Sun, sea, and sand: the best hidden beaches in Europe

There’s a lot to love about the energy and excitement in Europe’s top destinations during summertime, but sometimes you just want to get away from the crowds and find a place that feels like your own, especially if it includes a sandy coastline.

Luckily for anyone hoping for a quiet beach escape, Europe is home to some stunning beaches, many of which are tucked away from the summer crowds. In order to bring you the best hidden beaches in Europe, we’ve teamed up with American-Norwegian travel blogger Silvia. She is the force behind the Heart My Backpack blog, a virtual space that chronicles her off-the-beaten-path journeys.

Some of the beaches featured are in less visited corners of the continent, while others are surprisingly close to popular destinations, but they all deliver on soft sand, clear water, and complete tranquillity.

Balemartine – Isle of Tiree, Scotland

Quiet and remote – the beach at Balemartine on Tiree

Quiet and remote – the beach at Balemartine on Tiree ©

The Scottish Hebrides are home to some seriously spectacular beaches, with sand so white and water so turquoise that photos of a Hebridean beach were once accidentally (or not at all accidentally?) used to promote a beach resort in Thailand. Tiree is one of the smaller Hebridean Islands, meaning that you can easily get around the island on a bike. Pretty much every bit of coastline here is a beautiful sandy beach, and as it’s such a small island, it’s easy to find a strip of beach all for yourself. Try the beach at Balemartine, a tiny village featuring houses built in the blackhouse design – called so because the interior was black from smoke. Just remember that this is Scotland – the weather might not always cooperate with your plans. But when it does, oh wow is it lovely.

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Słowiński National Park – Łeba, Poland

A sight to behold: sunset at the beach in Słowiński National Park

A sight to behold: sunset at the beach in Słowiński National Park

Who goes to Poland for the beaches? You do – or at least you should! In fact, Poland is home to what might be one of the most spectacular beaches in Europe. A couple of hours out of Gdansk, Łeba is home to Słowiński National Park – an expansive nature reserve known for its sand dunes. The sand dunes are so impressive that they’re actually a tiny bit frightening – they’re slowly making their way inland, moving at a speed of 10-30 feet per year. Take a long walk and snap a few images of this beautiful landscape. Swimming might not be the biggest highlight of your trip, but this beach will definitely make it to your “most memorable beaches” list.

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Dhërmi Beach – Dhërmi, Albania

Hang out with the locals at Dhërmi Beach

Hang out with the locals at Dhërmi Beach

There’s no way you can talk about Europe’s best hidden beaches without mentioning Albania – the queen of secluded beaches. If you take a drive down the Albanian Riviera, you’ll come across countless of empty beaches, all boasting crystal clear waters. Perhaps the most beautiful, Dhërmi Beach, features long strips of white beach, and due to its length, you’re pretty much guaranteed to find a section all to yourself.

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Krapets Beach – Krapets, Bulgaria

Krapets Beach – a quiet spot along the Black Sea

Krapets Beach – a quiet spot along the Black Sea © Złota Bułgaria

Thanks to hot summers and low prices, Varna has become a popular destination for budget beach holidays. While most tourists head to the resorts on Golden Sands, instead try spending a bit of time at Krapets Beach, a place mostly visited by locals. While easily accessible from Varna, Krapets Beach is just far enough from the action that few people make it up here. The sand is soft, the water is warm (at least in the summer!), and the adjacent village is lovely, making this a tranquil beach escape in Eastern Europe.

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Nin’s Lagoon – Nin, Croatia

Nin's Lagoon – the perfect spot for kitesurfing

Nin’s Lagoon – the perfect spot for kitesurfing

It’s no secret that Croatia is home to a stunning coastline. But if you want to find a quiet escape here, consider avoiding Split and Dubrovnik. Instead go north from Zadar to Nin’s Lagoon. The beach here is soft and sandy, with a beautiful mountain backdrop. It’s the perfect beach for sunbathing, swimming, kitesurfing, and simply relaxing away from the noise of Croatia’s more trafficked destinations. While this beach isn’t totally secluded – it is fitted with showers, toilets, and beach chairs – it’s tucked well away from the summer crowds. Here, you’ll mostly find local families going for a dip and dining by the seaside, and if you come on a weekday, you’ll find it almost empty.

