Diving in Iceland, Strýtan, Hydrothermal Vents, Underwater
Chimneys, Hot Vents, Tectonic Plates, Continental Plates, Silfra Fissure,
Nesgjá Fissure, Little Strýtan, Grímsey Island, French Gardens,
Akureyri, Eyjafjordur Fjord, Reykjavík, Thingvellir, DIVE.IS Strýtan divecenter,
In April 2013, Eco-Photo Explorers returned from another exciting expedition. We were diving in the pristine waters of Iceland - The Island of Fire and Ice. Our expedition was hosted by DIVE.IS.
Perched on the edge of the Arctic, the island nation of Iceland is
of the most geologically active places on Earth and contains
breathtaking natural beauty. While most visitors come to take in the
stark volcanic landscapes, visit the thundering waterfalls, tour
historic cities and sites, and hope to see the mesmerizing northern
lights, SCUBA divers journey here to dive in some of the clearest
water on the planet. Dives in Iceland are often focused on exploring
geological wonders, but marine life also abounds in these frigid
waters and there are unique and compelling dive opportunities to
keep divers busy regardless of the interest or skill level.
Iceland lies just below the Arctic Circle, with the small offshore island of Grímsey the only part of the country that actually touches this latitude. Home to hundreds of volcanoes, geysers, smokers, fissures and hydrothermal vents, Iceland presents a landscape that is being formed as we watch. The entire island straddles the rift zone between the North American and European continental plates and in some places you can literally touch the two continents at the same time.
The population of Iceland is around 320,000, with most of the residents living in the main city of Reykjavík. Iceland is a modern country with a rustic feel to it. You will find Wi-Fi and dependable telecommunications capability throughout the country, even in the most desolate of locales.
The Icelandic summer is relatively short (June through August)
and during these months the days are very long and the weather very
mild. Iceland is close to the Arctic Circle, so summertime daylight
is almost 24 hours while darkness extends for almost the full day
during the winter.
Iceland's weather is moderated by the Gulf Stream, and daytime temperatures in the summer range between 53-59°F (12-15°C). May and June are the driest months, but coastal areas, particularly in the south and west are prone to rain at any time of the year. Because of the Gulf Stream, winters in the south are surprisingly mild, and temperatures in Reykjavík are often warmer than those in New York.
However, in the north, and in the highlands, winters can be quite harsh. Be prepared for wind driven rain, heavy gales, fog, blinding snowstorms, shrieking winds, blizzards and frigid temperatures. Temperatures in Akureryi, for example, can drop as low as 5°F (-15°C) even on a sunny day in the winter.
Eco-Photo Explorers want to thank the
DIVE.IS and Strýtan Divecenter staff for
the wonderful memories we shared. We will cherish and share these
experiences with others for years to come. Because of their high
degree of professionalism, their passion for adventure and their
hard work and dedication, our expedition to Iceland was seamless and
a great success.
We highly recommend both dive centers if you are planning a dive trip to Iceland.
DIVE.IS (Sport Diving School of Iceland) is a Five Star PADI Dive Center, located
in Reykjavík. DIVE.IS offers a variety of multiday
tours and single day dive opportunities, along with training and
DIVE.IS is located in Reykjavík 15 minutes walking distance from the city center. Divers can meet at the shop, or at the National Park Thingvellir to dive Silfra. For longer tours, Dive.IS will arrange pickup and transport from the international airport at Keflavik.
Dive.IS leads dive tours to some of the most interesting and iconic dive sites in Iceland. The well-equipped dive shop is able to provide most any time of rental gear for the travelling diver. Using comfortable "dive vans", the staff can arrange for you to visit Silfra, or any number of other inland and coastline dive sites. The Dive.IS staff also provides "Golden Circle" tours to acquaint visitors to the natural wonders of Iceland.
DIVE.IS is the leading Dive Center in Iceland and offers a variety of PADI Dive Courses.
Contact: Tobias Klose
Address: Hólmaslóð 2, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
Telephone: +(354) 663 2858 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Web: www.dive.is
How to get there
is located in Hjalteyri,
nearby to Akureyri, and is owned and operated by
The Strýtan Divecenter is located in the small fishing village of Hjalteyri, about 22 km north of the northern town of Akureyri. Dive.IS and the Strýtan Divecenter often work together to provide seamless tours to the best dive sites along the entire Icelandic coast. Divers can meet at the Strýtan Divecenter by driving about 4 hours from Reykjavík or by flying domestically to Akureyri. The Strýtan Divecenter can arrange to meet at the airport and provide transport to local lodging.
