We should know the best beaches in Europe after traveling to almost every country in the Meditteranean. Some of our favorite beaches in the world lie on The coastline of Europe may not be as popular as the South Pacific, the Caribbean, or the Indian Ocean. However, Europe’s beaches are every bit as beautiful.
This list features what we consider to be the best beaches in Europe. Beaches come from Italy, Portugal, Turkey, Cyprus, Iceland, and Greece. At the end of the day, these beaches barely scratch the surface of what lies along Europe’s coast.
Travelers could spend years exploring all of Europe’s beaches. We couldn’t even make the argument that you could lump in all of the coasts of Portugal, Italy, Spain, Greece, and Croatia into the list of best beaches. So where’s the best beaches in Europe exactly? Here are all personal favorites after years of traveling around Europe.
The Best Beaches in Europe
Praia da Marinha, Algarve, Portugal
There’s no doubt that the Southern coast of Portugal is gorgeous. We spent a month in Lagos with the aim to see the best beaches in the Algarve. While all of the beaches are stunning, our absolute favorite is Praia da Marinha. Praia da Marinha is a small bay with bright blue and turquoise water encompassed by limestone cliffs. There are a variety of different rock formations, including arches, caves, and ledges that are accessible from the shore and make for a nice swim.
It’s possible to scuba dive or snorkel here and see the various octopuses, seahorses, and bream. At the cliff top, you can embark on a nature walk, have a picnic, or admire the east and the west. In the offseason, this beach is paradise, in the summer season, it’s best to arrive early and enjoy as the crowds will definitely come. The good thing about the Algarve is that it is beach weather until November – sometimes even December, making Praia da Marinha one of the best beaches in Europe in September. You can find the beach location here!
Stefanou Beach, Crete, Greece
Cameron often asks me what my favorite beach in the world is, and I always tell him that Stefanou Beach is up there. Stefanou Beach is a small beach on the Greek island of Crete. 22km northeast of Chania and 2km east of the village Chordaki lies this tranquil place. There is no public transport here so you will either need a car or a boat to access the pebble beach.
I’m not certain how we found out about it, as it doesn’t seem to be well known on the touristy island. But after the heart-stopping straight down zig-zag drive I am sure happy we made it. Stefanou Beach is absolutely gorgeous with the calm Mediterranean waters that draw us back to Greece again and again.
Balos Beach, Crete, Greece
One of my other favorite beaches in Europe is also on the largest island in Greece. Balos Beach isn’t as secluded as Stefanou and is popular with tourists, but once you see the sprawling beach it’s easy to overlook. Located on the very western tip of Crete past Kissamos is Balos Beach. To access the beach by car you will need to drive alongside a steep hill for about 10 kilometers and make a one-kilometer trek down to the beach (this isn’t the hard part though because you must LEAVE the beach eventually and hike back up).
Spending the day in this turquoise paradise is relaxing. At the lagoon, you can expect to find amazing blue and turquoise waters surrounded by amazing white sand. In my opinion it’s the best white sand beach in Europe. The water is warm and shallow which makes it the perfect place to hang out with children.
Oludeniz Beach, Turkey
Oludeniz Beach is a beautiful lagoon in the Aegean Sea and perfect for a family beach holiday in Europe. Located 14 km from Fethiye this beach should be seen in person as it is stunning. The blue flag pebble beach is a great place to come to lay out for the day and soak up the sunshine while relaxing in the warm Mediterranean water. This is not a secret location though, and it frequently makes the list of best beaches in Europe.
Just about every Turk and their grandmother knows of Oludeniz beach and that means that every Brit knows about it too. The area is well developed and caters to a large influx of tourists in the summer seasons. The good news is it’s great for all – young couples, families, retirees, and groups of friends. The beach is also surrounded by protected forests so that nature is still on full display here. Oludeniz is also a popular place to go paragliding at, imagine all the crisp blue and mountainous scenery from up high!
Marina Grande Beach, Positano, Italy
Just south of Naples is the famous Amalfi coast. If you’ve watched any travel movies that are set in Italy chances are there is a shot of Positano’s most iconic beach, Marina Grande Beach. Positano is a quaint and charming town that cascades down from the hills. It’s plagued with sunshine, clean beaches, art galleries, restaurants, and plenty of Italian coffee shops to pass the day. While it’s certainly seen it’s fair for tourists it still maintains that picture perfect Italian town, due to its limited space and high prices.
During the summer you’ll find this 300-meter long beach lined with chairs and umbrellas, and a swirl of restaurants and cafes to keep you full and happy. The beach is a free area to relax on. However, if you are looking for something a bit different then Positano is a great jumping off point for Punta Campanella and even Capri.
Cape Greco, Cyprus
In the Ayia Napa district of Cyprus is Cape Greco. This isn’t your typical layout and suntan beach. It’s much better and more adventurous than that. It is here that you can explore and swim in sea caves. Some of the sea caves go as much as 80 meters into the rock at low tide, making it the ideal time to walk and swim around them.
