Airlines are opening new routes and resuming old ones every week, increasingly expanding flights to and from Europe. Hotels are offering discounts. And countries such as Malta are even offering to pay visitors as the continent reopens its borders to foreign visitors and prepares for a “more normal” summer by early July.
In other words, all seems to indicate that the time has come at last for travelers to be able to plan a summer beach vacation in Europe, post-coronavirus.
Although the US has not opened to international leisure visitors from most of Europe, the European Union signaled last week that it will ease restrictions for vaccinated travelers from outside the bloc, including Great Britain and the United States.
“The E.U. shut its borders last year in a bid to stop Covid-19 from spreading, but many member states that are heavily reliant on tourism are desperate for foreign travelers to return,” reports NBC, noting that searches for E.U. airfares from the U.S. went up by 47%, according to the airfare analytics firm Hopper.
Here are 13 beautiful beaches selected as the safest in Europe by European Best Destinations, based on criteria such as lower number of Covid-19 cases during the pandemic and at the time of this article, on vaccination rates and on charters and health measures taken by the authorities in each destination.
“These places have also been selected on the basis of the large offer of private villas, tourist apartments, small- or medium-sized hotels with specific health charter and commitments to travelers safety such as cleaning and room disinfection service after each stay and respect for social distancing,” EBD writes.
The destinations selected impose no mandatory quarantine upon arrival (as long as the visitor has proof of a negative test), offer bars and restaurants that are open late or without curfews, provide supervised beaches and recognize the vaccination passport, with no additional test required.
The document to prove who is vaccinated — on paper or digital formats — is starting to be issued by the countries to help ease restrictions and open borders to international travel.
In Europe, the Digital Green Pass that the European Union is aiming to start issuing by June 21 is expected to be used by all the member countries.
“For your safety and that of the most vulnerable people, we invite you to schedule your vaccination before you go on holiday,” EBD recommends. “If you do not want to do numerous tests, please choose destinations that recognize the vaccination certificate such as Malta, Greece and Madeira.”
Malta, for example, which has the best vaccination rate in Europe, will roll out the red carpet for visitors this summer, offering up to €200 ($244) per stay per person.
Madeir- is offering free tests if needed.
At the top of the list is a beach located in a sustainable destination (EDEN destination awarded by the European Commission), so you have a combination of safety/sun/sustainability.
1. Ghadira Bay, Mellieha, Malta
Malta’s largest sandy beach, Ghadira Bay in Mellieha, and its 12 beautiful coves is ready for visitors. As the largest beach of the 13 pocket beaches around Mellieħa, it has space enough for sunbathers to keep safe distances.
Nature, gastronomy and culture combine naturally in Mellieha, a destination that has been awarded the EDEN label by the European Commission for its commitment to sustainable tourism.
Malta has experienced up to four times fewer severe cases of Covid-19 than the most affected European countries. As of May 28, 2021, Malta had the highest COVID-19 vaccination rate in Europe, having administered 107.46 doses per 100 people in the country. Tourism professionals have been vaccinated as a priority to ensure the welcoming of visitors under the best sanitary conditions.
Malta’s Tourism Minister has announced that travelers booking directly on the website of 3- 4- and 5-star hotels in Malta and Gozo Island (not via Booking or Airbnb) will receive financial assistance of up to €200 per person with a required stay of at least three nights.
From June, restaurants and bars will be open until midnight. Masks on the beaches are recommended but not compulsory.
A vaccination certificate or negative coronavirus test (conducted at least 72 hours before departure) are required for a stay, without quarantine.
2. Porto Santo Beach, Porto Santo, Madeira Islands, Portugal
The Madeira islands are among the safest destinations this summer and count among the least-affected areas of Portugal, (and of Europe) along with the Azores, the Alentejo and the Algarve.
Wearing a mask is compulsory on busy streets but not if you are playing a sport or sunbathing on the beach.
Madeira is an archipelago made up of several islands. Porto Santo, with 5,500 inhabitants, is one of them and famous for its nine kilometers of golden silky sandy beaches.
For that reason, the island is also called “Ilha Dourada” (Golden Island). The year-round temperate climate and sea temperatures ranging between 17ºC and 22ºC, makes it attractive, through all seasons.
