The Best Places to Snorkel in the Mediterranean
The warm, clear and brilliantly blue waters of the Mediterranean Ocean have long been regarded as a fantastic place to enjoy swimming, with beach holidays across The Med continuing to grow in popularity over the years. While the coral reefs of the Caribbean may seem like the more obvious choice for a snorkelling holiday, you can find some of the best places to snorkel in Europe and other countries in the Mediterranean. Areas such as Spain and Sardinia in particular have incredible marine wildlife and picturesque coves that are perfect for underwater exploration.
Scuba diving and snorkelling holidays are becoming increasingly popular with people visiting the Mediterranean, and snorkelling is the more accessible choice for those who want to take a look at the world beneath the waves but who might not want to undergo the training needed for scuba diving or pay for the equipment. Snorkelling only requires a diving mask, snorkel tube and often swimming fins, and is perfect for children or those who want more freedom to explore the ocean at a leisurely pace, whether that’s visiting underwater sea caves or simply taking a closer look at the seabed just off the coast of an island.
Countries in the Mediterranean have a wide variety of places to snorkel, with underwater environments that range from rocky coral reefs to seaweed forests and soft, sandy coves. Many snorkelling areas are also protected marine reserves or national parks, meaning that they are home to an exceptional range of wildlife. You may be able to spot rare or endangered plants and sea creatures as you explore, providing an unparalleled experience of life on the seabed.
A Mediterranean holiday is filled with sun, sand, relaxation and delicious food, and adding snorkelling to your itinerary will make your trip even more memorable. Some of these locations can only be reached by boat, while others offer a coastal snorkelling experience, but what brings them all together is that they are some of the best places to snorkel in the Mediterranean.
Ustica, Sicily, Italy
Ustica is known as one of the best places to snorkel in Europe; a small Italian island that takes a while to get to by boat but certainly delivers as a holiday destination once you have arrived. It’s a popular spot for residents of Italy and Sicily to spend their summer and autumn breaks enjoying the beaches, hiking trails and brilliant snorkelling opportunities, as the island is incredibly peaceful and not often overrun with tourists.
The ocean around the island of Ustica is a marine reserve, meaning that the whole area is protected and totally unspoiled. Scuba divers visit the island year-round to make the most of the ideal water conditions, but it’s also a fantastic place for snorkelling. There’s an incredible array of marine life; almost 50% of all underwater species are found in the sea surrounding Ustica, and you’ll be entranced for hours as you gaze down at the ocean floor.
Maddalena Archipelago National Park, Sardinia
The Maddalena Archipelago National Park is made up of numerous rocky islands off the northern coast of Sardinia, all relatively close together and surrounded by shallow water that is ideal for snorkelling. Their status as a National Park has protected these islands, and the incredible natural beauty of the whole area is what makes this archipelago one of the best places to snorkel in Europe.
You can expect the very best of the Mediterranean in the Maddalena Archipelago National Park, with beautifully clear and warm water and a seabed that is home to numerous preserved species. It’s a wonderful place to take a boat trip so that you can explore different parts of the coast and visit some of the archipelago’s islands such as Maddalena, Caprera and Spargi. You can also visit the iconic ‘pink beach’ on Budelli island, which gets its Instagramable coloured sand from numerous animal skeletons that wash up on the shore.
The island of Skiathos in the Aegean Sea is known for having some of the best beaches and swimming spots in Greece, and its snorkelling opportunities are equally abundant. Part of the Sporades Archipelago, it’s a holiday destination that attracts many travellers because of its nightlife, lively atmosphere and brilliant backpacking opportunities. But you will also find a strong community of divers and snorkelers who come to the island to make the most of its coastline.
Skiathos is a snorkelling destination that is more suited to those with some experience, as visibility in the water can sometimes be low because of the presence of sediments. There are over 60 different beaches around the island, but the best snorkelling opportunities are found at rocky beaches and coves on the north of Skiathos, where there will be a diverse range of marine life and more interesting terrain to explore underwater. There are also several boat trips that you can take from Skiathos if you want to snorkel or scuba dive further out from the shore.
Makarska Riviera, Croatia
One of the most accessible locations for exceptional snorkelling is the Makarska Riviera; a stretch of coast along Croatia’s mainland that rivals some the best islands in Croatia for its spectacular beaches. This seaside destination has quite a rocky coastline and a unique marine environment; there are freshwater springs on the seabed which have given it a range of wildlife that you won’t find anywhere else. Most impressive is the coral reef that has formed beneath the surface, where you may be able to spot octopuses or seashores.
