When you picture Europe you probably think about historic buildings, world-class museums, ancient culture and archaeological sites – but what about scuba diving?
Although Europe is surrounded by stunning bodies of water, including the Mediterranean Seas and the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans. Most people think of Pacific and Caribbean locales first when asked to name top scuba destinations.
However, Europe should certainly be on your scuba diving radar as there are many beautiful places to explore below the surface. There are many factors that make Europe a fantastic diving destination. The diversity of the coral, the thousands of shipwrecks scattered around and the amazing mix of underwater life.
Diving Destinations top 10
So, where are the European scuba destinations that should absolutely be on your list for 2018? Here are some truly impressive diving destinations throughout Europe which stand out from the rest due to the quality of their diving infrastructure, their favorable conditions and their unique and naturally beautiful underwater sites.
Just south of the heel of Italy’s boot you’ll find the stunning Maltese Islands, one of the most underrated travel destinations in Europe. There are many great dives on the small island of Comino, including the dive at the Blue Lagoon. This sheltered spot is an ideal nursery for a range of aquatic animals. In the sandy areas you will spot flying gurnards and Mediterranean flounder. In the rocky areas young barracuda can be encountered.
Malta is home to the wreck of the Um el Faroud, considered to be one of the best wreck dives in the Mediterranean. This ship is mostly intact and measures more than 100 meters long. Prepared and scuttled to be a dive attraction and it lies upright on the seabed. There’s also a reef nearby, with plenty of caverns and ledges to explore.
Another remarkable wreck in Malta is the HMS Maori, which sank in Valletta Harbor in 1942. As you explore this sunken ship, you’re likely to see conger eels, John Dorys and other incredible fish.
Our favorite diving center in Malta: Bezz Diving!
#2. The Azores
These Portuguese islands, known as the “Last Hidden Treasure of Europe”, are often overlooked but certainly worth a visit. If the idea of diving with sharks gives you a thrill, the Azores should be on your diving bucket list.
Due to the location between the European and North American plates, the crossroads of currents draws in a wide range of species including blue sharks, tope sharks and manta rays. You’ll see underwater creatures that you may not see anywhere else in Europe.
There are an incredible number of amazing scuba diving spots here, as well as places to buy scuba diving gear and obtain your scuba certification.
Just a few minutes away from the sunny beach of Vila de Praia is the famous dive site of Graciosa island. The Terceirense shipwreck can be found here lying silently under the water waiting to be explored. This is wreck diving at its finest. There are so many fascinating little nooks and crannies to discover within this sunken vessel.
Our favorite diving center in Azores: Best Spot
Italy is known throughout the world for top notch fashion, superb cuisine, centuries upon centuries of the world’s most significant art and history and some of the best wines in the world. It is also becoming known as a scuba diving destination. It has a long coastline, many islands and warm, clear water teeming with marine creatures.
Be sure to visit Portofino Marine Park, which is absolutely packed with walls, submerged sculptures, wrecks from WWII and swim-through caverns – making it a fascinating underwater world to explore.
At the Costacuti Reef in Tuscany you will find a wall that is encrusted with gorgonian coral which drops down to more than 40 meters. Follow it down to the bottom of the sea to find a treasure – an ancient anchor that dates back to Roman times. Peering beneath the sea while diving in Italy not only means seeing into an underwater world, it also means seeing back through history.
Our favorite diving center in Italy: Portofino Divers
Although the water may be cold, it’s certainly worth taking the plunge into diving in Iceland. Most diving operators in Iceland offer a dry suit training session, required for those who want to learn scuba diving in Iceland.
At Silfra you can descend into the Big Crack, which is the split point between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. There will be an incredible moment where you can reach out and touch both of the tectonic plates at once – the only place in the world where this is possible.
The water is so clear that you will feel like you are flying above the bottom and when the sun shines through, the light refracts into a rainbow of colours.
Our favorite diving center in Iceland: Dive.IS
The water in Cyprus is warm and inviting and the rocky coast provides a nutrient-rich environment that draws a wide array of marine life – making this destination ideal for new scuba divers.
The Zenobia is the wreck of a huge ferry in Cyprus, lying on the ocean floor on its port side. The wreck begins at approximately 15m and descends to 42m and it is huge. It will take you several dives to explore all of it. That’s just one site – there’s also the fascinating rock formations at The Canyon at Cape Greko, the Amporae Caves which are filled with ancient clay storage jars and the octopus east of Aiya Napa at The Chapel.
Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of time. The dive season here runs from March to November, which makes it one of the longest dive seasons in the Mediterranean.
