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Spain's top 10 most-Flickr'd beaches
Spain's top 10 most-Flickr'd beaches
By thinkSPAIN Team Sun, Sep 13, 2020
BEACHES: Not Spain's only attraction by far, but one of its most famous, and probably one of its most missed this year by anyone living outside the country who has not been able to travel here due to the pandemic.
Our ministry for industry and tourism is expecting you all to come rushing back next year or, at the latest, in 2022, and we look forward to seeing you, because we've missed you, too.
Just to rub it in even more, we're going to show you some of our most-photographed beaches nationwide and spur you on to planning yourself a trip as soon as the Covid-19 situation worldwide allows it.
That said, if it's safe to travel from whichever country you live in – or if you're already in Spain, but land-locked – why wait to book your suntan and sea-dip?
Yes, we know it's mid-September. But at least on the Mediterranean and south coasts, the islands and even, in parts, further north, September is still summer in Spain. Proper summer, not just 'no need to put the heating on yet' or 'perhaps I can take my jacket off' summer. Temperatures are lower than in July and August, but they feel higher as the sun is lower in the sky, although the humidity drops drastically in September, so the heat feels far less suffocating and exhausting.
Also, now that the kids have gone back to school and the youngsters back to university and college, and the big city firms and public-sector companies that shut for the whole of August are open again and their staff back at work, the beaches are practically empty.
Foreign tourists are fewer, especially those from countries where parents cannot legally take their children out of school in term-time, and those who use the beaches tend to be locals and mostly only at the weekends – other than a tiny handful working non-standard hours or taking advantage of long lunch breaks.
So you pretty much get the beach to yourself on weekdays.
Accommodation is much cheaper and more widely available, too, because – despite the thermometer pushing 30ºC – September is considered 'winter' in tourism industry terms.
Some years, the south and the Med can even be warm enough for a couple of beach hours a day in early October, and this is even more likely in the Canary Islands – but we can't always guarantee that, of course.
Anyway, beaches are not just for summer – there's something romantic and spirit-stirring about the wild, raw, grey seas of winter, crashing waves and bracing winds, and sea air is healthy all year round.
Back to the photographs, then. Someone – we don't know who it was, but we're grateful to them anyway – counted up all the beaches in Spain that had made it to the snap-based social media platform Flickr. Having done our (bucket-and-) spade-work for us, all we need to do now is reveal which are the top 10 (and take bets on how long you can wait before you're on a plane to visit them).
Sitges, Barcelona province (144,552 shots)
The actual beach has not been revealed, so it could be any one of – or all of – Sitges' 18, some of which are remote bays enclosed by the Garraf mountain range, and some of which are right in the town centre and which you can walk to from the shops. Most are lively in summer with all the services you need for a great fun trip, such as the usual drinks and ice-cream kiosks and sunbeds for hire. The largest is the Les Botigues urban beach in the neighbourhood of the same name, 1.4 kilometres long and 100 metres wide.
The Cala Ginesta in the port is perfect for water sports; the Garraf beach is a haven of natural, and very dramatic, beauty (several film directors have used it for location shots); the Cala Morisca is a nudist beach guarded by cliffs; and the others, of varying descriptions from urban or town-centre to secluded and mountainous and everything in between, are Aiguadolç, Balmins, Sant Sebastià, Fragata, Ribera, Basa Rodona, Estanyol, Riera Xica, Barra (which does, in fact, look a little bit like the Outer Hebridean island of the same name, although more built-up), Terramar, Anquines (entirely man-made), Els Grills (narrow and stony, but somehow hauntingly-picturesque), Home Mort (literally, 'dead man', a mostly-gay and mostly-male nudist beach), and the hard-to-reach-but-worth-it rocky cove, Desenrocada.
Photograph number one above is the Garraf beach, by Flickr-user María Rosa.
Tarifa, Cádiz province (71,394 snaps)
Another coastal town with a long list of beaches – at least 12, at the last count – Tarifa is a national and international hotspot for kite-surfing and windsurfing.
