|Photo by Freeimages.com/Rodi di Assis|
by Sally Peck, The Daily Telegraph, June 10, 2016
The beach is the key to many a great holiday – from first childhood steps across the sand to teenage posturing and strolls en famille. But the perfect beach is rarely found by chance.
The coasts of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic are fringed with an overwhelming array of beaches - many of which have been spoilt by concrete tower blocks and flocks of tourists. Head, instead, to one of these secret beaches - 52, one for every week of the year - chosen by our European experts in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Croatia, Greece and Turkey.
While some offer splendid isolation, others provide an encounter with a sleepy village that hasn’t changed in decades. Beloved by locals, these sandy stretches are off the tourist track, and brimming with character. Whether you’re a family in search of an old-fashioned seaside break, or a couple seeking activity with a touch of nightlife, our experts offer the inside scoop on Europe’s best beaches – from Kefalonia to Calabria – where the rhythm of your days will be set by the gentle lapping of the sea.
1. Cíes Islands, Galicia
Known to locals as the “Galician Caribbean”, thanks to its sparkling white-sand beaches, Cíes is an archipelago of three islands in north-west Spain. Rodas is the longest beach on the archipelago and the nicest. Part of the Galician Atlantic Islands National Park, the land and the surrounding sea are protected. Visitors are limited to 2,200 a day; there are no hotels – only a campsite – and just a couple of basic restaurants. There are no bikes, let alone cars.
Cíes is an archipelago of three islands in north-west SpainCredit: AP
Who goes? Families and couples.
Stay: For a treat, check into the 16th-century Parador de Santiago, an hour’s drive away. From £124. Read the full review of Parador de Santiago de Compostela .
2. Viveiro, Galicia
The old town of Viviero is the ideal spot from which to access most of the best beaches along Spain’s northern coast – you could visit a different one on each day of your holiday, driving for less than an hour. Or you could stick to the beaches around Viveiro Bay, a teardrop-shaped inlet framed by hills. If you don’t like crowds, go in July or September, rather than August.
If you don’t like crowds, go to Viveiro in July or September, rather than August
Read our full expert guide to Viveiro
Who goes? Groups of friends and families.
Stay: The stylish Ego hotel, which has sea views. The hotel’s restaurant, Nito, is one of the best in the region. From £71; hotelego.es .
3. Llafranc, Costa Brava
The word “Costa” can conjure up images of apartment blocks and cheap lager, but the Costa Brava should not be confused with these horrors. Thanks to its geography – little coves chipped out of a rugged, hilly coastline – and its popularity with film stars and artists (including Salvador Dalí) throughout the 20th century, this is a classier sort of place. At its centre is the fishing village of Llafranc, large enough to keep a family entertained on a week’s holiday, small enough to catch some peace and quiet.
Read our full expert guide to Llafranc
Who goes? Anyone seeking an unrowdy beach scene.
Stay: The Mas de Torrent, a luxurious country house hotel and spa, just a 15-minute drive from Llafranc. From £277. Read the full review of Mas de Torrent .
4. Mónsul, Andalusia
Mónsul is one of a string of unspoilt beaches in the Cabo de Gata natural park on the southern tip of Spain. The colourful cliffs – rust, mustard, mauve, black, grey, white – that line the coast are dotted with watchtowers built over the past thousand years to fend off pirates and other invaders. Behind the beach is a landscape of prickly pear cacti and dwarf fan palms, with only the odd farm visible – you could be in Mexico.
The colourful cliffs around Monsul are dotted with lookouts to ward off piratesCredit: Alamy/David Santiago Garcia
Read our full expert guide to Mónsul
Who goes? Escapists.
Stay: Hotel Doña Pakyta, yards from the waves in the small town of San José, a short drive away. From £49 per night. Read the full review of Hotel Doña Pakyta .
5. Playa El Cañuelo, Andalusia
While the Costa del Sol’s headline beaches fill up for the summer, this small white shale bay remains delightfully off-radar. You’ll find El Cañuelo at the base of the Maro cliffs, at the end of a 20-minute walk down a winding pine-scented track. Its waters glitter in a frame of wild herbs and daisies, and a handful of loungers and a beach restaurant await, but bring your own provisions, too – you won’t want to move from this wild spot.
Who goes? Adventurous expats and locals looking for solitude.
Stay: Hotel Carabeo, Nerja – with its top-rated restaurant, this nearby seven-room clifftop guesthouse is a gem. From £65. Read the full review of Hotel Carabeo .
