Although not the easiest or cheapest of destinations, the islands of the Dahlak Archipelago have to count among the most beautiful, unspoilt and spectacular in the world. Located in the Red Sea off the coast of Massawa, Eritrea, the complete absence of industry or commercialism and a miniscule tourist trade means the reefs are undamaged and the amazing fish are twice the size of those in Egypt. Camp overnight - or better still for a week - in splendid isolation (other than the odd fisherman) safe in the knowledge there is too much fish life for sharks to bother you and pirates can't get up this part of the coast because of the well guarded narrow entrance to the Red Sea.
Google map: bit.ly/Kz4Dcb
Wonderful easy 10-12 mile walk across the cliff tops, loads of little deserted coves to wander and sun bath in while enjoying a leisurely walk, you can fantastic little beach cafes serving syrupy strong coffee and the most delicious pastel de nata (custard tarts)
Stay at the Vila Gale de Praia, adults only with a great spa.
Vypeen Island is a long thin piece of land caught between the Arabian Sea and Kerala's inland waterways. Following the coast from Kochi northwards, it is laced with canals and lakes, groves of palm trees and colourful houses. The scenic bus ride to Cherai beach would be an engaging way of seeing a little further beyond Kochi if the drivers didn't feel it their duty to get you there faster than the speed of sound. Go there during the week when it is less likely to be rammed with tourists, or take an auto-rickshaw for the day and slowly make your way to much less crowded Kuzhippily beach.
Vypeen Island, Kochi, Kerala
Google map: bit.ly/LczYCh
Tobacco Caye is tiny though wasn't always so small, before 1961´s hurricane Hattie it had a school, church and as the name suggests grew tobacco. now its the size of a football pitch taking around eight minutes to walk all the way around with a couple of all inclusive places to stay, a bar or two and generators providing a little light and electricity for charging phones for a couple of hours each night. i stayed in a cabana at paradise lodge built over the barrier reef surrounding most of the island which was basic but where Miss Celia and Miss Junie cooked delicious meals each day catering to my allergy of fish (difficuilt on an island surrounded by them) and joined by an assortment of other guests at the shared dining room table. Spend your days snorkelling, or diving, relaxing in a hammock, sleeping off breakfast, lunch and dinner, watching the ospreys nesting near the dock or taking boat trips to other islands and seeing the rare birdlife.
Bus to dangriga on the southern coast of belize then water taxi from the dock to tobacco caye, expect to wait until the boat is full and spend around $20 for the 1 way 30 minute trip.
Parvati beach huts are located on Palolem beach in south Goa at the quieter northern end of the beach. They have seven beach huts and ours had a spring mattress with our own attached shower/wc room. Free WiFi for the guests. They were clean and fairly priced.
Utter luxury. Spent a week not really doing much - it's not really the place to go if you want to explore, it's more a place for relaxing, eating and drinking. Loved the bath on the balcony!
Puerto Pollenca is a small port town on the north east coast of Mallorca. The town itself is close to the family tourist centre of Alcudia so it is very well serviced and accessible. The beach is pretty, and the port is very scenic. Puerto Pollenca is only a few kilometers from the historic town of Pollenca and also a short bike/ bus ride away from the Roman ruins at Alcudia. These ruins are extensive and unspoiled; the atmosphere is miles away from strip hotels and bars. Perfect for picnics and walking. The flat land in the area makes it ideal for a morning or late afternoon bike ride. Definately recommend.
Google map: bit.ly/JvktD2
The delightful, unspoiled charms of the Galician coast can be experienced by visiting Corrubedo, south west of Santiago; the final destination of pilgrims on the ancient Camino de Santiago. Located at one of the westernmost points of Spain, this small fishing village clusters around a beautiful sheltered bay, with clear water and sandy beaches, perfect for families. Join the Spanish who have discovered this secret gem; spend a long sunny summer evening exploring rock pools teeming with life; then relax in the attractive harbour side bars. For a real contrast, pop 1km around the corner to find a lighthouse perched on the windswept, wild Atlantic coast; an ideal spot for a spectacular sunset with home-coming gulls riding the wind. We observed a few free camping tents and motorhomes.
