As the list of Covid-restrictions-free European countries grows longer, the number of flights to and from the continent increases and tourism gathers strength, the dream of basking in the glorious summer sunshine at some of the most beautiful beaches of Europe is at last a realistic possibility for relief-seeking travelers.
Assembled by European Best Destinations (EBD), a wing of the European Commission’s EDEN Network (European Destinations of Excellence), the 2022 list has something for everyone: from golden sand and secluded, hidden or wild beaches, for romantic escapes or family adventures, from intense water sports to unspoiled nature…and more.
The 22 beaches selected are the most-voted by thousands of travelers from 82 countries – with 16% of the votes from the United States.
“Treat yourself to a holiday in these pure nature refuges offering dream beaches to disconnect from a worrying world and reconnect with yourself,” EBD suggests.
Porto Santo Beach in the Portuguese Madeira Islands ranked first this year. Spain, Greece and Italy (with seven beaches ranked) are also among the top.
1. Porto Santo Beach, Madeira Islands, Portugal
Safe, golden and sunny, combining nature, wellness, outdoor sports, gastronomy, golf, idleness and easily accessible from European and American airports — including direct flights from New York — the Madeira Islands are a great destination to recharge your batteries.
Voted for seven years among the most beautiful islands in the world but also a safest destination during Covid, the Madeira Islands — which includes the main islands of Madeira and Porto Santo — is this year’s #1 on the list of Best Beach Destinations in Europe with three beaches in the top 10.
Awarded the title of “Best Beach in Europe 2022,” the golden, sandy beach of Porto Santo is world famous, not least for the therapeutic virtues of its sand.
“During your stay, do not miss a visit to the Golf of Porto Santo, considered one of the most beautiful golf courses in the world,” recommends EBD. “At the end of the day, enjoy a breathtaking sunset while tasting a Madeira wine.”
Porto Santo is world renowned for its hotels, all of which offer direct access to the mile-long, golden, sandy beach.
2. Bolonia Beach, Tarifa, Cadiz Province, Spain
With miles-long beaches of fine sand, the province of Cadiz in the Andalucia region of southwestern Spain is a dream destination.
Cadiz is the oldest city in Western Europe and the untamed Bolonia Beach with its sand dunes cascading to the turquoise water offers views of the coast of Africa, Roman ruins lining the beach, snorkeling and other water sports, walking paths and rustic beach bars for a break in the shade.
3. Seixal Beach, Seixal, Madeira Islands, Portugal
For the beauty of its volcanic black sand, its crystal-clear waters, the incredible cliffs and lush vegetation, Praia do Porto do Seixal was chosen as one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe. Here, you can glimpse the magnificent landscape of the north coast of the island of Madeira bordering the Atlantic Ocean.
This incredibly ‘Instagrammable’ beach boasts restaurants, showers and toilets as well as accommodations with ocean and cliff views and direct access to the beach.
In these troubled times, Madeira has become a refuge for tropical, safe holidays surrounded by nature combining beach, adventure, gastronomy, outdoor sports and fun.
This perfect beach is located a few minutes from the natural pools of Porto Moniz.
4. Cala Goloritze, Sardinia Island, Italy
The wild beach of Cala Goloritze in Sardinia is reachable only by foot through a shaded path that isn’t accessible to those with reduced mobility or with strollers. You can also get there by boat.
To preserve this heavenly place, access to the beach is regulated and with a six-euro entry fee per person (free parking, though). For a postcard-worthy photo, stop at Punta Salinas, located on the heights.
Cala Goloritze is also one of the most beautiful beaches in Italy and of the best-hidden gems in Italy.
5. Mitjaneta Beach, Menorca, Balearic Islands, Spain
The island of Menorca is dotted with some of the most beautiful beaches in Spain.
“Mitjaneta beach is just magical,” according to EBD. “Come bathe in its 29-degree turquoise water and enjoy a dose on the fine sand of this small and romantic beach.”
6. Monolia Beach, Lichadonisia Island, Greece
The verdant beach of Monolia on the Greek Lichadonisia Archipelago and known as the “Greek Bahamas” is reachable by boat only and mostly inhabited.
This secluded “secret paradise” is the largest of a complex of islands from a single volcanic formation. It has a restaurant-bar popular with boat trippers.
A ticket for the boat crossing costs €10 round trip and includes the rental of a deckchair.
7. Baia delle Zagare, Vieste, Apulia, Italy
Italy is one of Europe’s most-visited countries and its numerous beaches are among the most popular for summer holidays combining relaxation, gastronomy, nature, sports and culture.
