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The best lesser-known European beach destinations to visit 2024

Simon Calder’s Travel

The beaches of Europe’s holiday hotspots inevitably burst with parasols, loungers and lilos come July and August, and lying in the destruction path of a child’s bucket and spade can quickly ruin the dream of a blissful holiday.

As anti-tourism protests see locals bid to recover beaches from overcrowding in Mallorca and the Canaries, the prospect of bundled-up beach towels less than a metre apart may have you looking for sleepier swathes.

Thankfully, soaring sand dunes, quiet coves and turquoise bays stud Europe’s coastline – especially if you’re willing to wander off the beaten track.

From wild Galician archipelagos to sleepy French communes, there are plenty of secluded shores to lay your towel if you know where to look for them.

Don’t follow the masses booking the same budget flights to the same busy spots. Choose one of these more under-the-radar destinations, where summer sun can come with a side of serenity.

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Alentejo, Portugal

Trade Albufeira for Alentejo this summer
Trade Albufeira for Alentejo this summer (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

While everyone else rushes to the rammed beaches of the Algarve, head instead to Alentejo, the neighbouring Portuguese region to the north. It’s still bathed in reliable rays, but rather than fight for a sun lounger along packed tourist strips, you’ll enjoy boutique design hotels, tackle epic walking trails and wander its Unesco World Heritage Site city, Evora. Its picturesque coastline is lined with soft beaches, soaring cliffs and cute fishing villages, with the option for exhilarating surfing and dolphin spotting. Throw in hilltop towns with local artisans and ancient ruins – for example, the Roman villa of São Cucufate – and you certainly won’t be missing the resorts of Albufeira.

Paxos, Greece

More private parts of the Paxos coast are worth the hike
More private parts of the Paxos coast are worth the hike (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

It’s the ultimate summer holiday fantasy: a Greek island that’s not full to the brim with British tourists. You will need to work a bit harder to find a secret Grecian corner in high season, but not that much harder – Paxos is only an hour onward hydrofoil journey from Corfu, which is connected to the UK by dozens of daily direct flights, taking just over three hours. Your reward for that extra bit of effort? Sleepy beaches and cosy tavernas serving freshly landed fish and feta-topped salads. Hilly walks along…

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