When it comes to picture-perfect beaches for idyllic ‘sun, sea and sand’ getaways, Europe is home to some of the best. Whether you’re a night owl looking for glamorous, bar-studded promenades overlooking the sea; secret sun-drenched coves for purely hedonistic holidaymaking; or glorious stretches of wild coast without another soul in sight, it’s easy to forget that paradise is right on our doorstep. Although choosing the best of the beachy bunch on this seaside-rich continent is tough, our sun-loving team of travel experts were up to the challenge, and have handpicked the five best beaches in Europe that can definitely hold their own on the world stage. Eat your heart out, Seychelles…
Sarakiniko Beach, Milos, Greece
Greece has serious clout when it comes to beaches, but even by the country’s lofty standards, the island of Milos is a destination of epic proportions. Located on the western edge of the Cyclades, Milos has over 70 beaches, with Sarakiniko being its most famous, and for good reason. Chalky, lunar-like rock sculpted by the elements juts out of the indigo sea to create a beach landscape that’s like no other. Small inlets with shallow waters, tucked-away caves and crystal clear rockpools are ripe for exploring, and the striking contrast of white moon rock against a kaleidoscope of blue is any photographer’s dream.
Santa Giulia Beach, Corsica, France
The Family Favourite
Emerging like a sparkling jewel from the Mediterranean, the French island of Corsica has long flown under the radar for British tourists, but in recent years it’s been quietly making waves for those in the know. The south of the island has some of the most stunning beaches, and Santa Giulia - a beautiful curved bay with clear waters and gently-shelving sand - is a magnet for families. Less crowded than the much-hyped Palombaggia Beach, it’s a perfect base for a day spent splashing in the shallows, with plenty of nearby restaurants and water sports available.
Haukland Beach, Lofoten Islands, Norway
The Active Playground
Sitting high above the Arctic Circle in the Norwegian Lofoten archipelago, Haukland Beach is a master at making jaws drop. Sugary-white shores are sandwiched between lush mountains and the crystal-clear sea, making it a major overachiever in the spectacular view department. It’s also a heavy hitter on social media that’s grown in popularity of late, but it’s still sprawling and calm enough to feel undiscovered. Haukland is an adventurer’s playground with lush green hills to hike, fjords to kayak through and you can even surf the beach’s waves in the summer. This is a mesmerising curveball of a European beach.
San Fruttuoso, Liguria, Italy
The Hidden Paradise
Situated halfway between Portofino and Camogli, San Fruttuoso knocks it out of the park. Backed by a medieval abbey surrounded by mountains, this sunny cove is as idyllic as they come, but the real beauty is in its remoteness – it can only be reached by a hilly path or via boat. The payoff for your efforts is a delicious combination of serene sands, translucent waters and quintessentially Italian establishments. Keen TV fans will recognise it as a location from Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s series, The Trip To Italy. Best suited to couples and serious sun-seekers, if your idea of heaven is only moving to lift your mojito, this beach is for you.
Lara Beach, Paphos, Cyprus
The Turtle Hatching Hotspot
There’s something more than a little bit Castaway about the rugged, untamed coastline of Lara Beach, hidden in the Akamas Peninsula on the north-west coast of Cyprus. It’s not easy to get to – a dirt track leads to the beach, best accessed by 4x4 – but make the journey and you’ll be rewarded with a stripped-back, unapologetic stretch of sand and utter tranquillity. Wildlife lovers will also get a kick from the turtles who nest and hatch here. Just make sure you head home before you really get in the Castaway spirit and start naming beach balls.