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With seemingly endless miles of coastline, it can be tough to decide which beach in Europe is right for you.
Just in time for the official start of summer, TPG scoured Europe’s shores to find some of the best spots for every beachcomber in 2018. Thanks to new airline routes, hotels and cultural happenings, decide to frolic in the sand, swim in the sea or lounge in the sun at these European beach destinations this summer.
Playa de la Concha, San Sebastián, Spain
Named for its shell-like shape, San Sebastián is home to one of Spain’s most beloved city beaches. Although it may not have the constant sunshine and intense heat of beaches along the Costa Brava, the hills and cliffs on either side of the beach make for inspiring treks and provide stunning coastal views. Plus, the city’s culinary offerings are exceptional. With one of the highest number of Michelin stars per square meter as well as a vibrant pinxtos scene (tapas often pinched with a stick) and delicious, fresh seafood, you can’t go wrong chowing down in San Sebastián.
Why 2018: Iberia is a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner with lower award ticketing fees than British Airways, so combine a trip to Madrid or Barcelona with a visit to San Sebastián.
Praia Foz de Arelho, Peniche, Portugal
Just over an hour from Lisbon, this chill beach is a sandy strip that juts out into the sea. On one side, surfers will discover the crashing waves of the Atlantic, while on the other side, visitors can cool off in the calm Óbidos Lagoon. The rocks of nearby Peniche feature the famous Fort of São João, an impressive stone structure perched on the edge of a cliff hanging over the sea. Get even more off-the-beaten path by visiting the nature reserve of the neighboring Berlengas Islands.
Why 2018: Portugal will be getting 61 new hotels in 2018 — so you’ll have plenty of options when deciding where to stay.
Breiðamerkursandur (Diamond Beach), Iceland
If it’s black sand and icy waves you’re after, Breiðamerkursandur is your spot. Nicknamed Diamond Beach for the crystalline remnants of glaciers scattered around the volcanic sands, this is one of the most dramatic and impressive (non-tropical) beaches in Europe. Plan to visit around sunrise or sunset, when these icy ‘diamonds’ have a particularly special glow.
Why 2018: Iceland is the third most popular European vacation destination this summer, and all three major US carriers have recently expanded their routes to Iceland. Meanwhile, WOW Air and Icelandair added a series of new routes to Reykjavík ahead of American Airlines’ seasonal flights that officially began on June 7. As of May 24, you can fly no frills WOW Air from Dallas (DFW) to Reykjavík (KEF) three times per week on the airline’s A330. Icelandair also recently launched its own new route from DFW four times per week, as well as flights from Baltimore (BWI) and Cleveland (CLE) four times per week and Kansas City (MCI) three times per week.
Vacationing on the French Riviera doesn’t have to be excessively fancy. Lose the yachts, paparazzi and trendy scene and head to Cavalaire-sur-Mer instead. Close enough to St. Tropez to be fashionable but without the exclusivity, this three-mile stretch of sandy beach gives you a beautiful Cote d’Azur experience, but one more appropriate for low-key beach bums or families.
Why 2018: Tack on a visit to Paris en route to the coast, and fly on new routes like Delta’s Indianapolis (IND) to Paris (CDG) aboard their 767-300ER, which launched on May 24. Or, fly Norwegian nonstop from Denver (DEN) to Paris (CDG) on their 787-9, a route that began this past April.
La Maddalena, Sardinia, Italy
The only inhabited island of 60 forming the Parco Nazionale dell’Arcipelago di La Maddalena, this tiny islet is an overlooked gem off the coast of Sardinia. Rent a boat to explore the island’s coves and lagoons, or get some exercise by kayaking or canoeing. The clear, translucent waters and white sands will fool you into thinking you’re actually in the Caribbean on this relatively tourist-free beach.
Why 2018: Add a stop in Rome to your itinerary. It’s the perfect time to splurge on a stay at the St. Regis Rome, as some of their renovations are projected to be complete this summer. Room rates start at 560 euros ($656) per night or 20,000 Starpoints. If you need to stock up on points, consider signing up for the Marriott Rewards Premier Plus Credit Card ($95 annual fee), which is offering 75,000 points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months. Marriott points transfer to SPG at a 1:3 rate but, starting in August, Marriott and SPG accounts will be merged.
Sveti Stefan, Montenegro
The magical Sveti Stefan is Montenegro’s most photographed site — and with good reason. The small, fairytale-like village overlooking the Adriatic Sea is connected to the mainland by a long, coral-colored stretch of sandy beach. While the actual village and northern section of beach are part of an Aman resort, the pinkish sands south of the small island are free. Although the public beach can get crowded in August, prepare to spend quite a bit to relax on the Aman’s private beach, as August room rates hover around $1,900 per night. Either way, don’t forget your camera!
Why 2018: Cruise options in Montenegro are increasing from nine to 16 boats in 2018, so if you love cruises, consider the Adriatic instead of the Mediterranean this summer.
Sarakiniko Beach, Milos, Greece
Santorini and Mykonos are lovely, but Sarakiniko Beach in Milos stands to be one of the hottest destinations in Greece. The island is just as beautiful, but cheaper and with thinner crowds. Often referred to as ‘Moon Beach,’ this spot has plenty of sand but also unmistakable white volcanic rock formations. You can suntan on the beach, swim in the turquoise waters or scale these stunning rocks as if you’re vacationing on the moon.