The sand of Porto Santo is considered to have therapeutic features and are used for “psammotherapy” (hot sands).
3. Ir-Ramla Beach, Gozo Island, Malta
Gozo is one of the 21 islands in the Mediterranean Sea that make up the Maltese archipelago. It’s a stunning destination known for its Neolithic Ġgantija Temple ruins, rural hiking paths, great beaches and scuba-diving sites.
As an incentive for travelers to visit, the Maltese authorities are offering up to €200 per person (minimum stay of three nights and direct booking on the website of a 3-, 4-, or 5-star hotel).
Gozo is considered Malta’s sister island but greener, more rural and smaller, with a spectacular coastline and some of the best dive sites in Europe.
Negative covid test or a vaccination certificate will permit visitors to stay without quarantine.
4. Praia Nova, Porches, Lagoa, Algarve, Portugal
Almost untouched by covid-19, the Algarve region in Portugal is one of the safest destinations in Europe with eight times fewer severe cases per million inhabitants than many other severely-hit countries.
Surrounded by high cliffs and lush vegetation to the east of Senhora da Rocha Beach, Praia Nova is considered one of the best-kept secrets of the Algarve region. Clean air, beautiful walks along the coast and unspoiled nature grace this less-touristic area of the Lagoa region.
Along with its unsurpassed beaches, Lagoa also boasts picturesque villages such as Carvoeiro, Ferragudo and Porches.
Porches and the Algarve in general put measures in place very early to protect the local population and to reduce the spread of Covid-19 to become one of the safest destinations.
Negative covid test or vaccination certificate will permit visitors to stay without quarantine.
5. Egremni Beach, Lefkada Island, Greece
With its turquoise waters, classified among the bluest water in the world, fine white sand and cliffs that flow into the sea, Egremni is one of the most beautiful beaches in Greece.
Located on the island of Lefkada in the Ionian Sea, also one of the most beautiful islands in Greece, Egremni beach with its sheer cliffs has often been described as “inaccessible.”
Lefkada, connected to the mainland by a floating swing bridge, is surrounded by 24 islets – Aristotle Onassis’s Skorpios among them. Other noteworthy sights on the island are churches, monasteries, picturesque villages and secluded beaches surrounded by lush vegetation.
“Fancy a walk in the great outdoors? Park your car at Egremni beach and walk to Porto Katsiki,” EBD recommends. “Porto Katiski means “Goat port” in Greek. Because only goats could reach the area before. The beach is at the bottom of a concave cliff. Now it is accessible to people, too.”
Greece very quickly positioned itself in favor of the vaccination passport and was one of the first to recognize it. Vaccination certificate or negative covid test taken 72 hours before arrival allow visitors to stay without quarantine.
6. Riviera Beach, Ghajn Tuffieha, Mellieha, Malta
Beneath the amazing, 17th-century, clifftop Ghajn Tuffieha Tower, where you can admire sublime sunsets, this unspoiled beach is known to cliff-walkers and bird watchers alike — a safe and natural refuge during a sunny holiday in Malta.
With four times fewer severe cases of Covid-19 than the most-affected European countries, Malta has remained one of the safest destinations in Europe throughout the pandemic. With the highest vaccination rate in Europe and inducements to welcome travelers (up to €200 reimbursed per person, per stay if you book in a hotel for at least three days), Malta is positioned as a must-see destination of the year.
Located a few minutes from the famous “Golden Bay Beach,” Riviera Beach is a surprising red-sand beach nestled in the heart of a natural bay and famous with Instagram users and nature lovers.
Malta reopened restaurants and snack bars until midnight starting May 24. Wearing a mask on the beach is not compulsory.
A vaccination certificate or negative covid-19 test will allow visitors to stay without quarantine.
7. Las Teresitas, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Tenerife Island, Spain
Open to vaccinated travelers from around the world starting June 7, Spain is one of the top travel destinations for this summer.
Nestled in the hollow of the hills, with the village of San André in the background, its golden sands (imported from the Sahara) and its palm trees, Las Teresitas is one of the most beautiful beaches on the Canary Islands.