6. Es Grau, Menorca
At Es Grau, on the north-east coast of Menorca, the Mediterranean stays at shin level for 40 metres out to sea, like a gigantic spa pool. Part of the S’Albufera des Grau nature reserve, the beach is protected from overdevelopment. From the beach, the Camí de Cavalls follows the crinkly coastline northwards, leading to a string of secret coves, including Cala des Tamarells and Cala de sa Torreta.
Read our full expert guide to Es Grau
Who goes? The shallow water is ideal for small children, while teenagers love snorkelling, kayaking and paddle boarding around the bay.
Stay: On Menorca’s southern coast – but within a 30-minute drive – Torralbenc perfectly captures Menorca’s low-key glamour. From £128. Read the full review of Torralbenc .
7. Cala Pregonda, Menorca
On the quiet north coast of Menorca, Pregonda is a long beach with reddish-gold sand and pink rocks. Tiny islands protect the bay, so the sea is still and crystalline. Take a picnic and plenty of water as there are no facilities on Pregonda, although there is a restaurant on the adjacent Binimel-là beach, where you can park the car.
Who goes? People prepared to hike for half an hour along a track.
Stay: Ses Sucreres is a stylishly converted traditional house with six rooms in Ferreries, five miles inland from Cala. From £73; hotelsessucreres.com/en .
8. S’illot, Majorca
The tiny cove with cobalt water is sheltered by pine trees on the Victòria headland, which separates the Bay of Alcúdia from the Bay of Pollença in the north-east corner of Majorca. Paths wind through the trees on the hillside if you fancy a bit of a hike. There is a shady picnic area by the beach, or have a paella at the S’illot restaurant.
Who goes? Those wanting a low-key vibe.
Stay: The Petit Hotel Hostatgeria La Victoria has 13 simple yet characterful rooms in a former monastery on a headland above S’illot. Double rooms from £55; lavictoriahotel.com .
9. Cala Llombards, Majorca
This cove on the south-east coast is a triangular strip of white sand framed by pine trees, with boat sheds perched on the rocks. You could spend all morning snorkelling, followed by a walk around the coast to the small resort of Cala Santanyí to see Es Pontas, an arch-shaped rock in the sea.
Cala Llombards is popular with locals and people staying in nearby villasCredit: ALAMY
Who goes? Locals and people staying in nearby villas. The shallow water makes it a good choice for small children.
Stay: The Hotel Santanyí is right on the neighbouring Santanyí beach, with spacious rooms and apartments. Double rooms from £87 including breakfast; hotelcalasantanyi.com .
10. Cala Codolar, Ibiza
The sand is a bit grey and coarse on this small beach, but the sea is a deep sapphire, so who cares? Sheltered by cliffs, Codolar is near the popular Cala Comte, in the west of the island, but is much less frenetic. The beach bar is refreshingly basic with reasonable prices – highly unusual in Ibiza.
Who goes? This is a beach for families rather than fashionistas; no posing and preening here.
Stay: The revamped Barceló Pueblo Ibiza in Port des Torrent is a 10-minute drive from Cala Codolar and has stylish family rooms and four pools. From £99, all inclusive; barcelo.com .
11. Ploumanac’h, Brittany
Halfway along the northern coast of Brittany’s extravagantly indented coastline, which is all wooded coves and sandy beaches, the village of Ploumanac’h lies in a surreal rockscape of glistening rose-tinted crags, cliffs and misshapen boulders seldom found elsewhere. As most of the visitors romping on the sands and hiking on the coastal paths are day-trippers, it’s a pleasantly sleepy place at night, even in midsummer.
Read our full expert guide to Ploumanac'h
Who goes? Families with children; lovers of mysterious landscapes.
Stay: Chic enough to attract its share of poseurs, Castel Beau Site’s proximity to the splendid beach ensures that it is popular with families. From £126 per night. Full review of Castel Beau Site .
12. Le Grau-du-Roi, Languedoc
If Le Grau, near the Petit Camargue, is little known in Britain, it has for nearly a century been a destination for ordinary French holidaymakers, the sort who favour pétanque and pastis. Cycle south out of town to Espiguette, one of France’s last great untamed coastal stretches: six miles of sandbank backed by dunes, themselves backed by lagoons and limitless salty scrub. Return to Le Grau for the full-tilt seaside holiday – cafés, horse riding, quad-biking, and ice creams.
Le Grau: the perfect, unpretentious seaside holiday in France
Read our full expert guide to Le Grau-du-Roi
Who goes? Families.
Stay: Oustau Camarguen, a lovely old mas in Port Camargue, with low-slung white buildings around a pool or garden. From £59; oustaucamarguen.com .
