Europe's best summer destinations for beach lovers

3 places to soak up the sun

With summer just around the corner, our thoughts are turning to sunshine and golden sands – but that doesn’t have to mean a lengthy plane journey. Here’s our shortlist of Europe’s best beach holidays for 2018, whether you’re looking for jaw-dropping scenery, adrenalin-filled seaside sports or pure summertime relaxation.

People enjoying the waves at Navagio beach, Zakynthos © Jekic

The Greek Islands

Best for: sightseeing

Few locations are as iconically beautiful as the Greek Islands, from Santorini’s instantly recognisable blue-and-white villages to the isolated, unspoilt coves on Zakynthos. But they’re also historically unique; visitors can tour archaeological sites from which legends have sprung, such as Apollo’s mythical birthplace at Delos, or the Minoan Palace of Knosós on mountainous Crete.

The Old Towns of Corfu and Rhodes are both UNESCO-ranked, with elegant architecture and shady cobbled squares that make for charming afternoon ambles. Add to this the shimmering pink sands and turquoise waves that can be found across the islands’ beaches, and you’re left with a picture-perfect holiday.

Famous shipwreck on Navagio beach, Zakynthos ©

Cornwall and Devon

Best for: surfing

Surfing enthusiasts need look no further than the southwest corner of England for their next adrenalin fix. Cornwall and Devon have long been two of the UK’s most popular counties to visit, and the still-recovering pound has left “staycations” looking more attractive than ever.

The counties’ combined coastline stretches for a whopping 530 miles and is lined with seaside villages – most of which boast at least one surf school, so you’ll be spoilt for choice. Perennial favourites like Newquay will be deservedly packed, but try lesser-known St Agnes or Croyde for the same chilled atmosphere, scrumptious cream teas and great waves.

Surfers at Crantock Bay, Cornwall ©

Costa Blanca

Best for: chilling out

Some like their holidays sun-filled and laid back, and Costa Blanca – southern Spain’s “White Coast” – offers the perfect chilled-out location. Popular both with locals and international visitors, there’s nevertheless a string of unspoiled sandy stretches to be found.

Try Calblanque, whose beaches are among the most beautiful in Murcia, or the famously tractor-combed shores of Playa Nord. Away from the bays, mountain villages and palm groves also offer some truly spectacular scenery.

There’s a lively nightlife in the area too, whether you’re in the mood for chilled bars and restaurants, or looking to let loose in one of Benidorm’s buzzing nightclubs.

Beautiful white-sand beach, Costa Blanca © Szwangruber