11 European beaches perfect for a sunny autumn vacation
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Looking for a beachy getaway this fall?
Perhaps your ideal, sunny vacation isn’t in July or August when many European beaches are hot and crowded. Or maybe you just couldn’t manage a beach trip this summer due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions and concerns.
There’s good news, though. You can still enjoy a trip to many beaches across Europe — especially in September and October when the excessive heat subsides, the kids are back at school and the tourists have all gone home.
Skip the blustery beaches of Ireland or France, where the cool weather and rains can set in the moment autumn arrives. Instead, plan to head to countries such as Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Malta, Croatia or Cyprus, where you can count on pleasant autumn sunshine.
Here are some of the best destinations in Europe to enjoy the beach in September and October — and even into winter, too.
If you’re planning to visit this year, just be sure to carefully check COVID-19 testing and vaccination requirements, as well as any quarantine mandates, before booking your trip. And be sure to make reservations that will allow you to cancel or rebook without penalty.
Whether you want to travel to Europe quickly, before the ever-evolving coronavirus situation changes again, or you want to plan ahead for next fall, here are 11 of our favorite European beach destinations.
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Sotavento Beach, Fuerteventura, Canary Islands, Spain
While Fuerteventura has numerous beaches that enjoy year-round sunshine and mild temperatures (you can even visit to escape the bitter cold or snow during winter), Sotavento Beach on Fuerteventura’s Costa Calma is one of the best. This Canary Island beach complex is lagoon-style, meaning at low tide, the sea forms little lagoons where the whole family can sunbathe, play, relax or even windsurf. Set down your towels and gear between the rolling dunes for privacy, and soak in the sun.
San Vito lo Capo Beach, Sicily, Italy
Most Italian locals have had their fill of the beach by mid-September, meaning you won’t have to compete with any crowds for the white sands and cool waters in October. The sandy Sicilian beach spans about 2 miles, culminating in the towering Monte Monaco at the end. If you’d prefer to get your sun in during a hike, the trek is fairly easy — it takes about 1.5 hours to reach the peak. Here, you’ll be rewarded with jaw-dropping views of the Gulf of Castellammare and the shoreline below.
Marinha Beach, Lagos, Portugal
One of the Algarve’s most coveted beaches, you can lounge on these sands surrounded by the region’s signature rocky cliffs and expect sunshine through October, though the Atlantic waters may be too chilly for swimming. During low tide, however, you can walk out to the rock formations emerging from the water and search for sea creatures.
Monte Cogoni Beach, Sardinia, Italy
You’ll find endless possibilities for a beach break on the Italian island of Sardinia, but for the warmest weather and waters as autumn sets in, the south of the island is best. For beach-appropriate sunshine, warmer water and gentle winds, it’s best to visit the island by mid-October. Monte Cogoni beach is one of the many within reach of Cagliari, the island’s capital. After you enjoy the white sands and clear waters, check out the pond behind the sea, where flamingos often congregate.
Anthony Quinn Bay, Rhodes, Greece
Rhodes is one of the warmest Greek Islands in autumn, and our favorite beach here is the stunning Anthony Quinn Bay, where pine-enveloped mounts give way to pebbled, rocky shores and turquoise waters. The incredible scenery makes up for the sharp stones that line the water’s edge — this beach is best for adults.
Ramla Bay, Gozo, Malta
Known as one of Gozo’s (and Malta’s) best beaches, these golden, reddish sands are rumored to conceal Roman remains buried underneath. Aboveground, the beach is sunny and pleasant during the day for sunbathing. But sunset, when the sun’s kaleidoscopic hues blend with the blue ocean and red sands, is when things get really magical.
Banje Beach, Dubrovnik, Croatia
Croatia has no shortage of both sandy and rocky beaches and, truthfully, Banje Beach isn’t the country’s most far-flung or exotic stretch of sand. But, this pebbled beach is only a short walk from Dubrovnik’s walled city center, meaning you can combine beach time with a visit to major tourist attractions, too. Plus, admiring the azure waters with the red-topped buildings and stone walls in the distance during your beach visit makes for a memorable travel experience.
Blue Lagoon, Cyprus
The Blue Lagoon is a natural swimming pool located near the famous Baths of Aphrodite in Cyprus. This remote cove is sheltered by sand and rocks, featuring some of the most transparent waters on the island which are ideal for snorkeling. It may be best to arrive by boat, but if you’d prefer to go by car, a rugged 4×4 is a good choice, as the route can be rough going at times.
Vai Beach, Crete, Greece
Another one of Greece’s warmer islands, Crete has a number of gorgeous beaches to visit, including the famous Balos Beach, which has topped TPG’s list of favorite beaches in the past. But Vai Beach is especially unique, as it’s backed by Europe’s largest natural palm forest. Just leave plenty of extra time to get there, as this beach is located on the island’s more remote northern coast.
Porto Santo Beach, Porto Santo, Madeira, Portugal
Portugal’s Madeira archipelago is closer to Africa than Europe, meaning the islands see mild temperatures and plenty of sunshine year-round. The island of Porto Santo is where you’ll find the sandy beaches that cover a long stretch of the island’s southern coast. For the ideal autumn getaway, spend some time in Funchal, the capital of Madeira, then ferry over to Porto Santo for relaxing sun and sand time.
Vistas Beach, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain
Some of the warmest temperatures on the Canary Islands in the autumn and winter months are found in southern Tenerife. Vistas Beach is ideal for families, with shallow waters, gentle waves and plenty of amenities, such as restaurants and shops, lining the beachfront. But really, everyone can relax on the golden sand and swim the calm waters of this beach, year-round.
It’s still not too late to squeeze in an autumn sunshine getaway to a beach. While most of Europe is gearing up for the colder weather, there are still spots where you can soak in some sun — and enjoy a relatively crowd-free beach vacation.
And if this isn’t the year for an autumn beach getaway to Europe, bookmark these destinations so you have something to look forward to next year.
Featured photo of Porto Santo Beach in Madeira, Portugal by Thomas Pollin/Getty Images.
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