13. Île de Porquerolles, Côte d’Azur
A 20-minute boat ride off the French Riviera between Marseille and Cannes, this island is surrounded by white sandy beaches backed by eucalyptus and pines; the French state bought most of Porquerolles in the Seventies, so it has been protected from overdevelopment. Plage de Notre Dame, on the north-eastern corner, is intimate in scale and perfect for a paddle. The only village, next to the harbour, offers fine restaurants serving Provençal cuisine.
Who goes? Families.
Stay: The Mas du Langoustier’s pool and tennis court are hidden among its spectacular gardens, which overlook a beach. Rooms from £173 per night. Full review of Mas du Langoustier .
14. La Londe des Maures, Côte d’Azur
At the foot of the Maures mountains, La Londe has long been an efficient little spot with access to cracking beaches. Best are Pellegrin and Estagnol. They’re a little way out of the town, you pay a bob or two for access, but they’re untamed and wonderful, and within a shout of Fort Bregançon, summer residence of the French president.
Who goes? Families.
Stay: At the stately Grand Hôtel Bormes, a 15-minute drive away. Perched above the old village of Bormes, each room has a sea view, and if the rooms are relatively small, so are the prices. From £48. Full review of Grand Hôtel Bormes .
15. Noirmoutier, west coast
Off the west coast of France, a three-hour drive from St Malo, is an island that looks Mediterranean: whitewashed walls, blue shutters, pines like giant sunshades. Attached to the mainland by a centuries-old causeway and a modern bridge, this elongated island is skirted by 25 miles of sandy beaches – the best of which is the Plage des Dames: 1,000ft of soft sand, with rocks at each end, dinghies flitting across the water, a long wooden pier, a line of neat white beach huts – and no hotel.
Who goes? Families.
Stay: The family-friendly 35-room Hôtel Fleur de Sel, in its own grounds near the beach, has a restaurant, pool, Jacuzzi and tennis courts. From £89; en.fleurdesel.fr .
16. Île de Batz, off Brittany coast
Home to dazzling white-sand beaches like the Grève Blanche beach, stretching along its east-facing shoreline, Île de Batz meets all the basic needs – a hotel, hostel and campsite; a handful of shops and restaurants; and outdoor activities for kids – without feeling overdeveloped. Batz is such a delight thanks largely to the almost complete absence of cars.
Read our full expert guide to the Ile de Batz
Who goes? Active types.
Stay: Batz’s waterfront campsite. June to mid-Sept; £1.90 per pitch per night, plus £1.90 per adult and 75p per child under 13; iledebatz.com/services/hebergements.
17. Guéthary, south-west France
There is nothing undefined about the French Atlantic coast as it bangs into Spain: this is Basque country, where cliffs, heathland and woods drop to beaches. Well-to-do outsiders arrived in the 19th century to build holiday villas; these days, Parisians too cool for the Riviera congregate here. Stay in the village of Guéthary, where you’ll find most beach and watersport activities – notably surfing. The village’s best beach (there are four) is Parlementia, where you’ll find a long, sandy stretch, with great bathing and sandcastle-making opportunities.
Read our full expert guide to Guéthary
Who goes? Families, and also larger groups.
Stay: Alternative Acquitaine, the British-run purveyor of villas, has a four-bed village house with garden. From £1,960 per week ; alternative-aquitaine.co.uk .
18. Île de Ré, La Rochelle
With its undeveloped beaches, whitewashed villages and miles of cycle lanes, the Île de Ré is one of France’s loveliest seaside spots. It claims as many hours of sunshine as the south of France, but it’s a very different scene from the glitz of the Côte d’Azur. Here, you’ll find working fishing boats instead of superyachts. Conche des Baleines, in the far west, is the best beach: a vast arc of golden sand backed by high dunes and pine woods, which are ideal for a picnic.
Find our what to do with 36 hours in Île de Ré
Who goes? Chic families.
Stay: Villa Clarisse, in the pretty capital of the island, offers large, airy rooms and a heated outdoor pool set in walled gardens. Doubles from £130; villa-clarisse.fr.
19. Cavalaire-sur-Mer, south of France
Cavalaire-sur-Mer is also the start of a terrific coastal path through a “best of” of Med coastal landscapes: forest, spiky things and herby aromas, vines, and rocks tumbling to the briny. About 30-40 minutes along, Brouis beach is a beautiful example of what Riviera beaches were before they started playing to the crowd. Inaccessible except on foot, it’s popular with naturists. Return to town for affordable restaurants and every watersport you could want.