This means it can be windy with high waves, but not always, as their popularity with sunseekers shows, and less so the ones to the east which are more sheltered.
And with their natural dunes, mountain backdrop, ivory sand and turquoise waters, they are not very built-up or crowded at all – and are a joy to behold. So much so that it was hard to pick just one to illustrate it, but we hope you love picture two of Bolonia beach, by Flickr-user Gaspar Serrano.
Benidorm, Alicante province (62,800 pictures)
Spain's third-most Flickr'd beach needs no introduction. One of the first in the country to become a tourist Mecca, nothing much has changed in that respect, and its reputation for being a cheesy 'chips-with-everything' resort town is actually a point in its favour: Benidorm doesn't pretend to be anything else. It wallows proudly and publicly in its lack of poshness and exploits it to the full – and somehow, this never fails to work. Even discerning tourists who pride themselves on exquisite taste secretly enjoy a day-trip to Benidorm, so they can step out of their known world and into something gaudy and overly-flamboyant. Its beaches are of superior quality and comfort, which is what has led to its massive popularity with those who care to admit it and those who pretend they wouldn't be caught dead there (and for the latter, just half a kilometre out of town and you're in the heart of 'real Spain', with cobbled lanes, street markets, domed-roofed churches and swathes of pine-covered mountains).
After dark, Benidorm is another story altogether. It becomes a glistening city of lights and life, never sleeping and never quiet, exploding with entertainment, music, shows and cocktails; it rather puts you in mind of New York or São Paulo by night, except with the sound of the tides crashing on the shore.
Maspalomas, Gran Canaria (41,443 photographs)
Culturally, not even close, but geographically fewer than 100 kilometres from Morocco, the Canary Islands always feel a little different to mainland Spain; let's not forget, they're actually a colony, the only one left that has not declared independence (and doesn't intend to, either).
You'll find traces of life before Spain's invasion in its architecture, from back when these were a cluster of African islands, although the influence from Latin America is greater, given that it was a migration point for centuries from the New World (being closer than continental Europe).
And as well as being very geared up to tourism, the Canaries offer some of the most exotic sub-tropical landscape in the country, including Maspalomas' famous dunes. Unlike on the mainland, these are barren, golden sand and look, for all the world, like an outpost of the Sahara (you can see for yourself in picture three, by Flickr-user Antonio Según) – but the coast of Maspalomas is lively enough in summer to cater for holidaymakers' every need.
La Manga del Mar Menor, Murcia Region (12,682 shots)
Popular with international tourists in high summer, and still warm (but less busy) in autumn and spring, the Mar Menor is almost an inland salt-lake – almost, but not quite. La Manga, a stretch of land rather like a miniature version of Baja California, blocks off three-and-a-half sides of it, protecting it from any adverse weather in the Mediterranean basin and, of course, from high waves and strong currents.
This means it does not get much cold air or cold water swishing into or across it in autumn and winter, so its millpond-calm waters remain like at least a tepid bath even during the chilliest months of the year, and positively balmy in the warmer months.
As a consequence, the Mar Menor is a Mecca for people with joint pains year-round – they swear that floating in this nearly-enclosed giant natural mineral pool gives them great relief from stiffness and aches.
So it's not surprising, really, that a number of spa resorts have sprung up nearby (it's also a brilliant region for golfers).
Sa Calobra, Mallorca (2,878 snaps)
Secluded, shrouded by mountains and cliffs, and with glistening turquoise waters, this picturesque little cove in the town of Escorca, Mallorca and a short drive from Sóller always makes a splendid social media picture.
It's a wonderful family destination, but is on the opposite side of the island from the most built-up resort areas, making it quieter and more relaxing; also, if you hire a car, you can spend the day exploring some of the dramatic, pine-covered mountain passes, the artists' colony of Deià (home to World War I veteran and prolific novelist Robert Graves for decades) and the beautiful village of Valldemossa (whose monastery was the winter home of composer Frédéric Chopin and French author George Sands) along the same coast.
But we won't spoil it with words. The picture (number four, by Flickr-user Miquel Sastre Morro) tells the full story – a story you'll never want to reach the final chapter of.
