August 28, 2023
The best beaches in Europe
Life is a beach if you want it to be. Amongst the Mediterranean lands and seas, you come across some of the world’s very best and beautiful. From briny blue waters to the clearest of crystal oceans, the Europe’s greatest summer spots boast every kind of coastal escape. Furthermore, some the draw to some destinations does not end when September comes and you will still find a few special locations where the sun shines all year long. Sandy stretches, rocky ridges, and shimmering shores lie in wait. Whilst it is easy to write an infinite list of the best beaches in Europe, here is a spotlight on some of the most coveted yet not necessarily best known. Enjoy soaking up the sun on any of these enchanting seafronts.
The Zingaro Nature Reserve, Sicily
These beaches make you work for their beauty. In northwest Sicily, lies the island’s first nature reserve which is immaculately preserved. A small entry fee to Zingaro grants you access to a coastal paradise. Hike along the stunning trail and whenever you see a stretch of beach you must stop for a swim and a sprawl. The waters are astonishingly blue, the nature is pristine and the joy of discovering one blissful bay after another feels all the more rewarding. Each little beach has its own charm, and you will discover sandy, pebbled, and rocky niches carved into Sicily’s landscape. The hike itself also reveals treasure after treasure from looming grottos to wildflower fields. To protect the stunning beauty, there are no facilities in the Zingaro Nature Reserve so make sure to bring your towels, water and sustenance to power you through the day.
There are few beaches in the world where I would say that the crowds add to the appeal but there is nothing like Tropea beach on a hot August day. The beach is smattered with umbrellas but don’t worry, you will always find a spot nestled between locals who have gathered their family troops for a day at one of Calabria’s (or even Italy’s) most astounding beaches.
Some places are worth the hype and Tropea is one of them. Crystalline waters, hidden grottos and cliff jumping are just a few of its attractions. The frenetic energy of the town’s shoreline which lies under dramatic hilltop buildings, is like no other. On the left-hand side of the beach lies a church at the top of a cliff where you cannot help but start planning an elopement to southern Italy! On the right-hand side, a few lidos have colonised the precious shores but the fun lies in the free beach and all is chaotic splendour. Everywhere you look, you see moments of a real Italian summer but equally, the fine soft sand and sparkling waters provide the purest respite.
By now Milos has gained a well-deserved reputation for a stunning and varied coastline. It goes without saying that Sarakiniko is a seaside spectacle, the closest us holidaygoers will get to a moon landing. Yet if you venture slightly off the instagram-trodden-path, you will find other oases of Grecian greatness. Paralia Pachena is a tiny bay of tranquillity. This nook of Milos is a true Arcadia, a slice of idyll. Its undisturbed wilderness carries you across the centuries and makes you feel the ancient history of the island. When I visited Milos, it was the one beach which I kept coming back to. Next to the bay, there is also a cavern in the rocks which leads straight into Aegean waters. Also close by are the Papafragas caves, high clifftops where a steep descent will reward you with those shades of Cycladic seas that you may have only dreamed about before.
Playa Ses Illetes, Formentera
When a beach maintains its staggering beauty even after Summer is over, you know its worth your time. I visited Formentera in October and the saturated blue waters of Playa Ses Illetes tricked me into thinking I was in the throes of August. The beach itself is a marvel; it is a long thin strip of sandy shore which means the sea surrounds it on all sides. The further you walk along it, the narrower it gets until you reach the very end of the bay (450m long) and it feels like you are on the edge of the world. All signs of modern life are cleverly hidden – cars, kiosks, and bikes seem worlds away making the playa a veritable escape. Since Play Ses Illetes is located in a natural reserve, the importance of preserving its natural beauty is paramount to the locals and continues to draw crowds who value slow tourism over commodified attractions. Indeed, the relaxed and easy pace of life that is felt throughout the whole of Formentera is a far cry from its neighbouring island, Ibiza. Whilst Playa Ses Illetes is just one of the beaches worth visiting on Formentera, it is arguably one of the finest.
Volcanic Pools, Tenerife
Not quite a beach but easily one of the most astounding coastal marvels of Spain or even Europe, the volcanic pools of Tenerife are not to be missed. Since the Canary Islands are often unfairly labelled as tacky party destinations, the natural beauty therefore comes as a very welcome surprise. Near the town of Acantilados de los Gigantes lie saltwater pools etched into black volcanic stone that have been formed over the earth’s many years. Waves crash into the shore and fill up the craters with their Mediterranean waters. This impact creates exhilarating moments of tidal force as you bathe in the refreshing remnants of the sea. The best time to go is just before golden hour not only for the magic of the scenery but also for the waning crowds. The sun sets right in front of the pools; glimmering light bounces off the waters and is absorbed by the volcanic stone – it is a breath-taking and unmissable spot.