Who goes: Those looking for the Côte d’Azur without the snobbery.
Stay: The Pastis Hotel, a half-hour’s drive away in the glamour of St Tropez, combines a devotion to all things Provençal with spacious, airy rooms and interesting art. From £254. Full review of Pastis Hotel.
20. Caneiros, Algarve
Thirty minutes from Faro airport, there is plenty to occupy everyone here – you can rent pedalos and kayaks, explore caves, have a meal at the chic Rei das Praias, on the beach. The beach also hires out generous day beds – and can even organise a massage on the beach, or a bottle of champagne in ice.
Who goes? There are activities for action-hungry teenagers, powdery soft sand for bucket-and-spade toddlers, and safe waters for swimmers.
Stay: The recently built and elegant Casa Rei Das Praias is a three-minute walk from the beach. From £103. Full review of Casa Rei Das Praias .
21. Salema, Algarve
There is ample evidence of traditional life in Salema, in the western Algarve: you approach the beach via the cobbled Rua dos Pescadores, which is lined with fishermen’s houses, a few of which have become restaurants that spill out onto the half-mile-long Blue Flag beach. The sea is ideal for swimming and windsurfing because it lacks the strong waves of the west coast. Track the dinosaur footprints embedded in the limestone rocks or take a pedalo out to sea.
Read our full expert guide to Salema
Who goes? Young children, those wanting some tranquillity and palaeontologists.
Stay: Vila Valverde, a beautifully converted 19th-century manor house. From £108 per night. Full review of Vila Valverde .
22. Praia do Martinhal, Algarve
One of the finest swathes of sand you reach on the south-westernmost corner of the Algarve. The waves here are more gentle than further north, and there is plenty of beach fun to be had, plus you can explore the Costa Vicentina Natural Park; this is a completely different Algarve to the villas of Quinta do Lago to the east, or the concrete strips of Albufeira and Vilamoura in the centre.
Who goes? Families.
Stay: Martinhal Beach Resort offers luxury in its hotel and surrounding villas. Particularly good for families. From £154. Full review of Martinhal Beach Resort .
23. Praia de Albandeira, Algarve
This jewel of a beach in the central Algarve is off the tourist radar. Follow signs towards Porches from Benagil, then turn left onto a single-lane road to a small car park above the beach. Tiny, with white sands between ochre rocks, Albandeira has no watersports, or sunbeds – and few visitors. But there are natural pools for paddling, and plenty of seclusion.
Who goes? Locals and families.
Stay: At the Algarve’s most hedonistic retreat, Vila Joya, which offers two-star Michelin cuisine and a beautiful spa. From £227. Full expert review of Vila Joya .
24. Guincho, Cascais, near Lisbon
Just along the Estoril coastline from Lisbon lie a series of golden sand beaches. Avoid the crowded ones in popular Cascais, and continue to the Serra de Sintra national Park where you will find Praia da Guincho. Ideal for experienced wind and kite surfers, this beach is pounded by massive Atlantic Ocean waves and a strong breeze and is within sight of Europe’s most westerly point, Cape Roca. Perfect for a bracing walk, this was the location for the James Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Reward yourself afterwards with a lunch at the excellent Fortaleza do Guincho.
Who goes? Locals, or those looking to be active
Stay: At the 17th century cliff-top Fortaleza do Guincho, one of Portugal’s most elegant hotels. From £104. Full expert review of Fortaleza do Guincho .
25. Comporta, Alentejo
An hour and half south of Lisbon, on Portugal’s Troia Peninsula, lies the country’s most dramatically beautiful stretch of sand. Bleached white and lapped by turquoise waters, Comporta beach runs for over seven miles with barely a person on it, except at peak season. You can ride along here as the sun rises or across its sand dunes at sunset and on into the neighbouring paddy fields with only resident storks for company. A handful of delicious, fresh fish, restaurants are dotted along the beach but the best place to hole up is neighbouring Sublime, a sleek , new, and utterly enticing hotel, hidden among the umbrella pines.
Who goes? Those seeking authentic Portugal
Stay: At the sleek boutique hotel Sublime Comporta, whose 14 rooms offer simple luxury. From £144. Full expert review of Sublime Comporta .
26. San Fruttuoso, Liguria
In the Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon programme The Trip to Italy, one of their sessions was set on a terrace overlooking an idyllic cove, with a mediaeval abbey for backdrop. This magical place is called San Fruttuoso, and it’s in Liguria, around halfway by boat between chi-chi Portofino and the family resort of Camogli. To get there, you either trek across the Portofino promontory, or get a ferry (timetables at golfoparadiso.it).
