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Europe is home to the most stunning beaches on the planet that have something to offer for everyone. Besides sunbathing, swimming in crystal waters and trying out exciting water sports and fun activities, those who are interested in exploring marine life find excellent snorkeling spots all around the ‘old continent’. To learn what the best places to snorkel in Europe are, this Top 9 list will give you some inspiration.
Ghar Lapsi – Malta
When planning a European snorkeling vacation, Malta should be on the top of your list! With emerald green, transparent waters and abundant marine life, this tiny island archipelago in the heart of the Mediterranean is a popular spot for beginners and experienced snorkelers. The island’s rocky coastline offers numerous beaches where you can snorkel, but probably Ghar Lapsi is the best of all.
This little rocky cove lies on the south coast of Malta, just 1 km from the famous Blue Grotto, below Dingli Cliffs. It is a prime snorkeling location with caves along the shoreline you can swim through. There is also a 200-meter-long Mediterranean reef here that offers an incredible underwater view and makes an excellent spot for photography.
The best is about Ghar Lapsi that is not a typical tourist beach but a place that mainly locals visit; therefore, it has an authentic, traditional atmosphere. During the summer, the boathouses double as beach bars where you can get snacks and refreshments!
Zakynthos – Greece
If you are looking for the best snorkeling beaches in Europe, then you should consider visiting Greece. This south-eastern European country with thousands of islands throughout the Ionian and Aegean seas has the most azure waters and most breathtaking coastline all across the continent.
There are many Greek islands that are good to snorkel, but for a truly unique experience head to Zakynthos which is not only the most popular summer vacation destination in Europe, but also an important turtle nesting site. Every year, loggerhead Caretta caretta (loggerhead) turtles lay their eggs on the island’s southern beaches which means you can these interesting creatures can be spotted around those beaches. If swimming with sea turtles is on your bucket list, then don’t miss out on snorkeling in Zakynthos!
Sardinia – Italy
With whitewashed limestone cliffs and postcard-perfect beaches, Sardinia is not only one of the most beautiful islands in the Mediterranean but thanks to its calm, transparent waters, it is a family-friendly snorkeling destination too. Along the island’s more than 1100-mile-long (1800km) coastline, there are numerous places to observe coral reefs, Mediterranean types of fish, and other marine creatures such as sea urchins, anemones, and sea cucumbers in the area’s crystal-clear waters.
It is difficult to highlight just a few places since Sardinia has truly breathtaking beaches, but if are looking for good snorkeling, here are some tips on where to go. Visit Cala Brandinchi where the water is as clear as in Tahiti, Cala Luna where the rocky shores meet emerald green water making it perfect for some underwater adventure or Spiaggia Le Piscine, which is a romantic beach to spend the day with your partner while exploring the Mediterranean Sea. When seeking out Europe’s finest beaches and an authentic Mediterranean vibe, this Italian island is a place to be!
Tenerife – Spain
With plenty of sheltered coastline and tempered climate, Spain is one of Europe’s top snorkeling places that is ideal both for beginners and advanced underwater adventurers. The Canary Islands are a particular highlight of the country; although these volcanic islands -situated in the Atlantic Ocean- geographically are closer to Africa, but officially belong to Europe.
Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands is renowned for its unspoiled beauty; its fantastic landscape is dominated by Spain’s tallest peak, the Mt. Teide volcano and breathtakingly beautiful black sandy beaches.
What makes the island one of the best places to snorkel in Europe is the transparent waters and abundant marine life; you can encounter different ray species like stingrays, bull rays and eagle rays and can swim with sea turtles too while snorkeling in Tenerife. Whether you are looking for a relaxing seaside vacation or an action-packed adventure, the most picturesque of the Canary Islands won’t disappoint!
Calanques National Park – France
Whether you are beginner or experienced, Southern France makes one of the best places to go snorkeling in Europe, especially The Calanques National Park, a well-preserved reserve territory near Marseille. With exceptional landscape and extreme biodiversity, visiting this place is a truly rejuvenating experience!
