The focal point of this famous spot is the hulking, weathered hull of a freighter that ran aground in the early ’80s. The ship now sits in the middle of a crescent beach, a few yards away from the tideline where bone-white sand meets the bright blue Ionian Sea. The sheer cliffs surrounding the beach mean that the cove is only accessible by boat, but an abundance of providers in the area ensures there’s a steady stream of tourists all summer long. Even so, it’s worth a trip: The rusted shell set against the spectacular natural beauty of Zakynthos Island is a striking sight you need to see in person to truly appreciate.
2 of 8Photo: CAVALIER Michel / hemis.fr/Getty
Calanque d’en Vau, Cassis, France
Adventurous types won’t want to miss this secluded spot on France’s southern coast: It’s only accessible via boat or two-hour hike, and the effort it takes to get there makes the end result all the more appealing. Tucked at the end of a long inlet, this beach is surrounded by massive, craggy cliffs, and the visual contrast of bright blue Mediterranean against the white limestone makes the whole spot feel like something from a dream.
3 of 8Photo: gandolfocannatella/Getty
Rabbit Beach, Lampedusa, Italy
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This is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, but its remote location—100 miles off the Italian coast—tends to dissuade all but the most intrepid of travelers. But for those who make the journey, there’s ample reward: the water is shallow enough to wade far out into the bay, and it’s reliably calm and clear, making it a haven for swimmers and snorkelers. Keep an eye out for sea turtles: This is one of the few regular nesting sites of the endangered Loggerhead.
4 of 8Photo: Slow Images
Elafoníssi Beach, Crete, Greece
Laid-back beachgoers and adrenaline junkies alike will love Elafoníssi for its array of activities and spectacular scenery. The pink sand and mountainous backdrop will keep shutterbugs happy, while active types can partake in surfing, kiteboarding, or wind surfing. And once you’ve worked up an appetite, head to one of the local tavernas for a plate of dakos—a local specialty of crisp bread topped with a mix of fresh tomatoes, mitzithra cheese, olive oil, and herbs.
On top of the incredible scenery Formentera’s beaches are known for, you’ll find something for everyone at this lengthy strip of Spanish shore. Rent a beach chair and umbrella for the day and take advantage of oceanfront beverage service, enjoy the view on a long walk, or join a game of beach volleyball. And since the beach goes on for miles, even travelers hoping for a secluded spot won’t have to wander far.
6 of 8Photo: Leisa Tyler / Contributor/Getty
Scala dei Turchi, Sicily, Italy
Even in the off-season, the famed Turkish Steps are well worth a detour. Millions of years of erosion have carved the stark white marlstone into a series of stairs climbing up from the water, and they’re stunning to see even when it’s too chilly to go for a swim. The place is popular with crowds, so if you’re hoping for a solo trip, set your alarm to go just before sunrise: You’ll be rewarded with a stellar photo op, a magical experience, and not a single fellow tourist in sight.
The U.K. isn’t a typical stop for beachgoers, but the striking scenery at this Dorset coastline makes it a must-see. In the summertime, swimming in the shadow of Durdle Door—a massive rock arch that plunges into the sea—is an otherworldly experience. And when temperatures start to dip, a hike along the cliffs with Dorset’s rolling green hills on one side and the sweeping ocean views across the rugged Jurassic Coast on the other is something you won’t soon forget.
8 of 8Photo: Tim Draper/Getty OR Tuul and Bruno Morandi/Getty
A steep triangle jutting out into the sea, Zlatni Rat’s unique shape means even more sandy surface area for sunbathers. The natural beauty here is plentiful—turquoise sea, dark green spit of forest, bright white beach—and it’s a haven for active types, since water sports abound. Take a windsurfing class, rent a paddleboard, or just snorkel in the bright, pristine waters. And with playgrounds, snack kiosks, and lifeguards on duty across the beach, it’s the place to go if you’re looking for a family-friendly Croatian getaway.