Europe beach holidays: 10 of the best beaches tourists don't know about

 Everyone knows about the French Riviera. Everyone knows about it, everyone's been there, and when you, too, are in Nice or Antibes or St Tropez, you'll feel like the entire world has descended once again upon your little slice of paradise.

European beaches are nice, but they tend to get a little crowded. Anyone who's been to Barcelona, or Positano, or Ibiza could tell you that. These places attract crowds.

Fortunately, however, there are still a few patches of white sand and cool, clear water in Europe that are flying under the radar. Enjoy these beaches before everyone else does.

Capo Testa, Sardinia

Though the moneyed masses descend upon Sardinia's swanky Costa Smeralda every summer, there's still a laidback family vibe over at nearby Capo Testa, a ruggedly beautiful headland in the island's north. A few of the beaches here are family-friendly and easily accessible, while others will require a little rock-scrambling to secure a private haven. The nearby town of Santa Teresa Gallura, meanwhile, is the perfect spot to base yourself between beachy explorations.

Cies Islands, Spain

Just off Spain's northwest coast, near the famed Rias Baixas of Galicia, lies the stunningly beautiful Cies Islands, which abound with white-sand beaches and nature areas. This is true island paradise: no cars, no bikes, no hotels, and only a couple of modest restaurants to serve the 2200 daily visitors. The most famous of the islands' beaches is called Rodas, which is pretty enough, though does get crowded in summer. For a more secluded experience, check out Cantareira, Margaridas, or the clothing-optional Figueiras.

Dhermi, Albania

The Albanian Riviera: yes, there is such a thing, and it's gorgeous. It's down on the southern end of Albania, a part of the country that's lapped by the Mediterranean, and which neighbours far more popular Greek islands such as Corfu and Paxos, as well as Puglia in Italy. You won't find many crowds at Dhermi, however: the hair-raising mountain roads that provide access, as well as the relative obscurity of Albania, ensure these lovely beaches remain all but untouched.

Es Grau, Spain

The Spanish island of Menorca might be popular, but it has nothing on the likes of Mallorca and Ibiza, and there are still a few spots around to escape the crowds in paradise. One such location is Es Grau, a perfect beach for families, where the crystal-clear water stretches out, lagoon-like, at about knee height for 40 or 50 metres. There's nothing much in the way of infrastructure here: just a few small holiday homes and the odd cafe.

Vatersay Bay, Scotland

A good beach doesn't have to be tropical. If you can forgo the urge for a swim and instead just appreciate the beauty of pristine sand, grass-covered dunes, and the rugged, windswept hills that surround them, then you'll be in paradise at Vatersay Bay in Scotland's Outer Hebrides. This beautiful beach is linked to the Isle of Barra by a new causeway – however, that doesn't mean you're likely to encounter too many people at this far northern outpost.

Ile de Batz, France

It takes a 15-minute boat ride from the seaside town of Roscoff, in Brittany, to access this little slice of French paradise. Some come for the charm of the town, inhabited by only 600 people, while others come for the gardens or for a hike through the wilderness. The main attraction in Ile de Batz, however, is the white sand and the clear water at the island's most popular beach, Greve Blanche, as well as the numerous little bays and inlets that provide private sanctuaries.


Caneiros, Portugal

Portugal's southern Algarve region is well known for its beaches, particularly uber-popular spots such as Albufeira and Lagos. Fewer people, however, know about Caneiros, a patch of sand surrounded by spectacular sandstone cliffs near the town of Portimao. This is a secluded beach at which to while away an entire day, either renting a watercraft, exploring the cliffs, lying around in the sun, or eating at the Rei das Praias restaurant.

Stiniva, Croatia

You won't just stumble upon Stiniva. This secluded beach is nestled in a picture-perfect bay almost completely surrounded by high cliffs, ensuring the water is calm, the views are spectacular, and the visitor numbers are low. Stiniva can be found on the Croatian island of Vis, a two-hour ferry ride from Split. To access it you'll have to either take a taxi boat from nearby Rukavac, or climb down a steep, rocky path. Your reward will be one of Europe's most beautiful patches of sand, and few people to share it with.

Ischia, Italy

This island, just off the coast of Napoli, has managed to fly under the radar thanks to the popularity of Capri, Sardinia and Sicily, islands that attract the bulk of international visitors, while local Neapolitans keep Ischia to themselves. The island is dotted with little inlets and bays, secluded spots that command their own little slices of the Mediterranean for those willing to give this character-filled island a try.

Makarska, Croatia

Croatia's Dalmatian coastline is littered with an embarrassment of the most spectacularly beautiful beaches you've ever laid eyes on, and Makarska is no exception. This port town has a more relaxed vibe than some of its busier neighbours, and yet still provides plenty of spots in which to take a dip in the crystalline Adriatic, to wander ancient paths cut into the foothills, or to just lie around in the sun for days on end.

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