Although a small country, Portugal’s mainland is vastly different from the north to the south. The northern region of this beautiful country is greener and full of natural parks, historical monuments, and culturally vibrant cities like Porto, Braga, Viana do Castelo, and Guimarães. It does not get much better than this region for those that appreciate fine wine, food, and architecture.
Diving in Northern Portugal is not always at the top of most people’s bucket list. Still, this area is surprisingly rich in shipwrecks, unique underwater rock formations, canyons, and swim-throughs. The best time to dive Northern Portugal is in the summer months when ocean conditions are calm, and the water is warmer. Winter months bring big surf and reduced visibility. Some of the top dive sites in Northern Portugal are Bezerros, Pelo Negro, and the wrecks of Barbosa, Cantanhede, and U1277, the famous German U-boat submarine. This area is home to a diverse array of fish species, crustaceans, and beautiful gorgonians. Bring your wetsuit, however, as water temperatures fluctuate between 13ºC to 16ºC (55ºF to 61ºF). Diving with a local guide is highly recommended as some sites can be challenging to find and potentially dangerous due to boat traffic and old fishing line.
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Wildlife in Northern Portugal
Northern Portugal dive sites consist of three main types of habitat: rocky reef, sandy bottom, and wrecks. Amongst the rocky areas, divers will encounter many different kinds of crab and wrasse, lobsters, topknot, tompot blennies, European seabass, grey triggerfish, rock goby, golden grey mullet, small red scorpionfish, and white seabream. You will also see anemones, sea stars, and yellow sponges. Along the sandy bottom, common sightings include small-spotted catshark, longfin gurnard, European flounder, common sole, lesser weever, and surmullet. Northern Portugal’s wrecks are teeming with lobsters, conger eels, shrimp, octopus, Atlantic mackerel, and any many species of crab.