IF YOU’RE planning to head abroad when you collect your pension and unsure where to set up home, we’d recommend you come to Spain – naturally. But you don’t need to listen to us; magazine’s 2019 ‘Best Places...
Eight Spanish beaches voted among Europe's best
NOW may not be the best moment to think about heading for a day's kicking back on the beach and catching a tan; the temperature in Spain at present is more in keeping with fleecy pyjamas than factor 30. (Maybe ski slopes are a better option, in fact).
Although perhaps the thought of rippling, crystalline seas, velvety sands and shimmering sunlight are what got you through Blue Monday last week, and perhaps you like to plan ahead for balmier climes in the months to come.
If so, you might be lucky enough to live near one of the eight beaches in Spain voted 'best in Europe' – and, quite possibly, didn't realise it.
If not, they might inspire you when picking this summer's holiday destination.
This said, these eight beaches are not the end of the story: for anyone within striking distance of a coast, you'll almost certainly have one locally that comes pretty close, but hadn't made the list because the reviewers didn't know it was there.
These reviewers – over 1,200 travel journalists, editors, bloggers and agencies, who reported their findings to the tour operator Flight Network, put Shipwreck Beach on the Greek island of Zakynthos first and Reynisfjära Beach in Iceland second – but as an Icelandic summer tends to peak at about 16ºC, Spain is probably a better option if it's warmth you're seeking.
See how these compare to your nearest beach, or plan a trip to them if you're based inland and don't have one.
Platja de Formentor (Mallorca)
One of two Spanish beaches in the top 10 – coming in at number three - its slender strip of white, powdery sand bathed by clear blue waters is a natural paradise surrounded by dramatic mountains and oceans of pine forest. Hard to believe it's a developed stretch of coastline, because it doesn't give that impression – but this means it's geared up to sunseeker comfort with excellent facilities, including sunbeds and parasols for hire. The top comment on the Flight Network blurb calls it 'truly idyllic' and extols its 'unparalleled beauty', and you can see that for yourself in the first picture (above).
Regular flights run from the mainland, or if you're near Dénia (Alicante province), Gandia (Valencia province) or Barcelona, you may be able to get a ferry to Mallorca and take your car, giving you the chance to explore the rest of this picturesque, multi-faceted island with its gigantic caves, underground lakes, chic capital city and remote mountain villages – which include Valldemossa, the famous winter retreat of author George Sands and composer Frédéric Chopin, and Deià, a true artists' colony where novellist and war veteran Robert Graves lived for decades.
Playa de Papagayo (Lanzarote)
Canary Islanders are the envy of all Spanish residents in early spring and late autumn, since they are pretty much guaranteed mild, sunny climes at a time when the rest of the country is still in jackets, and their winters – although not sweltering – are not exactly freezing and are generally very pleasant. And whilst these volcanic islands are known for their black sand beaches, they do, in fact, have some golden and even white stretches of coastline if you know where to look. One of these is the Papagayo ('Parrot') beach, whose waters are usually millpond-calm – thanks to its enclosed location, nestling in a cove to the south of Lanzarote - and perfect for children, as well as a snorkeler's paradise. Surrounded by red and gold mountains, sheer cliffs and sweeping dunes, with one small kiosk inland for those much-needed chilled drinks being the only sign of development, Papagayo is barely three-quarters of an hour from the airport.
And, as a bonus – other than the far north-western region of Galicia, the Canary and Balearic Islands are the only parts of Spain where you can sit on a beach and watch the sun setting over the sea.
Playa de las Catedrales (Galicia)
If your idea of Spanish beaches is based upon package holidays to the Med, the Costa del Sol or the islands, you'll find all your preconceptions overturned on a trip to Galicia: northern Europeans compare the region with Ireland and Scotland because of its rolling, emerald-green hills, grazing cattle, chalet-style country houses and rugged, unspoilt coastline. Galicia's summers are generally milder than in the traditional holidaymaker zones of the south and east, although still plenty warm enough to get a tan and, somehow, despite being at the point where the Atlantic meets the Cantabrian Sea and just west of the Bay of Biscay, Galicia seems to escape the harshness of winters typically experienced in Spain's far north.
Here on the 11th-best beach in Europe in the province of Lugo, close to a small caravan park, you're right on the very western edge of the European continent and far from the madding crowds.
But the biggest pull of the Catedrales are the majestic, lofty rock formations that give the beach its name – they really do look like the elevated, elaborate arches seen in Gothic-era cathedrals, except even higher up: these natural stone towers stand nearly 30 metres tall (second picture). And, as would be expected with a beach called 'The Cathedrals', its waters are often said to be 'holy' – although, of course, don't drink them. Just enjoy a relaxing dip in them instead.
