Europe’s best hidden beaches

By Harriet Cooper

Photography by Westend61/Getty Images

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Oh we do like to be beside the seaside… unless, of course, it means lying towel to towel with a complete stranger on a packed beach. But if you want to sunbathe in peace, escape Europe’s bucket-and-spade brigade at one of these secret stretches of sand where towel space is guaranteed. Just don’t tell everyone…


This tiny archipelago nation enjoys more than 300 sunshine-filled days a year, so surely it’s a good candidate for your Vitamin D fix? From surfers to sunbathers, Malta has a beach for everyone – many of them worth seeking for their seclusion.

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Base yourself in Valetta, the island's capital, for the best of the island's culture - whilst still being within easy drive of the island's beaches. The Saint John is a boutique hotel with elegantly-designed rooms and a brilliant casual on-site restaurant, The Cheeky Monkey.

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The path down to Malta’s Fomm ir-Rih beach is steep, but you’ll be rewarded with a pretty, pebbly beach and crystal-clear water

Hit the beach

The southern tip of the island is awash with secret coves. Drive half an hour from Malta to the Delimara peninsula around Marsaxlokk and you'll find plenty of hop between (stopping at Marsaxlokk fish market afterwards is a must, too). Head on from here to Malta's western coast to spend the afternoon at Fomm ir-Rih. The path down is steep (it’ll take 20 minutes), but you’ll be rewarded with a pretty, pebbly beach and crystal-clear water.

Take a tour to Marsaxlokk

  • Beat the heat by exploring the impressive St John’s Co-Cathedral in Malta © zelg/Getty Images

    Look down

    The marble flooring of the Co-Cathedral isn’t just beautiful – it’s a mosaic of 405 tombstones, belonging to European knights and nobles from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, each depicting their unique coat of arms.

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  • The stunning inlet of Wied il-Ghasri in Malta appeals to both sunbathers and snorkellers © Allard Schager/Getty Images

    Under the sea

    The clear blue shallows around Wied il-Ghasri are home to huge number of marine life, including colourful damselfish and tiny seahorses, which are almost perfectly camouflaged among the spiky algae.

    Beach holidays in Malta
  • At The Harbour Club in Malta, the fresh, locally sourced food is inspired by the Mediterranean

    Try it for yourself…

    The restaurant is open 12:00-15:00 and 19:00-23:00 (Tuesday to Saturday) and 19:00-23:00 (Monday and Sunday) – though you can arrive from 18:00 any day of the week for an aperitivo. To reserve a table, call +35 621 222 332.

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For a long, lingering lunch head to the beach at Mgarr ix-Xini on Gozo, where you’ll find rustic family-run restaurant Rew Rew. For something grander, book a table at The Harbour Club in Valletta. Designed by Maltese architect Chris Briffa, this fort-turned-hip-hangout is the place to see and be seen.

Cocktail hour

With its stunning backdrop of Little Armier beach, Baia Beach Club is the go-to lido. The décor is all cool whites and the ambience chilled. Hire a sunbed and spend the day here, before soaking up the sunset with an Aperol Spritz in hand.

Too much sun?

Aside from the beaches, Malta’s USP has to be its 7,000-year history (fun fact: it has a greater density of historic sights than anywhere else in the world). From the gloriously baroque St John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta – which houses two works by Caravaggio – to the Malta At War Museum, there’s plenty to keep you busy away from the beach.

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Like all of the Canary Islands, Lanzarote emerged from the sea as a result of volcanic activity, but only very few of its 100 beaches have black lava rock pebbles. The rest are crescents of soft white sand and, if you know where to look, you can have them all to yourself.

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Families will love the facilities at the well-equipped Princess Yaiza, where kids can career straight into a full roster of activities at Kikoland, the hotel's special children-only area. Adults will love the Isla de Lobos restaurant, which, true to its name, has lovely views over the neighbouring island.

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  • Frolic on the white sandy beaches near Orzola, Lanzarote © Perzing1982/Getty Images

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    Orzola is located at the northern tip of Lanzarote, making it the gateway to nearby La Graciosa. A ferry crossing takes just 20 minutes, and it’s worth exploring the island, which is home to the charming small waterfront town of Caleta del Sebo.

