The refreshing, transparent waters of the Mediterranean are home to a vibrant and diverse array of sea life. Although the region does not have such colorful coral reefs as the tropics, but still offers a lot to see for those who wish to grab a mask, snorkel along with a pair of fins and explore the underwater world. To find the best snorkeling in the Mediterranean, here we tell you what places you should consider visiting, what species you can see and when to schedule your trip for the best experience.
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What to see while snorkeling in the Mediterranean Sea?
The Mediterranean waters offer an excellent glimpse of marine life. Various fish species like cardinalfish, ornate and rainbow wrasses, seabream species and groupers are frequently observed in the area besides moray eels, octopus and cuttlefish. The stony seabed has caves and fissures with walls covered in algae, sponges, and colorful anemones.
Posidonia meadows – usually found near sandy beaches – offer a lot to see too. It is easy to spot red sea stars, sea cucumbers and also rays and skates that spend most of their time over the sand where they seek shrimp, crabs, mollusks and shrimp or bury themselves under a thin layer of sand in order to remain unnoticed and rest.
Although, it is true that the Mediterranean Sea, has no vibrant coral reefs as the Caribbean Sea, the Indian Ocean or the Red Sea, but it still has rich and varied underwater life and offers good snorkeling spots.
Best time to snorkel in the Mediterranean
The Med countries are year-round destinations with fantastic outdoor activity options in all seasons, but those who’d like to do snorkeling should come in the summer when the sea and air temperatures are the most comfortable for water activities. However – since the Mediterranean is a huge area covering more than 2,500,000 km2 (970,000 sq mi) – there are significant differences between the regions.
The warmest weather and like this, warmest air and sea temps you can expect when visiting the southern countries like Malta, Southern Italy, Sicily, Southern Greece or Cyprus where the sea reaches 25-26°C/77-78.8°F during August and stays pleasantly warm until mid-autumn. The northern countries like Albania, Greece’s northern coast and islands, Northern Italy, Corsica, the French and Spanish coastline and islands have also warm climate but milder water temps during the summer months; the maximum sea temperature ranges between 20-23°C/70-73.4°F in these countries.
Given the hot, sunny weather and school holidays time, note that July and August are peak seasons for Mediterranean vacationers meaning most beaches and coves will be crowded. Therefore, if you can, schedule your visit for the shoulder seasons. Late spring and early autumn are also extraordinary times to snorkel throughout the Mediterranean with pleasantly warm air and seas but without crowds.
Snorkeling places in the Mediterranean
So that you know now when the best time is to visit the Med and what interesting creatures you can see, let me share with you my favorite snorkel spots of the region!
Balearic Islands – Spain
Situated in the western Mediterranean, the Balearic Islands are the perfect summer destination for those who seek scenic coastlines, top-notch beaches and fine food while on vacation. This Spanish archipelago is comprised of four main islands – Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza, and Formentera.
Mallorca is the largest of the four and boasts a diverse landscape of mountains, valleys, and beaches. Menorca is known for its unspoiled and rugged coastline, while party-loving Ibiza is world-famous for its nightlife, while Formentera is the smallest of the four islands and is known for its rustic serenity and hippy-tinged vibe. The common feature of these four breathtakingly beautiful islands is that they all have superb beaches, clear waters and rich marine life. If you look for good snorkeling in Europe, consider visiting one of the Balearics (or all of them)!
Tip: You can read our island-specific snorkeling guides under the category Spain.
Corsica – France
The fourth-largest island in the Mediterranean, Corsica – situated between southern France and north-western Italy – is known for its beautiful white sand beaches, stunning scenery with red cliffs, mountains and stone villages dotting the coastline. But not only the magnificent landscape that makes Corsica a popular destination; thanks to its crystal-clear waters and preserved marine ecosystem, this island is also one of the top snorkeling sites in the Mediterranean area.
The more than 1,000 km long coastline offers numerous magnificent beaches, which are often ranked among the most beautiful ones in the world! The excellent water clarity ensures that you can observe interesting species of fish and sea creatures when putting your mask on. Many Corsica snorkeling spots have seagrass meadows nearby which means there is a high chance to see cuttlefish, moray eels, breams and stingrays around. At rocky shorelines, swimming through caverns and underwater rock formations will add you an adrenaline boost. If you fancy staying in a place that is nicknamed the Island of Beauty, Corsica is the perfect spot for you this summer!
Zakynthos – Greece
One of the most popular Greek vacation destinations in the heart of the transparent watery Ionian Sea, Zakynthos attracts thousands of visitors year after year. Although, the main attraction is the Navagio Beach’s iconic shipwreck, the island is famous for its Caretta caretta turtle population too so those want to swim with turtles while snorkeling in Greece should choose Zante as their destination.
This turtle species is living in the Mediterranean and lay eggs between June to August always on the same beach where they were born. Turtles can be seen all over the island, but mostly around the southern areas. The best snorkel spots in Zakynthos to see turtles are Kalamaki, Dafni and Gerakas beaches where you can simply enter the water from the shore. If you prefer taking a boat trip, choose one that heads to Marathonisi Turtle Island. With its breathtaking landscape, vibrant culture and superb marine life, Zante will make you fall in love with Greece!
