It is the holiday destination chosen by millions of Britons every year and the Mediterranean coast boasts some truly spectacular beaches. But if you want to get away from it all, where should you be setting down your towel to enjoy the most jaw-dropping stretches of sand? The Ionian Islands offer some of the most staggeringly beautiful sandy coves imaginable, surrounded by towering limestone cliffs. No matter what your budget, there’s a beach holiday for you. Here, MailOnline Travel reveals the top relaxing picks… without the annoying crowds.
1. Egremni – Lefkada, Greece
The stunning turquoise water is really just this impossibly blue. Located on the south-western coast of the island of Lefkada in Greece, Egremni has become one of the most popular tourist destinations, despite its remote location. The only way to access these stunning sandy shores is by scaling the 150m high cliff via 347 steep steps, but it’s worth it. Stretching two and a half kilometres, it’s one of the longest beaches on the island and rarely gets crowded. Also keep in mind that though it has a bar and sunbeds for rent, there’s no place to stay overnight, meaning its really best for day trips only.
2. Cala Mitjaneta – Menorca, Spain
This picturesque cove is, unsurprisingly, one of the most popular beaches for both tourists and locals in the summer. With its shallow, calm waters, the fairly secluded favourite, which is located on the southern coast close to Cala Galdana, is revered for its clear snorkeling and swimming conditions.
Parking does fill up rather quickly, so it’s advisable to arrive early.
3. Navagio Beach – Zakynthos, Greece
Also known as Shipwreck Beach, this exposed cove on the coast of Zakynthos in the Ionian Islands is accessible only by boat. Sometimes referred to as “Smugglers Cove,” the sandy strip, which is surrounded by stunning limestone cliffs, got its nicknames back in 1983, when the Panagiotis ship was wrecked on the beach while transporting cigarettes. While many are content to simply lie on the gorgeous white sand beach, the area is also a renowned BASE jumping destination to visiting adrenaline junkies.
4. Elafonissi Beach – Crete, Greece
Elafonissi is perhaps best known as being a tiny island of white sand separated from the shore by a lagoon that is no more than a metre deep.
But its mainland beach is widely recognised as one of the most beautiful in all of Crete thanks to its white sand, shallow water and all of the shells that give the ocean just the subtlest hint of silver. Best of all? You can quite literally walk to “Deer Island” on a nice day, all the while admiring the views of the nearby Chrissoskalitissa Monastery, which is perched on a large rock.
5. Monterosso Beach – Cinque Terre, Italy
As the area’s only sandy waterfront, the town of Monterosso el Mare along the Italian Riviera is a must-visit for all beach lovers. One of the five villages that make up Cinque Terre, this western-most beach, which runs along most of the town’s coastline, is located in the centre of a small natural gulf.
For those planning a holiday, it’s worth noting that the beach is extremely popular during the summer months, so early June or late August is preferably if you don’t want to have to wait for a sun lounger.
6. Himara Beach – Himare, Albania
This region along the Albanian Riviera is full of white sandy beaches, olive and citrus trees and stunning Byzantine architecture. Also known for its seaside promenade, Himare has a largely ethnically Greek population, meaning that the culture has been preserved through the old town of Kastro and the local Greek tavernas. Take a dip in the Ionian Sea and enjoy the breathtaking 2000-metre high Llogara mountains to the northeast, all while perfecting your tan.
7. Spiaggia Rosa – Sardinia, Italy
This otherworldly beach on the island of Budelli owes its name to the colour of its sand, which contains microscopic fragments of coral, seashells and specks of granite. The beach – and the island, more generally – is part of the Archipelago of La Maddelena National Marine Park and unfortunately, tourists can no longer access the shore. However, it can still be admired by boat from the sea.
8. Baska Voda Beach – Baska Voda, Croatia
Situated along the Dalmatian Coast in Croatia, Baska Voda is one of the most-visited and most-loved summer resort towns in the Makarska Riviera.
The tiny town, which has a population of just over 2,000, is known for its long gravel beaches, pine wood forests and Baroque architecture.
White stone houses, surrounded by cliffs, are visible from the beach itself, which overlooks the crystal clear waters of the Adriatic Sea.
9. Turquoise Coast – Patara, Turkey
The country’s southernmost coast earned its nickname thanks to the blending of hues of the horizon and sea. Ancient cities dot the mountains that tower above the sand, as well as lush forests that likewise hug the jagged coastline. Still relatively underdeveloped, the area is great for those looking for a remote escape with plenty of historical forts and villages just steps away. And keep an eye out for the endangered logger sea turtles – particularly during nesting season.