fact, it is; Silfra ranges between 2 and 4 degrees Celsius all year. For this reason, we wore drysuits, provided by the diving company, dive.is. After an initial briefing, we got into our drysuits, a cap for our heads, and neoprene gloves for our hands.

Silfra is a deep crevasse between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. Unfortunately, a scuba group went through just before us, so there was more natural stuff floating in the water than I was led to expect. But the visibility is still unbelievable, and the blueness of the deep water is striking. Our drysuits and the layers underneath kept us plenty warm; only my hands were cold (and not all that cold, at that). The water was drinkably clean; a big difference from ocean snorkeling.

After the snorkeling, we explored around Þingvellir a bit. Þingvellir is the site of Lögberg (Law Rock), where the very first parliament, the Alþing, convened over 1000 years ago. The exact location of the rock isn’t certain, but since we know that they met next to a cliff so the speakers could easily be heard, we have a pretty good idea where it was.

Top section of Gullfoss

Top section of Gullfoss

From Þingvellir, we moved on to two attractions that complete the “Golden Circle”: Gullfoss and Geysir. I’m not sure where they got the term “golden circle” because there isn’t really a circle. Gullfoss, or “gold falls”, is notable for the volume of water passing over it.  Not as much as Niagara Falls, but a very impressive amount nonetheless.  It’s possible to get very close to Gullfoss, which adds to the experience.

Geysir is, as the name implies, a geyser, and is apparently the original geyser from which the name comes. There is actually a field of several geysers, which is a good thing because Geysir is largely dormant lately while one of the others, Strokkur, erupts regularly if briefly.

Our lodging for the night is the Hotel Rangá, a luxury resort near Hella. The hotel includes many amenities, including many hot tubs, a lounge with a billiards table and jigsaw puzzle, and a gourmet restaurant. We had a small, excellent dinner there.

This article is part of a series about our recent vacation in Iceland. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

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