On the surface, the Azores and Gozo appear worlds (read: oceans) apart. For starters, the Azores is an oceanic archipelago hidden in the middle of the Atlantic, while Gozo enjoys a prime spot in the Mediterranean. However, when it comes to diving, these two European goliaths share a lot of similarities, making a battle for Europe's best diving inevitable. Both destinations boast excellent visibility, warm(ish) water and a variety of sites suited to every level of diver. However, there are some key differences to sway you in the Azores vs. Gozo battle for Europe's best diving…
Best for Pelagic Life
Located in the deep blue of the North Atlantic Ocean, around 1,000 miles off the coast of Portugal, the Azores archipelago acts as a pitstop for migrating animals, such as the mighty blue whale, as well as hosting year-round residents (think: sperm whales, bottlenose and common dolphins). Yet despite attracting all the big-ticket marine life, this remote chain of islands has managed to stay wonderfully under the radar.
For the best pelagic diving, head to Formigas, Dollabarat and Ambrosio. These offshore seamounts attract everything from Galapagos, blue and mako sharks, to turtles, huge schools of tuna and devil rays, and, if you're lucky, hammerheads and whale sharks.
Although you may spot the occasional turtle or dolphin, divers don't go to Gozo for pelagic species. Therefore, in the Azores vs. Gozo spar, the Azores wins this round.
Best for Unique Dives
Have you ever wondered what it's like to dive inside a volcano? Well, in the Azores you can. Located south of São Miguel Island, Vila Franca do Campo is an almost perfectly circular volcano crater, which, protected from outside currents, makes it ideal for beginner to advanced divers.
Not to be beaten, Gozo also has its fair share of unique dives, including Jacques Cousteau's favourite European dive site, the Blue Hole. Gozo's famous Blue Hole is shaped like a funnel that descends into a large cave featuring an underground archway. The archway leads to the open ocean then to Inland Sea, which is another site leading into a saltwater lagoon. The water is crystal clear, allowing divers to spot shrimp, octopus and conger eels in HD visibility.
For the sheer absurdness of diving in a volcano crater, the Azores takes the crown in this round. 2-0 to the Azores.
Best for Shore Diving
The best dive sites in Gozo are within a few fin kicks from the shore, making this Mediterranean marvel a shore diver's paradise. One of our favourite sites, Inland Sea, features an 80-metre tunnel leading out to a wall dive in the open ocean. The site starts at three metres, making it a great choice for snorkellers too.
Over in the Azores, Pico Island has a variety of coastal diving spots featuring steep walls, ridges and arches forged by bygone lava flows. While the coast might be lacking in coral, it makes up for it with a wide variety of macro life, various species of octopus, moray eels, stingrays and fish species. For macro lovers, visit in March when various nudibranch species hatch their eggs.
This one is too close to call. In the Azores vs. Gozo battle, we're calling this a draw. 3-1 to the Azores.
Best for Wreck Diving
From P31, a former German patrol boat used in the Cold War era, to the iconic HMS Stubborn submarine that rests at a depth of 58 metres, Gozo is scattered with rusty relics suitable for divers of all levels. Don't miss diving the MV Karwela, a former ferry featuring a unique staircase, that was deliberately sunk to create an artificial reef.
In the Azores, wreck lovers can explore the SS Dori wreck from the south coast of São Miguel. Built during the Second World War, the SS Dori met her watery demise in 1964, where she now lies at a maximum depth of 30 metres.
In the Azores vs. Gozo battle, Gozo takes this round for the number and variety of fascinating wrecks to explore. 3-2 to the Azores.
Best for Landlubber Adventures
No diving holiday is complete without exploring above the waves, and neither the Azores nor Gozo disappoints. Hailed as the 'Hawaii of the Atlantic,' the Azores islands are rife with adventure; from exploring the Jurassic landscapes of São Miguel to hiking the 7,715ft summit of Pico volcano - the highest point in Portugal - and uncovering hot springs enveloped in alpine forest. Feeling thirsty? Sample Azorean wine at the aptly named Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Gozo, on the other hand, is all about ancient history and homegrown wine. The laid-back neighbour to Malta, Gozo is scattered with ancient temples and archaeological sites, such as Ggantija Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Pair historical exploration with vineyard tours, or, for active adventures, hike, bike and kayak around the island.
We'd say this round has to be a draw, making the final score three all. The Azores vs. Gozo battle for Europe's best diving is too close to call, so it really all comes down to personal preference, and you'll have to visit them both to decide for yourself...