From chilly Arctic waters to the warmer Gulf Stream, the undersea world of Europe has a lot to offer divers of all types. There are large and small marine animals, reefs, wrecks, caves and walls galore. Some dives are easy while others are challenging. But whatever you choose, you won’t be disappointed with any of the following European dive destinations.
1. Lofoten Islands, Norway – While certainly cold, the Lofoten Islands offer divers views of large fish, towering kelp forests, numerous nearly pristine wrecks and walls so deep they will make your head spin. Lodging is convenient and close, and dives can be done from shore or by boat. There’s lots of trekking and fishing to be done topside, too. So when considering diving in Europe, be sure not to neglect the northern waters.
2. Orkney Islands, Scotland – Home to the world-class diving site Scapa Flow, Scotland has deep dives, reefs and of course famous wrecks. The waters are chilly, nutrient-rich and home to an array of diverse marine life. Seals, whales, porpoises, dolphins, and puffins are frequent visitors and some are even residents here. While there are some spectacular scenic dives, Orkney is best known for the fleet of German ships that lay on the ocean floor of Scapa Flow.
3. Lundy Island, Bristol Channel, UK – The warmer waters of Lundy Island give life to colorful sponges, sea fans and a host of other corals. Grey seals and basking sharks provide giddy divers and snorkelers with some fun photos to take home and the walls and boulder screes deliver unique scenery. The diving here can be challenging, however, so head out with a knowledgeable dive charter.
4. Maltese Islands – The Mediterranean Maltese Islands have three distinct locations, each with their own offerings. This is where to head for warmer currents, reefs, easy access, clear and calm waters and an abundance of fish. This area is perfect for newer divers or those who are just getting certified. But with the various local caves and wrecks, the Maltese Islands also offer plenty of challenges for experienced divers, too.
5. Isle of Man, UK – Many people don’t think of the UK when they think of scuba diving but this is the second UK spot on our list. Isle of Man is a top diving destination with habitats for seals, porpoises, dolphins (including the Risso dolphin) and migrating basking sharks. Visibility is fantastic for drift diving over the scenic, wreck-filled waters. And with whales and orcas frequently passing through, this is a great spot for large and exciting marine animal encounters, too.
6. Kilkee, Ireland – If you like spectacular walls, interesting rock formations and caverns then head to Ireland’s west coast of Kilkee. Ireland’s gorgeous shores endure their share of intense weather – a fact that’s just as obvious below the water as it is above. Declared the best diving spot in Europe by Jacques Cousteau, the walls here descend to depths of over 100 feet. In some places, swim-throughs and caverns have tunneled completely through the walls, making for some very interesting dives. For more advanced divers, some of the caverns lead into caves. And for the less adventurous, the local reefs offer diverse marine life that entertains and amazes.
7. Cyprus – South of Turkey in the Mediterranean Sea, the waters off the rocky coast of Cyprus are warm, clear and rich with life. Octopus, groupers, moray eels and seasonal loggerhead turtles show off for divers atop beautiful sandy bottoms. Known for easy access and calm conditions, Cyprus is a great spot for beginner divers. A good challenge for experienced divers is the Zenobia. The most famous dive site in the area, the wreck sits in 140 feet of water and gives technical divers a beautiful and historic penetration.
8. Croatia – Another warm water dive destination, Croatia sits at the bottom of the majestic Alps and borders the Adriatic Sea. The rocky shoreline and clear waters offer incredible wall dives and gorgeous reefs decorated with colorful sea fans, lobsters, fish, octopus and eels. Littered with hidden coves, caverns, caves, wrecks and reefs, Croatia has something for nearly all diving interests and abilities. With dozens of different dive spots, the waters here promise not to disappoint.
9. Canary Islands – Biologists find the marine life of the Canary Islands of great interest, which means divers will too. The turquoise waters teem with rays, cuttlefish, eels, nudibranchs, triggerfish, grouper and multiple shark species that provide ample photo opportunities. Volcanic activity has created arches, caves, chimneys and swim-throughs and marine life sightings can include large pelagic and game fish as well as the ever-present reef fish. Each island has its own unique offerings so research and choose the right spot for you.
10. Normandy, France – D-Day. Do I really need to say more? Wreck divers head here for an underwater museum of war wrecks from one of the more memorable days in European history. For advanced divers only, the wrecks off the Normandy coast sit in an average of 75 to 100 feet of water in moderate currents. From Sherman tanks to U-boats to secret Schnellboots, this is really an area with unrivaled historic wreck diving. Many of the wrecks can be penetrated or have swim-throughs, and almost all are teeming with marine life. Most of the wrecks are considered war graves so no treasure hunting is allowed.