Bodensee (Lake Constance) measuring 39 miles (ca. 63 kilometers) long and 9 miles (ca. 14 kilometers) across at its widest point, is central Europe’s third-largest freshwater lake. While mostly associated with Germany, Lake Constance also shares borders with Austria and Switzerland. Sitting at 1,295 feet (ca. 395 meters) above sea-level, It has three distinct segments: Obersee (Upper Lake), Untersee (Lower Lake) and Seerhein (a 4 km river connecting the 2 sub-lakes). Zeller See located in the Untersee is sometimes listed as a separate segment.
Lake Constance is an extension of the famous Rhine River. The Rhine flows into the lake from the south and continues its journey to the Baltic Sea leaving from the west. The receding of the Rhine Glacier of the last Ice Age left a magnificent landscape with mountains and valleys. Over the centuries the Rhine has filled one of these deep valleys creating the lakes. Sometime in the past, the waters were higher leaving islands in the lake that show signs that they were below the surface in the past. Underwater you will see a landscape similar as above the water with underwater cliffs and sloping mountainsides. The lake reaches a depth of over 800 feet. There has been recorded 45 species of fish in Lake Constance.
Being feed from the Alps, The water of the lake is cold. While the surface water may warm some during the summer, once you drop below the surface the water is a fairly constant 50°F. Deep sites will be around 40°F. Divers will find over two dozen outstanding dive sites that include drop-offs, sloping meadows and a number of wrecks. Drift dives are also available. Shore dives are popular. Most of the diving is found in the Obersee, however, there are dive sites and dive operators in the other areas as well.
While there are some dive sites that are suitable for newer divers, Lake Constance is mainly for more experienced divers. Many of the dive sites are deep and in the technical diving range.
Diving Lake Constance
There are a number of rules that govern the diving on Bodensee. The Bodensee-Schifffahrts-Ordnung (BSO) has the most impact on diving. It closes some dive sites in the summer months due to increase boating and shipping activity. Also, Divers with Open Water certifications must dive with a dive center and be accompanied. Some sites are also protected. Diving on these sites is also best as accompanied because of liability and permit issues. After-Work dives are very popular with the local divers. Here are some of the best dive destinations and the best dive site of the destination.
- Bottighofen: Located a short distance from the German city of Konstance, this Swizz town has a few dive sites. The shipwreck of the Jura is the leading site here and one of the most popular shipwrecks in Europe. The Jura was built in 1854 and was a flat-decked passenger paddle steamer. Passengers traveled inside the hull as the only superstructure was the pilot house. On 12 February 1864, The Jura was in a collision with the ship Stadt Zürich (City of Zurich) and sank within four minutes with the loss of two crew members. The ship sits in 110 feet (ca. 34 meters) of water. The cold water fresh water has kept the Juna well-preserved. Dive centers in Meersburg and Konstance frequently travel to this site for dives.
- Meersburg: This small German town on the north shore of Bodensee sits on a steep slope. It is home to vineyards, museums, and castles. It also has a few very interesting dive sites. Mostly wall dives done from the shore. It is also a great location at any of the sites for night dives. The most popular site here is Wilder Mann. A short swim in 3 feet (0.91 meters) of water brings you to a wall that drops to about 30 feet (ca. 9 meters), a short swim and another wall drops to 130 feet (ca. 40 meters). Tech divers will find an additional drop to a wreck at 180 feet (ca. 55 meters). Due to boat traffic, this site is available only in the winter months. Überlingen – Camping is a similar site available year-round. Divers staying in Meersburg can also dive the Juna.
- Wallenhausen: This German town on the Überlinger See portion of the Obersee has a half dozen outstanding div sites. The “Devil’s Table” (Teufelstisch) dive site is the best known of the sites here. The underwater structures are breathtaking. However, this site is for very experienced divers and requires a permit to dive. To get a permit divers must provide “Proof of at least 40 dives in the last 12 months, of which at least 10 in Lake Constance with a depth deeper than 20.00 m”. The Hochhaus dive site is nearby and is not as demanding of a site.
- Überlingen: Across the Überlinger See and a short ferry ride from Wallenhausen, Überlingen has a great selection of shore dive sites. The Parkhaus Post dive site is highly rated by experienced divers. You kit up for this dive in the parking garage of the post office and enter the water directly behind it. It is a deep wall dive.
- Konstance / Kreuzlingen: Germany’s Konstance and Switzerland’s Kreuzlingen are across the Seerhein from each other where that river starts at the Obersee. There are a number of dive sites in the area including fast drift dives, however, some are restricted by the BSO. The Freibad Horn is a very good shore dive suitable for Open Water divers.
Visiting Lake Constance
Lake Constance is called the four-country region: Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and the Principality of Liechtenstein. While the Principality of Liechtenstein does not border the lake, it is close by. Each year an estimated 60 million people visit the area as day visitors with millions more staying for extended stays. The summer months are the peak season, however, the lake and surrounding area is popular year round. This is not an international destination as about 95% of the visitors come from the four countries. The local geography gives it a milder winter than the surrounding area.
Lake Constance is divided into different regions. They are:
- The German shore of Lake Constance
- Principality of Liechtenstein
- Hegau, Konstanz, Untersee
- Upper Swabia and Allgäu
- St.Gallen-Lake Bodensee
- Thurgau Bodensee
Bodensee Airport Friedrichshafen is the only international airport in the four countries region. However, there are seven other international airports within a two-hour drive of the area. The European rail system is outstanding with many cities are directly connected to Lake Constance:
- Karlsruhe, Munich, and Stuttgart in Germany
- Zurich in Switzerland
- Innsbruck in Austria.
The cities of Constance, Friedrichshafen, Lindau, Bregenz, and St.Gallen have a coach service from many European cities. Coach and ferry service connects many of the cities around the lake.
While in Bodensee you should purchase the Bodensee Erlebniskarte (Bodensee Card PLUS) to enhance your visit. You can purchase either a summer version (April to Oct)or a winter version (Oct to April). The summer version can be either a three or seven-day pass. You can select the days to use over the season. The three-day summer pass allows usage of the ferries for two of the three days and three days admissions at over 160 locations.