Las Catedrales beach, Ribadeo, Lugo province, Galicia (2,758 pictures)
Voted Europe's 11th-best beach in January 2019, this unique coastal wonder in Spain's far north-west gets its name from the rare rocky formations that its velvety sand weaves in and out of – they resemble the arches of a Gothic-era cathedral. Standing nearly 30 metres tall, they are lapped by waves of what legend claims to be 'Holy Water', possibly a cause of, or the consequence of, its name (although it's a bit salty, so we wouldn't recommend you drink it).
Galicia, undiscovered by northern Europeans but loved by land-locked Spaniards from Madrid and higher up, looks far more like Ireland or Scotland or central France than the palm-fringed southern and eastern shores of Spain – emerald hills, chalet-style houses and grazing cattle, and enough rain in late autumn, winter and early spring to keep it lusciously green, but not enough to ruin a good hill-hike when you're exploring its stunning countryside.
Read more about it, and see a picture of it, in our article here.
La Concha beach, San Sebastián, Basque Country (1,616 photographs)
Another relatively low-rise, foreign-tourist-free (except for French, because of the geographical proximity) but lively and well-loved beach, La Concha on the north coast takes its name from its shape – that of a shell, or concha in Spanish. And if you've ever wondered why winners at San Sebastián Film Festival are given a Concha de Oro, or 'Golden Shell', now you know – it's in homage to the city's adored coastal enclave. Flat, wide and sandy, enclosed enough to keep out the strongest of the winds in autumn and winter, and the jewel in a region that will change every pre-conceived idea you ever had of Spain, La Concha is a must-see – as is the rest of the Basque Country. Typical regional cuisine includes bean stew and cod-in-sauce with peas, and whenever tourists point out the obvious about the scenery – that it looks like Switzerland – the nearest born-and-bred local resident will correct you and tell you that, actually, it's Switzerland that looks like the Basque Country.
El Sardinero, Santander, Cantabria (1,324 shots)
At the opposite end of the country from kite-surfing capital Cádiz is its northern counterpart, Cantabria – the whole of the Santander bay area enjoys the perfect waves for 'treading the boards'. Also, Santander will make you feel at home if you're from southern England – given that it was such a fashionable and well-frequented winter resort for the British in the 19th century and highly-approved-of by Royalty (Queen Victoria stayed there several times), Cantabrian architects aimed to please their blue-chip visitors by designing and building accommodation that would appeal to their taste. The result is a squeaky-clean, low-key version of Brighton, albeit with a lighthouse and grassy cliffs. You can see from picture five, by Flickr-user Mackedwars, how pretty and tempting it still is in autumn.
Cantabria, home of Olympic high-jumper Ruth Beitia and golfing legend Seve Ballesteros, the Cábarceno open-air safari park and prehistoric Altamira caves, stunning views from the 2,000-metre Picos de Europa mountains, delicious spongecakes and grilled white tuna, Barcelona-style Gaudí architecture (the restaurant in Comillas), and acres of central European-looking countryside is a tourist's delight at any time of the year, and a region you shouldn't go through a lifetime without setting foot in at least once.
San Lorenzo beach, Gijón, Asturias (935 snaps)
Said to be one of the best urban beaches on earth, rarely packed and off the international tourist trail, San Lorenzo beach is just metres from the centre of the historic, attractive large town of Gijón in one of Spain's most beautiful northern regions. Loved in summer, it also makes for a splendid backdrop to the hustle and bustle of small-city life in winter, and is perfectly placed for exploring the wider area – very 'northern Spanish', meaning it has a more central-European feel to it, sufficiently populated and well-developed to be modern but without losing its local essence or community spirit, drenched in history (especially in the regional capital city, Oviedo – home to Formula 1 Grand Prix legend Fernando Alonso – and neighbouring Avilés), Asturias is heaven in autumn with its changing colours. We particularly recommend a visit to the Tragamón oak forest, home to some of the oldest trees in the region dotted among open grassy spaces where you can catch the last rays of 2020's sunshine.
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