Ditch mass tourism and modern concrete buildings for dunes, cliffs and simple sandy perfection: the Beach Inspector’s report is in, rounding up Europe’s best, unspoilt beaches.
Best for… seclusion: Cofete, Canary Islands
In the south of Fuerteventura you’ll find the 11-kilometre long, mountain-backed beach of Cofete, set deep within a national park. You have to earn this one: making the journey to the beach on foot via a gravel path. It’s well worth it, though, as the scenery is as beautiful en-route as it is there. Cofete (also known as Barlovento) is not suitable for swimming due to strong currents and high waves, and therefore attracts mainly relaxation-seekers, couples and singles after a secluded place to kick back and listen to the gentle crash of waves on sand.
Best for… dramatic scenery: Playa del Ancon, Tenerife
Playa del Ancon is a genuine insider tip, with barely a tourist in sight – thanks to difficult access via narrow cliff roads. The contrasting surroundings of black sand beach and rocks covered in greenery means this is one for photographers but swimmers note: strong currents make Ancon’s waters pretty dangerous. This is a place for walks, sunbathing and wallowing in natural beauty.
Best for… tranquillity, Praia de Sao Rafael, Portugal
Surrounded by a soaring cliffy backdrop, the Algarve’s Praia de São Rafael can only be accessed by boat. This upside of this is that not many people make it to this remote setting. Conditions here are ideal for swimming and the rocks surrounding the bay offer plenty of options to perfect those Olympian dives. Landlubbers can head for the equally nice neighbouring bay, which can be reached by foot.
Best for… letting it all hang out: Playa de Güigüi, Gran Canaria
On Gran Canaria’s west coast you’ll find the black, sandy beach of Playa de Güigüi (pronounced 'wiwi'). To get to this clothing optional beach you’ll need to take either a 45-minute boat ride or hike for several hours. Make the effort and you’ll be rewarded by a sweeping beach of fine, black sand, fronted by clear water, backed by tall cliffs; the waters beneath great for snorkelling. Güigüi is popular with nudists, many of whom camp out overnight, drawn by spectacular sunsets that frame views of Tenerife's volcano of Mount Teide.
Best for… catching a wave: Praia da Cordoama, Portugal
This remote, vast sandy Algarve beach, surrounded by postcard perfect cliffs and craggy rocks might not be so suitable for swimmers, but its towering waves bring in scores of surfers. For those new to the sport, a range of courses is available from schools based at Praia da Cordoama. Or do as the locals, do and come to watch the action, beer and snacks in hand, on sale from the little surf shack beach cafe.