Strýtan Divecenter employs a small RIB for transport to and from Strýtan and the other sites nearby. The boat is docked a very short distance from the shop, and the dive sites are no more than 15-20 minutes by boat. The dive center will also arrange for tours of geological fissures and hot lakes further east and north and will transport divers to this site over land. Dive briefings are conducted inside the dive shop before departures.
Erlendur is a certified PADI Instructor and can teach all PADI courses in English and Scandinavian.
Contact: Erlendur Bogason
Address: Huldugil 25, 600 Akureyri, Iceland
Telephone: +(354) 862 2949 | Email: email@example.com | Web: www.strytan.is
Here we are, at GPS location: N 65° 051.055' - W 18° 11.583'
- Reykjavík has a recompression chamber.
In addition to Silfra and Strýtan, these dive operations can also arrange for dives in northern fjords to witness northern Codfish spawning, explorations of shipwrecks off the coasts and unique dive trips to dive with seabirds off the northern coast.
Diving logistics vary depending on the locale and intended destination. Diving on offshore geothermal vents, shipwrecks or other locations is done via dive boat while many of the geological dives in fissures, cracks and geothermally heated lakes and rivers are done as shore dives. Reykjavík has a recompression chamber.
The Skjaldarvik Guesthouse is a good place to stay when diving Strýtan. Good homemade food, with comfortable rooms.
- The average length of one dive about 30-40
- There is no Nitrox, only air is
- Depth varies depending on the dive location and
- Silfra: 20-60 ft (6-20m)
- Strýtan: 90-120 ft (30-40m)
- Water visibility varies depending on the dive
location and conditions
- Silfra: 300+ ft (100m)
- Strýtan: 50-60 ft 915-20m)
- Water temperature: 35-40°F (1°C to 4°C)
- Air temperature: 5°F to 60°F (-15°C to 15°C)
- At Silfra, a staircase is in place to assist in entering the site
- Dry suit
- Warm dry undergarments (recommend two sets if possible)
- Cold water and ice rated regulators (regulators must have been
serviced just prior to the trip)
- BCD (preferably with integrated weight system)
- Mask, fins and safety tube
- Gloves (three-finger mitts or dry gloves with rings are highly
- Diving computer
- Powerful dive light, preferably rechargeable. Batteries (if needed) may be bought locally
All equipment listed above can be purchased or rented, but we strongly recommend that you bring your own gear. Make sure you double check it before you depart on your trip. You can also read our scuba diving information web page about diving in Antarctica. Please note, this diving information can be applied to diving in all extreme cold water regions.
Possible Dive Locations:
- Silfra: The iconic Iceland dive site, Silfra is famous for crystal clear water, awesome geological formations and the novelty of diving between two continental plates. Glacial melt water, filtered through 35 miles (56km) of lava stone over 50 years emerges in this fissure pure and clear, and visibility extends to over 300 ft (100m). Divers can taste the water during the dive it is so pure. Depths range from 20-60 ft (6-20m)on this dive. Availability: All year around.
- Strýtan: The world's only diveable hydrothermal vent, Strýtan is a towering cone of minerals accumulated over thousands of years as boiling hot water streams from below ground into the frigid surrounding waters of the fjord. Divers will encounter prolific marine life living on the cone, including large Plumose Anemones, nudibranchs, crabs, lumpsucker fish, Wolffish and other denizens of these northern waters. Depths range from 90-120 ft (20-40m). Availability: All year around.
- The Wall: nearby to Strýtan are other geologically active sites. This site is a set of smaller cones, with depths ranging between 60-110 ft (20-33m). Availability: All year around.
- French Gardens: Similar to The Wall, French Gardens gives divers the opportunity to further explore the geologically active landscape, while also finding prolific marine life. Availability: All year around.
- Nesgjá: A large fissure along the northern Iceland coast with awe-inspiring geological formations, large boulders and volcanic rock carved by tectonic forces and flooded with crystal clear glacial melt water. Depths rarely exceed 25 ft (8m) here. Availability: All year around.
- Litla A: This is a hydrothermally warmed river, with hot water streaming out from numerous mudpots and silt pools underwater. The water is warmed to about 65°F (18°C) and this is a welcome opportunity to warm up after cold-water dives. Look carefully to spot large resident Trout. Availability: All year around.
- Grímsey: This beautiful small fishing island is the only portion of Iceland (northern coast) that crosses the Arctic Circle. So when diving at Grímsey, you are actually diving under the Arctic Circle. The sea and cliffs around Grímsey are home to millions of sea birds. When diving, it's very common see Puffins and Guillemot birds dart in and out of your air bubbles! On occasion, 100+ birds can be seen diving together at the same time. Although these birds are quite at home while flying in air, they are just as graceful flying underwater, by propelling themselves through the water with their wings. At times, the visibility can be over 66 ft (20m). Availability: April-July depending of the weather.