Who goes? Yachties, ramblers and adventurous families. Beat the crowds by coming early or out of season.
Stay: In the old-fashioned seaside resort of Rapallo, connected to San Fruttuoso by boat between April and October, at the belle époque pile Grand Hotel Bristol. From £76. Full expert review of Grand Hotel Bristol .
27. Parco Naturale della Maremma, Tuscany
The Tuscan coast is at its most pristine in the stretch between the port town of Talamone and the Ombrone estuary, where wild horses and long-horned cattle graze. The standout beach, Marina di Alberese, operates a one-in-one-out policy in the summer; it’s popular, but not too crowded. Walk a mile or so south and you get to a real Crusoe stretch of sand dotted by rudimentary driftwood shelters. Perhaps the greatest joy is the combination of unspoilt beach and close proximity to all of the gourmet pleasures of the Tuscan countryside.
Who goes? Families and naturists
Stay: An hour away on a working wine estate is the luxury resort Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco. From £407 per night. Read the full expert review of Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco .
28. Spiaggia del Laurito, Positano
One of the challenges of the near-vertical slice of paradise known as the Amalfi Coast is finding a good beach that isn’t in the middle of town. Laurito is one such. Accessible only by boat from Positano, or by a steep track leading down from the coastal road, this rocky cove encloses a sand and shingle beach. The smart way to get here is to book for lunch at Da Adolfo (daadolfo.com), a classic seafood shack right on the beach; the return boat and use of the lido is included in the price of your meal.
Who goes? All sorts: this is one of the classic Positano excursions.
Stay: Book into Le Sirenuse in Positano, which retains the Dolce Vita spirit of the resort’s Fifties and Sixties glory years. From £414. Full expert review of Le Sirenuse .
29. Ischia, Naples
If you fancy a cove of your own, check in to the Mezzatorre Resort, in the Bay of Naples, on the volcanic island of Ischia, which bubbles and steams with thermal activity – something the spa at this elegant resort harnesses to the full. The Mezzatorre’s rocky little bay is perfect for setting off with a snorkel to explore the local marine life. But the town of Forio d’Ischia, immediately outside the hotel, is edged by strips of white sand beach – there’s plenty to suit all comers.
See our guide to Italy’s best beach resorts
Who goes? Those after a bit of luxury.
Stay: Mezzatorre Resort. From £173; mezzatorre.it/en .
30. Porto Selvaggio, Puglia
The Salento peninsula is the Cornwall of Italy: a place of ancient, insular cultural traditions, surrounded by the sea. It is apt that this land’s end has a secret bay called “wild harbour” a few miles west of the pleasant market town of Nardò. Here you can bask on the beach and then swim in the gently shelving sea, or explore the paths that wind along the coast, through fragrant bushes.
Read our full expert guide to Porto Selvaggio
Who goes? Sunbathers, history seekers.
Stay: Palazzo Baldi is a perfect introduction to the laid-back charm of the nearby inland town of Galatina. From £51; hotelpalazzobaldi.it .
31. Tropea, Calabria
Calabria doesn’t feature as prominently as Sicily or Puglia in Italian summer sun brochures, perhaps because of the barely regulated sprawl that mars much of the coast. But there are exceptions – like Tropea, a classy enclave that is the region’s answer to Positano. The old town, full of good trattorias, garlands a rocky outcrop above a gently shelving sandy beach.
Who goes? Northern Italians.
Stay: Perched on a low cliff above the beach, four-star Rocca dalla Sena has great views. From £114; hotelroccadellasena.it .
32. Marettimo, Sicily
This remarkably green outcrop in the Med, off the west coast of Sicily, is a place for cultured, long-stay regulars rather than day-trippers. Car-less, (almost) hotel-less and free of the snobbery of other Italian island paradises such as Capri, Marettimo is a spot for walkers, scuba-divers and sunseekers looking for a relatively unspoilt but accessible island.
Who goes? Couples.
Stay: The island’s only hotel Marettimo Residence offers 42 simple self-catering bungalows of various sizes. Studio from £325 per week; marettimoresidence.it .
33. Foce del Belice, Sicily
Foce del Belice is one of the last stretches of untouched coastline on the south-west of Sicily, and it’s well maintained. Le Solette, just to the west of Porto Palo, is good, but there are also secluded coves to the west, such as Capparrina di Mare, with its sea turtle colony. Visit the ancient ruins in Selinunte or one of the area’s cooking schools.
Read more about the unspoilt beaches of Sicily
Who goes? Sunbathers, wine lovers and students of antiquity.