Google map: bit.ly/JKLKiQ
Looking for wide, golden beaches and safe bathing? Great food and friendly bars? Head for Ayamonte on the western edge of the Costa de la Luz and less than an hour from the airport at Faro. Nestling at the mouth of the estuary between Spain and Portugal, Ayamonte offers gleaming white Andalucian buildings, cobbled streets, palm-fringed squares, an elegant marina and open-air bars and restaurants. Try the superb tapas in La Puerta Ancha in Plaza de la Laguna, or eat from the barbecue in La Sonrisa on the fabulous Isla Canela beach. In Summer grab the little open-air train that runs from one end of the beach to the other, or learn to windsurf from one of the surf schools located on the beach. Ten minutes from Ayamonte, or a short walk from Isla Canela, is the little fishing village of Punta del Moral, where you’ll be spoiled for choice in the fish restaurants. An hour’s drive to the east is the famous Coto Donana, where you can take a jeep safari through Europe’s biggest wetland, spotting flamingos, lynx and, if you’re lucky, the Spanish Imperial eagle.
Google map: bit.ly/J7ucUC
Nerja, an attractive fishing-based resort east of Malaga, has good beaches and traditional bars in the old town. Try the tapas of fresh seafood (free with your £1.30 crisp dry white) while your children play football in the street. Our local was family-owned, their boat bringing the catch straight back to the restaurant. There is a long sandy beach where on Sundays enormous dishes of paella are cooked on charcoal fires (£6.50 with free second helpings). Finish the night out with chocolate and churros, the whole family walking safely back at midnight in this friendly, mellow seaside town.
Google map: bit.ly/J7vqis
Head to western Cantabria’s Costa Verde for hidden beaches of soft yellow sand in quiet coves enclosed by green, crumbly cliffs and explore sea caves, rock stacks and natural arches. The short coastline between busy Comillas with its Gaudi attractions and the charming fishing-resort of Llanes in Asturias reveals many hard-to-find-but-worth-it-when-you-do beaches. Crescent-shaped and gently shelved Pechón beach has a spit of sand at its eastern edge that is eaten away by the tide on both sides. Park the car at the top and walk down the gravel path. Gorgeous Prellezo has a fast retreating tide that uncovers pools, sand bars and quirky limestone formations. Cobreces is in a well-protected canyon-like cove and has a couple of restaurants close to the beach. When you are done with the beaches, be sure to take a trip into Picos de Europa whose foothills spill down the coast. In high season, arrive early or late at Funte Dé and take the funicular to the summit for spectacular views of mountain and sea over a cooling drink in the café
Google map: bit.ly/KzaIsn
At the charming Hotel Atalaya in Mundaka, Basque Country, you can open the shutters, step onto your balcony and people watch over the harbour. If you prefer sand there’s a beach at nearby Lekeitio where happy dogs lift their legs on the “no dogs” sign. Place names are a series of randomly jammed typewriter keys: try saying – and definitely visiting - Gaztelugatxe, a tiny island with a narrow winding causeway, twinkling at night with fairy lights. For day trips there’s Guernica, immortalised by Picasso, with its “Junta” headquarters museum where I cricked my neck admiring the stained glass ceilings; and my favourite, the eerie but entrancing painted forest at Oma.
The rugged volcanic rock formations that provide the backdrop to this unspoilt and rural coastal region are reason enough to explore. Now a protected Natural Park and UNESCO biosphere reserve, the Cabo de Gata shoreline is scattered with wild beaches and small fishing villages, miraculously untainted by mass tourism. We enjoyed the whitewashed simplicity of La Isleta and Las Negras with their sandy coves, beached fishing boats and the occasional bar or fish restaurant overlooking the beach. More adventurous visitors could sample some of the local diving or coastal walking, though soaking in the simple beauty of this relatively undiscovered corner of Spain is pleasure enough.
Cabo de Gata, Almeria, Spain
Google map: bit.ly/JnhfiN
There's a great five-day coastal walk you can take from Escala to Palau-Saverdera which passes through the old fishing village of Cadaquez. Salvador Dali had a holiday home here which you can visit and there are sea view bars and restaurants to while away the evenings. It's not over run with tourists and manages to hang onto its quaint 'villagey' feel. We stayed at the Dali themed Hotel La Residencia. Great place to rest after walking.
This national park has some amazing beaches on its southern side and along its northern coast. Very few roads but plenty of trails to access these beaches. The masses tend to stay on the beaches around Roses as you will need to walk about 30 mins to get to the first if you come by car. The ones on the north coast are difficult to get to without a boat. The south coast also has the last home of Dali, Port Lligat which is also a museum that operates with the museum in Figueres.
