Great European Beaches

If there is one group of people who can be trusted to give you the insight that you need to make your next vacation destination choice it is travel writers. These are people who know beaches and the salt air – and when they select their choice of the best beaches in the world it may pay great dividends to read (and heed) their advice. They know their seas and oceans. From the shores of Africa to the European summer hotpots, these beaches shine according to the experts.

Spanish Splendour.

La Concha – San Sebastian.

There are some beaches that seem purpose-built to feature on postcards – and this is one of them. La Concha is close to all the urban action but still manages to shine. It’s that perfect crescent of white sand and clear water that makes every beach lover gasp in awe. Surrounded by picturesque forests it boasts an offshore island named Santa Clara and the picture-perfect vista of traditional fishing boats dotting the bay.

The destination is definitely ‘old school’ reminding one of those heady days when children ate separately from the adults and hotels took personal service seriously. However, certain things have changed. The city is now a hotbed of vibrant tourist life and you the ever popular Valencia hen do. The beach is embraced by two smaller stretches of sand – Ondarreta which continues the La Concha in the west (and has the famous Chillada Wind Comb sculpture at its end) and Zurriola (near the Kursaal Palace in Gros) which sees hordes of surfers enjoying its great waves.

Turkish delight.

Çirali, Kemer – Antalya.

If you enjoy the finest of sands between your toes then head for Cirali. The miles of sand front Orange Groves and wonderful gardens lit by lanterns that flicker to life as the sun sets. Hammocks are the relaxation option for those who want to take in the salt air and sunshine. Visitors are accommodated in holiday cabins that blend into the natural beauty of the area. Hotels such as Arcadia cater to those who have come to love this part of the world.

It combines fabulous cuisine (the breakfasts are especially noteworthy) and bicycles for those guests who want to explore the area. Guests will enjoy the commitment to preserving the natural beauty of the surroundings – and the attitude towards a healthy and fun lifestyle. This extends to the food offerings with salads, stuffed gözleme flatbread and beer the order of the day. Those who explore will be rewarded in their exploration of the riverside path which meanders past a ticket office towards the vine-covered ruins of the fabled ancient Olympos. Venturing further afield on two wheels visitors will soon find themselves experiencing Chimaera, where gaseous flames dance on the much written of hillside.

Portuguese Pleasure.

Porto Côvo – Costa Vicentina, Alentejo.

At the foot of jagged and scenic cliffs, one finds Porto Covo’s wonderful horseshoe-shaped bay. Once a destination known only to local angler this town is now a haven for tourists who revel in the cobbled paths and traditional whitewashed homes speak of a simpler and gentler time when the small boats plied the waters and nets were mended on the seashore. Alentejo’s south-western coast retains the charm of that bygone era – and those exploring it on foot (there are some wonderful hiking trails) will be rewarded with views from magnificent cliffside areas courtesy of the aptly names ‘Fisherman’s Trail’ which has Vila Nova de Milfontes as one of its highlights. Heading inland on the circular trail will also bring its own rewards.

French Fantasy.

L’Herbe – Cap Ferret, Gironde

The peninsula that wraps itself around the Bay of Arcachon is no stranger to visitors from the Bordeaux region and the urban centre of Paris, however, it retains its charms – and its claim to fame based on the sheer wonder of the oysters that are farmed in the area. That charm is abundantly clear when visiting L’Herbe with its rustic oyster farmer’s homes and its petite beach, which can be viewed, from one of the many oyster bars that are a feature of the landscape. One of the best is the Kykouyou restaurant with its ‘deserted island’ ambience. Here visitors can get their fill of great seafood enjoyed with some of the best-chilled white wine on offer anywhere in the world.

Italian Inspiration.

Fiorenzuola di Focara – Le Marche.

Those who have read Dante’s ‘Inferno’ will be familiar with this village with its ancient walls. It is now an integral part of the ‘Parco Naturale del Monte San Bartolo’ and its magnificent beach can be reached via the twists and turns of its well-worn streets. That 20-minute walk is worth the time – it delivers one to a pristine stretch of shingle and sand. The cliffside behind and the Adriatic stretching in front of one provides a sense of serenity with only the distant roofs of Fiorenzuola from the beach. The ambience is relaxed – the driftwood sunshades adding to that sense of serenity. The walk back provides the appetite for a repast at one of the fabulous local restaurants.

Greek Getaway.

Voidokilia – Peloponnese.

Most beaches in the Western World have fallen prey to unbridled development – fortunately, this destination has escaped this fate – due in part to the fact that the nearby lagoon is part of a nature reserve. Thanks to this, Voidokilia still resembles the area that is mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey. This is about as picture-perfect as a crescent of sand can possibly be. The Greek name for the area translates as ‘Cow’s Belly’ giving a hint of both its shape and warmth. It is the perfect place to enjoy the welcome embrace of the salt water – and explore the wonders of the cave on the beach or the nearby ruined castle. For bird lovers, the Flamingos that patrol the lagoon are a delight.

Rhys George

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