- The Wreck of the Standard - In the harbor of Akureyri lies the 197 ft (60m) long and 36 ft (11m) wide wooden ship, called the "Standard." The Standard sank in 1917 and was discovered in 1997 by Erlendur Bogason of Strýtan Divecenter and his friends. The Standard was built in the USA in 1874, but was owned by a German fishing company when it sank. The wreck is home to a variety of marine life and is availability to dive all year around.
|DAN diving insurance is highly recommended for all divers...|
Getting There - International visitors arrive in Iceland into Keflavik Airport. Most passengers do not require a Visa to enter Iceland as long as their stay does not exceed 3 months. Transport to other regions in Iceland can be accomplished either by driving or through domestic air travel. There are domestic airports in Reykjavík, Akureyri, and several other towns. Drive time from Reykjavík to Akureyri is 45 hours, while air travel is 45 minutes.
Traveling to Iceland:
- Embassy of the United States Reykjavík, Iceland | U.S. Citizen Services
- Iceland: Country Specific Information | Entry / Exit Requirements for U.S. Citizens
- Health Information for Travelers to Iceland
- In case of emergency - Iceland's version of 911 is 112. You can call this number within Iceland to reach the police and fire departments, as well as rescue forces. To reach the U.S. Embassy in an emergency, call (011) 354-595-2248. From the United States, you can reach us by calling area code (301) 985-8645 (that is a U.S. number that rings to the U.S. Embassy here in Reykjavík.)
- Baggage allowances vary for each international carrier, so check before you leave! Note: Some international carriers are now enforcing weight and size limits for carryon bags as well what is considered a personal carryon type of bag.
Iceland lies on the edge of the Arctic and, at its northernmost point, is only 30 miles south of the Arctic Circle. Accordingly, the winters are long, generally from September to April. In the depths of the winter, daylight is almost nonexistent and in the summer the days are almost 24 hours long. However, due to the moderating influence of the Gulf Stream, winter weather in the south can be milder than in New York or Zurich. Winter is harsher in the north, with fierce storms, wind driven snow and low temperatures. Temperatures are the lowest in the Highlands.
- Up-to-date weather information for all regions of the country
- The local currency is the Icelandic Krona, but US Dollars and Euro are often accepted.
- Exchange Rates
- Voltage: 220-240V/50Hz
- Primary Socket Type: Europlug, Schuko
- Travel Adapter: Round Pin Universal Plug
- Official Icelandic Tourism Portal | Iceland Tours
- Nesjavellir Geothermal Power Station
- Golden Circle Tour A best of Iceland in one day
- Hverarond Geothermal Area - 360°
- Iceland Webcams
- Local Time (Iceland)
Day 1: 4/7/13
4/7/13, 10:33pm [Reykjavík]
We left New York last night on an 8:40pm Icelandair flight from JFK to Reykjavík. Besides some expected overweight baggage fees, the flight was uneventful. Regardless of how exciting an upcoming expedition is, leaving home is always sad. But arriving to a new destination is always exciting. We were met at the airport by Tobias Klose from DIVE.IS. We then drove to Reykjavík to check in to the City Center Hotel, a bare bones hotel, clean and very European.
We spent the day wandering around Reykjavík, taking pictures and doing some
necessary gift shopping. The weather is clear, overcast and cold.
The dive guides are telling us that the Cod Spawning part of the
expedition itinerary may not happen due to stormy conditions up
north. The plan now is to fly tomorrow to Akureyri and meet up with
the dive operator in the north and dive the underwater volcanic
smokers. How exciting!
Day 2: 4/8/13
4/8/13, 11:46pm [onboard Air Iceland flight to Akureyri]
Today we left Reykjavík via domestic airlines for a 45-minute flight, bound for the northern town of Akureyri. When we finally arrived you couldn't help, but feel how different the weather was very cold (20°F/-7°C), lots of snow covered mountains, desolate, lonely, sparsely populated a lonely outpost just a little over 60 miles from the Arctic Circle.
We were here to dive.
And we dove our first two dives of the trip here, today. We met our dive leader, Erlendur Bogasen ("Ellie") at the airport and shortly thereafter we found ourselves at his dive shop, the Strýtan Divecenter after having checked in at the Skjaldarvik Guesthouse. The Guesthouse is a dormitory style place sitting right on the shores of the fjord. Quiet, rustic, roomy, and very comfortable. As we would discover later, it also features excellent homemade style food! The rooms and facilities are clean, and the staff is extremely friendly and eager to help. By the way, there's also a hot tub.
