7 Stunning Paddle Boarding Locations in Europe
With 2020 being a year that we are all yearning to put behind us, the idea of taking to the skies bound for some of our favourite travel destinations will hopefully be in reach sooner rather than later.
If you’re amongst the growing number of paddle boarding enthusiasts who like the idea of taking advantage of the portability of your inflatable SUPs, then make the most of it as you’re definitely spoilt for choice. It’s not just about the U.S., Australia or the other front of mind beach type destinations either. Adding in the history and cultural flavours that many European destinations have on offer should definitely be on your ‘go to’ list.
Listed below are a handful of the many European destinations that are well worth including on your next paddle boarding getaway.
Tucked away between France and Portugal in Southwestern Europe; Spain is best known for its food, night-life, idyllic beaches and of course a nice little afternoon snooze. With in excess of 5,000 miles of coastline and near on 600 ‘Blue Flag‘
beaches including the Canary and Balearic Islands (home to the iconic islands of Mallorca, Menorca, and Majorca), watersports enthusiasts and sun lovers alike are literally spoilt for choice.
Sometimes referred to as the Hawaii of Europe, popular coastal paddle boarding hot spots beyond the islands mentioned above include the beaches of San Sebastián located in the Bay of Biscay and Asturias located in the southern part of the bay in the Cantabrian Sea.
To the south is the port city of Valencia where the crystal and calm waters of unspoilt beaches in Port Saplaya; La Pobla de Farnals and Sagunto to name but a few, also offer some great SUPing locations and are well suited to less experienced paddlers who are still finding their feet so to speak.
If you would prefer a little more of a cultural feel without getting sand between your toes, then paddling along the Guadalquivir River in the southern city of Seville is a great way to take in some of the cities historic sites before venturing off to the bullfighting or one of the many flamenco shows.
Play it safe on the water. Our Paddle Boarding Safety Tips cover all the bases.
Arguably my favourite European destination, Italy is located in the southern part of the continent with in excess of 40% of its 4,600 mile coastline covered by stretches of sand and gravel beaches.
To the north are the countless ‘must see’ canals of Venice where you can skip the gondola and soak up these tranquil waterways on your paddle board. Better still, SupInVenice are a well reputed tour operator that offer year round tours along some of the lesser known non-tourist canals all operated by their experienced Venetian instructors.
On the northwestern coastline on the Ligurian Sea is Cinque Terre which is a stunning pocket comprising the 5 fishing villages of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. Well known for its fresh seafood, paddling along the UNESCO protected Cinque Terre National Park back dropped by clusters of multi-coloured terrace houses is a truly unique experience.
Venturing further to the south in the Mediterranean Sea is the sun drenched island of Sardinia which also boasts beautiful shorelines pocketed with small towns and fishing villages. For a more tranquil experience, paddling along the river Temo in the medieval town of Bosa in the northern part of Sardinia is yet another way to take on board many of the pastel painted buildings or historical castles and churches.
Off the boot of the mainland and located to the very south of the island of Sicily is the unspoilt Lo Stagnone, Marsala which is best known for its warm winds and flat shallow waters. While more challenging owing to the windier conditions, this playground for kite surfers is yet another unique way to take to your paddle board back dropped by tiny islands and windmills.
A paddle boarding and water enthusiasts paradise, it would literally take you years to explore the 6,000 Greek islands that are scattered amongst the Ionian and Aegean Seas. While the vast majority of islands are uninhabited, many are known the world over for their stunning shorelines and crystal clear waters.
It would be silly to try and name ‘the best’ amongst the best but some of the more favoured paddling destinations include Santorini which was sculptured from a massive volcanic eruption thousands of years ago with its towering cliff tops peppered with bright white dwellings. If the idea of dance clubs and partying at night followed by strolls along cobbled streets and paddling in little beach coves by day is your thing, then Mykonos for you it shall be.
Or perhaps you don’t mind the tourist crowds so much so exploring the Blue Caves and paddling along Navagio Beach on the island of Zakynthos will be more to your liking. Bring the sunscreen though as these are a mere sprinkle of what the Greek islands have to offer.
Because of the warmer and calm waters there are also many open sea races and paddling relays as well as the 4-mile-long Corinth Paddle Crossing which is the worlds straightest SUP race. The more adventurous paddlers can also take to their boards with their camping kit and avoid the tourist traffic as they SUP their way along the lesser explored islands.
If you do plan on island hoping and doing a few overnight beach stays, our Beginners Guide to Paddle Board Camping provides some handy hints on what you need to know.
Comparatively small in size relative to its other Continental European cousins, bordering Belgium and Germany is the Netherlands. While its coastline along the North Sea continues to receive much-needed attention given the countries constant land reclamation works, the Netherlands is best known for its capital city Amsterdam, which features more than 60 miles of canals.
