Beach

Europe’s Best Hidden Beaches


While many of the world’s best beaches can get a little crowded, there are still plenty of unspoilt sandy shores out there waiting to be discovered. If you want to work on that tan, but can’t stand the crowds, then check out Europe’s best hidden beaches, secluded paradises that offer under appreciated, and outstanding, sands.

Though everyone knows about the congested and overdeveloped Costas, or the loud and boisterous attractions of Ibiza, it is Formentera, the smallest of the Balearic Islands, where you will find one of Spain’s most unspoilt beaches. Es Migjorn, on the southern coast of Formentera, is a five mile idyll of protected dunes, white sands and rocky outcrops that is great to visit at any time of year. If you walk inland from the beach you will stumble upon forests of wind-battered carob, fig and olive trees, while rosemary, thyme, chamomile and juniper also grow wild here. The shallow, crystal-clear waters of the Mediterranean, meanwhile, are perfect for swimming, while in winter months southern winds whip up waves that are ideal for surfers.

Es Migjorn

flickr image by CPGXK

 

Parts of this beach are designated as a naturist zone, so be prepared to encounter one or two strollers wearing nothing but their birthday suit as you frolic along this quiet sandy coastline. A wooden boardwalk traverses the length of the beach, while humble chiringuitos, or beach bars, are conveniently located every mile or so on the beach itself. These bars welcome locals and tourists alike, who drink and make merry long into the night around open fires. With only a few small hotels, many family run, near this beach, you will have to book ahead to stay in this area of the Mediterranean. Transport to Es Migjorn is via ferry from Ibiza, and the journey takes around 30 minutes.

While most in Europe look south when thinking about going to the beach, many of the most naturally blessed shorelines on the continent exist in the far north. The Isle of Harris, for instance, 40 miles North-West of Mainland Scotland, is home to the wonderful and stark beach of Luskentyre, an epic and windswept strand of chalk-white sand, tropical blue seas and panoramic skies. This desolate but beautiful beach is completely free of development, and is so remote that, on most days, you are unlikely to encounter any other visitors, bar the long-tailed ducks and golden eagles who make this part of Scotland their home. So what is the downside? Well, winter temperatures at this three mile beach tend to approach freezing, and even in the summer you are unlikely to work up too much of a sweat. If you are tempted to visit this beach at the end of the world, think about bringing a warm sweater and a thermos of hot coffee.

Isle of Harris

flickr image by iknow-uk

While the beaches of Southern Spain are heavily patronised by British and German tourists, who flock there in their millions each year, the Spanish themselves look elsewhere for beach holidays. The glorious northern coast of Spain is a tight-lipped secret amongst in-the-know Spanish holiday makers, who make the trip north to sample the delights of beach cities such as feisty Gijon and salubrious San Sebastian. One of the most special, and most hidden, beaches in all of Spain is Gulpiyuri Beach in Asturias, a small, magical cove hidden behind windswept cliffs and dramatic rock formations. This beach is almost entirely cut off from the sea, but its waters are replenished at each high tide by underground caves and channels cut out of the cliffs by millennia of erosion. As a result, the beach feels like it could be miles inland, were it not for the pillow soft sands underfoot or the perfectly clear saltwater waves lapping at your toes. If you listen closely, you can even hear the waves of the Cantabrian Sea break against the rocks in the distance, a testament to just how much peace and quiet you can soak up while relaxing on Gulpiyuri. Travel to this beach is largely by foot through a series of fields, though you will have to ask locals for detailed directions as you near the coast.

Gulpiyuri Beach

flickr image by ospanacar

Though most of the Greek Islands have long been discovered by mass tourism, many of the best beaches in the Aegean and Ionian Seas are still largely untouched, and plenty more inaccessible by dry land. Sitting beneath the towering chalk-white cliffs of Zante, the pristine Navagio Beach, known locally as Smuggler’s Cove, can be reached only by boat. On the shore lies the rusted wreck of the Panagiotis, a ship used for smuggling contraband such as tobacco onto the islands, that washed up there after running aground on treacherous rocks in 1980. Today visitors are ferried to this tranquil and sequestered beach from the harbours of Zakynthos and Porto Vromi to bask in the hot Greek sun, and feel the impressive presence of the mighty limestone cliffs that engulf this small, cloistered cove.

Navagio Beach

flickr image by Cristian Ghe.

Croatia is famed for the peninsulas and islands of its staggeringly beautiful Dalmatian coastline, yet finding a quiet beach within touching distance of big cities like Split and Dubrovnik can pose a challenge. To find the best seaside retreats in this nation you have to go a little further; try commandeering a small boat and finding the perfect deserted island. Just half an hour on a small ferry from downtown Split is Stiniva, a sheltered cove on the small and sparsely populated island of Vis. Protected from the waters of the Adriatic by two sheer limestone bluffs, this honey-hued beach primarily consists of soft, sea-smoothed pebbles and fine shingle. With calm turquoise waters that lap gently against the shore, visitors can swim right up to the exposed cliff faces, dive into the water or just wet their feet. In evenings the beach becomes so quiet that herds of wild goats make their way down to the shore to recuperate and enjoy the briny sea air.

Next time you feel the need to visit the beach, remember that you do not have to jostle for space on a crowded stretch of sand, every square inch covered by beach towels, folding chairs and parasols. Step off the beaten track and you never know what you might find.

Date posted: 21st September, 2011

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