Privacy, tranquillity and simplicity characterize these European seaside destinations. You can stay clear of the crowds, the trinket shops and the nightclubbers, but still enjoy local life and culture.
To be at the beach is to revel in simplicity: there is sand, sun, and water; anything else is extraneous. The coasts of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic are fringed with an almost overwhelming array of beaches – from tiny coves tucked between dramatic limestone cliffs, to long stretches of powdery sand, strewn here and there with nature’s flotsam. However, many of the most obvious treasures on Europe’s coastlines have unfortunately been spoilt by concrete tower blocks and the accompanying hordes of tourists. If your idea of the ideal beach is a hidden one with hardly anyone on it, read below to find of 5 of our top favorites.
Relax on this 7.5-mile-long coarse white sand beach, book-ended by a medieval castle and a Roman city. The benefits of Iskele, the seaside resort companion to the town of Anamur, a mile and half inland, are obvious: there are no all-inclusive complexes, few high rise hotels, little in the way of water sports and even less nightlife. These factors alone mean few foreigners visit. Laid-back Iskele is not empty, however, as its welcoming mix of mainly small, family hotels and pensions just minutes from the gorgeous beach and smattering of simple restaurants make it a haven for Turks. In summer, families head down here from Ankara and other inland cities to laze in the shallows, sunbathe, read, eat, drink and mind their offspring. Stay here and you really do mix with the locals – and pay Turkish, not tourist, prices.
Iskele is relaxed, and attracts locals, not thousands of tourists.
Stay in the Yan Hotel, a small family-run place with great sea views just a hop away from the beach. Doubles from £33, including breakfast (yanhotel.com).
Head to Koufonissia for the sort of sand, sea and sun that recalls the long-forgotten Greece of the Sixties – it’s where Athenians in search of an unpretentious and reasonably priced beach break go. Hidden away between the larger Cycladic islands of Naxos and Amorgos, Koufonisia is made up of two tiny islets, Ano Koufonisi (Upper Koufonisi) and Kato Koufonisi (Lower Koufonisi), which are separated by a 655ft sea channel. While Kato Koufonisi remains uninhabited, Ano Koufonisi, with its whitewashed Cycladic cottages, has a buzzing little community of 366. Locals live mainly from fishing – it is claimed that there are more boats than residents – there are no real roads and hardly any cars, so everyone either walks or cycles. Even the larger island can be circled in a day on the flat coastal path, with little for company other than the endless sea views, and maybe a few goats. On the lovely long beach of Pori, where the sand is satin white and the sea a dazzling turquoise. Facilities come in the form of a beach bar serving cold drinks and snacks – but not much else.
Chora, the harbour town on Ano Koufonissi, is a traditional Greek fishing port with impossibly blue water.
Stay in Above the port, Koufonisi’s windmill dates from 1830 and was in use until 1956. Since 2006, it has been available for rent as an apartment sleeping four. It is beautifully furnished with local antiques, and has a private sea-view terrace. From €150 (£119) per night for four people (00 30 22850 74294; windmill-villa.gr).
Viveiro, Galicia, Spain
Most of Spain’s best beaches are on the northern coast. Using the small town of Viveiro (population: 16,000) as a base, you could go to a different one every day of your holiday, driving for less than an hour, too. The ideal spot for friends and family to descend upon en masse in the summer months, this is hometown Spain, a far cry from the country’s glitzier resorts. Area beach is a tantalisingly long strip of sand a few miles from Viveiro town and the harbour in Celeiro. Area is totally unspoilt and backed by low dunes with a cluster of vines growing on them. There are two hotels set back from the beach, a couple of dozen houses, a youth hostel and that’s about it.
Most of Spain's best beaches are on the north coast.
Stay in the stylish Ego hotel – most of the 45 rooms have sea views, some with terraces and all with floor-to-ceiling windows. The hotel’s restaurant, Nito, with a smart terrace, is one of the best in the region. Doubles from £71, including breakfast (hotelego.es).
Cies Island, Spain
Known to locals as the “Galician Caribbean” or the “Galician Seychelles”, thanks to its sparkling white-sand beaches, Cíes is an archipelago of three islands in Galicia, north-west Spain. Stretching for more than half a mile between Monteagudo and the Faro islands, Rodas is the longest beach on the archipelago and by far the nicest. Since 2002, the Cíes have been part of the Galician Atlantic Islands National Park, which means that the land and the surrounding sea are highly protected – 86 per cent of the park is underwater. Visitors are limited to 2,200 a day; there are no hotels – only a campsite – and just a couple of basic restaurants. There are not even bikes, let alone cars.
Ría de Vigo, one of the deep inlets of the Galician coast.
Stay in Pazo los Escudos, a five-star traditional Galician mansion right by the beach, just outside the town centre. It has a spa and outdoor pool, and its 54 rooms are divided between the main building and a stylish new section. Superior rooms have large balconies with views across the Ría de Vigo (pazolosescudos.com; doubles from £133, including breakfast).
San Pantaleo, near the Costa Smeralda, Sardinia
Sardinia’s Costa Smeralda evokes visions of five-star luxury, with every whim catered to, yet paradoxically its famous beaches are mostly primitive affairs, often with the minimum of facilities. If regimented ranks of sunloungers aren’t your thing, the best tip for winkling out the top spots for a bit of beach therapy is to take the smallest road running alongside the coast in order to search out any dirt path running off it seawards. At the end of the track, you’ve a good chance of finding your own beach of beaches. True, not all are so secluded; some are better known and even signposted, such as the trio Romazzino, Spiaggia del Principe and Capriccioli, around three miles south of Porto Cervo, each with white powdery sand, clear water, a scattering of granite boulders and a decent bar. Some of the most seductive accommodation lies inland, for example the Locanda Sant’Andrea, where sybaritic comforts and friendly but efficient service come at a reasonable rate. Located in the mountain village of San Pantaleo, couched among granite peaks, the small hotel is equipped with a shady pool, the ideal venue for relaxing with a glass of vermentino and comparing tans.
Rocky hills near San Pantaleo.
Stay at Double rooms at Locanda Sant’Andrea from £102 (locandasantandrea.com).
Courtesy of the telegraph.co.uk