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Calanque de Morgiou – Marseille, France

The blue sea at Calanque de Morgiou

The blue sea at Calanque de Morgiou

No, the South of France is not exactly off the beaten path. In fact, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a beach on France’s southern coast that isn’t covered in striped umbrellas and beach bars. But if you do press hard enough, you might just uncover a hidden paradise. At least that’s how you’ll feel while exploring the Calanques near Marseille. The Calanques are narrow, steep-walled rock formations rising from the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Long stretches of rocks are punctuated here and there by small beaches. Some require a few hours of hiking to reach, while others are easy fifteen-minute walks from the roadside. If you’re feeling adventurous and up for some exercise, you could make a day of exploring the Calanques. Alternatively, if you just want a quiet beach to relax on, try Calanque de Morgiou near Les Baumettes. The walk there is beautiful and the views are 100% worth the effort.

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Armier Bay – Mellieħa, Malta

Little Armier Bay – away from crowded resorts

Little Armier Bay – away from crowded resorts © www. – Photographer: Jürgen Scicluna/MTA

Malta is a popular year-round tourist destination, but if you get away from the resorts and hotels you can find some hidden gems here. One such place is Armier Bay, which actually contains two beaches: Armier and Little Armier. Located right across from Comino Island, the bay has the same clear, blue waters as Malta’s famous (and decidedly not hidden) Blue Lagoon. As there are no hotels here, the bay makes for a quiet escape from Malta’s tourist crowds. It’s mostly popular among locals, but if you visit on a weekday, you won’t see many people around.

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Mjelle Beach – Bodø, Norway

Midnight sun seen from Mjelle Beach

Midnight sun as seen from Mjelle Beach ©ø – Photographer: Tore Schöning Olsen

Norway might be more famous for its fjords than its beaches, but if you head up into Northern Norway you’ll find some positively postcard-worthy beaches. Now, don’t let the clear turquoise water fool you. Even in the height of summer, swimming on the Norwegian coast is going to be a chilly experience, but the dramatic landscape well makes up for what the Norwegian waters lack in warmth. One of the most beautiful beaches in Norway is just a short drive from the northern city of Bodø. Not only is the water here crystal blue, but the beach itself is made up of both white and red sand, making for a stunning contrast of colors.

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Es Trenc – Mallorca, Spain

A vision of blue at Es Trenc beach

A vision of blue at Es Trenc beach

Wait, a hidden beach on Mallorca? Yes, Mallorca is home to a lot of resorts, but the great thing about resort-goers is that they tend not to stray far from their hotels, which means that many areas of Mallorca are surprisingly quiet. In fact, even on one of the island’s most beautiful and popular beaches, Es Trenc, you can simply walk a few minutes down the coast and find yourself all alone. Just follow the water away from the main area by the bus stop.

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Lepetane Beach – Lepetane, Montenegro

Hidden away in the Bay of Kotor – Lepetane Beach

Hidden away in the Bay of Kotor – Lepetane Beach

Montenegro has quickly risen to the top of many people’s holiday wish lists, and with good reason. From tall mountain peaks and green rivers to what many refer to as Europe’s most southerly fjord – Montenegro has a lot going for it in the landscape department. If you’re looking for a coastal holiday, then the Bay of Kotor is the obvious choice. What many people don’t know, however, is that if you leave the popular city of Kotor and continue around the bay towards the small village of Lepetane, you can get a beautiful beach on the Adriatic all to yourself. Spend some days sunning yourself on the beach, and in the evening hop on the ten-minute ferry across the bay (it’s free for foot passengers) and you’re ready for dinner.

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Spending summer in the city? Find the best city beaches in Europe or embark on a journey including sand, mountains, and ancient cities in Morocco