The historic inner canal ring is made up of a network of four main canals that encircle central Amsterdam, namely, Herengracht, Prinsengracht, Keizersgracht, and Singel. This inner ring is protected by UNESCO as a world heritage site given its historical and cultural significance. Whether you are paddling along its main artery, the Amstel River or one of the many canals, taking in the city views while you float under the many bridges or the cross city dams is definitely a unique way to take in the sites.
Beyond the inner city canals, making the 5-mile paddle to the 19th century artificial fort island of Pampus or taking a bite of the 680 sq miles of Lake IJsselmeer are again two other ways to enjoy the stunning scenery that the Netherlands have to offer.
New to SUPing and want to know more, the Benefits of Paddle Boarding are considerable. See for yourself.
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Land locked in Central Europe and bordered by Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Poland, the Czech Republic is home to hundreds of castles, the most in Europe in fact with the historic centre of Prague also coming under UNESCO World Heritage protection.
While not having a coastline itself, the Czech Republic is still a fantastic place to paddle board owing to its many lakes, rivers and canals. The Elba River, also referred to as ‘Label’ is one of the major rivers in Europe originating from the stunning Krkonose Mountain range and flowing near on 700 miles to the North Sea in Germany. The relaxing sensation of paddling along the Elba taking in views of medieval history, meadows, thermal springs and the wine region in Bohemia is simply stunning.
Flowing through the north of Prague is the Vltava River which takes in many of the cities historical sites including Charles Bridge, the National Theatre and Prague Castle. The river also encapsulates many dams which are well-known for their recreational water sports albeit the water is a tad cold.
The Spree River is also another beautiful waterway which flows through Saxony, Bohemia and Bavaria. Be it the architectural remains of the medieval ages or the heritage and history of Berlin as the river works its way through Germany, the Spree is yet another example of why taking to your SUP in many of these European destinations is simply peerless.
With a population of over 10 million soccer crazed fans, Portugal is located in the south western part of Continental Europe on the Iberian Peninsula, bordering Spain. Its coastline extends for 1,100 miles all of which is on the Alantic Ocean which has heavily influenced its once prominent maritime origins.
Given its extensive coastline, Portugal is known the world over as a big wave surfing destination with Nazaré offering up the biggest surfable wave in the world – a Guinness Book of World Records was set here in fact.
The Peniche Peninsula, also known as the sardine capital of the world is another surfing paradise and Portugal’s most visited surfing destination. Nazaré and Peniche should only be tackled if you are a seasoned surf SUPer otherwise you’d be well advised to pull up some sand and watch the big boys tackle the waves from the shore.
There are of course many other stunning paddle boarding destinations in Portugal none least of which is the Luiz Saldanha Marine Park which is located about 30 miles south of the Portuguese capital Lisbon. The coastline is heavily protected making the waters crystal clear creating great visibility for its incredibly diverse aquatic life. With ease of access from the city, SUPing here is a no brainer. Owing in part to its vibrant restaurant and beach promenade, Cascais is another popular SUPing location which is also within easy reach from the city.
Home to some of the wealthiest summer vacation houses, the warm waters of West Algave in the south of Portugal is popular amongst paddle boarders with many remote beaches as well as the cave systems at Raposeira near Sagres. Also accessible from Seville in Spain, Algave is the most popular region for tourism in Portugal as well as housing a large European expat community.
We took the BOTE HD Aero iSUP for a test drive in the Luiz Saldanha Marine Park. Could it get any better !!
Another small Central European nation, Slovenia is best known for its mountainous terrain, stunning cave systems, ski resorts and lakes. Sitting south of Austria and also bordering Italy, Hungary and Croatia, the Slovenian coastline on the Adriatic Sea stretches for a mere 27 miles. Fear not though for what it lacks in coastal waters it makes up for with a significant river and lake system.
Setting off from its capital city Ljubljana, taking in the Old Town historic city sites including the Castle of Ljubljana and the Dragon Bridge while paddling along the Ljubljanica River is a fantastic introduction to the Slovenian capital. The emerald waters of the Soča River however offer a completely different paddling experience with breath taking views, crystal clear water and sandy shores in part as well as mild rapids along other stretches.
The countries lakes are amongst some of the most beautiful in the world. Located in North West Slovenia’s Upper Carniolan Region, Lake Bled and the surrounding township are amongst the most popular tourist attractions in Slovenia. Best visited in the summer, paddling around Bled Island with the snow capped mountains in the background are truly breathtaking.
Another equally beautiful paddling location and one of many glacial lakes dotted through the Durmitor Mountain Range is Black Lake. Located 2 miles from Žabljak, it is one of the warmest lakes in the range because of comparatively low elevation. The entire area is a popular destination with easy access to the water during the summer and the snow fields in the winter.
The above destinations are but a sprinkle of what Europe has on offer. Whether you are a seasoned traveler or an experienced SUPer, the opportunities to experience the waterways of Europe are endless.
We hope you found the above article of interest and as always would love to hear from you. Where are your favourite paddle boarding locations in Europe? Have we hit any of them above? It would be great to exchange notes.
Until then, stay safe and get wet.