Just inland from the Atlantic coast this sleepy seaside town from where Columbus sailed (see his travels in ‘The Ice House museum’), comes to life in the summer months. Horse racing on the sands, trips across the short stretch of water to seek out the elusive Iberian Lynx in the beautiful Coto Doñana National park (day trip Eu35 per adult).
And the most fabulous fish dishes at the quay side restaurants, washed down with the famous ‘Manzanilla’, a fine, dry local sherry. What more could you ask?
The Cami de Ronda long distance coastal path on Spain’s Costa Brava north of Barcelona stretches from Blanes all the way up to the French border. Much of it developed from ancient smugglers’ tracks, for spectacular variety of scenery and landscape it can’t be beaten. Pine trees cling to the cliffs falling away into the incredible blue of the sea, tiny wild coves lead into still tinier and wilder inlets before opening out into miles of beach. A perfect fishing village suddenly appears in the distance as you round a rocky, reddish promontory and always with the incomparable Mediterranean as the perfect walking companion beside you every step of the way. The high rise atrocities are thankfully left behind much further south round Lloret.
Almost all of the path is well signposted and maintained and offers something for all ages and levels of fitness. If you want strenuous climbs and vertiginous downhills, try the section from Sa Riera to the beach at Pals; for a flat sea-level stroll where you can stop at any number of small coves to swim or rest you can do the section from Platja d’Aro to Palamos; for a combination you could try Sa Riera to Torroella. The best thing about it is that you can have any length of walk and will never be far from refreshment or a fascinating, picturesque place to stop, whether it’s a beachside cafe for a snack (most of the bigger beaches, all year round), atmospheric fishing village for lunch (Sa Tuna, Tamariu and Sa Riera are unspoilt places to compete with any on the Mediterranean) or historic town (the perfectly preserved Begur and Pals are just short detours inland). The most rugged part is up north of Cadaques, where the path skirts Dali’s idiosyncratic house and ventures further into the weird moonscape which inspired some of his greatest paintings.
Too hot for most during July and August, at any other time it’s the perfect way to explore the coast. It’s free, you get fit quickly with the hills, and every walk can be punctuated with memorable meals. We first started doing it 30 years ago and are still discovering new experiences every walk; unlike us, it’s inexhaustible.
San Sebastian nestles in a shell-shaped bay where the 'Comb of the Wind', the jaw-dropping iron sculptures of Eduardo Chillida, cast huge, bold shapes from the water's edge. We enjoyed many strolls along the wide golden beaches, and avoided an afternoon shower in the Aquarium (Pza Carlos Blasco Imaz) with 5000 fish species and spectacular underwater tunnel. Harbourside restaurants abound, serving an enticing array of pintxos including tasty sardines washed down with the local sidra. For a truly memorable experience, travel 10 minutes to Zarautz, to the Karlos Arguinano, a fabulous on-the-beach restaurant with rooms. Delicious sea-bream for dinner, then breakfast on the sands at sunrise - magical!
Fantastic bustling seaside town, just a few miles from San Sebastian, that has something for everyone.
Mile long sandy beach for families and great surfing. Beach is spotlessly clean and there are Red Cross Lifeguards all along the beach keeping everyone safe. Places to hire surfboards and surf schools.
Dozens of beach bars and restaurants along the promenade and a great town centre where the competition among the pintxo (basque tapas) bars ensures great quality and choice. A stroll along the promenade then grazing from bar to bar along with thousands of others is the evenings entertainment.
Karlos Arguinano is a TV chef with a stunning restaurant almost on the beach and with great views of the sunset.
Ideal for a day out if staying in San Sebastian or less than hour from Biarritz!
Beach all day - bars all night - stunning sunsets - perfect holiday
A small-size, genuinely Catalan family resort where you can lose track of time and enjoy the moment. Its long sandy, spotlessly clean beach will delight kids of all ages. When you've had enough lying on a towel, walk the coastal path between the medieval castle and the nearby town of Palamos, taking in ever-changing sea views, the beautiful palm-lined promenade where the locals take in the sea breeze and watch the world go by. Stop by a beach shack for a cool beer and pan con tomate (toasted bread rubbed with a fresh tomato), or try one of the many family-run restaurants along the promenade that offer freshly cooked Catalan dishes at affordable prices. When you've had enough, head for Girona and its medieval Jewish quarter, Cadaques where Dali resided or the amazing Greco-Roman site at Empuries, big enough to rival Pompei, complete with a Phocean breakwater in place since 600BC.
Go self-catering - most accommodation in these parts come complete with swimming pool and terrace.
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