The nearest airports in Galicia are in A Coruña and in Santiago de Compostela, the final destination of the world-famous pilgrims' route which thousands of international tourists take on foot or by bike all year, every year, and is quite possibly one of the most stunning, elaborate and intricate temples in Spain, placing it firmly on the bucket list of every European holidaymaker. You're about an hour and a half by road away from the Catedrales beach, but the airport in next region to the east, Asturias, is slightly closer at about an hour's drive.
Aguas Blancas (Ibiza)
Back on the islands, you can file away everything you think you know about the so-called 'White Isle' and hide out in your own coastal heaven – far from Europe's most famous nightclubs, celebrity yacht marinas and hotel rooms in the 'millionnaire belt' that cost you a month's wages per night, paradise lurks in Pont de s'Argentera. Transparent, turquoise waters (even though the beach's name means 'white waters'), enclosed by spectacular cliffs, this relatively untouched beach is described on Flight Network as 'picture-postcard' and of the type that 'even the most intrepid travellers might only discover once or twice in a lifetime'. You can spend hours exploring the hidden mysteries of the cliffside caves and scattered rocks if all that relaxation is starting to grate on you. Ibiza's Aguas Blancas beach (third picture) is most definitely a lucky 13.
Playa del Charco de los Clicos (Lanzarote)
Charco means 'puddle' in Spanish, but this highly-unusual visitor spot is actually a giant lake – separated from the powder-blue sea by a strip of black, volcanic sand, the so-called 'Green Lagoon' (fourth picture) is as bright emerald as Galicia's hills. This striking shade comes from a 'meadow' of seaweed at the bottom, and the entire bay is set inside the crater of an extinct underwater volcano.
Quite a natural wonder already, it's a different place again at twilight – facing west, it's another beach where you can watch the sun go down over the sea, and you'll be totally captivated by the kaleidoscope of ever-changing colours of the lagoon, sand and sea created by our heavenly fireball. It's like the northern lights, except a watery version and on the ground – and it's such a must-see that we can't truly believe it's as far down the list as number 15.
Playa de Rodas, Cíes Islands (Galicia)
This remote, rural archipelago is worth a visit for any reason, with or without a beach at number 29 in Europe. Parts of the Cíes Islands remain uninhabited, and those that are lived on are sparsely-populated. These isles remain firmly off the mainstream tourist trail, and those who have visited them are quite relieved that what Flight Network calls 'Spain's best-kept secret' has stayed as such even in this era of cheap flights, ferries and car hire. But it would take more than a few sightseeing crowds to dispel their undeniable charm, and especially the natural jewel in its crown, the Rodas beach – a 'bridge' of soft, Rich-Tea-coloured sand between two islands through an avenue of pine forest and dunes, it's as popular with walkers and nature-lovers as it is with those seeking some quiet sunshine, so it's an ideal retreat for any time of the year.
You can only reach them by boat from Vigo (Pontevedra province), and although Vigo does have an airport, it's fairly small, so choice of flights may be wider from Santiago de Compostela around an hour away by car.
Cala de Ambolo (Jávea)
The tourist board in this northern Alicante-province coastal town was surprised to find the Ambolo Cove had made it to number 47 on the 'Europe's Best Beaches' list – mainly because it's shut.
One of its attractions was the challenging cliff-path trek downwards – and also what kept mass tourism away, leaving it as a peaceful enclave for those who were up to the hike – but at the moment, it is, in fact, too challenging for Jávea to recommend it, and signs warn visitors not to try to enter because of the high risk of rockfalls.
As a result, it has no lifeguard service.
But locals and regular Jávea visitors are hoping one day soon it will be restored and reopened, since those who defy the danger warnings have good reason to do so: apart from its being one of the few nudist beaches in the province, its rocky landscape, powdery sand, crystal-clear waters with an emerald tinge, stunning view of the uninhabited Isla del Descubridor ('Discoverer's Island'), unrivalled sub-aquatic fauna and flora making it something of a watery art gallery for snorkelers and secluded, rural location mean for as long as this tantalising treasure remains closed off, beachgoers truly do feel as though they've been locked out of heaven.
Güi Güi (Gran Canaria)
Maybe not one for an afternoon's chilling with a picnic in a freezer box, but certainly stunning, unique and matchless in scenic terms, this forbidding beach at number 49 (fifth picture) five kilometres from the nearest village is a mini-Grand Canyon on the coast. Shades of red, amber and brown in rocky ripples along a pyramidal sierra sit inches from the sea, with just enough sand left to flop out on after making the three-hour trek on foot. Otherwise, getting to Gran Canaria's Güi Güi beach involves a fishing boat, so it's more for sightseeing than sunseeking – but a genuinely wondrous sight it is, too.
Photographs by Flight Network
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