Sardinia – Italy
If you are looking for the best place for snorkeling in the Mediterranean, consider visiting Sardinia. This Italian Island is a family-friendly destination where you will find sandy beaches to play in the surf with your kids but also rocky shores with crystalline waters to experience the underwater world.
The richness of underwater life in Sardinian coastal waters is well known, particularly in protected regions like Porto Giunco (which is part of the Capo Carbonara Marine Reserve) and the Asinara National Park’s beaches. Most of the Mediterranean’s most iconic species may be found here, including the common dentex, gilt-head bream, amberjack, and dusky grouper. Red sea stars, cucumbers, sea urchins, and sea anemones can even be found at shallow depths.
Related post: Sardinia snorkeling places
A small island nation with rich history, Malta is the Mediterranean’s most popular tourist destination that offers not only lots of historical attractions to explore, but also good snorkeling. Thanks to its crystal-clear waters and many rocky beaches, one can observe diverse marine life simply by putting on goggles and a pair of fins.
If you want to explore one of the most unique places to snorkel in the Mediterranean, head to Anchor Bay on the island’s northwest coast. Also known as Popeye Village, this location is where the Popeye musical was filmed. The village functions nowadays as an attraction park with a museum and shows to experience, but the best is that it is situated in a protected bay where snorkeling is simply fantastic!
Although the location is a bit remote and reachable through a dirt track only, this special snorkel spot is really worth visiting. While swimming over seagrass meadows, you will see vibrant marine life here including many types of fish and even octopus, cuttlefish and morays.
Related post: Where to go snorkeling in Malta?
Nicknamed the “Island of Love”, Cyprus is another must-see destination thanks to its diverse landscape, clear sea, tidy beaches and of course, underwater attractions! This rocky shoreline offers fantastic conditions to explore the Mediterranean’s marine life; sometimes even turtles can be seen, mainly along the sandy beaches of North Cyprus, when they lay their eggs between May to August, but there is another unusual, yet worth-to-see snorkeling site in Cyprus; the underwater museum in Ayia Napa.
The MUSAN consists of more than 90 underwater statues in shallow depths (8-10m/26-32ft) so they are perfectly visible while snorkeling thanks to the fantastic water clarity. Made of a special PH-neutral concrete-like material that promotes coral and algae growth, the sculptures will attract marine life to the area. When in Cyprus, do not miss out visiting on this special Mediterranean snorkeling place!
Capri – Italy
Capri is a favorite holiday place for the wealthy and celebrities due to its exquisite hotels, well-known restaurants, and world-class shopping. Capri, on the other hand, is a fantastic snorkeling place in Italy, thanks to its rocky terrain and intriguing marine tunnels to explore.
Snorkeling from the shore is good on pebble beaches like Bagni di Tiberio and Cala Grande beaches. Marina Piccola beach is another great choice, consisting of three little rocky beaches with clear water where you can see some marine life.
Medes Islands – Spain
An archipelago located about 150 km from Barcelona on the Costa Brava Coast in Spain, the Medes Islands are highly recommended to visit if you are looking for good snorkeling in Europe. Accessible by boat from L’Estartit, the islands are part of a marine reserve and are home to rich underwater flora and fauna.
The Medes Islands are a great place to go snorkeling in Spain and learn about the ecosystem of the Mediterranean Sea and its many different species of marine life. Visitors can see various fish here such as rainbow wrasse, damselfish, sea bass and sea breams but also barracudas and groupers. Moreover, some rare soft coral species can also be observed.
Sicily – Italy
With an abundance of archaeological sites, charming villages, rugged coastline, crystal-clear seas and some of the Mediterranean’s oldest marine reserves, Sicily is a destination that is worth adding to your travel list. Around the island, there are numerous snorkeling places, most of which are easily accessible from the beach.
The finest Sicily snorkeling spots are in protected regions such as the Réserve naturelle du Zingaro and Riserva Naturale Del Plemmirio. While hitting the clear water at these areas’ beaches, you will see schools of sea breams, tropical-colored wrasses and moray eels just a few meters from the shore. You may also expect to encounter dusky groupers (juveniles are surprisingly plentiful at snorkeling depths), giant gilt-head bream, bigger amberjacks, and even barracudas. Filled with natural beauty, good food and warm people, Sicily is an incredibly rewarding destination and always a good choice to travel to!
Albania might not be a top-rated Mediterranean snorkeling destination, but in fact, this south-eastern European country has surprisingly nice rocky beaches where the crystalline waters invite people for some underwater exploration.
An excellent snorkeling place in Albania is Dhermi Beach, located on the country’s southern coast in the Ionian Sea. This place is famous for a naturally created cave called “Pirate’s Cave” and offers fantastic scenery with olive trees surrounding it. Dhermi is a great place to relax, enjoy the laid-back vibe and go for refreshing swims while you can see interesting underwater rock formations in the clear water.
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