If you’re daydreaming of a summer getaway to Europe, make it a reality. Although many of the continent’s larger cities are plagued with sweltering heat, plan to cool off in the waters of the Mediterranean, an island in the Atlantic, the exotic Black Sea, or even a freshwater lake or two.
Here are some of the top spots for sand, sun, and a relaxing beach vacation in Europe this summer. We also include some popular activities and trendy hotels worth looking into at each location.
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Canary Islands, Spain
While much of Spain’s mainland is sweating from 100° F+ temps, temps on the Canary Islands typically hover around a breezy 80°F. And with seven different islands to choose from, you’ll have plenty to do. From the white sand surfing beaches of Fuerteventura to Lanzarote’s volcanic wineries to Tenerife’s verdant Anaga Natural Park to La Palma’s black sands, each island has its own special attractions. For more, see our article on the Canary Islands, which will help you choose exactly which island is the right fit for your vacation. Take a look at where to stay on the Canary Islands here.
Algarve Coast, Portugal
Tearing ourselves away from northern Portugal’s Port wine scene won’t be easy, but the Algarve coast’s immense beauty helps. Plus, the nearby Alentejo region has plenty of unique Portuguese wine to sample while you relax on the beach.
The Algarve coast is known for its golden sand beaches flanked by craggy cliffs. And if you love refreshingly cold waters, the Atlantic is still pretty frigid, even in the summer months. For an epic sunset, head to one of Europe’s most southwesterly points, the rocky cliffs of Cabo de Sao Vicente, which is just outside of Sagres. There are also many beautiful seaside resorts you can stay at.
Capri? Old news. Capri’s secret sister island of Ischia is where it’s at. Just a quick ferry ride from Naples, Ischia has it all: beaches, Italian cuisine, island-cultivated Ischian wine, and even volcanic thermal baths. Plus, it’s affordable and lesser-known than Capri, meaning you’ll have a true adventure exploring this authentic Italian destination (renting a small motorbike is an incredible way to lap the island and see all its nooks and crannies). For more on Ischia and why you need to go, read our article here. Take a look at resort options here.
Lake Annecy, France
There’s always Cannes, St. Tropez, and the glamour of the French Riviera, but for something slightly more understated, consider an escape to the gorgeous Lake Annecy, which sits at the base of the French Alps. Not only is it one of France’s largest lakes (and rumored to be one of Europe’s cleanest lakes), the lake is a great place to cool off. Dive in from one of the island’s beaches, hop in a boat, go paddleboarding, or lap the lake via bike on one of the many pine-flanked cycling paths. The small villages surrounding the lake all emit that typical French charm, too. Take a look at some of the stunning lakeside resorts here.
Malta (and Gozo)
With a dizzying amount of UNESCO World Heritage sites and plenty of sandy beaches, this European island is a prime summer destination. Plus, this summer, Malta’s Tourism Authority will actually pay you to go on vacation there. Yes, you heard right. You may be able to get up to $240 back if you stay in specific hotels for more than two nights. And, you’ll get even more back by booking accommodation on Malta’s hidden gem, the smaller island of Gozo. Either way, Malta is already fairly affordable, so you can enjoy a sunny European break without breaking the bank here.
It’s no secret that Crete is one of Winetraveler’s favorite Greek islands. With epic hikes like the stunning Samaria Gorge to some of Europe’s best beaches (Balos Beach has been voted a winner many times over), Crete is truly a magical island paradise. The island also has plenty of historical heritage, like the ancient ruins of the Rethymno Fortress. And let’s not forget fresh feta cheese, Greek honey, and family-owned wineries. Plus, it’s more affordable and less touristy than popular Greek islands like Santorini or Mykonos. Here are some beautiful luxury resorts in Crete to consider staying at.
An island country split between Greece and Turkey, Cyprus has a unique culture and historical perspective. Wine lovers will enjoy exploring and sipping, with over 50 wineries located around the island. With over 100 beaches, there’s also plenty of sand and sun to go around. For those wanting incredible views, hike up to Mt. Olympus, part of the Troodos Mountains. It’s the tallest point in Cyprus. Take a look at accommodation options on Cyprus here.
We love exploring cities in Europe, but this year, save the busy cities for fall when the temps go down, and visit one of these beautiful island, beach, or lake destinations instead. When you’re cycling through forests, relaxing on the beach, or sipping wine overlooking the water at sunset, you’ll be glad you did so!
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