Iceland is hot right now — for divers, the land of ice and fire offers special challenges, and equal rewards.
THIS LAND OF FIRE AND ICE SHELTERS MANY UNKNOWN AND NEVER-DIVED SPOTS, PLUS A FEW SPECIAL PLACES THAT CAN BE DIVED ENDLESSLY, ALWAYS PRESENTING SOMETHING FRESH AND NEW
PERCHED ON THE EDGE OF THE ARCTIC, Iceland is one of the most geologically active places on Earth. Home to hundreds of volcanoes, geysers, smokers, fissures and hydrothermal vents, it straddles the rift zone between the North American and European continental plates and lies just below the Arctic Circle, with the small offshore island of Grímsey the only part of the country that actually touches that latitude. Most visitors come to take in the stark volcanic landscapes, visit the thundering waterfalls, tour historic cities, and hope to see the mesmerizing northern lights vanishing in a kaleidoscope of green and red. Divers journey here to submerge in some of the clearest fresh water on the planet.
Iceland is a country of contrasts. Above and below we feel the power of nature, amplified by the clarity of the air and water, which reflects the contrast of colors and scents. Blue is the natural color of the purest water and sky I’ve ever seen. Cold, wet and slow, it fills the freshwater fissures, distinctly different from the red warmth, fire and intensity of active lava flows from countless volcanoes (although many more are dormant). The black of basalt rocks and the darkness of the long winter nights are in total contrast to the pure white of the untouched snow covering the glaciers, the whippedcreamlike clouds running in a pure blue sky, and the almost 24 hours a day of shimmering light in June.
Floating on Earth’s mantle, where continental plates meet and drift apart, Iceland is in never-ending motion, inspiring visitors to explore its most remote locations. At the same time, Icelanders respect and value time to relax, contemplate, and converse over a good meal. It’s a world worth exploring, from its famous and iconic places to the ones that are kept secret in the hearts of Icelanders.
With luck, I bump into an Icelander who knows this country like the back of his hand, a world traveler who yearns to share the wonders of his island. From Davíð Sigurþórsson I happily discover that Iceland is more than famous Silfra and Strýtan — and I learn that those iconic places are more than just the classic images we have all admired.
Crystal-clear blue is the dominant color of freshwater dives in Iceland. The best-known, Silfra and Davíðsgjá, are the two divable rifts in Thingvellir National Park, but there’s also the gem of Nesgjá, in the north of Iceland, and other unnamed spots.
Silfra is a large freshwater spring — about 16 by 32 feet wide, 20 to 40 feet deep and more than 650 feet long — where water from the nearby glacier Langjökull surfaces and runs into the lake Thingvallavatn. It’s the most crowded dive spot in Iceland in the
A diver inside the volcanic crack Nesgjá; below left, Goðafoss, known as the “Waterfall of the Gods”; a wolf eel at Little Strýtan. Previous pages: A composite shot brings together the topside and underwater thrills of heli-diving.