Four Of Europe’s Most Beautifully Unique Beaches

Nick Nomi

Senior Contributor

A complex concert of geological forces has shaped and defined our irresistible European coastlines, with volcanoes birthing islands and unique landforms, and the winds and seas working as sculptors, forming hidden coves and stunning sandy bays enveloped by towering cliffs. From deep red beaches coloured by extreme volcanic activity in Greece to gorgeous bays concealed by nature in Wales and Italy, these are just a small selection of Europe’s most distinctive and beautiful beaches.

A Style Icon: Zlatni Rat Beach, Croatia

There are few beaches as instantly recognisable as Brač’s Zlatni Rat. Reaching like a stumpy outstretched arm from the sunny pine-clad hills of southern Brač, the beach curves into the Adriatic, morphing with its currents and the Maestral winds, simultaneously eroding and depositing sediment, forming its distinct V-shape, or a Golden Horn as its name (Zlatni Rat) reflects. And while its curvaceous, parasol-strewn aesthetic is more than enough to give it a much-coveted front-page spread across the world’s press, what is less known is that Golden Horn is one of Croatia’s best windsurfing destinations, and nearby Bol is a popular diving spot to boot.

Where to stay: Stay in Split at the iconic Le Meridien Lav, from which reaching Zlatni Rat is a breeze. Either sail or take a speedboat across to Brač (the flutter of emerald green visible from Le Meridien's beach) or board the ferry from Split’s marina.

Solitary Beauty: Church Doors & Skrinkle Haven, Wales

The rough tides and winds whistling into the Bristol Channel have carved out a beguiling indented coastline for southern Wales, but none quite so exquisite as this duet of beaches in Pembrokeshire. Each of the beaches is accessible from the other, but Skrinkle Haven is only accessible by foot when the tide pulls back (though a yacht will do the trick too). Start on Church Doors beach to see the towering rectangle carved out of the cliffs, which resembles a monumental cathedral doorway framing a stunning congregation of sea and sky. From here, there’s another smaller “door” on the opposite side that is not much more than a small crack of a cave that leads to the hidden Skrinkle Haven: a bay of pristine golden sands sloping languidly into a small sparkle of the Celtic Sea, and almost wholly untouched.

There are no amenities here as the beach is wild and solitary, as such be sure to keep an eye on the tide as it can be all too easy to become stranded once the water rises above the door.

Volcanic Remnants: Red Beach, Greece

Glamorous Santorini isn’t exactly bereft of unique coastlines, with its striking black sand beaches along the south coast and the beautiful chalky-white bay at Monolithos Beach, but Red Beach is something special. The landscape is alienesque, with deep red sands punctuated by huge boulders beneath towering rusty cliffs, all licked by pristine Mediterranean waters that look all the bluer posed beside such striking volcanic gradients — the result of pyroclastic deposits in the rocks. There are few amenities here, and the boulders are from recent landslides, so Red Beach is best explored by the adventurous, but water taxis avoid the rather steep land passage and operate between Akrotiri and Kamari for those who make the trip.

Where to stay: Choose a hotel such as Vedema, A Luxury Collection Resort, just two miles from Red Beach, for something a little more traditional with sweeping Aegean views, beautiful minimalist villas and an attractive beach reserved for guests.

An Arch to Frame the Sea: Spiaggia dell'Arcomagno, Italy

This beach has all the style and lost world appeal of Thailand’s Maya Bay, and, despite appearances, it's accessible by foot from charming San Nicola Arcella. To reach it, journey north from the village to the beach with a view of the castle. From there, continue up a stone staircase that leads over the headlands above Arcomagno. As one descends into the bay, its geological uniqueness becomes more apparent, with a distinct secretive ambience afforded by the cliffs that encase it. But what makes Arcomagno a touch extra special is the stunning arch carved by immeasurable generations of the sea, providing swimming and boat access to the Gulf of Policastro. Of course, there is no better way to arrive than by private yacht, but one can hire a slightly less chic pedal boat from nearby Marinella Beach to make a splash of an entrance via the sea.

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