While diving involves a lot of training and a steep learning curve as well as expensive equipment and guides snorkeling can be done with little experience as long as you check information on any dangers and riptides before heading out, though guided tours are available at many of the beaches on this list.
Snorkelling is incredibly peaceful and you can easily lose hours taking in underwater landscapes and following fish from a distance, watching them in their natural habitat almost unaware of your presence.
These ten snorkelling beaches are in many cases far from ideal for relaxing in the sun but this is what makes some of them ideal for snorkelling with no disturbance by other tourists and their activities.
Snorkeling Beaches in Europe
Illes Medes, Costa Brava, Spain
Source – mireia
A protected marine reserve this means the Illes Medes is great for snorkelling as fish remain undisturbed and plants remain growing naturally: undisturbed by nets of trawlers or by dredgers.
The rocky coast here even means that you’re unlikely to be disturbed by those enjoying the beach or water-sports such as jet skiing and water skiing that can make snorkelling difficult and potentially unsafe. The fish include many schools of colourful smaller fish as well as larger lone fish like Groupers; you have a good chance of seeing some Barracuda in schools too.
Ghar Lapsi, Malta – Another great, hard to reach, and therefore unspoilt, spot these Maltese waters are fantastically clear and you are more likely to have good weather than not in summer.
You can snorkel a little way into some of the open caves here, which are a fantastic shelter for many fish and therefore often teeming, scuba divers can go much further into the network of caves however.
Outside the cave are great sandy reefs with a huge variety of fish including Scorpion Fish and also a lot of Octopus and brightly coloured Seagrasses. Eels and Gurnards are also common in this area.
Isola Rossa, Sardinia, Italy
Source – gerlos
The beaches around this small town are of beautiful red rock and there are a good number of pools and inlets to explore while snorkelling where many fish will seek refuge.
There are sandy beaches nearby and the reefs are sandy too, the water is still clear though with little or no sediment, even on days with a little swell.
Moray eels are common here hiding amongst the rocks but there is a wide variety of fish both close to shore and a little further out.
Coco Beach, Nice, France
Source – redking
You would never think this beach was so close to a major port and industrialized city. Tourism has always been important to Nice but it is incredible how beautiful this section of French coast remains.
Coco beach is a short walk from the port of Nice and does get busy but it has fantastic clear waters with the yellow sand giving a green hue from above.
There are plenty of dive companies nearby too but for snorkelling you can simply enjoy exploring the rocky coves that are a little less busy, though you will still need to look out for Jetskis, Speedboats and the like.
Source – 14171139@N08
Source – pululante
For those who have snorkelled the beaches of western European countries such as France, Italy and Spain to the point where they think they have seen everything they will have to think again after snorkelling at Markarska in Croatia.
The Adriatic of course has slightly different species from other parts of the Mediterranean but at Makarska you also have fresh water springs on the seabed leading to a unique collection including some very colourful reefs and plants including Golden Sponges.
There are plenty of octopus and crabs here hiding amongst the rocks to add even more colour and maybe best of all enough seahorses that you would be unlucky not to spot any.
Source – harout
Visibility can sometimes be poor if there is some swell, also frog kick to avoid disturbing the sediment yourself. If you get a good view though this is a great place to snorkel on this small rocky island with a few hidden beaches too.
Some beaches have beautiful white sand stretching for miles but it is the small rocky beaches that are best for snorkelling. You can see octopuses, crabs and fish including some very large eels while snorkelling but also you may be able to find and keep some fantastic shells from the seabed that will make great souvenirs.
Source – mink
With gently sloping seabed’s the beaches around Paphos and a little further along the coast, where there are a number of smaller secluded beaches, which are ideal for snorkeling.
Around the lighthouse is popular for snorkeling but there are also a large number of sea caves both large and small that you can either visit where they are open caves or simply peer into: perhaps glimpsing some larger marine animals in the background such as octopus of course.
There are plenty of small fish here such as pipe fish who will not be too bothered by you, meaning you can simply watch them and follow from a distance through the wonderfully clear waters.
Russalka, Black Sea, Bulgaria
Source – luboanev
It isn’t just the Mediterranean that provides snorkelling opportunities, generally the black sea does have a lot of sediment but Russalka is one place where visibility can be good on a calm day.
The marine life tends to be fairly small in the Black Sea though there are dolphins. The wrecks are the main draw and while most of Europe’s best wrecks are reserved for those scuba diving you can get a good view of them snorkelling at several sites close to the shore at Russalka including old wooden ships of war and world war two battleships and submarines.
Bovisand, Devon, UK – More popular as a dive centre Bovisand on the edge of Plymouth harbour is one of the UK’s clearest snorkelling sites: being protected from the worst of the weather by the harbour and breakwaters further out.
The shallows here are along a sandy bottom but there are a good number of larger fish and also a little further out you have a chance to see sharks, which is the main attraction of snorkelling here.
Lake Silfra, Thingvellir National Park, Iceland – The glacial waters of Lake Silfra mean that visibility is crystal clear, from the surface you can see deep into the fissures, these are where two continental plates meet.
The nearby geothermal geysers means the waters are pleasantly warm and as you head into the lake expect to see some freshwater fish including Brown Trout.
Beyond the lake is the lagoon, with its shallow bottom and golden sand the view is fantastic and you could be forgiven for thinking you were in the tropics: looking right across to the other end of the 120m long lagoon without any sign of sediments you’ll wish your local swimming pool was this clean.
This list includes some of the best and also clearest snorkelling around Europe; other great snorkelling beaches exist that depend on good weather. If visiting other beaches with good potential for diving it may be a matter of waiting for the right calm conditions to enjoy snorkelling.