With a coast that spans 1,700 kilometers, Portugal is home to some incredible diving spots. From North to South, from Porto to Algarve, the choices are endless. Whether you want to go diving with sharks or learn scuba diving for beginners, the options will be endless. There is a place that caters to every budget and interest.
Portugal has the reputation of having the most diverse diving spot in Europe. This is no longer surprising, given the fact that that it has eight marine reserves. There are also sunken ships and submarines, which are the perfect places if you want to experience the best shipwreck diving.
Fancy the idea of diving in Portugal? If you are clueless about the best destination to discover, read on and we’ll list the best places to check out.
1. Berlengas Nature Reserve
When you talk about Portugal diving, it is almost impossible to not mention the Berlengas Nature Reserve. Around ten kilometers from Peniche, a popular fishing town, you can access this nature reserve in the Berlengas Archipelago. It is secluded but stunning, making it worth the trip. The archipelago is known for its scenic fort and dramatic landscapes, making it a sight to behold.
Under the water, there is an amazing surprise that awaits. Get your scuba masks ready and see up close and personal the beauty of the Berlengas Nature Reserve when you dive. It is known for its volcanic and rocky seafloor, which serves as the home of diverse marine creatures. Be prepared to revel in the sight of crayfish, mantas, and octopus!
If you want to try cave diving, you have another good reason to visit the Berlengas. In this cave, you will spot plenty of red gorgonians. The sandy bottoms and walls, on the other hand, are full of colorful anemones. On the mainland, the visibility can go from three to 30 meters, which will depend on when you will visit. The peak season in the Berlengas for diving is from June to October. During these months, the water temperature is approximately 19 degrees Celsius.
This is not a specific site for diving in Portugal, but it is a municipality. This resort town is known not only for its picturesque beaches but also for its delicious seafood. Hiking, biking, and kayaking are some of the best activities that you can enjoy in this destination if you are looking for outdoor activities. Plus, it is only 30 minutes away from Lisbon, so it is easy to access. At the harbor, you can find different dive shops where you can register for a dive and get your scuba tank, scuba fins, scuba BCDs, and wetsuits, among other essentials that you will need for your diving adventure. You don’t have to spend too much time on the boat. Some sites are accessed only 15 kilometers away from the harbor. In about 40 minutes, you will be ready to dive in!
The dive depths will vary depending on the location. At Mar da Pedra, the average depth is 12 meters. If you are looking for something deeper, on the other hand, make sure to check out Cape Espichel, which can reach a depth of up to 40 meters.
As for the temperature of the water, it is 12 to 16 degrees Celsius in the winter and 16 to 22 degrees in the summer.
Located on the western coast of Algarve, this is a popular beach and surf destination for people who are visiting Portugal. There is a lack of development in the area and a strong swell, which attracts surfers who want a break from the crowded spots. If you are looking for unique Portugal diving experiences, this is one of the best places to check out. The biggest selling point of this place is the fact that it is not crowded. Nonetheless, it has amazing underwater beauty, so make sure to include this on your list.
There are plenty of rock formations that you can see under the water, including overhangs, walls, caves, and canyons, among others. Conger eels and rays are commonly spotted by the divers in the area. However, in most cases, the maximum depth is only 15 meters, which might not make it a good spot for advanced divers.
4. Martinhal Islands
The group of islands in Martinhal is also popular as breeding grounds for seabirds. It is known for its tranquil beaches. Dolphin watching is a common activity. During your visit, don’t forget to feast on fresh seafood! This is a popular luxury getaway for those who are seeking an upmarket vacation without the crowds.
Be prepared to dazzle in the spectacular flora and fauna in Martinhal. Don’t forget to bring your diving camera to capture its unique beauty. Pair it with the best lenses for underwater photography to get an up-close view of your subjects. Gorgonian, cuttlefish, crabs, and nudibranch are the most common marine creatures that you can see in the area. One of the highlights of a dive in Martinhal is access to a small cave. It is not as stunning as popular cave diving sites, but it is a sight to behold. It has a natural light coming from the chimney roof. Lobsters and crabs cling on the rocks of the cave.
5. Burgau Wreck
If you are a beginner looking for the best destinations for diving in Portugal, one of the best to check out is the Burgau wreck. This is a barge that sank in the 1980s. The average depth is only 5 to 10 meters, so you don’t need to have the advanced technical skills to dive here. At the very least, however, you should know basic skills, such as buoyancy control and diving signals.
