The problem with beautiful beaches is that they tend to be full of tourists -- people like you and me. But go the extra mile and you can find undiscovered gems, even in the busy Mediterranean. These are some of the best beaches that have escaped the gaze of the great unwashed.
--Mark Hodson, Editor of 101 Holidays
If you're ever on the island of Gozo and stuck for something to do, you might be tempted to hike up to Calypso's Cave, near the town of Zaghra. According to local tradition, this was where Ogygia, the nymph in Homer's Odyssey, holed up. True or not, the most memorable part of the trip is not the cave itself, but the view down. Several hundred feet below you lies Ramla Bay, where the sea is a deep irridescent blue and the sand a distinctive fiery orange. Behind the beach are swathes of dunes and mature tamarisk trees. Truth be told, you might even wish you'd skipped the cave altogether and gone directly to the beach.
To most foreign visitors, Portugal means the Algarve. But the smart folks of Lisbon wouldn't be seen dead mixing with the tattoos-and-lager brigade. Instead, they head to Sesimbra, an atmospheric fishing port an hour's drive from the capital. Although not undeveloped, Sesimbra is authentic, its long beachfront lined with cafes and restaurants where sardines sizzle on charcoal grills. The south-facing shoreline is safe for swimming and there is an old harbour where fish is still sold at daily auctions. Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho's family home is nearby.
Few tourists make it as far as San Vito Lo Capo in the far north-west corner of Sicily. Although it has one of the island's finest beaches - a scimitar of white sand framed by high cliffs - most visitors are in-the-know Italian families. The town itself is modest, a single strip of bars and trattorias, but there is plenty to see, including the Zingaro Nature Reserve, which begins at the end of the beach. A network of walking trails leads you to deserted coves where buzzards and eagles circle overhead.
Although best known to Greek schoolchildren as the site of a 19th-century maritime victory against the Turks, Navarino Bay in the western Peloponnese has another claim to fame: its beaches are amongst the best in all Greece. Head first to Yialova, a sleepy village with a handful of waterfront tavernas. From there, rent a boat or take the dirt road around the bay's northern perimeter first to the golden sands of Divari then around a headland to the Bay of Voïdhokilia, a tiny cove shaped like the Greek letter Omega. Voïdhokilia is sublime, with calm emerald water and soft dunes that back onto a freshwater lagoon, a protected nature reserve. There are no bars or cafes on the beach and no vehicles allowed - for fear that they might disturb the endangered African chameleons.
Turkey has many pristine beaches, among the finest of which is at Cirali, a long stretch of fine white sand at the mouth of a towering canyon. The beach, an easy walk from the ancient ruined city of Olympos, is a protected nesting ground of loggerhead turtles. After dark, lights on the shore are extinguished so as not to confuse the hatching babies. On a moonless night the view of the Milky Way is phenomenal. There are no banana boats or disco bars at Cirali, just a perfect two-mile beach lapped by clear blue water, and some walking trails that will take you into the surrounding mountains.
Benirras near the northern tip of Ibiza is about as far as you can get from the fevered fleshpots of San Antonio. Here, at the end of a long and winding mountain road, lies a perfect slice of sand bookmarked by cliffs and overlooking a deep calm bay. In the 1960s Benirras became infamous as the scene of drug-fuelled orgies. Today it attracts a stylish mix of young Spaniards, Italians and Swedes, though the hippy vibe remains, and at the end of each day the sunset is hailed with a chorus of bongo players.
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