Europe is definitely one of the most visited continents in the world. Over a billion tourists go to Europe for a holiday to see fascinating cities and architecture. While most of the European countries are landlocked, it’s still surrounded by the Mediterranean, Arctic and Atlantic Oceans. This makes Europe a prime destination for oceanic adventures. If you’re not familiar with some of Europe’s best snorkeling destinations, check out the list below to make sure you don’t miss out.
Declared a National Protected Natural Park in June 2010, Medes Islands has become one of the most popular dive sites in the Mediterranean. As a protected area, the underwater seascape is peaceful and beautiful. The small archipelago covers 21 hectares with seven islets east of the coastal town of L’Estartit. It’s a great place for the family, but this coastal area is very rocky. You won’t find too many swimmers, boaters, and fishermen crowding the waters while you snorkel. Notable sightings include giant groupers and barracudas.
With its prime location on the Mediterranean Sea, Spain will surely have more than one entry in this post. This time we set off to a more secluded set of islets of the Columbretes Island. It is about 25 nautical miles from the coast of Castellón and approximately 50 nautical miles from Valencia. The islets are uninhabited and remote. You can spend a full day having a peaceful part of beach all to yourself. The water is exceptionally clear and blue, and animals (both land and sea) freely roam this environment. There are also short and quick trekking trails to the top of cliffs so you can experience nature to its fullest.
Another entry from Spain is a stunningly beautiful maritime-terrestrial national park. The Cabrera Archipelago National Park is 10 kilometers and an hour off the southeast coast of Mallorca. Being a protected environment, tours need to be booked in advance. What used to be a notorious prison camp now boasts both pristine water and a richly diverse natural environment. It is one of the best-preserved seabeds on the coast so expect some exceptional marine life. Snorkeling is done where the coast is still intact and full of rock formations, caves, and small bays. You’ll be away from hotels and busy shorelines for an uninterrupted snorkeling adventure.
The Croatian coast is not very popular with snorkelers and divers in Europe, but its rocky coast always guarantees clear waters. This also means fewer people and tourists crowding the waters around you. Makarska Beach is on the Adriatic Sea. The seascape is quite unique because fresh water springs out from the seabed. This has created a thriving environment. You’ll get to see distinct species of corals and plants, most popular of which is the Golden Sponge. You’ll also find octopuses and crabs hiding behind rocks. If you have sharp eyes, you’ll be able to catch seahorses clinging to plants and corals as well.
Ghar Lapsi is a small fishing port with a natural pool. You can walk up to 40 meters from the shore and still be in shallow water. These natural pools are ideal for families and children but are also visited by many locals. It’s a popular destination for swimming and diving because of the richness of local marine life. Like many great snorkeling destinations, Ghar Lapsi has a rocky shoreline that helps keep the water clear. Ghar Lapsi is also a naturally protected area to preserve its natural beauty.
Isola Rossa was originally a fishing village and is located on the north coast of Sardinia. It gets its name from the red color of a small isle opposite the village. The very distinct colors of the landscape with pink granite rock, dense Mediterranean vegetation, and white sandy beaches make it one of the best snorkeling experiences in Europe. It has now been turned into a seaside resort, but still quite far away from rowdy tourists. Here you’ll find many travelers keen on snorkeling and diving and not out to party. The water is crystal clear even on wavy days, and moray eels are popular sightings.
Paphos is a seaside town in Cyprus known for cultural immersion. It has a richly diverse landscape where the mountains meet the sea. The most popular snorkeling destination is by the Paphos lighthouse, which is another rocky area with an abundance of marine life. The waters are a bit rough and definitely not for beginners. On some days, waves can be seen thrashing against parts of the rocky shoreline. While intimidating, this has created unique rock formations underwater. There are several rock pools on the shoreline as well where you can find crabs and smaller fish. The lighthouse is the easiest to get to from the main town, but there are more secluded sandy beaches around the shoreline. These also serve as great snorkeling spots for a more relaxing experience.
Plage de La Palud or Palud Bay is one of the top snorkeling spots on the Mediterranean coast. It is located in the Port-Cros National Park, the oldest National Marine Park in the Mediterranean. There are hundreds of fish right off the shore. They’re also very used to humans and are more likely to swim around you or even approach you. The snorkeling and swimming areas are marked by buoys, and there is an underwater path that shows you the diversity of the marine life. Each buoy on this path indicates a different environment (a sandy seabed, a Posidonia seagrass bed, a rocky area, etc.) with information that can be read underwater.
Snorkeling while you are traveling opens up a new world of possibilities. Europe definitely has more to offer when it comes to discovering marine life. If you find yourself heading over to these coastal towns, make sure you gear up with your mask and fins!
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!