The national park’s rocky beaches offer ideal conditions for terrific snorkeling. Calanque de Sormiou, a white sandy, calm beach has stunning nature and translucent waters; a beautiful place to spend the day with your family or friends and while enjoying the Mediterranean Sea!
Silfra Fissure – Iceland
I bet you wouldn’t think about Iceland if it comes to underwater activities, but those who look for the most unique snorkeling place in Europe should definitely visit this Nordic island nation. Iceland sits between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates which are constantly moving and like this, shape the landscape.
When the tension between the plates is released through earthquakes, cracks form on the Earth’s crust; this is how Silfra Fissure was born. Silfra is a big rift in the Thingvellir National Park that opened after a big earthquake in 1789 and was filled up with crystalline, transparent glacier water.
What turned Silfra into one of the best European snorkeling places and an exceptional diving site is that this is the only place where you can swim in the crack that literally divides Europe from America. The water is so clear that the visibility reaches 100m making you feel that you are not floating but flying over the underwater rock formations. However, it is very cold too (2-4°C/35-29°F year around) so to experience this very unique snorkel spot, you need a special dry suit and proper accessories, but tour organizers provided all equipment.
Underwater Museum – Cyprus
A trip to Cyprus offers a lot for all types of beachgoers; this beautiful eastern Mediterranean island is famous for its beautiful beaches and extensive historical sites. Once here, it would be a shame to miss out on discovering the island’s snorkeling beaches that offer vibrant marine life.
Some of the best spots to snorkel in Cyprus include Konnos Bay and the Cape Greco National Park where besides many fish and sea creatures, you may spot turtles too. If you want to visit a truly unique underwater attraction that no other European snorkeling destination offers, visit the MUSAN. This underwater sculpture park near Ayia Napa was opened in 2021 and consists of more than 90 statues in the form of trees and human figures in 8-10m/26-33ft deep water. The installation, that can be visited by snorkelers and divers too, draws attraction climate change and the problems of our modern society through art while creating new habitat for marine life.
Praia do Camilo – Portugal
With an extensive coastline running along the Atlantic Ocean, Portugal is known to offer excellent surfing, but it also has some pretty snorkeling beaches too. However, don’t expect tropical water temperatures; since you will be swimming in the Atlantic Ocean, the sea is not that warm as in the Mediterranean and reaches only ~20C/68F even during summer. Bring a neoprene wetsuit so you can stay comfortable!
Praia do Camilo, one of the most gorgeous beaches in Portugal renowned for its rock formations offers fantastic snorkeling. The water is quiet and transparent, allowing for observing a variety of fish species. It is extremely popular with tourists during the summer, but you can also rent a kayak to explore some of the more secluded areas.
Karaburun-Sazan National Park – Albania
Albania may not be the first country that comes to mind when you think of European snorkeling places, but in fact, this country on the Balkan Peninsula is well worth visiting. Between May and October, when the water temperature is warm enough to swim comfortably, Albania turns into a summer paradise where the sea is as transparent as in the popular Mediterranean locations, but the vacation experience comes with affordable prices here.
The country’s coastline along the Adriatic Sea and the Ionian Sea offers numerous excellent snorkeling beaches such as Radhime Beach or Gjipe Beach, but probably the Karaburun-Sazan National Park offers the most stunning views and most vibrant marine life.
This marine park was opened to safeguard the country’s natural resources and biodiversity on land and at sea. Scuba divers and snorkelers will adore the Posidonia meadows, underwater caves, and appreciate the clear water.
To escape the crowds, take a boat from Vlora to Sazan Island. Belonging also to the national park, this island is a great place to rest and enjoy the natural beauty of Albania. Saint Nicolo Bay, right next to the harbor, is a wonderful wild beach; with super transparent waters and rocky seabed, it is an excellent spot to go swimming and snorkeling.
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