Don’t discount Athens if you’re looking for dive sites in Greece. I recently crossed off number 31 on my 50-before-50 bucket list and completed my PADI Open Water Diver Course in the warm waters of the Athens Rivera. (I managed to come away with zero photos of myself, though!)
I intended to get my scuba dive qualification on one of the islands this summer, but I rescued some kittens from Milos. Fostering them meant postponing my travel until later in the year, so I found somewhere here in Athens.
Anyway, if you need to escape the bustling city centre, a whole underwater world is waiting for you just a short drive away along the coast.
Where to Dive in Athens
A lot of the dive shops in Athens are in the southern suburbs; however, there are others around the city. Regardless of their base, they generally go to the southern beaches for their shore dives.
If you’re staying in the northern suburbs of Athens or happy to travel a bit further away from downtown Athens, Attica has some other dive sites on the east coast. (Also handy if you’re coming in and out of Rafina Port.)
When deciding which is the best scuba diving shop for you, consider things like:
- whether you’re going to be with an experienced instructor
- how easy it is to get to (some places will offer a collection/drop-off service from your hotel in Athens city centre
- what the reviews are like in general
- if it’s important for you to have photos as a part of the package
Vouliagmeni has some popular spots for diving on the Athens coast
The list below isn’t exhaustive. Search on Google Maps for something near your with good reviews, or see what’s on offer through somewhere like Get Your Guide.
Seahorse Dive Center, Vari
This is where I did my dive qualification. It’s a friendly, family-run business with dives going on all week. They’re LGBTQ-friendly, and I felt safe in the water with their experienced instructors.
- Athens Divers Club at Anavyssos
- Amphibious Diving Center at Cholgaros
What to Expect from Diving in Athens
The marine life in Greek waters is not as colourful or diverse as in other parts of the world. The only turtles I’ve seen were at the Sea Turtle Rescue Centre in Glyfada. But there’s still enough in these crystal clear waters to explore.
We saw lots of fish, including a couple of lion fish, sea urchins, a starfish and an octopus or two hiding in the sand. And there are other sights for appropriately certified divers, like sunken wrecks and caves.
Weather and Water Conditions
The water temperature in summer is perfect. You’re fine to wear a short wetsuit. Having said that, I can really catch the sun, so I’ve started wearing a long-sleeved top underneath. Weather conditions are usually favourable, although boat trips might be altered if it’s windy.
Watermelon after a summer boat dive
Before late May, the weather can be a bit more changeable, and the sea is still quite cold. Wear a full wetsuit and be prepared for changes to your dives. The sea temperature stays warm through autumn, although the weather isn’t so consistent after about mid-October.
Most places will include the necessary equipment in the price of the dives below. They usually have a lower rate if you only need to borrow weights and a tank. It’s a good idea to double-check that their kit is serviced annually.
Types of Dives
How big a diving adventure are you after?!
If you’re looking for your first diving experience, you could do a Discover Scuba Diving session. In Athens, you’ll go out in a small group of probably around 5 other beginners.
You get a short lesson at the beginning to teach you some essentials (like breathing underwater!) so you can dive safely. And then, you head off for your diving excursion.
The PADI Open Water Diver is the first dive certification and the gateway to more advanced PADI courses. If you want a scuba diving certification, this is where you need to start.
Fun Shore Dives
Vouliagmeni (near the spa waters of Vouliagmeni Lake that you might have heard of) has popular sites. As well as the long sandy beach, there are some smaller coves and rocky swimming spots along the coast.
We learnt our initial diving skills in the shallow waters of one of those before heading into deeper waters for the open water part of our qualification.
On one dive trip, we swam over the entrance to a 30-meter-deep tunnel that leads to a large underwater cave system. Experienced divers head down there using a rope, as currents at the bottom can pull you into the caves.
Fun Boat Dives
During the summer months, most of the dive shops have daily boat dives. It’s a great way to enjoy a fun dive when you’re still a novice and gaining confidence in your skills and diving.
Some of the centres, like Athens Divers, offer limited night dives each week.
Booking Course Dates
One thing I found a bit frustrating when trying to book a certification course was that none of the Athens diving places I looked at had fixed course dates advertised on their sites. (I’ve seen since that Kanelakis Diving does have a real-time calendar with start dates and times for their activities.)
I went with Seahorse Diving Center because they let you choose any start date on their calendar. I wanted to do the open water course in 3-4 days, but after I paid, they just emailed to say they’d get in touch with the next course dates at some point soon.
I called up because that was a bit vague, and after that, they did give me a proper start date. I was with a couple of kids doing the course, and it ended up being spread across a couple of weeks, but we got there in the end.
If you’re on a schedule and need to do your qualification within a certain timeframe, I’d check that before committing somewhere.
Things to Note
You can’t dive just before or after flying. Check with the organisation you’re booking with what they advise. Twelve hours is usually a long enough gap, but some places stipulate 24 hours.
Scuba is safe for lots of people. But if you have a heart condition or any other medical condition that affects your heart and respiratory system, amongst other things, you’ll need to declare it on the pre-dive health questionnaire. For some medical conditions, you’ll need to get medical clearance before diving.
Don’t forget to take some evidence of dive certification if you want to do a fun dive. I got a PADI logbook after a try dive in Egypt and another one when I started the open water course in the UK before COVID.
This time I gave up on that and got the PADI app so that I always have the info about my scuba diving certification on me.
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