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Experience the Blissful Beaches of Europe

Step aside, Caribbean: Europe is making its case to be the new crowning glory of the beach world.

Europe’s scintillating shores offer everything you need for a tranquil, rejuvenating beach experience. From the famed coastlines of Ibiza and Mallorca to the glittering French Riviera, Europe has the azure waters and sun-warmed sand to entice any beachgoer. Here are four of the continent’s best coastal retreats:

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Zlatni Rat Beach
Brač Island, Croatia

With its smooth white-pebbled shore, century-old pine forest, turquoise waters, and horn-like shape that changes with the winds and currents, it’s hard to find a more picturesque coastal setting in Europe.

Getting There
There’s daily ferry service between Split and Bol (on Brač Island), with several sailings per day in the summer. Zlatni Rat is less than a mile and a half from downtown Bol, so getting there on foot takes hardly any time at all. If you’d rather not walk, a small tourist train shuttles visitors between town and beach during the summer months.

Nearby Activities
Between paddle boating, windsurfing, snorkeling, and lounging about at Zlatni Rat, it’s easy to forego an exploration of Brač in favor of an all-beach-all-the-time experience. However, it would be a shame to miss out on some of the island’s other superb and historic attractions. Those looking to get some exercise may choose to hike up Vidova Gora, the highest point in the Adriatic islands. If you’re interested in history, head to the 16th-century Blaca Monastery—now a museum displaying centuries-old manuscripts, paintings, and other artifacts.

Praia da Marinha
Algarve, Portugal

Praia da Marinha is one of the most spectacular, iconic beaches in all of Portugal. The cove is fringed with layered limestone cliffs and formations, and the protected, transparent waters are perfect for snorkeling. Those who want to revel in the breathtaking views before heading down to the beach can go for a stroll on the path that winds along the tops of the cliffs.

Getting There
Because there is no train service along the Algarve coast and hardly any buses run near the beach, your best bet to get there is by taxi or rental car. The beach is about a 40-minute drive from Lagos, and takes around 30 minutes to reach from the resort town of Albufeira. If you’re staying in Faro, you can drive 40 minutes to the beach or take an hour-long train to Poco Barreto and a 15-minute taxi ride to Praia da Marinha.

Nearby Activities
Just a 10-minute drive from Praia da Marinha is Benagil Beach, your starting point to experience the magnificent sky-lit Benagil Sea Cave. Though the cave may not appear far from the shore, it is only accessible by water and the currents can be strong, so swimming is not advised. Instead, hop aboard a boat or paddle board that will take you directly to the cave. If you’re up for a moderately challenging, hike, you can acquaint yourself with the orange-gold cliffs and stunning sea arches of the Algarve coast on the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail. This extends just over 3.5 miles west from Praia da Marinha to Vale de Centianes in Carvoeiro.

Elafonisi Beach
Crete, Greece

Pink-tinged sand, gently rolling dunes, warm aquamarine water, and a whole host of exotic plant species: Elafonisi Beach is a beachgoer’s dream come true. The calm, shallow water of the lagoon makes this stop ideal for young children, and your whole family can wade across the sand bar to the nature reserve on Elafonisi Island.

Getting There
By car, the scenic drive to Elafonisi from Chania takes roughly 1.5 hours. If you don’t have a rental car, fret not! Buses run between Chania and Elafonisi during the high season, or you can catch a boat or bus from Paleochora from mid-May to late October.

Nearby Activities
Constructed on rocks overlooking the Libyan Sea, the 17th-century Chrisoskalitissa Monastery is just 10 minutes from Elafonisi by car—or an hour by foot, if you’re feeling adventurous. Legend has it that the monastery got its name (which means “golden staircase”) because the topmost of its 98 steps was made of gold but could only be seen by the truly faithful. Those looking for a deeper connection with nature should venture into Crete’s striking Samariá Gorge National Park for a scenic drive or hike.

Playa de Bolonia
Tarifa, Spain

Considered one of Andalusia’s best-kept secrets, Playa de Bolonia is a serene small-town getaway featuring one of the largest sand dune systems in Europe. The beach sits within El Estrecho Natural Park—a biodiverse wonderland of marine caves, cork oak forests, and over 1,900 species of unique flora and fauna.

Getting There
As the nearest bus drops you off several miles from the beach, Bolonia is mainly accessible by car. The drive from Tarifa takes only 25 minutes, and even coming down from as far north as Cádiz will take you just over an hour.

Nearby Activities
Just a five-minute walk from the beach sits the archaeological excavation site of Baelo Claudia, a 2nd-century Roman town. Other highlights of the area include the sea cliffs of Barbate (around a 40-minute drive from Playa de Bolonia), whale watching, kite surfing, and a visit to Tarifa’s Guzmán Castle, built in 960 AD.

 

Vacation Side Travel




Steven Talbott
Vacation Side Travel

533 Church St Ste #278
Nashville, TN 37219
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 855-822-8747 (Toll-free)
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 steven@vacationside.com
 vacationside.com

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