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I booked a day trip with a company for Raufarhólshellir lava tunnel and Silfra Snorkeling. First half of the day they picked me up and from the youth hostel and took me to Raufarhólshellir which is about 50 km from Reykjavik. Raufarhólshellir tube is one of the longest and most well known lava field in Iceland. This lava tube formed during the Leitahraun eruption and is one of Iceland´s longest cave. Lava tubes are a natural conduit formed when an active low-viscosity lava flow develops a continuous and hard crust, which thickens and forms a roof above the still-flowing lava stream. Part of tunnel is illuminated where standard guided walking tour is conducted but there is an option to do a longer adventure caving with some non iluminated section with a guide and head lamp. Up until the last century, the tunnel was full of stalactites but in the 1950s, more and more people started visiting the tunnel and as a result the stalactites began to disappear and today almost none are left.
We had about 2 hour guided walking tour through some of easily accessable tunnels. At one point for few seconds all lights were swithed off and one can experience the pure pitch black darkness and absolute silence . It was an unique opportunity to get a close look of the impressive forces of nature that emerge from the center of the earth and a guided tour of the wondrous world that can be found just under the surface.
After this we were dropped of at a backery for some lunch and then the second half of the adventure started. We were taken to Silfra in Thingvellir National Park. Silfra is a fissure between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. The rift was formed in 1789 by the earthquakes accompanying the divergent movement of the two tectonic plates. The diving and snorkeling site at Silfra is right where the two continents meet and drift apart about 2 cm per year. Silfra is the only place in the world where you can dive or snorkel directly in a crack between two tectonic plates. The earthquakes of 1789 opened up several fissures in the Thingvellir area, but the Silfra fissure cut into the underground spring filled with glacial meltwater from the nearby Langjökull glacier. The water is filtered through porous underground lava for 30-100 years before reaching the spring that feeds into Silfra. The water is therefore extremely pure by the time it reaches the north end of Thingvellir lake and it allows for underwater visibility of over 100 meters in Silfra. The glacial meltwater remains very cold in Silfra, but as fresh water is constantly filling the fissure, the water never freezes and remains 2°C – 4°C year round. The underwater visibility of the water in Silfra will rarely, if ever, be surpassed. Silfra is said to have the clearest water in the world.
On the way we stopped at a souvenir shop for some coffee and then continued to the Snorkeling site. There we were fitted a dry suite. This requires 2 man’s help to wear, it’s extreamly uncomfortable but keeps you warm and dry and buyont. The Silfra rift occupies in total a relatively small surface area, approximately 600 by 200 meters. The main part of Silfra has been divided into four main sections: Silfra Big Crack, Silfra Hall, Silfra Cathedral, and Silfra Lagoon. The first three sections are deep, expansive canyons, sometimes extending down into dark and uncharted cave systems. This series of impressively deep cracks in the earth is followed by a shallow lagoon with fields of algae. Here divers and snorkelers can see across the entire span of the lagoon, about 100 meters. Although Thingvellir Lake has an abundance of fish species and trout fishing is very popular in the lake, the fish usually do not venture far into the Silfra fissure. The marine life in Silfra consists mostly of bright green “troll hair” and different types of algae that provide a colorscape unlike anything that occurs naturally above the surface.
After finishing the dive , which was an out-of-the-world experience , we had to walk back with our drysuite to the starting point , changed our clothes and then we were given some sweet coffee and biscuits and then drove back to Reykjavik to my hostel.
What a day !