Why 2018: Emirates flies nonstop from Newark (EWR) to Athens (ATH) and is an Amex Membership Rewards transfer partner. The airline has come out with a few 2-for-1 deals in 2018, so stay tuned for more, especially as it’s high season for weddings and honeymoons. Once in Athens, you can either take the ferry or fly to Milos.
Ilheu Vila Franca do Campo, São Miguel, Azores, Portugal
If you want to really get off-the-beaten-path, visit Ilheu Vila Franca do Campo, a tiny isle off the bigger island of São Miguel, one of nine Azores Islands. This remarkable beach was formed when a volcanic crater filled with water. The small volcanic sand beach is ideal for swimming, snorkeling and diving, and is accessible by boat via a narrow channel leading out to the sea.
Why 2018: Delta began operating a flight five times weekly to Ponta Delgada (PDL) from New York (JFK) in late May. The route joins the only other nonstop service to and from the US on Azores Airlines from Boston Logan (BOS).
Scala dei Turchi, Sicily, Italy
This “beach” comes in the form of a giant rock called the Turkish stairs — a smooth, limestone cliff formed into a staircase by years of crashing waves (though a sandy section can be found toward the edge of the rock). The contrast between the blue sea and the white rock can be jarring, and relaxing on the shore feels as if you’re sitting on a white swirl of meringue. When you tire of sunbathing and swimming, meander up and down the shelves of the rock, admiring the beautiful scene that surrounds you.
Why 2018: Combine your trip with a visit to Palermo, Italy’s Capital of Culture for 2018. Make sure to attend events put on by Manifesta, a nomadic biennial contemporary art and culture festival that changes location every two years. This summer, it’s running from June 16 to November 4.
Ksamil Islands, Albania
You may not have heard of the Albanian Riviera, but it’s just as gorgeous as the Italian or the French Rivieras, except far more budget-friendly. The Ksamil Islands are a charming collection of uninhabited islets just a short boat ride away from the Ksamil Peninsula. You can even swim between some of the islands in the shallow blue waters. Plus, telling your friends you’re vacationing in the Albanian Riviera sounds very glamorous — and adventurous, too!
Why 2018: New airline Air Albania could begin flying European routes this summer (fingers crossed).
Sango Bay, Scotland
Scotland may not be your first thought when planning a beach escape, but Scottish beaches can be the ultimate remedy for travelers tired of the hot, sweltering sunshine and massive crowds found at beaches in Southern Europe. Sango Bay has a varied landscape of cliffs, sand dunes, rocks with nearby caves, waterfalls and campsites for a truly rural escape into nature. Just don’t forget your windbreaker!
Why 2018: The UK’s first Radisson RED hotel, which is an upscale brand addition to the Carlson Rezidor group, recently opened in Glasgow. Start there before working your way up north to Sango Bay. Rates start around $150 per night or 44,000 Rewards points.
Playa de Ses Illetes, Formentera, Spain
Just a short boat ride away from Ibiza, Formentera is home to many of Spain’s most idyllic beaches. The island, which has no airport and very few hotels, is the definition of paradise: clear waters, sugary white sands and a relaxed, youthful beach culture not unlike what you’d expect to find in Tulum. This island, however, still has an air of secrecy, and the Playa de Ses Illetes beach is still coveted by Europeans.
Why 2018: Combine a few relaxing beach days on the Playa de Ses Illetes with a trip to Ibiza. Don’t worry if you don’t love EDM, because Ibiza’s scene is evolving to embrace a wider variety of music including hip hop and R&B (Tinie Tempah and Craig David are both performing during the 2018 summer season). Plus, a brand new Miami-inspired hotel, EL Paradiso, is opening in Ibzia in June of 2018, and its pink pool looks very inviting.
With a long line of golden sands leading up to a quaint fishing village, Audresselles beach in France is a dream for those wanting some peace and quiet this summer. Read a book on the beach, wander the wild fields surrounding the village or fish with the locals on the rocky outcroppings. Audresselles will strike you as the kind of destination that inspires poets and painters or, at the very least, offers total relaxation for those who need it.
Why 2018: History buffs take note — Audresselles is a short drive from Amiens, which will have a ceremony celebrating the centenary of the end of World War I on August 8, 2018.
Blue Lagoon, Comino, Malta
If you love to swim, Malta’s Blue Lagoon has transparent waters with virtually no waves, as the cove is protected by very distinctive limestone formations, many of which you can swim out to and climb. The Blue Lagoon has a small dock from which you can boat to other coves and beaches around the island. Plus, plenty of amenities including sunbeds, umbrellas and snack vendors can be found along this lively beach.
Why 2018: One of the best places to visit this year, travelers should carve out time to explore the entire island, especially the capital, Valletta, which is Europe’s Cultural Capital of 2018. Another highlight? In July, visitors can check out the Malta Jazz Festival.
Zlatni Rat Beach, Brač, Croatia
Known as the Golden Cape, this beach on the island of Brač is a triangular, V-shaped stretch of land that slices through the Adriatic Sea. The white sands are framed by a pine forest ideal for shade-seekers, and the saturated blue waters are excellent for snorkeling. Windsurfers, meanwhile, can easily catch a westerly breeze and cruise out to sea. Swimmers should consider wearing water shoes, as the sand can be a little rocky upon entering the water.
Why 2018: Party animals can combine a Zlatni Rat Beach trip with the Ultra Europe EDM festival in July.
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