Where are the best hidden beaches in Europe?

Where are the best hidden beaches in Europe?

Travel inspiration


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Remote, beautiful, and hidden away in secluded bays, these undiscovered pieces of paradise are just waiting for you to find them

Undiscovered beaches are never that — how else would we know about them? — but finding that perfect mix of white sand, sparkling sea, and few people is many travelers’ dream. Here we list some of the finest hidden beaches in Europe, from Portugal and Spain to Italy, France, and the UK. Time to take the plunge!

Spain — Playa El Mejillón (Popcorn Beach), Fuerteventura

Near the small town of Corralejo in the Canary Islands, you’ll find Popcorn Beach. Why’s it called that? Well, the beach is made from the remains of small, calcareous algae that look just like popcorn. Each of these little guys takes decades to form as they’re swept back and forth by the tides.

When they’re alive and on the sea bed, they’re pink and violet, but once they die and are swept to shore to create the beach, they’re duller whites and grays. They’re also a vital ecosystem for the region, providing shelter and breeding grounds for all manner of marine life (indeed, the whole island is a protected biosphere).

It’s not an easy place to get to, mind you — the town of Corralejo is around an hour’s walk, and the only road is a dusty track. But hey, you wanted undiscovered, right?

Portugal — Praia da Ursa

Praia da Ursa — ShutterstockPraia da Ursa is the westernmost beach in Europe — Shutterstock

Praia da Ursa (or “Bear Beach”) is also tricky to get to, mainly because of the two massive rock stacks on either side, one of which apparently resembles a bear holding its cub. Europe’s westernmost beach is tricky to get to — you have to follow a narrow path down the cliffs — but because of this, it’s generally uncrowded, wild and natural.

The current is strong and the water cold, so it’s a brave beachgoer who ventures into the water, but the sand is warm and the unspoiled views out across the sea and back up the rocks are wild. The fact that not many people make it here means it’s also an unofficial naturist beach, so you might get more of a view than you bargained for.

Getting there from Lisbon requires a 40-minute train journey to the town of Cascais. From there, it’s a 25-minute bus trip to the lighthouse at Cabo da Roca, and then a 15-minute walk on the clifftop trail and down to the beach. Is it worth it? Absolutely.

Spain — Cala Sa Forcanera

View over Cala Sa Forcanera — ShutterstockView over Cala Sa Forcanera from the Marimurtra Botanical Gardens — Shutterstock

If you’re looking for undiscovered beaches, this one is particularly good, in that it’s only accessible by boat. Located between Santa Anna Beach and Sant Francesc Cove, it’s one of the calmest and quietest spots on the tourist trap that is the Costa Brava.

This tiny arc of sand sits at the bottom of some cliffs, on top of which stand the Marimurtra Botanical Gardens, one of the foremost gardens on the Mediterranean coast. Even if you can’t access the beach, the gardens are wonderfully peaceful and give amazing views.

Regarding the beach itself, I tell a lie: there is one small access road, but it’s closed to the public. If you want to get down there, the best thing to do is to rent a canoe or kayak from the town of Blanes, around one kilometer along the coast. If you do, you’ll arrive at magical blue seas and, if no one else is feeling curious, a place pretty much all to yourself.

Italy — Spiaggia di San Giovanni di Sinis, Sardinia

San Giovanni di Sinis — ShutterstockThis beach offers diving. snorkeling and windsurfing opportunities, abundant sea life, and a 16th-century tower. What more could you want? — Shutterstock

On the western side of Sardinia, you’ll find the lazy stretch of sand called San Giovanni di Sinis Beach. The area is rich in sea life, and is part of a protected marine region, but that just means it’s all the better for diving and snorkeling.

The beach itself runs for around two kilometers, starting at an ancient Phoenician-Punic colony. In fact, when you’re not sunning yourself, the whole area is worth exploring, containing as it does the Spanish Tower — built by Philip II as a defense to ward off pirates — and the quiet village of San Giovanni di Sinis is home to a 5th-century church.

If you’re not one for history, you can content yourself with swimming, windsurfing, and wandering the sand dunes, looking out for pirates. If you don’t see any, that clearly means the tower is still doing its job.

Greece — Paralia Psili Ammos, Crete

Woman lying on the beach at Psili Ammos — ShutterstockGreece is full of amazing beaches, and Crete’s uncrowded Psili Ammos might just be the one for you — Shutterstock

Close to the popular Vai Beach, known for its palm tree-backed expanse, Psili Ammos translates as “fine sand”, and shares that name with a number of beaches across the Greek islands. From Vai, it’s a five-minute walk along a footpath and over the hill to the south, and amazingly few people make the effort.

Due to the rare palm forests, the entire area is protected, so there are no hotels, bars, or any other bits of tourist bait in the area (aside from the tiny café on Vai Beach). This means the area is secluded, quiet, and the warm, turquoise water is calm and inviting.

You can continue to walk as well; there’s a footpath that runs south along the coast all the way to Maridati Beach, so if you’re looking for even more undiscovered coves, there are plenty to choose from. It takes around two and a half hours to get to Maridati from Psili Ammos, and as the path winds its way along the edge of the island, you’ll have your choice of secluded beaches to call your own for the day.

France — Calanques

Calanque d'En Vau — ShutterstockCalanque d’En Vau is just one of several spectacular coves in this special part of France — Shutterstock

Not just one beach, but a whole host of them now. Calanques are bays or inlets, and the 10-kilometer stretch of coast between Marseille and Cassis is known for these tiny, steep-sided coves that cut dramatically into the limestone rock, with many featuring gorgeous beaches.

The area is also a national park, and is home to wildlife such as wild boar and peregrine falcons, eagles, geckos and pine martens, while out at sea there are dolphins, fin whales, and sea turtles.

Despite being so close to Marseille, the second-biggest city in the country, the Calanques are amazingly peaceful. You’d never know you were just down the coast from a busy port, and in a way, you aren’t. Marseille faces west, while you’re happily across the other side of the headland, gazing out across the Mediterranean having found your happy place.

UK — Kynance Cove

Kynance Cove — ShutterstockBritain for a beach trip? Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it — Shutterstock

Let’s finish with somewhere less obvious for a beach holiday (at least to those lucky so-and-sos in Southern Europe who have the weather for them). Britain is home to some wonderful beaches, from the vast, windswept vistas of Northumberland with the odd ruined castle staring mournfully out to sea, to the Scottish islands, the flat expanses of Norfolk, and the rugged coastline of Wales.

Here, however, we’re in Cornwall, a popular destination for British staycationers. The region around Kynance Cove, all the way down on the poetically-named Lizard Peninsula, is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and it’s right to be so.

The golden sands, clear seas and surrounding cliffs give the place an ancient, storied feel. You can just imagine smugglers stowing their wares in the caves, ships crashing onto the rocks on stormy nights, or old salts sharing tales of life on the sea in an ancient tavern nearby. It’s time to write your chapter in that story.

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