There are multiple snorkelling spots along the Makarska Riviera, each sporting pebbly beaches and clear blue water that tends to attract crowds of tourists during the summer months. With around 60km of coastline however, it shouldn’t be hard to find a quiet spot to take to the water and enjoy what you find beneath the surface.
Cabrera Archipelago National Park, Mallorca, Spain
Around 10 kilometres off of the east coast of Mallorca is the Cabrera Archipelago National Park, which once served as a prison camp. These 19 islets have now become one of the jewels of the Mediterranean, offering unspoilt scenery, a break from the busy pace of modern life, and unbeatable snorkelling opportunities. Snorkelling in Spain allows you to enjoy some of the Mediterranean’s most exceptional marine environments, and this archipelago in particular has a thriving underwater wildlife population.
Wildlife is abundant on the islands and the surrounding water of this archipelago, which is the main reason that it was classed as a maritime-terrestrial National Park in 1991. The area is best explored by boat, and you can easily spend a few days just sailing from place to place and enjoying the scenery both above and below sea level.
Isola Rossa, Sardinia
On the northern coast of Sardinia lies the sleepy fishing village of Isola Rossa; a location untouched by tourism that provides an oasis of calm away from the rest of modern life. The name ‘Isola Rossa’ comes from the large, red granite rock that sits just out from the shoreline in front of the area, so despite being known as the ‘Red Island’, the location is not actually an island at all. Isola Rossa is an ideal place for beginner snorkelers or children to take to the water, as the sea is quite shallow near to the beach and the sand underfoot is soft.
As well as total tranquillity and stunning scenery, Isola Rossa also offers incredible snorkelling opportunities, thanks to the inlets and coves that line the coast and provide pockets of incredible marine biodiversity to explore. You can expect to see a great variety of fish species when snorkelling through the clear, Mediterranean waters, and the range of different little beaches and bays in the area means that there are countless new places to discover.
Cape Greco, Cyprus
One of the best snorkelling spots on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus is Cape Greco, situated between the famous party destination of Ayia Napa and the town of Protaras. A popular place for fishing in the early morning, Cape Greco is home to a long stretch of rocky sea caves that are ideal for snorkelling and scuba diving when the tide is out. The entire area is a National Park, and is also popular with hikers and cyclists who come to traverse the trails that line the coast.
Cape Greco has a rocky seabed and numerous hidden caves to explore, and the clear blue water allows for fantastic visibility of all the different marine life that lives there. The rugged terrain of the area means that some parts of the sea are very deep, which also makes the caves a popular location for the exhilarating sport of cliff diving.
Medes Islands, Costa Brava, Spain
The Illes Medes, or Medes Islands, are known as some of the best places to snorkel in Spain, situated 1 kilometre off the L’Estartit coast in the Catalonia region of the country. The seven islets that make up the area have been a protected marine reserve since the 1990s, meaning that no fishing has taken place in the surrounding water for almost 30 years and that activities in the water have been carefully managed to make sure that they don’t affect marine life.
If you’re looking for a tranquil experience of snorkelling then the Medes Islands are an ideal destination, with plenty of water to explore by boat and many beautiful beaches to stop for a picnic and a spot of sunbathing. The ocean surrounding the islands is clear all year round, and full of colourful fish, coral and seaweed species that present a wonderful natural aquarium for you to explore. It’s not only the marine life that provides underwater entertainment however; there are several shipwrecks surrounding the islands which snorkellers can also take the time to discover.
Luxuriously hot and exciting Mediterranean holidays offer incredible scenery, heavenly heat and a huge variety of things to do, with snorkelling being top of the list for a fun and unforgettable activity that anyone can try. If you’re relatively new to snorkelling, then places like Sardinia and Italy have protected coves and sandy seabeds that are ideal for beginners to explore, whereas more experienced snorkelers will love the rocky coastline of Cyprus and Greece for a variety of different underwater terrain.
Are there any coral reefs in the Mediterranean?
Climate change and shifts in the world’s topography means that the number of vast coral reefs in the Mediterranean Ocean has drastically decreased. However, many species of coral can still be found in some areas if you know where to look. Most recently, a reef has been found near Puglia in Italy, which is particularly special because it is a mesophotic coral reef that has developed under lower levels of light than most reefs.
What is the best time to go snorkelling?
The weather differs a little across the Mediterranean countries, but in general you are likely to find warmer sea and air temperatures during the summer months wherever you visit, which will be more pleasant for snorkelling. Snorkelling in some areas will depend on local tide times, but if possible it is best to get out in the morning as this is when fish and other sea creatures tend to be most active, giving you a better chance of spotting them.