Europe's most stunning beach destinations

From the Azores Islands far off the Portuguese coast to the Caspian Sea on the border with Asia, heavenly beaches can be found in many different European locations. Whether you are into brilliant white sand or rocky landscapes, there is a beach in Europe waiting for you.

Cies Islands, Spain

The Galicia region in the north west of Spain has many stunning landscapes to offer tourists. One of its many treasures is the Cies Islands archipelago, located in the mouth of the Ria de Vigo. The archipelago, which was declared a nature reserve in 1980, boasts nine beaches offering contrasting features. In the west you will find cliffs and caves, while sandy beaches with soft dunes are found to the east. Rhodes Beach, with cool emerald waters and fine white sand, is considered one of the best in the world. The area can be reached by ferry.

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Vík í Mýrdal, Iceland

Vík í Mýrdal is a small village in southern Iceland, with only 300 inhabitants. It is surrounded by high cliffs and its black sandy beach often features in lists compiled of the world’s best beaches. From the lighthouse there is a spectacular view of the Katla volcano. There are also three basalt rocks offshore which are the focus of a local legend. Villagers say they were three trolls who were turned into stone by the morning sunlight as they attempted to steal local boats.

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Capri, Italy

The island of Capri, located to the south of the Gulf of Naples, is one of the most famous corners of Italy. It was a privileged enclave in Roman times and today it has become a luxury tourist destination. Capri is a small island but it can be argued it has everything that the jet set needs. The Belvedere di Tragara offers spectacular views of some of the islands beaches and the area also has hidden coves and Roman ruins. The island’s standout feature is the Blue Grotto, a sea cave with turquoise waters of indescribable beauty.

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Sicily, Italy

The island of Sicily, with more than 1,500 km of coastline, offers a wide range of beaches. Must-see beaches include Torre Salsa and Eraclea Minoa. Those looking for someplace a little more relaxed should head to Lo Zingaro or San Vito lo Capo. Although it is not a beach destination, a trip to the city of Syracuse is also highly recommended. The city was founded by the Greeks almost three centuries ago and it was the birthplace of the Greek mathematician and scientist Archimedes.

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Azores Islands, Portugal

The nine islands that make up the archipelago of the Azores have much to offer any visitor. You can enjoy the volcanic landscapes, the rugged vegetation and even swim with dolphins or go whale watching. And of course there are the islands’ beaches, which are extremely diverse. You can find beaches with black, white or golden sand. Some have clam waters, while large waves crash down on others. Marine fossils have been found on the beaches of Santa Maria island.

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Zlatni Rat, Croatia

Zlatni Rat, on the island of Brac in Croatia, is one of the most unique beaches in the world. The beach forms a V-shaped strip of sand that is more than 500 metres in length. The beach changes its shape and position depending on the direction of the wind and tides. The area, known as the Golden Horn, is sheltered by a lush pine forest, making it an idyllic place to visit.

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Papagayo Beach, Lanzarote, Spain

This beautiful beach is located in the Ajache nature reserve on the island of Lanzarote. The cove boasts fine golden sand and is sheltered by a ridge that protects it from the wind. Along with three beaches called Playa Mujeres, Playa del Pozo and Playa Puerto Muelas, it is one of the main tourist attractions on the island. From here you can see the islands of Lobos and Fuerteventura and nude bathing is common.

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Santorini, Greece

Santorini is the capital of the Cyclades Islands, located in the Aegean Sea south of the Greek mainland. Its history dates back to 3,000 BC, when it was inhabited by the Phoenicians. Some believe that Santorini was the inspiration behind Plato’s story of Atlantis, the city that sunk into the sea. The island’s landscape was shaped by a volcanic explosion in 1,500 BC. The look of its beaches has also been influenced by its volcanic past, as they have exotic-looking black or red sand.

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Comino Island, Malta

Cominio is located between the larger islands of Malta and Gozo. The main attraction is the Blue Lagoon which is located between the island and the islet of Cominotto. It is a bay with crystal clear water and abundant marine life. Comino has served as the backdrop for movies like Troy and the Count of Monte Cristo.

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Sedir Island, Turkey

Sedir Island, in the Aegean Sea, is also known as Cleopatra Island due to a legend surrounding the Egyptian queen and her lover Marc Antony. The legend states that Marc Antony transported huge amounts of sand to the island from Egypt as Cleopatra did not want to set foot on land that was not Egyptian. The island is heavenly and it is also popular with water sports enthusiasts. You can also take a boat trip to visit nearby caves. Other attractions include the Roman ruins that remain in the city.

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Lofoten islands, Norway

It is likely that you have never heard of beaches in the Arctic Circle, but it is actually a location where you can find some of the most beautiful beach spots in Europe. The islands that make up the Lofoten archipelago belong to Norway. Its best beaches are Utakleiv, Unstad, Haukland Gimsøya y Skagsanden. As you would imagine their waters are pretty cold, but the surrounding views more than compensate for this inconvenience. In summer, the sun never sets and these beaches are converted into the perfect settings from which to witness the midnight sun.

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Lake Constance, Germany, Switzerland and Austria

The beautiful beaches that surround many lakes across the world always seem to be left out of “best beach” lists. Lake Constance is shared between Germany, Switzerland and Austria. It has a warm microclimate and three beautiful islands, Lindau, Reichenau y Mainau. The area’s wonderful wood houses and the castle of Meersburg give the place a magical feel.

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About the Author

Minerva Serrano is a professional writer who publishes online articles across an array of platforms. Her short tale "Double Steps" was a finalist in the XIII Contest of Short Stories and published in a book. Serrano is pursuing a bachelor's degree in geography and history at Spanish Open University.