I deliberated a lot about which Golden Circle tour to take when visiting Iceland. On the one hand I wanted to see as much of this famous “Golden Circle” as possible, and on the other hand my visit was short and I wanted to fit as much as possible in to the time I had. Always looking for unique travel experiences I finally settled on snorkeling in the Thingviller National Park which is part of the golden Circle, combined with a Golden Circle tour by the same diving company. I used Dive.is, and was perfectly satisfied.
My main concern was that I would not miss any of the Golden Circle highlights by including the snorkeling into the day. However the day tour was only made better by including the snorkeling.
Although the Golden Circle Tours are breathtaking and interesting it is a matter of sitting in a van or bus for long stretches and then getting out being amazed by the scenery and then getting back in again. Adding the diving or snorkeling into the mix enhances the day, gives you an extra ordinary experience and the day long tour is more than long enough to fit in the snorkeling without feeling rushed.
The tour starts when you are picked up from your hotel by a friendly guide and driven in a mini van to the Thingvellir National Park where the dive will take place. You dive in the Silfra rift which is a rift between the two rock masses of the American and Eurasian continents. It literally looks like someone has cut a line through the rock with a jaggered knife, and water has seeped up from underground! The gap between the continent plates widens by 2cm every year.
The water is extremely still and calm. Also as with most of Iceland, the natural beauty has not been ruined by crass touristy kiosks or postcard sales men, nor is there any litter or cigarette butts on the ground. My trip was in the middle of winter, and despite the cold the water remains at a constant temperature of 2-4 degrees year round. The temperature is one of the contributing factors to the 100 meter visibility under water.
The guide suits you up in a dry suit which you wear over your clothes and which keeps you dry! It also tends to keep you afloat, extremely stiff and dry. Don’t worry about the fit as you give the company your size and weight when you book and they come with all the right sized gear. Putting the suits on is an experience in itself! Both divers and snorkelers can do this tour, and it is suitable even for the average couch potato. The guide has an underwater camera and snaps away. After the tour you can buy the photos if you choose for an extra cost.
The above picture is not upside down it is a reflection of the rock in the water of the Silfra Rift.
After the dive the tour continues on to the other sites along the Golden Circle, those being the Geyser, Gulifoss waterfall and an enormous crater. I was still left with the feeling that I must have missed something from the Golden Circle if other tours also take all day without the diving. Other tours of the Golden circle may include visiting the Nesjavellir geothermal power plant, which we just had pointed out to us, and a visit to a green house farm where veggies are grown threw out the cold months. We passed the greenhouses and also saw them on other tours we took later in the week.
I recommend the snorkeling or diving, and the company we used, if you prefer you should consider combining a different activity like horse riding, snowmobiling or superjeep rides with the Golden Circle as there is enough time to fit it all into a one day tour.