When you’re planning a diving trip, European scuba diving holidays are probably not top of your list. But from wrecks and caves to coral-lined walls and outstanding marine life, there’s great diving to be found. But what are the best dive spots in Europe?
European scuba diving holidays
From the cold Arctic in the north to the warm Mediterranean in the south Europe has a huge range of climates and underwater habitats. It also offers something for every type of diver – from cave to wreck and ice to reef.
The majority of the best dive spots in Europe are more suited to advanced divers than beginners. Having said that there is diving that suits all abilities, although if you are looking for simple, warm water shore dives on coral reefs then you should head elsewhere.
Diving can be done year round in Europe, with some places better in the winter than in the summer. But if you are considering European scuba diving holidays that include sunshine – and actually count as a vacation – you probably want to head to the Med. The best diving here is from April to November.
Best dive spots in Europe
Without further ado, here are the top places to scuba dive in Europe. It’s not in order of the best (that would be way to hard to choose!) but split into Mediterranean and Atlantic then ordered alphabetical by country.
Unsurprisingly the Med offers up plenty of opportunities for amazing European scuba diving holidays.
Bisevo Grotto, Croatia
Croatia’s spectacular rocky shoreline boasts warm azure waters, wall dives and breathtaking reefs that are begging to be explored. There are hundreds of islands off the Croatian coast, so you won’t run out of places to dive, and there’s also a number of wrecks to visit too.
Unsurprisingly, summer is the best time to visit Croatia for the best visibility. There’s a dive site for practically every interest, check out Vodnjak Reef near Hvar, Taranto wreck near Dubrovnik, dive with Dolphins at Bol off Brac Island, explore the Baron Gautsch wreck off the coast of Rovinj and cave dive at Premuda.
But one of the best dive spots in Europe can be found at the stunning Bisevo Grotto (Blue Grotto) off Vis Island which is can be reached from Split. With up to 30m visibility there is variety of marine life to spot. Including lobster, octopus, corals and scorpion fish and much more.
A relatively new wreck, the Zenobia sank on her first voyage in 1980 when her computerised ballast system malfunctioned. A roll-on, roll-off vehicle ferry, the Zenobia sank with 104 articulated lorries on board. The ship is huge at 178-metres long, giving plenty to explore.
The accommodation deck and canteen are interesting, and it’s even possible to sit in the ship’s lifeboats! The highlight though is surely the egg lorry, with its cargo still perfectly preserved.
While on European scuba diving holidays in Cyprus there are plenty of other good spots to visit. White River
near Paphos is ideal for beginners. Protaras near Ayia Napa, has colourful reefs and caves. George’s Wall, Jubilee Shoals and Manajin Island are all worth checking out.
Ile de Hyeres, France
Ile de Hyeres is the name of a national park including three islands on France’s Mediterranean coast near Toulon and Marseille. Some of the top French diving and best dive spots in Europe are off the island of Port-Cros where you can dive in clear waters among many wrecks.
The national park status means there is plenty of marine life and the habitat is well preserved. It’s even possible to see brown macrou, a massive grouper once thought to be extinct.
Sunk in 1945, the 78m cargo ship ‘Le Donator’ stands upright at about 45 meters. It is a challenging dive but the hull is covered in soft corals and surrounded by lots of fish. Well worth considering for European scuba diving holidays.
Island of Chios, Greece
Diving from Chios is all about the variety rather than one stand out site. There are stunning underwater caves, large and colorful reefs, vertical walls, beautiful underwater rock formations, and glorious ship wrecks.
Many sites are good for beginners. With shallow depths, good visibility, minimal currents and reasonable temperatures. The best time to dive is April through October.
For many, Sardinia is the ultimate Mediterranean dive spot. The area’s wrecks appeal to history lovers while the location’s shore dives are perfect for beginners. There are caves, reefs and plenty of marine life.
Most of Sardinia’s diving takes place in the north of the Island. There are two marine-protected areas that are well worth a visit in the Archipelago of the Maddalena and the Lavezzi Marine Park.
The most popular of Sardinia’s dive sites is Grotta del Nereo. It is a network of caves that extend for around 350 meters. There are two shallow entrances and a deeper one at 30 meters. You can see red coral, nudibranchs, slipper lobsters, octopus and the pinna nobilis fan mussel which the largest mussel in the world.