Our favorite diving center in Cyprus: CyDive
The wonderfully warm and clear waters of Croatia border the Adriatic Sea. They are filled with fish, octopus, eels, sea fans and beautiful reefs. This friendly and welcoming country claims a good portion of the Adriatic coastline and with it, some amazing underwater locales. The craggy coastline has plenty of spots for fish to hide. The relatively shallow and calm water makes this destination ideal for spotting marine life.
Head to Bisevo Grotto, which is a sea cave that often offers visibility better than 25 metres. It is home to scorpionfish, octopus, lobster and more. Just off the small island of Premuda is the dive site known as The Cathedral. It is a series of complex interconnected caves where octopi and spider crabs like to hide. When the sunlight filters through the water and into these caves it creates a spectacular ethereal effect that explains the name.
Our favorite diving center in Croatia: B-24
Corsica is located southeast of France, a warm and sunny island in the Mediterranean Sea. It is home of the famous reserve of Scandola, marked as a world heritage site by UNESCO for it’s important preservation of underwater life. The visibility is extremely high here due to the low pollution levels, even as far down as 40 meters.
When you scuba dive in Corsica, you’ll have endless impressive rock structures and ancient wrecks to explore. You’ll see species typical to the Mediterranean sea, including moray eels, grouper and many more.
You can even dive down to discover the wreck of a WWII bomber near the Revellata peninsula not far from Calvi. The best time to visit is during May and June, which is low tourist season. This meansyou will enjoy fewer crowds and a quieter atmosphere.
Our favorite diving center in Corsica: Dive Center Hippocampe
Although we have already mentioned Italy, it’s also worth taking a trip specifically to the island of Sardinia. Sardinia (locally known as Sardegna) is known for some of the best diving in the Mediterranean. History lovers will be fascinated by the wreck dives here and technical divers will love the many caves.
The best diving takes place on the east coast of the island. The west side is exposed to strong southwesterly winds. The weather is fantastic in Sardinia and you can dive here all year round. The most pleasant season however is from May to September.
One of the most dazzling underwater locations in Sardinia is the Grotta del Nereo. This is a series of tunnels and caves that reach more than 350 meters down below the sea. As you gently swim through these tunnels you’ll be surrounded by brightly coloured nudibranchs, red coral and slipper lobsters. Look out for the Pinna Nobilis Fan Mussel – the largest mussel species on the planet.
Our favorite diving center in Sardinia: Dive Aquarius
#9. The Canary Islands
The waters of the Canary Islands are popular with marine biologists and it is easy to see why. They are warm and clear turquoise, filled with coral, nudibranchs and gorgeous complex bouquets of coral. Plus, the fact that the Canary Islands are surrounded by volcanic activity means that you are likely to spot large game fish as well as reef fish.
These islands belong to Spain and are located in the Atlantic Island, to the West of Morocco. They have a mild spring-like climate all year round, so it’s always a good time to go diving here.
Visit La Restinga, a marine reserve located on the island of El Hierro, the smallest of the Canary Islands. In this gorgeous protected spot you will find incredible diversity including turtles, tuna, dolphins and whale sharks.
Be sure to visit La Catedral, which is a site near the main island of Gran Canaria. It is considered to be one of the top dives in the region. It is a strange morass of crevices, arches, caves and lava tubes that have been formed by volcanic activity under the water. You’ll need to charter a boat and bring a local guide with you to enjoy this diving spot.
Our favorite diving center in the Canary Islands: Big Fish Tenerife
Gozo is one of the islands in Malta, but it deserves its own special mention. Scuba diving is just so superb here. The clear visibility and warm sea temperatures mean that diving in Gozo is possible all throughout the year. There are also a lot of excellent scuba dive shops that offer equipment and lessons. Take the PADI Peak Performance Buoyancy training course to help you hover effortlessly and have more control as you dive. This ensures you a better exploration of the complex and beautiful sites here.
A superb spot for diving on Gozo is Reqqa Point. It is a shore dive that will put you on a nearly vertical wall. The dorado come here late in the season to hunt small schools of fish. It’s fascinating spectacle to watch these predators in action.
You can also take a short boat ride from Marsalforn on Gozo to dive the Double Arch Reef. It features two arches that rise from around 40 metres to 18 metres. A great place to spot barracuda and sea bream. When you aren’t diving, you can explore stunning palaces, cathedrals and fortifications in this stunning and historic destination.
Our favorite diving center in Gozo: Atlantis Gozo
Which European diving destinations will you visit in 2018?
This is the year to get your scuba certification (such as a PADI course) and explore these naturally gorgeous spots beneath the waters of Europe.
Once you have your scuba certification and you are comfortable with diving independently, the best way to explore Europe is to charter a yacht. You’ll have the freedom to travel at your own pace and visit any diving location you choose. Taking your time to thoroughly explore the wonders that lie beneath the surface.