At tonic for... a short haul sun craving
From Cornish-style coves to sizzling city-beaches and endless bays, Spain has got every kind of beach imaginable. Grab a towel and come with us in search of the hottest spots, from Cadiz to Cantabria...
Perfect 10 Spanish beaches
Whale-watching, windsurfing, a little day-trip over to Morocco; just some of the ways to spend your time in one of Spain's windiest resorts- this is where the Atlantic sea comes crashing into the Med. With Africa visible just over the Strait of Gibraltar, Moorish castles looming on the horizon and unbelievably long tracts of deserted golden sand, there's nowhere quite like it in Europe.
This is Baelo Claudia, situated to the north of Tarifa. Not only does this beach have miles of uninterrupted sand spreading along the south-east Atlantic shore, it's got some Roman ruins as well. The combination of ghostly abandoned city and sweeping shoreline make it truly unique, especially bathed in brilliant light at dusk.
This stretch of sand in the little Balearic isle of Formentera comes highly recommended by the Spanish themselves. Although Spaniards have been holidaying here in increasing numbers throughout the last decade, the international crowd is yet to catch on. 'Yet' being the key word. With its ivory-white sand and clearest turquoise sea, Ses Illetes could be mistaken for the Caribbean.
Now it's off to Galicia. This is the so-called Playa de las Catedrales or 'Beach of Cathedrals', near Ribadeo, in the province of Lugo. Rising out of the sand are huge, buttressed pillars of slate and shale, which give it its sombre cathedral-style effect, while at each end are cliffs full of grottos and arches eroded by millennia of crashing waves coming in off the Atlantic seaboard.
A far cry from its industrial neighbour Bilbao, San Sebastian is very much the chic seaside resort. Protected from the worst winds coming off the Bay of Biscay by steep bluffs and an island, La Concha is one of Spain's most famous beaches. Here you can go surfing and then wander along the promenade in search of the city's famous pintxo restaurants. For really good views of the beach and the city, you can head up to Monte Igueldo at the eastern end.
A sombre, pallid, grey colour, not what you'd expect in Spain, the cliffs of this wild Almerian landscape enclose some of Spain's most secluded spots. This is Europe's driest region, making the sea exceptionally refreshing when you dive in. Coral reefs make it a great spot to go snorkelling and diving. Meanwhile in the salt flats, there are flamingoes and lots of flora and fauna to spot.
It's not the prettiest- but what this beach in the old fishing barrio of Barceloneta lacks in tranquillity and clean waters, it certainly makes up for with its sheer exuberance. During summer, the chiringuitos rumble with music, the tapas bars do a roaring trade... and then there's the beach sellers. From singing, dancing donut merchants to Chinese masseuses and tarot card readers, there's always something to entertain.
Narrow bays? Rocky headlands? Grassy knolls? Moody weather? Looks and sounds like Cornwall. But it ain't. It's Cantabria, in northern Spain, where the climate is very similar to our own. Despite the ever-present possibility of drizzle, Cantabria is still several degrees warmer than here though, you'll be comforted to hear.
For many, Spain's coastline reaches its greatest expression in the misty northern province of Asturias, while inland is the gargantuan Picos de Europa mountain range, crossed by thousands of pilgrims doing the Santiago Trail every year. The weather here on the coast might not match the Costa Del Sol's, but for untouched scenery it simply blows raspberries at it. Playa del Silencio means 'beach of silence'. Long may the silence continue.
Here, just south of the amusingly titled resort of Tossa de Mar, are tumbling limestone cliffs piled with stone pines and giant boulders. With miles of woods and little bays to explore, a fantastic campsite with excellent facilities, and snorkelling-friendly crystalline waters uncluttered by the swarms of jellyfish characteristic of parts further north up the coast, this is the Costa Brava's best bet for beach fun.