20 of the best beaches in Europe that the locals don't want you to know about
Planning a beach holiday and looking for a quiet spot where you won't have to battle for an umbrella? Beat the miserable British summer by planning your escape to one of these secret beaches across Europe that you've probably never heard of...
If you have a favourite coastal spot in Europe that we've missed, don't forget to share in the comments section below!
1. Plage de Saleccia, Corsica
Secret beaches usually take a bit of effort to get to, but the rewards usually make up for sweating in the midday sun. Nowhere is this truer than in Corsica: unless you’ve got a boat to hand, you’ll have to walk across a desert to get to arguably one of the best beaches in Europe, Saleccia. Hidden by the desolate Désert de Agriates, a sunburnt expanse of nothingness, Saleccia is the heaven after the hell, a mile-long desert island dream sitting pretty on the Mediterranean Sea.
How to get there: Flights to Corsica go direct from London Gatwick, with most airlines routing through the island's capital of Ajaccio. To get to Saleccia Beach, off road it in a 4x4 from Casta in the northern prefecture of Bastia, or take that private yacht you've got stashed away.
2. Cala de sa Forcanera, Spain
Not all secret beaches require several miles of hiking and a secret treasure map. In fact, Cala da Forcanera is an hour away from Barcelona and Girona, which makes it perfect for escaping the city. However, you will need a kayak to get there - access via land means traipsing through private property, which is why it's usually deserted. After a day spent topping up the tan head to the town of Lloret de Mar for a seafood supper. And if you're planning on spending any time in nearby Barcelona, check out our city guide for tips on where to go and not get ripped off.
How to get there: Fly into Barcelona and access Cala de sa Forcanera by kayak from one of the other surrounding beaches on the Costa Brava. Nearby resort Blanes makes a good base.
3. Anamur, Iskele, Turkey
The lack of a main road and high rise resorts usually leaves this little hidden beach deserted. A favourite with Turkish locals on their holidays, if you decide to head to this corner of Europe for your beach holiday this summer, you'll be staying in small, family-run hotels paying local prices for delicious Turkish food. Sounds pretty perfect to us.
How to get there: The nearest airport to Iskele is Antalya, some 160 miles away. Luckily, Iskele is connected to the big city by the D400, so it won't be too hard to find Anamur if you're renting a car on arrival.
4. Pentire Steps, UK
Have you heard of Bedruthan Steps? Probably. This is the more popular beach of the two in Cornwall, but for secret picnics and long, quiet afternoons, go to Pentire Steps, part of the same stunning National Park. Forming a scenic stretch of the Portcothan Bay Walk, why not combine it with a lengthy stroll - this is also a dog-friendly beach. Efforts will be rewarded with Flake 99s.
How to get there: Cornwall's airport is found at surfing capital Newquay, just under 20 minutes drive along the coast from the National Trust site of Bedruthan. Follow the signs for Pentire Farm and park there, then take the narrow footpath down to the coast - wear proper walking shoes.
5. Traigh Eais, the Outer Hebrides, Scotland
Situated on the tiny Hebridean island of Barra, Traigh Eais beach doubles as Barra airport; obviously, you can only land when the tide is out. The airport beach would be a grand place to stretch out your towel, if it wasn't for incoming aircraft, but walk just five minutes west to find a quieter stretch of Traigh Eais, and enjoy this secret gem in a bejewelled crown of Scottish beaches - don't just take our word for it, discover more of Scotland's fantastic beaches!
6. Liepaja, Latvia
You might not think about stripping off at the seaside in Lativa, but the Baltic coast is full of hidden gems and Liepaja, on the country's west coast, is one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe. This is where the Latvians go when they want white sand and sea and, until now, it's been a (well-kept) secret beach - sorry locals, but we think you guys deserve to know about it too!
How to get there: Take a bus from Riga to Liepaja, or hire a car and drive into Lativia from the north of Lithuania.
7. Reynisfara, Iceland
Who says beaches have to be golden or talcum powder white? Near the town of Vik in the south of Iceland, Reynisfjara is beautiful in black and blue, its sand decorated with the odd lump of ice from the Vatnajokull glacier. Which should tell you that the water might be a bit chilly for getting your tootsies wet, but it's certainly a beautiful place to admire. For more on what to see and do in Iceland (that doesn't involve the Northern Lights) check this alternative guide out.