Stay: La Foresteria, in Menfi, which looks down over vineyards to the sea. From £142. Full review of La Foresteria .
34. Cala Gonone, Sardinia
Cala Gonone’s inaccessibility forms a good part of its appeal. Drive 70 miles south from Olbia airport and you’ll be confronted by a steep plunge to Sardinia’s cliff-sided eastern coast, and the spectacle of undeveloped coastline. It’s the sandy coves beyond the settlement of Cala Gonone that have elevated the area’s status among beach connoisseurs. Cala Fuili, two miles to the south of Cala Gonone, is spectacular: it is a beach of pebbles and coarse sand, where the clear waters are ideal for snorkelling, and the surrounding cliffs are popular with free climbers.
Read our full expert guide to Cala Gonone
Who goes? Anyone wanting to get away.
Stay: Pop, in front of the port, is a lively, family-friendly hotel. Rooms are basic, but you can escape to secluded coves in the hotel’s speedboat. From £46; hotelpop.it .
35. Chia, Sardinia
Less than an hour by car from Sardinia’s main city, Cagliari, Chia is a sleepy village set back from the sea, but it gives its name to a series of pristine bays stretching from the peninsula of Bithya, a sacred Phoenician site, to Capo Spartivento – the southernmost point of Sardinia. Waves lap at bands of perfect apricot sand; inland, the Spartivento and Chia lagoons are flamingo breeding grounds.
Who goes? Mostly locals, from young surfers keen to catch the short but intense beach breaks, to families down from the day from Cagliari.
Stay: If you like the idea of returning to the laid-back urban buzz of Cagliari in the evening, check in to quirky centro storico boutique option Hotel Miramare. From £83. Full review of Hotel Miramare .
36. Capo Testa, Sardinia
On Sardinia’s northern tip, Capo Testa is a bulbous promontory studded with some first-class swimming spots. This is the Gallura region, famous for its wind-hewn granite rockscapes and serrated mountain backdrop, lending the beaches a dramatic air. The nearby resort of Santa Teresa Gallura has more energy than the swanky, sanitised Costa Smeralda, and considerably less impact on the wallet. The rocky setting of Capo Testa, a few miles west of Santa Teresa, has more character, with its moon-like rock formations and gold-tinted sand. Most of the beaches are family-friendly and great for snorkelling.
Who goes? Anyone after the wilder Sardinia.
Stay: Less than an hour’s drive away to the east along the coast, the isolated Hotel Cala di Volpe overlooks turquoise water and offers superb facilities. From £226. Full review of Hotel Cala di Volpe .
37. Makarska, Dalmatian Coast
Most visitors to Dalmatia head straight for the islands, but the 38-mile-long Makarska Riviera between Split and Dubrovnik, is home to some of the country’s loveliest beaches. At the centre is Makarska, where you can visit the main square but the main draw is the beach, backed by pinewoods.
Read our full expert guide to Makarska
Who goes? Those looking for a beach holiday with relaxed nightlife.
Stay: Overlooking the harbour, Hotel Osejava offers cool minimalist design and slick bathrooms. From £66; osejava.com .
38. Saharun beach, Dugi Otok Island, Dalmatian coast
Close to the northern tip of the Dalmatian island of Dugi Otok, in the Zadar archipelago, Saharun beach is an explosion of colour: dark green pinewoods, shimmering white pebbles, and blue sea. This is one of Croatia’s loveliest but least-known spots.
Read our full expert guide to Saharun
Who goes? Families.
Stay: Overlooking Soliscica Bay in Soline (a 10-minute walk from Saharun beach), the recently built Villa Ljubica has eight apartments, each with a double bedroom and a sofa-bed, a kitchenette, and a balcony with a sea view. From £43 for an apartment; villa-ljubica.hr .
39. Palagruza, Dalmatian coast
The remote rocky islet of Palagruza lies halfway between Croatia and Italy. Less than a mile long, Palagruza’s arid slopes support scanty Mediterranean vegetation, and on its highest point (295ft), the lighthouse, dating from 1875, affords magnificent views over an apparently endless seascape. Today Palagruza is uninhabited, but for the lighthouse keeper. Its two pristine pebble beaches, Stara Vlaka and Veli Zal, give onto shallow turquoise-blue waters, in total solitude. No one will bother you here.
Who goes? Anyone seeking ultimate isolation.