The whole area is a national forest and it makes for the perfect place to go hiking and to stretch your legs. There are also spots of deep water amongst the rocks where the fearless can take part in cliff jumping and diving. I may or may not have given a stab at this – don’t tell my mom! If you’re looking to do more than read in a sun lounger under an umbrella you should definitely check out Cape Greco.
Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach, Iceland
Another unconventional beach on this list is Iceland’s Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach. Reynisfjara is a volcanic black sand beach on the South Coast of Iceland and one of the best beaches in Northern Europe. It is one of the most visited and surreal spots in a country famed for its natural beauty. You can’t go swimming here, but you can admire the mighty ocean from the comfort of the small black stones on shore. There are also famous basalt columns Reynisfjara. Reynisfjell is a 340-meter mountain of surreal hexagonal basalt columns.
During the summer you can see puffins nesting on these columns, but try your best not to be a bad tourist and disturb them! The ocean is always dangerous, and at this particular spot in Iceland, that is definitely no exception. Reynisfjara is one of the most dangerous sights in the country as there are frequent rogue waves that have claimed a few unsuspecting lives. Stay away from the water and admire from afar. This beach is so unique you’ll have to pinch yourself!
Oia, Santorini, Greece
It may seem like we love Greece – and we do! The Greek beaches are definitely my personal favorite in Europe and Oia is hands down one of the best beach towns in Europe. I didn’t really want to mention Santorini on this list as just about everyone has heard of Santorini, however, it really is out of a dream, so there’s no avoiding it. Although all of Santorini is spectacular, the real star of the show (and the one you’ve seen most on Instagram) is the cliff-perched village of Oia.
Whitewashed buildings cascading down to Ammoudi Bay make for picture perfect photos and a romantic time. It is here that some of the best sunsets in the world can be seen. All this mixed in with the warm blue waters of the Mediterranean sea down below make this the ideal place for a vacation, especially a romantic honeymoon.
Pakleni Islands, Hvar, Croatia
If you plan to travel away from mainland Croatia to Hvar then you must head to the beautifully wooded island chain. The Pakleni Islands offer small, secluded stone beaches, deserted coves, quiet lagoons, crystal clear water, and sun-drenched hills. They can be seen from mainland Hvar but it’s best to get out there either via private boat, ferry, or kayak to experience them.
In the summertime, expect a lot of yachts as it is one of the most popular docking grounds in the Adriatic. Of course, a common person like us can travel there as well as Croatia is not a ridiculously expensive destination. The Pakleni Islands are also where the party is at in the summer so don’t come here in July or August if you want to sleep.
Sveti Stefan, Montenegro
I bet you didn’t think I would be mentioning Montenegro on this list, did you? The truth is we love traveling around the Balkans. They are affordable, easy to travel, full of culture, contains magical natural sights, and home to stunning beaches. Sveti Stefan is a small inlet located only 15 minutes away from the popular tourist town of Budva. It’s one of the most popular places to visit in Montenegro and once you arrive you will see why.
The island is a fortified 15th-century village complete with old stone buildings, pink sand beaches, and warm turquoise water.The island is privately owned and only resort guests are permitted access to Sveti Stefan. Never fear, visitors can still relax on the beaches to the north or south or the island.
What to pack for your European beach vacation
Travel Water Bottle
Plastic pollution is a problem around Europe so it’s best not to contribute to the problem buying plastic water bottles everywhere – plus for the most part the water from the taps in Europe is safe for drinking. We’ve shifted to using an insulated aluminum water bottle as it handles the hot sun well. However, we also love filtered water bottles in areas we’re uncertain of the water supply. Read more about favorite water bottle for travel in our post.
You will absolutely need sunscreen for any European beach vacation. You can purchase it when you get to your beach destinations, but then you’ll be searching around for it and may pay a premium for a generic brand. Please consider spending a few extra dollars for reef safe sunscreen. The typical sunscreens like Coppertone, No Ad, and Banana Boat have many chemicals in them that will run off your body while swimming damaging the precious coral and marine life. We have this reef safe sunscreen for our ocean adventures.
Most hotels will provide you with a towel, but they often aren’t suitable or allowed on the beaches. I like to travel with a microfiber towel because they are light and fold up small, and they also don’t cling on to sand or dirt. Here are a few of our favorite travel towels.
Some of the European beaches I mentioned on this list are hard to get to and require climbing on jagged rocks. Hiking sandals allow for your feet to breathe and they do not collect sand when trudging through the desert. You bet we’ve reviewed the best hiking sandals for travelers!
We don’t travel without travel insurance and neither should you. You never know what can happen in a foreign country and it’s best to be prepared. World Nomads provides good short term coverage.
Transport to and around these beautiful beaches in Europe
Getting around Europe has never been cheaper with budget airlines such as RyanAir servicing many European destinations. Many places in Europe have reliable public transport, but to get to some of the beaches you’re going to want your own set of wheels. An automatic rental car in Europe can go for €15 a day in the low season up to €35 a day in the higher seasons (automatic) and will ensure you get to all the best European beach destinations. Knowing how to drive a manual car will always get you better prices in Europe. If you’re traveling as a group it is worth your while to hire a car for your trip. Our best experiences driving in Europe have been with SiXT. Check car rental prices here.
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