Although not a private beach, the entrance to Baia delle Zagare is through a hotel located upstream from the beach.
“To take advantage of this exceptional place, do not hesitate to rent a boat to discover the hidden caves and secret beaches,” EBD advises.
8. Elafonisi Island, Crete, Greece
With one of the few pink-sand beaches in the world, Elafoisi Island is also one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe, with its crystal clear and shallow water, fine colorful sand and spectacular landscape.
Located on the southwestern tip of Crete, Elafonisi is an oblong peninsula often split in two parts by water, relaying the impression of being a separate island. It’s a protected area surrounded by sand dunes, sea daffodils and junipers.
The endangered loggerhead sea turtle, the most famous turtle in Greece, and several other rare animals and plants find shelter on the island. For that reason, it’s strictly forbidden to remove any plants, animals, shells and sand from the area.
A word of advice from EBD: “Do not stop at the paid deckchairs and continue straight in the direction of the creeks, where there are fewer people and it is free. If you want to rest for the day, the deckchair with parasol are €10 per day.”
With a rich underwater life, bring your snorkel. Ample free parking is nearby.
9. Santa Giulia Beach, Porto Vecchio, Corsica, France
Located in Porto Vecchio in the south of Corsica, the beach of Santa Giulia is one of the most beautiful beaches of France and arguably “the Best Beach in Corsica.”
Set in a horseshoe bay with perfect white sand, turquoise waters and pine trees, it’s a bathing lagoon at the foot of a mountain that extends for miles.
The gently sloping beach is ideal for young children.
Santa Giulia is also a great place for sailing and water sports. The lake on the other side of the lagoon is a treasure trove of Corsican fauna and flora.
“Perfect place to unwind and recharge your batteries,” says EBD.
10. Hel Beach, Hel Peninsula, Poland
Just over one hour from Gdansk, which is considered one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, the Hel Peninsula — despite its name — “is a paradise on earth,” according to EBD.
This huge strip of sand, 35 kilometers long and up to three kilometers wide, offers something for everyone. EBD recommends to “rent a bike to discover all the beauty of this unique peninsula in Europe. If you have time, and for the more athletic ones, there is a bike trip on the Polish coast. Rent a bike in Świnoujście and join Hel Peninsula — it will take you 20 hours over four to five days with stops along the coast.
Poland is one of the most beautiful countries in Europe and the Hel Peninsula, facing the enclave of Kaliningrad (Russia) is a jewel of pure nature and freedom in Europe.
11. Porto Katsiki, Lefkada, Greece
Known as the “goat beach” and located on the island of Lefkada, Porto Katsiki beach is lauded as one the most beautiful beaches in Greece.
Previously, this beach was only accessible to goats as they alone could climb the steepest rocks. Today, paths have been installed to allow travelers to enjoy the beach. Park your car in the nearest parking lot then walk down the stairs to find this amazing hideaway.
12. Calanque d’En Vau, Marseille, France
Located between Marseille and Cassis, the “Calanque d’En-Vau” also bears the title of one of the most beautiful secret beaches in France.
To get to this heavenly beach, hike 1 1/2 hours along the path and be sure to bring a bottle of water, food and good shoes. Your reward: a walk between the cliffs and the pines, surrounded by the unspoiled nature of the Calanques natural park.
13. Agios Konstantinos Beach, Astypalaia Island, Greece
This beach will suit travelers looking for sun, crystal-clear water and idleness, as well as those yearning for exercise who can take the eight-kilometer hiking trail along the coast that starts here.
A castle, mills, gorgeous blue sky and a calm blue sea, a small fresh-fish restaurant combine to make Agios Konstantinos beach a very special holiday in Greece this year.
The beach appears among the most beautiful beaches in Greece,
14. Cavoli Beach, Elba Island, Italy
The Island of Elba with its Spiaggia di Cavoli beach is considered one of Italy’s hidden gems. This sublime beach located on a small cove is divided into a private area reserved for nearby hotels and a public area.
As one of the most famous beaches on the Island of Elba with its crystal clear sea, golden sand and a unique microclimate, the beach gets crowded in summer.
Because it faces south and has Monte Capanne to shelter the bay from northern winds, it always has a mild climate. That means travelers can swim here even in low season.
People visit this beach from March to November.
