Ever since Victorian times, when people began building fashionable promenades and convenient beach huts at picturesque spots along the coast, the beach has become one of the most popular holiday destinations for those of us in the UK.
TripAdvisor revealed its annual Travellers' Choice Awards for the Best Beaches of Europe 2015 - check out our guide to the top choices of the overseas bunch, and let us help you pick your next holiday hotspot:
The castle at Lindos watches over this tiny beach as towering cliffs encircle the bay, forming a hidden cove which is ideal for swimming. The sea is a gleaming sapphire and the white-washed church of St. Paul's is popular for weddings due to the glorious scenery. You can combine a beach visit with a trip to the village of Lindos and the archaeological site, the Acropolis, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the landscape.
The glittering waters of Balos beach and its shimmering lagoon can be accessed by either a 10km dirt road or by boat. Its secluded location and breath-taking, turquoise waters make it a destination prized by day-trippers, particularly during the peak months of July and August. However, if you are looking for a little more tranquillity, visit the bay in the morning, before the first, official tour boats appear, and enjoy a few hours of bliss on the shores. Adults will enjoy swimming in the crystal clear sea whilst the shallow, shimmering waters of the lagoon are ideal for children.
The charming and tranquil coastal village of Bolonia is found 20km to the north of trendy Tarifa and is a favourite destination for Spanish tourists, far from the crowded Costa del Sol. Part of the reason for this might be the strong winds that can whip up in this area. Another might be the location – it's a little tucked out of the way. However, those that make the journey are rewarded by a protected area that boasts a clean, sweeping crescent of powdery, fine white sand – an undulating landscape of dunes sculpted by the wind. Bring a parasol, if possible, to provide some shade.
The Ionian Island of Lefkada boasts a coastline of impressive, rocky cliffs - a dramatic skyline, overlooking a bay of sublime, natural beauty. Take the 347 steps down the steep cliff-side to meet a long ribbon of pure white shore, lapped by aquamarine water. The swimming is great as the sea gets deep quickly and it's an excellent spot to catch some rays – there is a small kiosk where you can rent sun-loungers and parasols.
Abundant in natural beauty, visitors to Favignana spend their days strolling and soaking up the scenery. Cala Rosa is a small, secluded bay – there is no sand here but you can usually find a sturdy rock to perch your towel on. The real reason people can't get enough of Cala Rosa is the incredible water which pops with vivid greens and blues, as impressive as anything the Caribbean has to offer. It's a wonderful spot for snorkelling and swimming but aqua-shoes might be helpful to avoid the rocks.
Fig Tree Bay has become extremely popular so don't go expecting seclusion and quietude. However, what you can expect is stunning beauty with a wide, white sand beach, jewel-toned water and a host of conveniences such as wooden boardwalks, beach showers and an array of water-sports on offer. Fig Tree Bay is ideal for soaking up the sea, sun and sand whilst people-watching from the heart of the action.
Famous for its reputation as one of Europe's key nesting sites for loggerhead turtles, Iztuzu is a 4.5km curve of sandy beach; it's golden shores offering great swimming, cheap sun-loungers and chilled beers. Turtle nests are indicated with wooden stakes and wire mesh so that visitors can avoid disturbing the incubating eggs. There are a few shacks serving snacks and drinks and a distinct lack of development meaning that, for the time being, people and reptiles can continue to comfortably coexist in this peaceful paradise.
In Greek, the word Elafonissi means 'Treasure Island', a moniker referring to the booty pirates used to hide on these shores in days gone by. This popular beach is packed with sun-worshippers in the peak months but you can escape the sun-loungers by wading to the offshore island, a protected nature reserve, and searching for a quieter cove. The unique selling point of Elafonissi is its pink-hued sands, an effect of the pink coral fragments that catch the light in the sand. There are a couple of beach bars, facilities such as toilets and showers and plenty of sun-loungers on offer.
This chilled out island is often touted as the remedy to a raucous night on neighbouring Ibiza. A 30 minute ferry ride away from the party island, Playa de Ses Illetes is popular amongst the fashion and yacht set with its bohemian, peaceful ambience. There are a few beachside restaurants where you can sink a cold drink or sample some fresh, off the boat seafood but otherwise no further developments - just white sand, bronzed bodies and all that beautiful blue, as far as the eye can see.
The historic island of Lampedusa is rich in culture and a haven of peace, surrounded by cerulean seas. Life on Lampedusa is laid-back and visitor activities tend to focus around enjoying the blissful beaches, nature trails and perhaps a spot of fishing. Rabbit Beach has snagged the number one spot as the best beach in Europe for its mesmerising beauty – exotic shades of aquamarine, encircled by soft, white sand. You may even spot a few of the cuddly critters the area is named after.
Spoiled for choice? Once you've made your decision, don't forget to book your insurance. Compare travel insurance deals here at MedicalTravelCompared.co.uk to save time and money!