The Strýtan Divecenter is located in an abandoned herring factory. Once a thriving industry here, it was abandoned when the herring populations dropped and now it is largely vacant. It looks like a cold, cement, colorless, lifeless, foreboding edifice and yet, from here we launched some very memorable dives.
The sites little and big Strýtan are large geothermal vents that rise from the ocean floor to within diveable depths. Like large chimneys, they spew hot water into the frigid sea. We dove our first dive on the smaller vent, spotting Wolffish, Lumpsuckers, Codfish and lots of macro life. All in addition to the marvelous vents themselves.
After heading ashore for a break and to warm-up, we set out to Strýtan, the larger cone. A fascinating dive where we dropped to a little over 100 FSW and then spiraled upwards along the towering chimney.
Our new DUI dry suits (FLX EXTREME) worked perfectly, but after about 45-minutes is all we could stand before our hands were frozen and our bodies shaking from the cold. A very unique and intriguing place.
Day 3: 4/9/13
4/9/13, 5:30pm [Akureyri]
Today we woke up early, so we could leave for the dives site by at 8:30am. The first dive was on a site called "The Wall". This is a place that Erlendur keeps secret and rarely takes divers to. A series of smaller geothermal vents rise from the bottom to about 45 FSW from the surface. These vents are completely covered in marine life, green and white anemones, etc. An amazing dive!
After warming up back at the dive center, we met a group of divers from Great Britain. They were diving with a different dive operator. We had hot drinks and swapped war stories for a while. Soon after, they were on their way and we prepared for our second dive.
Once at the dive site, at a place called the "French Garden", we had as small mishap on the boat. While gearing up, Chris attempted to help me (Mike) with some of my equipment when the boat suddenly pitched to one side. His free regulator smashed into my lip I saw STARS, very painful, a fair amount of blood and some swelling. This was after Erlendur thought Chris was already in the car and almost ran over his foot and after I smashed the car door on Chris' hand.
It seems that we are in greater danger out of the water then in it!
The dive was beautiful. Lots of Plumose Anemones, and great macro subjects. While decompressing on the down-line, I (Mike)became very chilled and began shiveringÂ not a good thing as you wait out your decompression obligation!
The weather has closed in. Snow has begun falling, obscuring the mountains on the far side of the Eyjarjordur Fjord. It's cold and the weather is forecast to get worse. We are glad we did our boat dives today. Tomorrow, the plan is to go to a geological fissure, which is land based. It is weather independent as a dive site.
After and great dinner, we are just lounging in the guesthouse at the moment, generally exhausted and eagerly anticipating a good night's sleep.
Day 4: 4/10/13
4/10/13, 9:45PM [Akureyri]
Today was quite an adventure.
The objective was to dive Nesgjá or "The Crack", a flooded fissure created by volcanic activity. Erlendur has discovered this special site and keeps it relatively secret.
It snowed overnight, but on the way to the dive site, which is almost a 2-hour drive along the fjord and the northern Icelandic coast, we ran into fierce winds, and near whiteout conditions on the road. In fact, at times you could barely see 15 feet in front of the car. Quite a treacherous drive!
Once at the site, we got into our undergarments and dry suit outside the car in some light snow. We then placed our gear on small sleds and scrambled down an icy, snowy slope to the actual entry point. Once there, we suited up into our tanks and made a giant leap/giant stride into the water below. It was probably a 12 foot drop. First time doing a giant stride off a rocky/snowy ledge in full gear!
But once in the water, all the effort to get here melted away as we were transfixed by the rocky beauty we encountered. The fissure is filled with crystal, gin clear water and we made our way through narrow corridors of volcanic boulders. It was ethereal. It felt like flying through air.
Getting back to the car was even more arduous. A treacherous up hill scramble over ice covered rocks all while fully dressed in dive gear. Exhausting! And it was made worse by the 9°F (-13°C) air temperature and the blasting winds.
This was an incredible dive! A must see, if you come to Iceland to dive.
Once in the car, we drove about 10 minutes to a nearby farmhouse, which sits alongside a thermally heated river, called Litla A. Litla A is very young river, having been formed in the volcanic eruption of Krafla in 1979. This would be our next dive.
The dive here was fascinating! It's a warm river (approx. 65°F/18°C) made so by geothermal activity. All along the bottom was areas of green and yellow algae, warm water bubbles up creating sand and mud pots and silt pools that shimmy and shake like newly formed gelatin. The depth of the water is very shallow only a few feet but the water is crystal clear. We even spotted some large trout.
