10 great beaches in Europe

Beach in Isola Rossa
Beach in Isola Rossa

10 great beaches in Europe

by Courtney Woodruff
Stripes Europe

As swimsuits and tank tops replace scarves and sweaters on store shelves, I find myself lost in daydreams that include tan lines, frosty beverages and sand-sprinkled toes more and more often. Summer is here and I can almost smell the sunscreen and taste the sea salt in the air. If, like me, your idea of the perfect mid-year vacation includes a trip to the water’s edge, check out this list of Europe’s best beaches.

10. For sunbathing in Germany: Rügen
Germany may not be the first country that comes to mind when researching hot European beach destinations where you can banish your wan winter glow this summer  — but don’t count it out, either. Rügen, a Baltic island off the Pomeranian coast, allures travelers with 60 kilometers of sandy beaches, enticing lagoons (Bodden) and gorgeous seaside resorts. Rays beat down on the island an average of 1,800 hours each year, making it Deutschland’s sunniest and warmest location.

9. For snorkeling in Italy: Isola Rossa, Sardinia
Isola Rossa, a beautiful Sardinian beach known for its sugary white sand, crimson granite rock and sapphire water, has earned a reputation for being one of the best places to snorkel in Europe. Its rocky underwater canyons and red coral reefs are said to attract higher numbers of colorful fish than anywhere else in the Mediterranean. For that reason, you are almost guaranteed breathtaking photographs every time you head under. Be sure to take a buddy with you — you’re likely to come face to face with one of the many moray eels that have made their home in the warm, shallow pools.

8. For toddlers in Spain: Es Grau, Menorca
High tides and mischievous waves can be enough to keep families traveling with toddlers away from seaside hotspots, but a Menorca beach has something special to offer little ones. At Es Grau, the azure Mediterranean water remains shallow 40 meters out to sea, creating a large, spa-like pool for parents to enjoy with their children. In the meantime, thrill-seeking big kids will have a blast kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkeling and exploring nearby secret coves, like Cala de sa Torreta and Cala des Tamarells.

7. For relaxing in your birthday suit in Portugal: Ilha Deserta, Olhao
If you fantasize about escaping to a secluded beach where you can leave it all behind — including your swimsuit — head to Portugal’s uninhabited Ilha Deserta. Getting there requires a 30-minute ride by water taxi. As its name suggests, you won’t find much on “Desert Island” when you arrive, except for a single restaurant, unblemished beaches, crystal clear water and a whole lot of tranquility. It’s the perfect place to turn off your cellphone, wash your worries away and relax … wearing nothing but a smile.

6. For adventurers in Spain: Cala de sa Forcanera
Looking for a European beach where you can do something a little more exciting than spending the day flipping from back to front on your beach towel to regulate tan lines? Cala de Sa Forcanera is calling your name. Tucked into a hidden cove, this secluded beach can only be reached by kayak or boat, which is why it is usually unoccupied. Getting there is only half the adventure. Hike up to the lush Marimurtra botanical garden for a breathtaking view of the surrounding cliffs and turquoise water below — it’s worth the trip.

5. For families in Greece: St George Beach, Naxos
St. George Beach in Naxos, Greece is a paradise for families with children of all ages. Parents can lie back and relax in lounge chairs while little ones play in warm, shallow water so blue and clear you won’t be able to tell where the sea ends and the sky begins. There’s plenty for energetic big kids, as well; they can start up a game of tennis or volleyball with new friends on the beach, rent a mountain bike to go exploring or sign up for thrilling activities, like windsurfing, waterskiing and wakeboarding at the local sports club.

4. For a budget-friendly holiday in Greece: Corfu
If you dream of spending your summer holiday soaking up picture-perfect Santorini but are afraid it might break the bank, consider heading to Corfu instead. This beautiful Greek island is a fantastic option for penny-pinching beach-bound travelers. Budget airlines, like Ryanair, offer great deals on short hops to Corfu from European countries, and a stay at a clean, comfortable and inexpensive (but not luxurious) all-inclusive resort will help save you money on the cost of entertainment and dining out. 

3. For exploring caves in France: Morgat, Crozon, Brittany
Explorers will love beachcombing the quiet, secluded bays of Morgat, France.  Marvel at the sea life wonders that reveal themselves in the rock pools at low tide and collect colorful shells and pebbles that have washed ashore. When the water level rises, the beach is transformed into a completely different destination for nature enthusiasts to enjoy. Rent a kayak or purchase a ticket for a local boat tour to get a glimpse inside the fascinating sea caves

2. For a year-round paradise in Germany: Tropical Islands, Berlin
Weather can be unpredictable in Germany — even in the summer. To take the elements out of the equation while planning the perfect beach vacation any time of the year, escape to Europe’s largest holiday resort: Tropical Islands. Whether you’re looking to entertain the whole family with exciting water activities, lounge around on your beach towel in-between spa treatments with your partner or camp out on the beach with your friends, this heavenly indoor retreat has something special to offer for everyone.

1. For a romantic, all-inclusive splurge in Croatia: TUI Blue Adriatic Beach Hotel, Zivogosce
Treat your partner to an unforgettable romantic getaway at this luxurious all-inclusive beach resort in wild and wonderful Croatia. For “lovers only,” TUI Blue Adriatic beach hotel promises elegance, extravagant amenities and a serene atmosphere. Splurge on couples spa treatments, enjoy intimate dinners for two and relax on the beach as the attentive staff caters to your every whim. Rooms are newly remodeled and offer breathtaking views of the cerulean sea.

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