The Spanish Canary Islands are an archipelago of rugged, volcanic islands known for their black- and white-sand beaches. Tenerife, dominated by Mt. Teide, a dormant volcano that is Spain’s tallest peak, is the largest island. It’s best known for its Carnaval de Santa Cruz, a huge pre-Lent festival with parades, music, dancing and colorful costumes.
Las Teresitas, located near the capital, Santa Cruz, is popular with locals and far from the crowded tourist beaches of the Costa Adeje, where the main resorts are located. “Tenerife is a destination that has found a balance in its tourist development,” explains EBD. “The vast majority of the island is preserved from mass tourism.”
For a holiday away from the crowds, EBD advises the north coast of the island (Puerto de la Cruz, La Matanza de Acentejo and Tacoronte, for example). “For wild beaches far from mass tourism, discover Almaciga, a village of incredible beauty with a black-sand beach of volcanic origin.”
8. Praia Grande, Ferragudo, Lagoa, Algarve
The municipality of Lagoa in Portugal has some of the best beaches of the region and brings together picturesque places including Carvoiero, Porches, Ferragudo, the Benagil cellars and the trail of the seven hanging valleys (awarded as the most beautiful hiking trail in Europe).
With many hotels and resorts on a human scale, but also many villas with swimming pools and a wide range of tourist apartments, Lagoa is the opposite of huge, anonymous seaside resorts. Rich in cultural, religious and gastronomic heritage Lagoa is also the capital of pottery.
Ferragudo, a former fishing village in the municipality popular with travelers looking for beautiful beaches, restaurants and local shops, is considered one of the most charming places in the Algarve.
Praia Grande, as the name suggests, is Ferragudo’s largest beach. Accessible both to people with reduced mobility and families with strollers, it has a play area for children, a snack bar, umbrellas and deckchairs that can be rented for a half day or for the whole day — and at more affordable prices than other coasts in Europe.
The municipality of Lagoa has set up many standards to fight Covid: It was among the first cities in Europe to provide free masks to its inhabitants starting in the spring of 2020, and also set up tailor-made support for tourism professionals to welcome travelers in high-level sanitary conditions.
Well sheltered, Praia Grande has few waves and currents, making it reassuring for families with young children as the water is not deep over a large area.
9. Ribeira Grande Beach, Sao Miguel, Azores, Portugal
Renowned for its “Lagoa do Fogo” (hot spring) and chosen as one of the seven wonders of Portugal, Ribeira Grande is a town located on the north of the island of Sao Miguel, the biggest island in the Portuguese Azores archipelago.
Sao Miguel is known for its volcanic scenery, flora and rich marine life, including whales. Ponta Delgada, the capital, is home to the 18th-century City Gates, Gothic St. Sebastian Church and 16th-century Fort of São Brás.
One of the largest beaches on the island Ribeira Grande, which bears the name of “Praio do Areal de Santa Barbonara” is popular for surfing and also suitable for a swim or a lazy day of sun bathing.
Particularly well preserved from Covid-19 throughout the pandemic, the Azores experienced 25 fewer Covid-related deaths per million inhabitants than the most affected European countries and 15 times fewer severe cases than mainland Portugal.
“With its wide open spaces surrounded by nature, outdoors sports such as kayaking, horse riding, sailing, paragliding, trekking, paddle boarding and surfing, Ribeira Grande is a great destination to recharge your batteries this summer,” EBD advises.
Praia do Areal de Santa Barbara is a supervised beach.
Vaccination certificate or negative Covid-19 test will allow visitors to stay without quarantine.
10. Monolithi beach, Preveza, Greece
Known as a “seaside gem famous for being no-pretentious,” Preveza is one of those places in northwestern Greece, at the mouth of the Ambracian Gulf, where you can literally just switch off and unwind.
With a mix of fascinating history and cosmopolitan cafes, Preveza is a favorite getaway for those who love the beaches with crystalline water and a languid way of life.
Monolithi Beach is the main beach in Preveza and at 22 kilometers long and 80 meters wide, the longest. In fact, it one of the longest beaches in Europe.