How to get there: Take a flight to Reykjavik and hire some wheels to explore Iceland's incredible geography to the full. To get to Reynisfara beach, turn onto the 215 from Highway 1 and look out for black sand!
8. Polly Joke, Cornwall, UK
'Polly Joke' is the local name for Porth Joke, one of the lesser known beaches in north Cornwall. It's tucked into the headland of Newquay's countryside and it's just a short walk down to Joke's beautiful shoreline. This descent puts a lot of people off, which is usually why it's so quiet, but don't let this deter you from exploring one of Europe's best beaches if you've made the effort to get to Cornwall.
How to get there: Park at West Pentire car park and follow the signs for Porth Joke Beach.
9. Virgin Mary Bay, Italy
The shores of Capo Vaticano make it on to lists of the best beach holidays in Europe quite regularly. You might have read about Groticelle, the most famous, or even Tano Bay, an amazing 124 metres above sea level, but Virgin Mary Bay is the real undiscovered beauty. As far as hidden beaches go, it helps that this one is found in Calabria, a region less defined by tourism and more by an authentic, unadulterated Italian vibe. Besides the perfect sands and clear waters, what else makes the Cape worth visiting? Why, the fact that it boasts the ideal climate for growing red onions of course!
How to get there: Calabria forms the 'toe' of Italy's boot, with a local airport at Reggio Calabria. The cheapest UK flights here are usually to and from London, with a stop in Rome. You can reach Virgin Mary Bay by driving from Ricadi, the nearest small town.
10. Skagen, Denmark
Skagen headland, also known as the Scaw, is at the tip of one of the world's largest spits, a 10,000 year-old stretch of sand that keeps on growing. Stand with your feet in two seas at the end of the spit - the Skagarak Sea and the Kattagat Sea - but it won't be bikini weather, as average temperatures just about tip 19°C in Skagen at the height of summer.
How to get there: The nearest airport is just over an hour away in Aalborg, which does operate direct flights from London, although you may be more likely to find the really cheap flights in Copenhagen or even Gothenburg City Airport in neighbouring Sweden. Once you're in Skagen, there's a handy local tractor service from the Grenen parking lot which runs along the beach.
11. Isola Bella, Italy
A secluded beach on a private islet, you can't really get much more 'secret' than that can you? Catch a boat from Sicily and spend the day snorkelling, swimming and sunbathing on one of the few undiscovered corners of Italy.
How to get there: Fly to Sicily's east coast airport at Catania. A popular way to get to the beach at Isola Bella is to join a day cruise from Taormina, although it's also possible to walk across the causeway from Lido Mazzarò beach, depending on the tides.
12. Nida Beach, Lithuania
Nida Beach is on Lithuania's Curonian Split, a 98km long strip of land, with the pine forest covering the outback, white soft sand to lay your towel on and epic views of the Baltic Sea beyond. When you're done soaking up the sun on one of Europe's best beaches, take a dip in the refreshing waters of the Curonian Lagoon, a body of water formed by the Split.
How to get there: Your best bet for cheap flights from the UK is Vilnius Airport - Nida is around 4 hours drive away from here. Once you get near, follow the signs for the Blue Flag beach.
13. Melide, Spain
Spain's Atlantic coast doesn't receive as much attention as its Mediterranean counterpart, but these shores have their fair share of beauty, just without the crowds. Melide Beach is an unsung sweep of sand in Pontevedra, Galicia, watched over by three lighthouses and frequented by very few people; just the odd surfer, here to ride the waves in peace.
How to get there: It's a short 27 mile trip from Santiago de Compostela Airport to Melide Beach. You can also get here by car from Cabo Home and Cabo Pequeño - the beach is in between these capes.
14. Virgin Island's Creek, Brittany, France
This little bay is hidden on an island off the coast of Finistère, to the west of Brittany and is nestled between two cliffs, which is why it's called a 'creek'; the French term is actually 'Ile Vierge'. Not many venture out here, and those who do are offered total seclusion.