Stay: In Palagruza lighthouse, which has two basic but comfortable self-catering apartments. A four-bed apartment for one week costs from £422; lighthouses-croatia.com
40. Saplunara beach, Mljet, Dalmatian coast
A green refuge from Dubrovnik’s summer crowds, this undeveloped island offers dense pinewoods and two interconnected saltwater lakes. Contained within Mljet National Park, the emerald-green lakes are perfect for swimming (and normally a few degrees warmer than the open sea) and you can rent kayaks, too. Alternatively, visit the island’s only sandy beach, Saplunara, on its southern side.
As most visitors to Mljet come on organised day trips from Dubrovnik, once the last excursion boat has left, tranquillity reigns. Just a few yachters stay overnight, putting down anchor in sheltered bays, then hopping ashore to eat the local speciality, lobster.
Who goes? Active types – young or old – who like a bit of fun before they flop.
Stay: Hotel Odisej, the only hotel on the island, offers basic but comfortable three-star accommodation, plus a small spa. From £55; adriaticluxuryhotels.com .
41. Stiniva, Vis
The remote island of Vis lies a two-hour, 20-minute ferry journey from Split. With only two main roads, it’s easy to explore local life. Local travel offices offer excursions into the interior of the island or boat trips around its coast, all of which will help you discover the joys of beaches like Stiniva, on the southern part of the island, close to the village of Zuzec. Accessible only by hiking on a steep, narrow path, or taking a taxi boat from the nearby Rukavac cove, this offers the ultimate seclusion.
Who goes? Families; couples seeking a romantic hideaway.
Stay: In the superb harbourside 16th century Palazzo Jaskia, a luxurious self-catering villa which sleeps up to 17. Villa from £3,547 a week. Full review of Palazzo Jaskia .
42. Karavostasi, north-west coast
This 500-yard stretch of sand is a few miles off the main coastal highway between busy Syvota and Parga – but the journey is worth it. At the southern end, you’ll glimpse the tip of Corfu on the horizon, offering a rare sense of seclusion close to major resorts, and minimal development for such a superior beach. Go body-surfing, visit ruins or just flop.
Read our full expert guide to Karavostási
Who goes? Adventurous couples, families with children big enough to swim.
Stay: If this is an adults-only venture, the White Orchid, in Epirus (within an hour’s drive), offers contemporary seaside chic. From £125. Full review of the White Orchid .
43. Gardenos, Corfu
The last big beach on the south-west coast before the end of Corfu, Gardenos offers clean sand and broad dimensions. There’s more than a mile of it, including contiguous Megali Lakka, just south-east, beyond the stream; on the north-west, the beach ends at a tiny anchorage. There are about 20 inexpensive sunbeds with umbrellas, but no watersports, no beach bar, no crowds (except in August); other facilities are limited to a pair of tavernas. The seabed drops off fairly sharply, so this beach is not ideal for toddlers.
Read our Corfu travel guide
Who goes? Joggers, solitude seekers.
Stay: 100 yards up from the beach is Boukari Beach Restaurant and Hotel, where you can find a taverna serving excellent seafood. From £27. Full review of Boukari Beach Restaurant and Hotel.
44. Voutoumi, Antipaxos
This, the smallest of the Ionian Islands, is bliss defined. After the pebbled beaches of Paxos, sandy Voutoumi, with its spectacular turquoise and indigo waters, clifftop surroundings and welcoming tavernas, takes some beating. The local population fluctuates between 30 and 100; there are few cars and no shops. High above Voutoumi beach (reached by 200 steps) is the Bella Vista taverna with the best view of all.
Read our full expert guide to Voutoumi
Who goes? Relaxed couples, families looking for seclusion.
Stay: There are no hotels on Anti Paxos and few villas, so base yourself in Paxos and take a boat to Voutoumi. CV Villas ( cvvillas.com ) offers several houses in Paxos; from £1,240 per person for a week, including flight, car hire, and transfer from Corfu.
45. Petani Beach, Kefalonia
The biggest of the Ionian Islands boasts two famous curves of seafront in Myrtos and Antisamos beaches. But there is much to be said for Petani – a lovely patch of sand and pebbles on the north-west coast of the less-visited Paliki peninsula. That this little suntrap is reached via a winding road so steep that a goat might baulk at it only adds to its appeal. Beyond a small café, it is an untouched gem.
Who goes? Those who appreciate Greek afternoons away from the hubbub.
Stay: The F Zeen Retreat, a chic adult-only hideaway on the south coast near Lourdata. From £138. Full review of F Zeen .
46. Lygaries, Skiathos
Skiathos, in the Sporades, has more than 50 beaches dotted around its coast. This double beach on the north coast takes more getting to than those in the more developed south, with a 4x4 vehicle from town or the main trunk road. Lygaries has 200 yards of sand sprinkled with pebbles and an excellent taverna. Still not secluded enough? Carry on to tiny Kehria cove which has only a simple kantina.