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Hit the beach

The Princess Yaiza is by Dorada beach, but with a 15-minute drive you can soon be at the sandy coves of Papagayo, hidden away on the south of the island in Los Ajaches nature reserve. There are no shops or bars, so bring a cool box of drinks and snacks. Towards the northeast, just off the coast road between Arrieta and Orzola, are foot trails leading to sheltered inlets with tiny beaches and clear sapphire water. While on the northwest coast, Famara, with its long curving bay and excellent waves, is every surfer’s secret.


After all that surfing in Famara, stay on the coast for tapas at the excellent El Risco. Further north, the fishing village of Orzola is home (unsurprisingly) to fish restaurants galore. Sit on the shady terrace at Restaurante El Norte, order grilled fish of the day and watch the boats bobbing in the harbour. If you’re looking for top-end Canarian cuisine, head inland to Esencia in Macher where the slow food menu changes monthly.

Cocktail hour

If you do one thing, go for drinks at Lagomar in Teguise. This museum-restaurant-bar – previously owned by Omar Sharif, who allegedly lost the property in a card game – was naturally created by the molten lava that once flowed down from the volcano above. The result is a quirky building full of curves, caves, secret stairways and courtyards.

Too much sun?

All over the island you’ll see the influence of visionary artist, architect and environmentalist César Manrique, whose Cubist whitewashed architecture defines Lanzarote. The César Manrique Foundation at Taro de Tahiche is a must. Set in Manrique’s former home, this modern art museum not only showcases works by the artist, but also Picasso and Miro.


The largest island in the Balearics has no fewer than 200 beaches. Some are teeming with sun-seekers, but venture off the beaten track and you’re guaranteed to stumble across a hidden sandy cove or cobalt blue bay. One thing you won’t see, is people...

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Built on a cliff, the five-star Jumeirah Port Soller Hotel & Spa is set in its own deliciously-scented gardens. The 121 rooms and suites offer all the mod-cons, plus there are three restaurants, two pools and a top-notch spa, which uses local produce such as oranges, almonds and olive oil in its treatments.

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Hit the beach

In the south of Mallorca, spend a pleasant day at Es Carbo – park the car in Colonia de Sant Jordi, walk southeast for 30 minutes and you will reach this vast empty swathe of sand. Don’t forget to bring a picnic and parasols – there are no amenities here. Further south is Es Caragol beach, another hidden beauty. To the east is Caló d’es Moro (with a sea so blue, you’ll be dazzled) and Cala Varques which, for the brave, offers the best cliff jumping on the island. If you’re in the north, the secluded pebbly beach of Es Coll Baix is a one-hour walk from Alcudia, so the best way to go is by boat.

  • See and be seen at the chic Puro Beach Palma Bay

    Catch the sunset

    Puro Beach is one of the best places to watch the sunset in Palma. Set yourself up on the hotel’s 180-degree sea view terrace for the best view of the sun setting behind the Palma mountains.

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  • For innovative Michelin-starred dining, try Fosh in Palma

    Did you know… ?

    Marc Fosh became the first and only British chef to be awarded a Michelin star in Spain in 2002. Fancy a taste of his cooking, without blowing the budget? The restaurant offers a three-course set lunch menu for €27.50.

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  • A view of Caló d’es Moro in Mallorca © Westend61/Getty Images

    How to find it

    Head towards Cala Llombards from Santanyí, and park by the houses of Sa Comuna. The beach is just over 1km from the S’Almunia road and less than 500m from the sea. There are no signposts, so look out for the small, steep path leading down to the beach.

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Forget fish and chips washed down with Sangria – the island now boasts a scattering of Michelin stars. Marc Fosh, whose eponymous restaurant in Palma has such an accolade, serves up Mediterranean food with a twist, including a vegetarian tasting menu. Inland, family-run Ca Na Toneta changes its menu weekly according to the seasonal produce growing organically in the family’s garden.

Cocktail hour

Join the locals at their favourite beach Cala Llombards, a short drive from Santanyi, where a beach shack serves delicious cocktails. If you’re keen to up the tempo, Palma’s Puro Beach Club is all about sundowners, cool beats and a glamorous party crowd.

Too much sun?

The Mallorcan wine industry has enjoyed something of a renaissance, book a wine tour at Bodegues Ribas, which was established in 1711. Also worth a detour are the weekly markets. The biggest is at Inca (on Thursdays) but the agricultural and livestock one at Sineu (on Wednesdays) is the most traditional.