International hospitality from Iceland to Bosnia
If lying elbow-to-elbow with sunbathing strangers on a French Riviera beach does not fit your criteria for a relaxing seaside getaway 1) you are not alone and 2) never fear: there are still stretches of uncrowded, undeveloped and untrampled coastline along the Mediterranean.
Some spots are remote, others are easily reached. But if you are intent on having a piece of coast all to yourself with natural beauty that trumps the crowded hot-spots, the following 10 picks are worth seeking out.
1. Cabo de Gata, Spain
If you can find anyone old enough to remember the Costa del Sol before the bulldozers arrived, they would probably say it looked a bit like Cabo de Gata. Some of Spain's most beautiful and least crowded beaches are strung between the grand cliffs and capes east of Almería, where dark volcanic hills tumble into a sparkling turquoise sea. Though Cabo de Gata is not undiscovered, it still has a wild, elemental feel and its scattered fishing villages remain low-key. You can walk along, or not far from, the coast right round from Retamar in the northwest to Agua Amarga in the northeast.
2. Cap de Favártix, Menorca
Menorca's north coast is rugged and rocky, punctured by small, scenic coves. It is less developed than the south and, with your own transport and a bit of footwork, you will discover some of the Balearics' best off-the-beaten-track beaches. The drive up to Cap de Favártix, the narrow rocky cape at the northern extremity of the Parc Natural S'Albufera des Grau is a treat. The last leg is across a lunar landscape of black slate. At the end of the road, a lighthouse stands watch as the sea pounds relentlessly against the impassive cliffs. South of the cape stretch some fine remote sandy bays and beaches, including Cala Presili and Platja d'en Tortuga, both reachable only on foot.
3. Banyuls, France
The village of Banyuls on France's Côte Vermeille is better known for its wines than its pebbly beaches and coastal views, but there is a trail that is well worth the effort of seeking out. In fact it is so well-hidden it is actually underwater. The sentier soumarin, a 500m underwater trail just off Plage de Peyrefite, midway between Banyuls and Cerbère and within a protected marine area, has five underwater information points and offers a free unique snorkelling experience. If you have your own gear, you can swim the trail at any time during July and August, or you can hire fins and masks (7 euros; from noon to 5 pm).
4. Cala Gonone, Sardinia
Backed by imperious tree-specked cliffs, the small resort town of Cala Gonone enjoys a stunning setting. And with plenty of hotels, bars and restaurants it makes an excellent base from which to explore the coves along this magnificent stretch of Sardinia's coast. Take a boat trip along Cala Gonone's southern coast; some beaches are accessible from town by car or on foot, but the best are only reached by sea. From the port, boats head south to the Grotta del Bue Marino, a haunting complex of caves where monk seals used to pup. From there follows a string of coves and beaches, from the crescent-shaped Cala Luna and Cala Sisine, backed by a green valley, through to the incredible cobalt-blue waters of Cala Mariolu and Cala Goloritzè, a favourite with rock climbers who come to tackle its bizarre granite pinnacles.
5. Delimara Peninsula, Malta
Hire a car and escape Malta's large touristy resorts by heading down the Delimara Peninsula. There are a number of good swimming spots along the coast; hard-to find, but worth seeking out is a natural lido called Peter's Pool. With only a few local kids to keep you company, it is great to laze around on the smooth, sun-drenched rocks and dive into the clear blue sea to cool off. The nearby village of Marsaxlokk has a photogenic harbour littered with colourful fishing boats and is renowned for its seafood restaurants.