Blue Hole Gozo, Malta
The three Maltese Islands of Malta, Gozo and Comino offer up a mix of caves, wrecks, sculptures, reefs and beautifully warm waters. On a historical level, these locations are fascinating and have some of the most best dives spots in Europe.
A particularly beautiful site is the Blue Hole which is situated just off Gozo. It begins in a 15 meter deep pool and divers can swim through a submerged crevice to the open sea, often witnessing octopus hiding in the rock formations along the way. Once through you can also dive either Azure Reef or Coral Gardens.
Malaga is known for some of the best beaches in Spain and package holidays. But it also a great destination for European scuba diving holidays. It’s strength is its variety and that you can dive here all year round, with good conditions whatever the weather.
In Nerja, where the beaches are the primary attraction, you’ll find Cala del Canuelo Beach and Maro Beach. Head beneath that waves and you’ll find masses of rocks on the seabed and underwater caves.
Playa de las Arenas – El Gobernador, in Manilva, has several coves for diving and has an interesting seabed combination of sand and rocks. At Marina del Este you’ll find good conditions for beginners and at La Herradura lots of marine life and caves.
You can also head to nearby Gibraltar where you’ll find wrecks, incredible rock formations and lots of marine life. Due to the spread out nature of diving around Malaga, it’s worth hiring a car at the airport from Avis so you can explore a bit further afield.
Medes Islands, Spain
Located in north eastern Spain the Medes Islands are part of a large marine reserve that allows a maximum of 400 divers per day. Located near Girona and close to the French border, they are an archipelago made up of seven main islands and some small islets.
Divers should base themselves at the small seaside town of Estartit, which is the gateway to one of the best dive spots in Europe. It is rated as Spain’s top diving destination due to its attractive location, easy access and gorgeous aquatic fauna.
The islands offer a range of dives from wall to cave and shallow sites for beginners. Amongst the underwater delights to behold are octopus, grouper, red gorgonians, eagle ray, shoals of barracuda, jacks, bonito and groupers. The best dive sites are probably Dolphin Cave and Carall Bernat.
European scuba diving holidays aren’t just in the Med. Head under the Atlantic waves for a very different, but equally dramatic experience.
It might not be the first place you think of for diving, but Iceland has one of the best dive spots in Europe and certainly the most unique. While the coldness is a factor to bear in mind, there’s some extraordinary diving to experience here.
Most of the diving in Iceland is found at Silfra in Thingvellir National Park. Divers can explore the narrow gap between the American and European tectonic plates – the only place in the world where this is possible. The Silfra fissure is a truly remarkable chasm of beautiful colours, rock formations and geological significance.
Kilkee is a little coastal town in County Clare on the west coast of Ireland. With 11 well documented dive sites it is regarded as the best dive location in Ireland and is worth considering for European scuba diving holidays.
The underwater world contains interesting flora and fauna. You can dive in kelp forests, tidal lagoons, rock pools, visit wrecks and explore caves and interesting rock formations. You are likely to see schools of mackerel, wrasse, sea sponges and so much more.
Lofoten Islands, Norway
From November to January hundreds of killer whales and humpbacks chase the herring migration in the Arctic waters of Norway. They heard them into shallower waters to make the hunting easier.
You can fairly easily witness the action from a boat, but a close underwater encounter is another story. And it’s up to the animals whether they will permit human contact. As experiences go it is easily one of the best dive spots in Europe.
Using fast RIBs, divers are dropped into the frigid waters in front of the hunting whales. You are likely only to see the whales briefly – after all they are busy hunting. It is likely divers will be jumping in out of the water many times in one trip to try to see the wales as much of the as possible.
Scapa Flow, Orkney Islands, Scotland
Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands is regarded as some of the best wreck diving in the world. The majority of the wrecks are from the German High Seas Fleet of nearly 100 battleships, which was scuppered here after the First World War. Visibility can be up to thirty metres which is very high for UK waters.
The size of the fleet and the number of submerged vessels is the main attraction. With so many wrecks to choose from, it’s unlikely you’ll ever get bored. The largest are the Kronprinz Wilhelm, the Markgraf, and the Konig, which is 177-metres long.
We hope you enjoyed this guide to the best dive spots in Europe. Be sure to check out our scuba diving discounts as you could save a fortune on your next dive holiday.