As one of the world’s top vacation destinations, Europe boasts thousands of attractions and activities sure to please the most discerning of travelers. Plan a trip to Europe that includes one or all five of the following coastal regions to discover some of the continent’s top beaches, museums, shops, clubs, and religious sites.
Beach Vacation in Europe #1: Turkish Aegean Coast
A land of wine and honey, olive farms and citrus plantations, the fragrant Turkish Aegean Coast offers visitors more than just a string of picture-perfect beaches and harbors. The region’s pleasant climate makes it popular with visitors throughout the year, though most foreigners choose to explore the area’s fertile valleys and lush hills during the summer. This western section of Turkey includes fashionable resort towns Izmir, Bodrum, and Kusadasi–old coastal settlements offering modern shopping, dining, and entertainment. Deeper inland you can visit Denizli, an ideal base camp for trips to ancient sites Hierapolis and Pamukkale. For a chance to hike, bike, and paraglide along some of the most scenic stretches of the Aegean coastline, head to Dilek National Park, which preserves more than 10,000 hectares (27,000 acres) of pristine natural surroundings.
Beach Vacation in Europe #2: Sicily
As the largest island in the Mediterranean, ruggedly attractive Sicily boasts a rich history, distinct culture, and intriguing dialect. Add the island to your Europe itinerary for its unspoiled beaches, but don’t forget that this ancient land features plenty of small villages and busy cities offering fine museums, well-preserved Greek and Roman ruins, open-air markets, modern restaurants, and trendy shops. Start your tour at Agrigento, located on the island’s southern coastline and famed for its Valley of the Temples–seven monuments forming a huge World Heritage Site. From there, you can easily get to Catania, a lively university town offering active nightlife and easy access to Mount Etna, Europe’s biggest volcano. To see the island’s quieter interior, base your trip in Ragusa, a pleasant inland town filled with Baroque architecture.
Beach Vacation in Europe #3: Emilia-Romagna
One of Europe’s wealthiest areas, Emilia-Romagna stretches between the Po Valley and the Apennine Mountains and features a long Adriatic coastline and some of Italy’s finest beach destinations. Famed for its lively music scene and outstanding wines, the region also boasts an outstanding cuisine, perhaps best known for its gold-colored egg pastas, tortellini and tagliatelle. Rimini serves as one of the region’s main coastal resorts, providing visitors with access to hundreds of hotels and bars stretched along the blue Adriatic Sea. Though most Italians go to Rimini for their sun and sea, you can also explore Cesenatico and Riccione, two coastal destinations offering a dynamic nightlife and popular water activities. Farther inland you can tour Bologna, home to one of the world’s oldest universities and some of Europe’s finest museums and art galleries.
Beach Vacation in Europe #4: Balearic Islands
Include Balearic Islands in your Europe vacation plans to experience both varied landscapes and a temperate climate ideal for long days spent relaxing on sandy beaches and taking leisurely sailing trips. Mallorca, the biggest member of this island group, offers everything from rugged mountain scenery for hikers and cyclists, to traditional seaside resorts like Palma de Mallorca, which features shady streets and dozens of restaurants serving delicious and affordable Mediterranean food. Ibiza remains Europe’s favorite party island, luring a young crowd of tourists with its vibrant club scene and nighttime raves. For a quieter Balearic experience, take a tour of Menorca, a haven of serenity, secluded beaches, and secret bays. The smallest of the islands, Formentera highlights the simple charms of island life, like sitting down for a sunset meal of roasted fish or sharing a glass of palo fruit liquor with the friendly locals.
Beach Vacation in Europe #5: Cyclades
Southeast of the Greek mainland lies the Cyclades island group, part of a large archipelago containing over 2,000 islands. Quintessentially Mediterranean, these islands boast a diverse landscape of sun-kissed beaches, bare mountains, lush olive groves, ancient ruins, and whitewashed villages that appear as they did many centuries ago. Santorini and Mykonos remain the archipelago’s main tourist attractions, offering golden beaches and a buzzing nightlife. The towns of Fira and Oia, both on Santorini, draw huge crowds with their stunning sea views and romantic sunsets. To avoid masses of tourists, settle on less-frequented Antiparos or Anafi, small islands with clean beaches and idyllic coastal walks. If staying in a single place isn’t a priority, base your visit on one of the big islands and then split your time between the remote islets, which provide plenty of uncrowded beaches, traditional taverns, and ancient sites.
The Treasures of Europe’s Many Coastlines
Europe boasts so many different coastlines, you can’t possibly get to know them all in a single trip. Visit Europe with at least one of these coastal regions in mind, and experience the many treasures of the continent’s warm and friendly seaside destinations.