Greece is among Europe’s least affected by coronavirus and has taken extra safety and health measures to ensure a safe holiday for travelers. For example, air conditioner filters are changed after each stay and a distance of four meters is compulsory between each beach umbrella.
“Known for its excellent value for money, Preveza is the anti-St Tropez,” writes EBD. “With affordable hotel, restaurants and cafés, this summer the town will also have deckchairs for free and cleaned between occupants. Greece has also cut taxes on flights, trains, buses and other services.”
11. Golden Beach, Cyprus
With one of the lowest rates of severe cases of Covid-19 in Europe, the island nation of Cyprus, the third largest and third most populous island in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, is one of the safest summer destinations in Europe this year.
Golden Beach is an unspoiled, yellow sandy beach on a peninsula backed by dunes and facing the Mediterranean.
With its turquoise waters and mythical places such as the “Aphrodite Bath,” Cape Greko, or the “Bridge of lovers,” and other legendary beaches including Nissi Beach, Cyprus is known as Europe’s sunniest island.
Cyprus will have vaccinated more than 60% of its population by the end of June, one of the best rates in Europe.
Restaurants and bars are open now, most restrictions have been lifted, the curfew is at midnight and nightclubs will open from June 10 (upon presentation of a safepass, a document proving that you have recovered from Covid-19 in the past six months, a vaccination certificate or a negative test performed 72 hours maximum prior to arrival.
12. Puerto de Tazacorte Beach, La Palma, Canary Islands
Less touristy than Gran Canaria or the Costa Adeje on the island of Tenerife, the island of La Palma appeals to lovers of wild nature, surfing, hiking, biking and to enthusiasts of astronomy thanks to one of the clearest skies in Europe.
For that reason, one of the most powerful astronomical observatories in the world is located on this island.
La Palma is the northernmost of the Canary Islands and has been declared as a World Biosphere Reserve and Starlight Reserve.
Rugged, beautiful, surprising and spectacular are among the adjectives to explain its nickname as “La Isla Bonita” (the Pretty Island).
The island’s capital, Santa Cruz de la Palma, is a port town with narrow cobbled streets and houses with wooden balconies. The Caldera de Taburiente National Park has a huge crater-shaped formation and is covered in pine forest and cut by waterfalls.
Clean air and clear skies await you on this island that is up to 10 times less affected by Covid-19 than other regions of Europe.
“Puerto de Tazacorte and Santa Cruz are charming, colorful towns that remind us of Havana,” EBD explains. “Waves of people from La Palma left for Havana in the past and some came back with a lifestyle, tastes and products of Cuban origin. It is therefore not surprising to count a dozen artisanal cigar factories in pure Cuban style in La Palma.”
The black sand volcanic beaches of La Palma have an unsuspected quality: They accumulate heat and warmth from the crystal-clear water that comes and goes during the tides.
“The volcanic sand beaches of Puerto Naos, Charco Verde, Puerto de Tazacorte, Nogales, await you for a safe and relaxing holiday,” EBD says. “During your stay, be sure to visit the pink salt shakers of La Palma as well as the Pirate Cave Poris de Candelaria.”
Restaurants and bars are open until midnight and wearing a mask is not compulsory on the beaches and during sporting activities.
Negative Covid-19 test or vaccination certificate allow you to stay in La Palma without quarantine.
13. Halikounas Beach, Corfu, Greece
“Blessed by the gods,” Corfu is one of the greenest Greek islands of the Ionian group and Halikounas Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches on the island.
Defined by rugged mountains, the island offers exceptional flora and fauna, lush green hills, a resort-studded shoreline, interesting museums and many other idyllic beaches. Corfu Town is flanked by two imposing Venetian fortresses, features winding medieval lanes and the grand Palace of St. Michael and St. George.
Halikounas Beach is three kilometers long, perfect for respecting social distances.
Greece is one of the pioneer countries recognizing the vaccine passport.
“Tourism professionals, as well as most of the population of the Greek islands, have been vaccinated to welcome visitors in the best possible sanitary conditions this summer,” EBD informs.
Hotels, restaurants and bars are open and the curfew has been postponed to half past midnight.
Vaccination passport or a negative Covid-19 test performed no more than 72 hours before your arrival are required to enter the island.