They say, 'It's the journey, not the destination'. Well, maybe 'they' are not scuba divers. While the journey can be spectacular, you can't dive during the journey, and often, when embarking on an epic diving holiday, the journey can be very long. Sometimes we want to dive, but just don't have the time to fly halfway around the world. If you live in Europe and are looking for a closer-to-home dive spot without the need for an epic journey, read on for a roundup of the best short-haul diving destinations within easy reach of the UK...

Gozo diving


Stretching from the Rock of Gibraltar in the west to the beaches of Beirut at its eastern end, the Mediterranean Sea covers an area a little under a million square miles and is almost entirely surrounded by land. Halfway between Gibraltar and Lebanon is the Maltese archipelago, home to Gozo, whose splendid reefs, caves, and wrecks have led it to be dubbed the 'Mecca of Mediterranean diving'.

With a flight time of a little over three hours from the UK, Gozo is a shoo-in for our list of the best short-haul diving destinations. The island is close enough for a long-weekend break but has enough dive sites and topside attractions to also be worthy of a longer getaway. For a longer stay, you can also choose to spend a day or two exploring the UNESCO World Heritage City of Valletta, on Malta, before heading over to dive the Inland Sea, Blue Window and the myriad wrecks of Gozo.

Gozo's dive sites include something for everyone, from beginner dives in gentle, sun-lit coral gardens to deep, technical wreck diving. With an array of wrecks, including WWI sites, and interesting topography below the waves, there's plenty of excellent diving to enjoy.

The Azores

The Azores

Few people would guess that it's possible to dive alongside the majestic manta ray within Europe. With a flight time of under four hours, the Portuguese archipelago of the Azores is within easy reach of the UK, and in addition to being a great place to dive with mantas, they also have a healthy population of sleek blue sharks, and there's even the chance of an encounter with the fastest shark in the ocean - the mako.

Due to its impressive big-fish action without the need for a twelve-hour flight, the Azores has to be up there with the best short-haul dive destinations from the UK. Hit the islands and their offshore seamounts at the right time of the year and you are virtually guaranteed encounters with mantas, blue sharks and makos, and there's always the chance of a passing whale shark or pod of dolphins too…

Egypt diving


Egypt's Red Sea Riviera has been a long-term favourite destination among European divers. And with flights taking a little under five hours, it's definitely one of the best short-haul diving destinations from Europe. Famed for its steep drop-offs and gin-clear waters, the Red Sea is the world's northernmost tropical sea and one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world (maybe pop an extra weight on your belt!). It's also home to over 1,000 invertebrate species and 200 types of soft and hard coral. Every European diver's bucket list should include a trip to the Red Sea.

Aside from the epic diving, Egypt also boasts a rich history, and there's plenty to explore on land too. Why not head to Cairo for some culture before cruising down the Nile on a steamship and ending in Hurghada to explore the wrecks and reefs?

Hurghada offers a fantastic diving experience for both beginner and advanced divers and, in addition to having some beautiful local reefs, is the perfect departure point for the Red Sea's most famous dive site - the wreck of the SS Thistlegorm. The ship was sunk in 1941 but still houses an impressive selection of military artefacts, ranging from locomotives and tanks to army trucks and jeeps.

Iceland Diving


If you're looking for the best short-haul diving destinations that are suitable to visit during the winter, you may be surprised to hear that Iceland is worth checking out. While most people look for sunnier climes at this time of year, the winter months are ideal for visiting Iceland. The Northern Lights will be at their most magical, and there are plenty of natural hot springs for when you need to warm up.

Diving-wise, the big draw of a trip to Iceland is the chance to enjoy 100-metre visibility while diving between two continents, quite literally. The Silfra Fissure marks the gap between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates and is one of the most unique dives on the planet. The fissure features three dive sites - Silfra Hall, Silfra Cathedral and Silfra Lagoon - and despite the glacial temperature of the water, a dive at any of them will be truly memorable. Silfra Cathedral is the most popular of the sites, and it features a 100-metre (330-foot) long fissure, and it's often possible to see from one end to the other! You'll be hard-pressed to find clearer water anywhere else.