When it comes to marine life, a conga eel is often spotted lurking in a pipe at one end of the wreck. At the nooks and crannies, you will spot other interesting creatures, including octopuses. Spider crabs and cuttlefish are also common in the area. If you are diving during the summer months, a large population of triggerfish will confront you.
6. Santa Maria
A gem in the Azores, Santa Maria has a dryer and flatter climate compared to most of its neighbors. It is nicknamed Island of the Sun, so that pretty much sums up what you can expect during your visit. Its size is only 90 square kilometers and it only has around 5,000 inhabitants, making it an excellent destination if you want to escape the crowd.
If you are in Santa Maria to experience Portugal diving, one of the specific spots that you should check out is the Ambrosio Reef. It is only about three miles away from the reef, so you don’t have to spend a lot of time on the boat. Devil rays and pelagic fish are common here. Formigas Natural Reserve and Dollabarat are also worth seeing during your time in Santa Maria. Created in 1988, this marine park is also home to black coral and large schools of fish.
There is also an option for wreck diving. One of the best that you will see is the Olympia, a Greek cargo ship that has been there since 1921. It also has impressive canyons that will challenge any diver.
7. Princess Alice Bank
Those who are looking for the best destinations for diving in Portugal should not miss Princess Alice Bank, which is locally known as Banco Princesa Alice. This submerged seamount was discovered in 1896 and is now one of the most popular destinations for dive enthusiasts who are visiting the Azores.
The minimum depth is 104 meters and there is a possibility of strong currents. When you arrive in the main diving area, you can expect the water to be unbelievably clear, which is one thing that draws people to this destination. Because of the high difficulty of diving, make sure that you have advanced certification before you visit. Be familiar with scuba diving safety tips. Do not forget to bring your dive safety gear!
If you plan to dive here, the best time to go is from July to the middle of October. During these times, the average water temperature is from 18 degrees to 23 degrees Celsius. Even so, it helps to learn how to stay warm when scuba diving so that you will remain comfortable throughout the time you are in the water.
8. Madeira Island
This island is known as the most populous in the Madeira archipelago. It covers an area of 740.7 square kilometers. With its size, you can expect that there will be endless selections of dive sites to explore regardless if you are a beginner or a pro. Throughout the year, there is a diving spot that you will be able to explore when you are in Madeira. Porto Santo, which is known for its crystal-clear water, is one place that should be on your list. It is also home to two shipwrecks.
One of the highlights of your dive vacation in Madeira is a visit to the Garajau Nature Reserve. It is known for the large population of groupers. It is a must to have an up-close experience with them during your trip. Reis Magos is also a dive site that you can visit when you are in Madeira Island, which has frogfishes and seahorses.
9. Porto Santo Island
If you are already in Madeira and you are looking for another place to explore for Portugal, might as well take a trip to Porto Santo Island. This is only 43 kilometers from Madeira Island. Since this is an island, you won’t just have one place to explore under the water. Several spots are sure to be worth your time.
The island is home to Madeirense, a ship that has been intentionally sunk in 2000 and now one of the popular wreck diving spots in the area. With a length of 70 meters, you might end up being surprised by what you will see during your dive here. The visibility here is clear at a depth of up to 40 meters. Barracudas, lilies, tunas, common whales, sperm whales, and dolphins are some of the creatures that you will see here depending on the season of your dive.
At Porto Santo, there are 23 diving sites that you can enjoy depending on your skills. Most of these dive sites are accessible via a 10 to 90-minute boat ride from the coast.
10. Condor Bank
Rounding up our list of the best places for diving in Portugal is the Condor Bank located in the Azores. It is located about 15 miles from the island of Pico. This saltwater dive site is easily accessible via a short boat ride. The maximum depth of the water is 46 meters.
One of the common reasons why people dive here is to experience being close to the sharks. It is home to fast and elegant sharks that are guaranteed to amuse any diver. Make sure to keep your interaction subtle and always follow the instructions of the dive operator since shark diving is a risky but thrilling experience. You also need to time your dive properly, so it helps to use your dive computer or dive watch. The best time to go for a dive at Condor Bank is from July to September. The water conditions can be challenging, which is why it is necessary to go here when the weather is ideal.
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If you love aquatic adventures, whether it is swimming, surfing, or diving, Portugal is one of the best countries you need to explore in Europe. It is gifted with fantastic beaches and remote islands. Regardless of your skill level, you are sure to enjoy Portugal diving. It may not be on the top of the list when talking about the best dive sites in the world, but it is a league of its own that is worth your time.