We love the underwater world - so much so that we have a whole specialist Original Diving team dedicated to curating itineraries for diving holidays - and it's no secret that we're also pretty enamoured with Europe. Although the sunny shores and warm waters of far flung destinations such as French Polynesia, the Maldives and Indonesia may be the first places that come to mind when you think about snorkelling holidays, there are also plenty of pretty great locations to don your mask much closer to home. Read on for our list of the best places to snorkel in Europe.
- Snorkelling in Sardinia, Italy
- Snorkelling the Silfra Fissure, Iceland
- Snorkelling in The Azores, Portugal
- Snorkelling in Crete, Greece
- Snorkelling in Norway
- Snorkelling in Gozo, Malta
Sardinia in Italy is a popular holiday spot for families and couples alike for two very good reasons. One is the picture-perfect, colourful villages that cascade down its hillsides, home to history, culture and excellent food; and the other is its incredible coastline which is an impressive 1,149 miles long. Although mostly rocky cliffs, there are a number of bays and inlets along the coast that are perfect for snorkelling. There's Cala Goloritzé - only reachable by hike or boat - which has crystal clear turquoise waters and white sand beaches; the Marine Protected Area of Tavolara where you can take a guided excursion to discover the Crisso wreck; or Budoni where you can see myriad colourful fish, among many other sites dotted along the coastline.
Iceland may not be the first place that springs to mind for snorkelling holidays, yet snorkelling or diving between tectonic plates in the glacial waters of the Siltra Fissues is a bucket list item for dive enthusiasts. Yes, the water might be a little nippy (two to four degrees Celsius) but the chill is worth it - the waters are unbelievably clear and boast the longest visibility in the world at 100+ metres.
Although technically European, these remote islands are actually 867 miles away from their mainland, Portugal. The Azores' location - deep in the North Atlantic Ocean - means that they get marine life like nowhere else in Europe, making them one of the best places to snorkel (and dive). Between March and May each year you'll have a good chance of seeing blue whales and other migratory species, while during summer months you can snorkel alongside sperm whales and dolphins. Idyllic.
Bath-warm water, excellent visibility and virtually no currents make the waters around the Greek island of Crete one of the best places to snorkel in Europe. A firm family favourite, Crete has numerous beaches where the whole gang can snorkel during the summer holidays. For those without children in tow, the same shores can be enjoyed during September and October where many species - including needlefish - come closer to land to reproduce. The best beaches are the rocky ones (don't worry, you can migrate to a nearby sandy one for sun-worshiping another day) where you could see colourful fish, crabs, and even the odd octopus.
For serious adventurers, northern Norway is one of the best places for European snorkelling holidays. You can hop onto the M/S Sula and set off to find the gathering of orcas and humpback whales that pass through here between October and February to hunt herring, before donning your dry suit and flippers and joining them in the water. Pretty epic!
Malta is actually made up of three beautiful islands - Malta, Gozo and Comino. If Malta is the island for history-buffs with its UNESCO-listed capital Valetta as well as multiple ancient sites, Gozo (and nearby Comino which you can easily sail to) are the destinations for water babies who want to snorkel. The snorkelling around these islands is great all year round, but the summer months promise warm waters as well as sunny days for exploring inland. You can even hire a boat and spend a day out on the water - pack a mask and be ready to drop anchor and jump in whenever you fancy. There are underwater walls and drop offs to explore as well as reefs teeming with life, or we can recommend some of the best spots to see wrecks.