The ride back was once again, a white-knuckle ride in whiteout conditions. This time, we drove downhill along the fjord cliffs in blinding snow. Wow!
So today, we dove a geothermal crack (Nesgjá) and a geothermally heated river (Litla A), which by the way felt great after the cold water dives this week!
Great dives, but we are exhausted.
Day 5: 4/11/13
4/11/13, 8:20pm [onboard Air Iceland flight to Reykjavík]
Today was a non-diving day so we took a land tour with Erlendur to see some of northern Iceland's natural beauty. This included lava fields, lava cracks, hot springs, smokers, and majestic mountains. There's an awful lot of natural wonder here captivating views, desolate volcanic deserts and serene underground natural baths.
Erlendur was a terrific host and he went out of his way to show us Iceland's best. He is clearly proud of his home country, as he should be.
After the tour, he invited us to his home to meet his family and to give us coffee and snacks. He has a charming home and a friendly welcoming family.
The weather today was clear and very cold, especially at MĂœvatn where it was especially frigid. The sunshine really helped make the images pop today and the sun on the freshly fallen snow glistened and sparkled like myriad diamonds and jewels.
Our stay in Northern Iceland was well worth the time and effort. Very unique diving, with lots of great things to see, and a real adventure feel to it all. Strýtan Divecenter does a great job and Erlendur is not only a pleasure to dive with but he knows just about everything there is to know about Iceland its waters, its marine life, and all of the unique things that make Iceland so special.
Tomorrow and the next day we will dive Silfra near Reykjavík, with
DIVE.IS. We are looking forward to it. After gathering our gear, we
once again made our way to the airport for a 45-minute domestic flight
from Akureyri, back south to Reykjavík.
Day 6: 4/12/13
4/12/13, 11:05pm [Reykjavík]
mentsToday was an exhausting day. We met our pick up from DIVE.IS at 7:30am and drove to Silfra, the iconic dive between continental plates in southern Iceland. It's one of the premier dives in Iceland and was one of our main objectives for this expedition.
The weather was bitterly cold today at the site it was no warmer than 15°F (-9°C) and probably colder, with a biting wind.
We suited up and descended down a convenient staircase into the rocky crack below. Silfra is breathtaking! The water clarity is virtually unlimited. The dive through the "fissure" with beautiful rock formations and incredibly blue water is unparalleled. Still, we found the dive today somewhat frustrating since we were diving with new dry suits and undergarments we needed to play around with our weight to find the sweet spot. Also, it was guided tour with other divers and at times we felt a little rushed and didn't have enough time to set up photos the way we wanted. That said, we feel that we got some good shots, but it would be nice to have a little more time for setups.
At the end of the "fissure", you emerge into a shallow lagoon called the "Blue Lagoon", and then proceed to an exit point. From there, it's an arduous 300 yard walk back to the vehicles which was made in full gear and was a killer for aging bodies! It was really physically taxing.
After the dive, the gear literally froze up on us, the fresh water flash freezing in the arctic air. It was quite an effort to undress and get warm. We needed to pour warm water over our hose connectors and BCD buckles so we could remove our gear.
Tomorrow we will return to Silfra for a private photo shoot. I think we have a better sense now of how to approach this dive logistically and photographically.
Later in the day we joined a "Golden Circle" tour, which brought us to dramatic waterfalls, historic churches, amazing geysers, a dormant volcano and some awe-inspiring scenery. Bitter cold the whole time, but great fun nonetheless. Iceland certainly has a lot to offer.
Day 7: 4/13/13
4/13/13, 9:18pm [Reykjavík]
Today was our final dive day in Iceland. Again, the day dawned clear and very cold. At Silfra, our dive site, the temperature was 10°F (-12°C) with a ripping wind. Wind chills must have been close to 0°F (-18°C).
We were on a private tour with DIVE.IS and we were able to get to Silfra before any other visitors. Our dive guide was Guðjón Benfield. The dive again is spectacular, with unbelievable visibility. There is a current through Silfra and buoyancy is critically important so that you don't disturb the bottom and destroy visibility. We got lots of quality images today we are pretty certain we've achieved our photographic goals for the expedition.
Guðjón is a great guide and it was a pleasure diving with him.
After the dive, we brought our gear to the dive shop to dry overnight. DIVE.IS is a modest dive shop with a terrific staff, lots of equipment and a comfortable place for training and education.
After arranging for the care of the gear, we returned to the hotel, took a long walk around Reykjavík and grabbed dinner. Now is the time to pack and prepare for the trip home.
The adventure is almost over and we hope to return in the near future.
2013 Article & Cover Release
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