Read our Skiathos travel guide
Who goes? Adventurous types.
Stay: The ultra-modern Skiathos Princess opens out on to the nearby golden sands of Paraskevi beach, offering a nice contrast. From £ 130. Full review of Skiathos Princess .
47. Kea, Cyclades
The island of Kea is a destination for regulars, who come to eat well and relax, on the beach and in their low-slung villas. There are not many hotels, and fewer ugly block buildings. Rather than build new roads to remote beaches, the Keans have restored ancient mule tracks and waymarked them for hikers.
Read our full expert guide to Kea
Who goes? Families, relaxed couples and groups.
Stay: Kea Villas, a high-quality development of neo-Cycladic villas at the top of Ioulis, with communal pool and spectacular views. From £100 per night for a one-bedroom villa; keavillas.gr .
48. Koufonissia, Cyclades
Hidden away between the larger Cycladic islands of Naxos and Amorgos, Koufonissia is made up of two tiny islets, Upper Koufonissi and Lower Koufonissi, which are separated by a 200-metre sea channel. This is sand, sea and sun that recalls Greece of the Sixties. With its easy-going pace of life, Koufonissi is a perfect place to reset your body clock. 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.
Read our full expert guide to Koufonissia
Who goes? Its appeal spans three generations.
Stay: Above the port, Koufonissi’s windmill dates from 1830, and is available for rent as an apartment sleeping four. From £138; windmill-villa.gr .
49. Traganou, Rhodes
The entire south-east facing, Mediterranean coast of Rhodes – in the Dodecanese – is stippled with beaches. Among the most secluded is pebbly Traganou (signposted from the highway as Traounoú), at the far north end of sandy Afandou strip. Beyond the unobtrusive military watchpoint lies a sheltered cove, enlivened by the Traganospilia, a trio of safe-to-explore grottos that have both land and sea entrances. Freshwater seeps keep the sea here clean, if cooler than normal, while a kantina offers showers, snacks and sunbeds.
Read our Rhodes travel guide
Who goes? Savvy islanders and visitors.
Stay: The adults-only Lindos Blu at nearby Vlycha Bay is ideal for couples. From £171. Full review of Lindos Blu .
50. Cirali, Antalya
Cradled between two pine-clad rocky spurs tumbling steeply down into the Mediterranean from the high mountains of the Lycian peninsula in south-west Turkey, the graceful arc of beach fronting the laid-back resort of Cirali is one of the most unspoilt in the Mediterranean – just ask the endangered loggerhead turtles, sizeable numbers of which still swim ashore each summer to lay their eggs beneath the smooth pebbles and coarse sand of this two-mile-long strand. Development is minimal, thanks to protection by the Turkish government.
Read our full expert article on Cirali
Who goes? Families, nature lovers.
51. Alaçati, Izmir
The former Greek village of Alaçati is famed for its beautiful old houses and cobbled lanes. Unspoilt, with low mountains hovering on the horizon, and streets lined with cosy cafés and restaurants, the charming port offers an idyllic break on the Turkish Aegean coast. Alaçati is also one the world’s best windsurfing areas, with championships held here in August.
Read our full expert guide to Alacati
Who goes? Anyone seeking a low-key beach holiday.
Stay: Manastir is a boutique hotel with a palm-fringed swimming pool. From £105; manastiralacati.com.tr .
52. Patara, Lycia
At 11 miles, Patara is Turkey’s longest beach, and has escaped the development that mars many lesser beaches around the Mediterranean thanks both to the ruins of the ancient city from which it gets its name, and the resident loggerhead turtles, a protected species which has been laying its eggs here for the past 40 million years. Gaze west, across the vast expanse of sandy shallows that make this beach so attractive to families, to the Greek island of Rhodes, 50 miles offshore. With the exception of the small café, there is nothing man-made in sight.
Read our full expert guide to Patara
Who goes? Families, couples, nature lovers.
Stay: Patara Viewpoint, a charming hillside hotel with its own pool. From £45; pataraviewpoint.com
With contributions from our local experts around Europe including: Robert Andrews, Annie Bennett, Sally Davies, Jane Foster, Nicky Holford, Soo Kim, Chris Leadbeater, Sara Evans, Mary Lussiana, Lee Marshall, Anthony Peregrine, Hazel Plush, Frank Preston, Terry Richardson, Adam Ruck, Joanna Symons, Paul Wade and Greg Ward.
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This article was written by Sally Peck from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.