There’s nothing like returning home from a European summer with that warm, golden glow fresh off the beach and specks of sand still clinging to your toes. But far beyond the quintessential beach imagery, patches of shoreline come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and colours. From the sunbake-worthy to the downright awe-worthy, don't miss these weird and wonderful beaches in Europe.
Red Beach may be compact but it sure packs a punch. Nestled on the volcanic island of Santorini, no other beach in the world looks quite like it. Soaring black and red lava cliffs set the scene, offering drama and seclusion, while clear turquoise waters calmly roll in to the shore swathed in red, black and white pebbles. Arrive by boat from a neighbouring beach or find the winding dirt trail just steps away from the ancient site of Akrotiri; both offer spectacular panoramas on approach.
It’s one thing to see ice washing up on a beach, but when the glassy chunks of ice come from icebergs and the sand is pitch-black, the contrast is undeniably remarkable to admire. That’s exactly why travellers and photographers flock to this volcanic beach near the entrance to Jokulsarlon, Iceland’s most famous and largest glacial lagoon. To make it all the more spectacular, if you’re lucky, you can also glimpse the Aurora Borealis spring to life in a colourful dance of lights in the night sky above.
The long stairway descending into the rocky embrace of Camilo Beach makes your grand arrival feel like a true red-carpet moment, offering ample moments to take in the grandeur of the setting through wide eyes. Known locally as Praia da Camilo, this stunner is surrounded by huge jagged cliffs on all sides, lapped at by clear blue waters. A part of the famous Algarve coast, in Portugal’s very south, this limestone-laden stretch of coast is adorned with sea caves, natural cathedrals, tunnels and pinnacles.
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You could call it ‘rocky’, but that’s quite the understatement. The Giant’s Causeway is made up of some 40,000 black basalt columns jutting out of the sea on Ireland’s northern coastline, backed by soaring basalt cliffs. It may not be a beach fit for swimming – or leisurely strolls for that matter – but it is fascinating for the chance to climb and weave through these mystical hexagonal pillars. Formed by volcanic activity 60 million years ago, the locals may have you believe otherwise: this World Heritage site is shrouded in Irish folkore.
One of the most beautiful beaches on the Croatian coastline, the sweeping pebbles of Zlatni Rat, on the island of Brac, form a perplexingly unique shape, pointing out into the azure Adriatic Sea. It’s not until you see it from above that you can truly appreciate its magnificent contour: uniquely triangular with a lush green heart. But even from your beach towel it’s a mesmerising sight. Where else in the world can you find beautiful waters lapping at your feet in three out of four directions? Just beware: the westernmost edge is traditionally nudist.
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