The best island beaches in Europe
This year’s Conde Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards produced a fascinating list of top island beaches in Europe from strands of sand in the North Sea to Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast. 5 Greek islands are among the 12 best chosen for the list.
See the whole list:
1. Menorca, Spain
Quiet, unspoiled Menorca (the third Balearic Island on this list) is littered with postcard-perfect little beaches with some of the clearest, bluest water you’ll ever find. Cala Macarelleta is a favorite, surrounded by pine groves, cliffs, trails, and hidden coves—it’s certainly worth the hour-long drive west and south from Mahon.
2. Skiathos (Sporades), Greece
Famed for its soft, round, white pebbles, Lalaria Beach is only accessible by boat from Skiathos town. There’s afternoon shade from the tall cliffs that back this tiny piece of paradise. Strong paddlers thrill to swim through dramatic outcrop arches (one underwater) at the southern end.
3. North Frisian Islands, Germany
Enormously wide beaches, endless sand dunes, wide open countryside, and charming villages draw summertime visitors to these islands facing the North Seas on the border with Denmark. Lesser-known Amrum has Europe’s widest beach, a perfect, 10-mile stretch of sand spanning the entire length of its western shore—from near-empty Nordspitze to a candy-striped lighthouse in Wittdün.
4. Ibiza, Spain
No visit to the party island of Ibiza would be complete without watching the sun set from Benirrás Beach, a 10-minute drive from San Miguel. Cap Bernat (locally known as “the hand of God”) is a dramatic rock formation, made even more so by the fading light and the island’s famed ‘Drum Down the Sun’ hippie beats on Sundays.
5. Thassos (North Aegean Islands), Greece
For an unusual dip, visit the warm, natural pool of Giola at the southernmost tip of the island. It’s a 10-minute hike from the road, but well worth a stop if circumnavigating Thassos while exploring its 33 beaches (including nearby Astris and Psili Ammos).
6. Mallorca, Spain
When most people think of Mallorca, they usually imagine endless beach resorts filled with rowdy holiday makers (Magaluf in particular), but the largest of the Balearic Islands has more than a handful of idyllic places to swim and sun. Below the dramatic Tramuntana mountain range on the northwest coast is the chic pebble beach of Deia. It’s a bit of a hike from the main village, but gorgeous water and perfect lunch spots make this a winner.
7. Mykonos, Greece
Paradise and Super Paradise beaches have become something akin to parking lots filled with sunbathers, so these days, head to less mobbed spots like Agios Ioannis at the Mykonos Grand Hotel & Resort (pictured, southwest of Chora) or the tiny, semi-pebbled and family-friendly Glyfada beach, a 5-minute drive south
8. Isles of Scilly, England
Crystal-clear waters, perfect sand, and a sub-tropical climate might not come immediately to mind when thinking of England’s beaches. But Par Beach on St. Martin’s, one of five inhabited Isles of Scilly off the coast of Cornwall, is a true find. Getting here is as easy as a flight from Exeter, Newquay, or Land’s End (or by ferry from Penzance).
9. Crete, Greece
Balos Beach, on Crete’s most northwesterly peninsula, is most easily accessed by ferries from Kissamos port—much better than the long, rugged dirt track or a 3-hour hike. A mix of bright white and pinkish sand and incredibly vivid turquoise water in the lagoon have made this one of the most photographed spots in Crete.
10. Hvar (Dalmatian Islands), Croatia
For a quiet spell away from the lively Renaissance port town of Hvar, head south to the tiny pebble beach of Uvala Dubovica. Get there early if driving as parking is limited, or rent a boat and swim ashore. A gorgeous 17th-century manor house anchors one end of the cove, while pine trees for shade sit at the other.
11. Sardinia, Italy
Cala Goloritzè is one of Italy’s most enduringly famous beaches, located at the base of a ravine on the island’s northeastern coast. It’s super tiny, but no less beautiful with its limestone cliffs, soft ivory sand, and striking, blue-green ocean. It’s so special, it was even made a UNESCO site in 1995.
12. Corfu (Ionian Islands), Greece
Cape Drastis, on the northwestern tip of Corfu, is barely 50 nautical miles from the heel of Italy across the Ioanian Sea. The peninsula is studded with tiny beaches, accessible only on foot or by water.