15. Playa Cala Sa Boadella, Lloret del Mar, Spain
One of the most beautiful beaches in Spain, Platja de sa Boadella is a gorgeous little beach overlooked by a small hut where you can eat with a view of the cove.
Half of the beach is nudist and part is for non-nudists. “Cohabitation is going perfectly well,” says EBD.
16. La Sorgente Beach, Portoferrai, Elba Island, Italy
Also located on Elba Island,”Spiaggia La Sorgente” beach lies on the northern side of Portoferraio’s coastline, one of the most photographed sites in the island.
“We love its crystal clear waters, its beautiful white pebbles and the scent of the pines that surround this little wild and ‘secret” beach,’ EBD says.
Also called Acquavivetta, Sorgente is a tiny beach, about 80 meters long, set like a jewel amidst the white cliffs that are typical of the coastline in this area.
The sea changes hue and goes from blue to emerald green and to deep blue where the water is deeper. Careful, though: Because it is not a sandy beach and gets deep quickly, this beach is not ideal for families with young children.
It’s connected to the very popular Sansone beach.
17. Cala dei Gabbiani, Sardinia, Italy
This Sardinian beach is ‘a well kept secret’ only accessible by boat.
A natural continuation of the very popular Cala Mariolu, Cala dei Gabbiani is one of the endless jewels of the Baunei coast and, more generally, of the Orosei Gulf, along the central-eastern coast of the island.
If you want to discover another of the most beautiful beaches in Italy, park in the pay-parking lot of “Su Porteddu” and take the path that leads to nearby Cala Goloritze.
18. Greve Blanche beach, Brittany, France
Grève Blanche, with its sand beach and turquoise water located near Carantec and Roscoff in the Finistere region of Brittany, looks like the beaches of the Seychelles.
The Greve Blanche fine sandy beach, small waves and supervision in summer makes it ideal for for families with children.
Facing north, this beach offers views of the Taureau Castle and Callot Island. It’s surrounded by stylish villas that impart the charm of early-century beaches.
It’s said that in Brittany there are four seasons in a day because it can rain and be gloriously sunny a few minutes later. “The change in weather totally changes the aspect of this beach, whose sand can seems even whiter and the waters even more turquoise when the sun shines after a rainfall,” EBD says.
19. Cala Cipolla beach, Chia, Sardinia, Italy
With crystal water, pine forests, coves and secret beaches, Sardinia offers some of the most beautiful beaches in Italy.
Cala Cipolla, considered one of the pearls of the Chia Bay in the south of the island, is tucked away in a narrow bay and only spans 150 meters. With white, fine sands and backed by dense Mediterranean Maquis, it has pine and juniper trees by the beach and where sunbathers find shade during the hot hours of the day.
With its calm sea and shallow waters, this beach is perfect for families. It’s possible to park 200 meters from the beach for just €5 per day.
There are no bars and restaurants on site, but in summer vendors set up shop at the entrance to the beach.
20. Blanes beach, Catalonia, Spain
Blanes, one of the most beautiful beaches in Spain, with its four kilometers of golden sandy beaches, is a popular resort in Catalonia, known as the Gateway to the Costa Brava.
Although very popular, Blanes is less touristy than its busy neighbors to the north, Lloret de Mar and Tossa de Mar, and easy to reach from both Barcelona and Girona.
“Take a stroll along the coastline to discover other secret beaches and coves,” advises EBD.
The beach is supervised and appropriate for families.
21. Laga Beach, Urdaibai, Basque Country, Spain
The golden-sand beach of Laga, located in the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve belongs to the town of Ibarrangelu in Spain’s Basque Country.
Considered one of the most breathtaking sandy areas along the Biscay coast, it’s suited for wild-nature lovers and surfers but also to gourmets since there are several restaurants nearby. The Basque Country is known as one of the regions with the highest number of starred chefs.
Take a hike along the coast and climb for a breathtaking view of this beautiful beach.
22. Cauco Beach, Amalfi Coast, Italy
This summer, discover the Amalfi Coast with an array of the most beautiful beaches in Italy.
Positano, Amalfi, Sorrento, Ravello, Praiano, Maiori, Minori are all among the most beautiful hidden gems in Italy and along the Amalfi Coast.
Spiaggia del Cauco is a secret and quiet beach also called “Lovers’ Beach” by locals, accessible only by boat and considered one of the most beautiful on the Amalfi Coast.
“Stop at the nearby beach of Erchie, rent a pedal boat or a canoe and join this secret beach for a timeless moment on this small, almost private beach,” EBD advises.