For many people, the beach is the whole point of a summer holiday – a place to sunbathe, swim, read and dream, but also a place of adventure and intrigue, of beginnings and endings
There’s something about a good beach that enlivens the senses: the briny scent of salt in the air, the calming murmur of waves, the gentle nip of sand whipped up by the soft breeze. A favourite beach is like a favourite poem – individual, important and something that makes our hearts sing, and now more than ever we are dreaming of days spent wriggling our toes in the sand and wallowing in salty water.
Instead of the typical sandy spots dotted with sun umbrellas and gaggles of tourists, we’ve sought out spaces that you may have to venture a little further for, but that remain incredibly beautiful and very often crowd-free. From the most exquisite beaches in Europe to far-flung stretches in Asia, Africa and more, these are the best beaches in the world.
1. Benguerra Island, Bazaruto Archipelago, Mozambique
Cast away in the protected Bazaruto Archipelago off the coast of southern Mozambique, Benguerra is a place where sandbars shimmer like nacre and leggy flamingoes pick their way delicately through the channels. A short sail by dhow east of the town of Vilanculos, the fine sand here is fringed by a two-mile-long coral reef, while migrating humpbacks and huge whale sharks pass majestically further offshore. The shot-silk waters are also home to the largest dugong population in the western Indian Ocean, and inland you’ll find congregations of crocodiles and all manner of bird species. But best of all, its marine-reserve status means there’s only a handful of lodges on the island, so once the day-trippers depart, you’ll have the beach all to yourself. Stat at andBeyond Benguerra Island, a classy but unpretentious beach retreat.
2. Playa Paraiso, Cayo Largo del Sur, Cuba
It’s likely that Playa Paraiso – stretching across a small island just off Cuba’s southern coast – still looks much like it did in 1494, when Christopher Columbus sailed to Cayo Largo on his second expedition to the New World. Its sieved-flour sand and crystalline waters remain pristine, while the nearby reefs offer some of the finest diving in the Caribbean. Warm, calm waters make the beach ideal for paddlers and swimmers, while wildlife-lovers should keep their eyes peeled for iguanas and giant sea turtles. Shade can be hard to come by though, and naturists head to the east end of the beach – so stay west if you prefer to keep things covered up.
3. Uig Sands, Isle of Lewis, Scotland
A busy day at Uig is when two people show up at once. Lying some 20 miles west of Stornoway on Lewis’s surf-battered Atlantic coast, this is a big, dramatic beach watched over by tussocky dunes and grizzled mountains. The beach itself is famous for being the place where a set of Viking chess pieces – dating back to the 12th century and made from the husks of walrus teeth – were unearthed,, but it has a lot more going for it than just its history. The surrounding machair flower meadows erupt into bloom in June and its enormous uninterrupted stretches of sand are a playground for kite-buggy enthusiasts. Check into 19th-century country house Lews Castle.
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