OK, so there are no truly secret beaches these days, but if you’re looking for slivers of European coastline with dramatic vistas and not many tourists, these six are a great place to park your towel
Es Portitxol, Ibiza
While a day spent bronzing your skin and your liver at Salinas is always fun, sometimes when you’re in Ibiza you just want to escape the hedonism and reconnect with the self that you knew before the bender at DC10. One of the best places to do this is Es Portitxol – impossible to pronounce and almost as hard to get to, but my, my, is it worth it. To access this stunning circular cove peppered with old fishermen’s huts, you’ll need to head towards Sant Miquel in the north and get off at the road to Sant Mateu until you come to a residential area called “Isla Blanca”. From there, you take a cliff path that winds down through a thick cover of pine trees before the bay opens out in front of you. Take decent shoes, lots of water, a picnic and snorkelling gear, then tune the world out and dissolve into the sea.
Kelebekler Vadisi, Turkey
Another tongue twister, only this time in western Turkey, Kelebekler Vadisi means “Butterfly Valley”, not on account of its shape, but an actual abundance of butterflies (up to 60 rare species inhabit the steep valley walls). After a fairly robust hike along the Lycian Way Trail (you can get a taxi boat from Faralya further south, but that’s cheating), the valley descends steeply, with the lush, verdant flora eventually giving way to a jaw-dropping white-pebble lick of sand, and water of quite the most ridiculous hue of blue. Mother Nature also threw two small waterfalls into the bargain, in case the dramatic cliff faces alone weren’t mesmerising enough.
Torrent de Pareis, Mallorca
The Balearic Island of Mallorca has seen a resurgence in luxury travel in recent years thanks to the rediscovery of the municipality of Deià in the Serra de Tramuntana, and the arrival of Belmond’s La Residencia. From there, take a short drive east along the coast to Sa Calobra village where you can begin the walk to the wild and wonderful Torrent de Pareis beach at the end of a narrow gorge, bookended by soaring cliffs. The canyon, all of which is a Unesco World Heritage site, is actually about 5km long and starts in the Tramuntana mountain range near the village of Lluc – well worth a hike. Although it does get busy in the high season, the spring months and September/October are the times to go to avoid the crowds.
Rivieras are not the preserve of France and Italy. Just over the Adriatic, Croatia is blessed with its very own, known as the Makarska Riviera, and consists of a long sweeping stretch of idyllic coastline mostly visited by locals or the more intrepid tourists. One spot along the riviera is Nugal, home to one of the country’s finest slips of white sand and cerulean waters. The journey is as dreamy as the destination, with a 40-minute hike through a dense and heady forest filling the air with herby fragrances and sweet pine scents. As the trees peel away, and a carpet of sand beckons you forward, don’t be surprised to find that most people are completely butt naked – it’s Croatia’s very own Garden of Eden.
Gjipe Bay, Albania
Albania gets more column inches for its organised crime than its sublime beaches, which is probably why so much of its coastline still flies under the general radar. But the country is finally opening up to tourism, and while you can’t expect the level of hospitality on offer in neighbouring Croatia, the upside is a vast, unspoilt riviera to explore. One of the most beautiful spots is Gjipe Bay, a small strip of sand that tumbles out from a gorge, which can be accessed by a 30-minute hike from nearby Dhermi or Jale (but we would recommend hiring a kayak and taking the sea-bound route if you can muster the strength). Even in the height of summer, you’ll only find friendly locals itching to tell you about the best seafood restaurants along the coast.
If you’ve ever been to the Tuscan coastline, then you’ll know that the Italians love their private beaches. Expensive bagni is the Italian way in the summer, and that’s just how it is. So don’t feel irked if Zagare in Puglia also proves difficult to get to. The white limestone cliffs of the Gargano region, in the heel of the country, rise out of the sea in splendour at Zagare, with a pair of sea stacks punctuating the view. It really is magnificent – but there’s a catch. The beach is privately operated by two hotels – Baia delle Zagare Hotel, and Baia del Faraglioni Hotel – so you’ll need to be a guest there to enjoy the two private stretches of beach. There is however a small public area you can get to, but you’ll need to request a pass from the Office of Public Relations of Mattinata, and they only give out 30 per day in order to preserve the area. Rest assured, the effort will be worth it.
Ryan Thompson is a UK-based menswear and lifestyle writer, whose work has appeared in, among others, the Financial Times, Mr Porter, The Rake and Ape to Gentleman
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