How to get there: Brittany has a few regional airports but the most convenient for the beach is probably Brest. It's around an 80 minute journey to Perros on the north coast, from where you can take a boat to Virgin Island's Creek.
15. Flag Beach, Fuerteventura, Spain
Hang on, isn't Fuerteventura already one of our favourite beach holidays in Europe? Surely we've discovered all the most beautiful shores on this popular Canary Island? You might think so, but no, there are a few secluded spots that we Brits have not overrun with all-day breakfast cafes and Irish pubs. Join those in the know who seek out the tropical turquoise beauty at Flag Beach, on the north Fuerteventura. It's a long, hot walk from the resort of Corralejo to Flag Beach, but it's most certainly worth it. Kite surfers should definitely check it out too! Find out more about the best beaches in the Canary Islands with this handy island guide.
How to get there: Fly into Fuerteventura's airport and drive up the FV1 to the north coast, taking the exit for Flag Beach.
16. Saharun, Croatia
Croatia, home to some key Game of Thrones film sets, various Medieval ruins, and some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe, including a few not many people know about. This Caribbean-esque gem, hiding in Zadar's archipelago, is easy to miss but make sure you seek it out if you're heading to Croatia this summer. The white pebbles on the bottom of the ocean and cloudless skies means that the water here is truly glass-like. Veli Rat is the nearest village and it's well worth climbing the lighthouse if you have time, too.
How to get there: You'll need to take an 80 minute boat ride to get to Saharun on the island of Dugi Otok, from Zadar. You can take a car aboard the ferry if you've rented your own wheels but remember to fill up the tank before leaving the mainland as fuel can be pricey on the island.
17. Dhermi, Albania
Not heard of the Albanian Riviera before? Well you should have! This stretch of the Adriatic coast has been widely-tipped to be 'the next Croatia' and Britis are bound to be flocking to its shores for a sunny beach holiday in the not too distant future. So get there before the rest! Although getting to Dhermi Beach involves a nerve-jangling drive over a mountain pass, you'll appreciate it even more when you go for a paddle!
How to get there: Take a bus from Tirana (where you'll also find Albania's international airport) and make sure it's going along the coastal road to Dhermi. The more reliable (and recommended) way is to hire a car.
18. Dune du Pyla, France
The Flanc Côté Ouest is the seaward side of the Dune du Pyla, a giant sand dune on Aquitane's Atlantic coast near Bordeaux. The beach is hidden by a 108 metre-high wall of sand, so you have to climb up and roll down it to get there - great fun for you and the kids but perhaps go with caution, this is Europe's largest sand dune after all! It's some effort on a hot day, but you'll be rewarded with this incredible stretch of sand all to yourself.
How to get there: Fly in to Bordeaux and Dune du Pyla is less than 40 miles away in the Arcachon Bay area. Once you've arrived in La Teste-de-Buch just look for the dunes and head in that direction, you can't miss them!
19. Praia de Ursa, Portugal
This seriously secluded spot is reserved for the very, very determined few - it's not easily available by public transport, and even in the car you've got to scrabble at the end. But once you arrive you won't have any other distractions than the warm sand between your toes and the cliffs on either side of this beautiful bay. The waves can be pretty rough, so do be cautious when taking a dip. Want more Insta-worthy Portuguese beaches? Right this way...
How to get there: The closest town is Sintra, served by Lisbon Airport, and the easiest way to get to Praia de Ursa is by car.
20. Cala Xarraca, Spain
Admittedly, there are parts of Ibiza that have been somewhat spoiled by 40 years of mass tourism, but away from San Antonio, Playa d'en Bossa and the like, the White Isle hides away several beaches that rank among the best in Europe, like this patch of postcard-perfect Mediterranean sand, Cala Xarraca. Otra cerveza por favor!
How to get there: Although Cala Xarraca is at the opposite end of the island to Ibiza Airport and Ibiza Town, it's just a 45 minute drive to the beach from here. If you're sharing, a taxi to Xarraca from one of the resorts like San Antonio should be fairly affordable, at around 30 to 40 euros during the day.
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