Winning tip: ‘Completely unspoilt’, Crete
Paralia Mazida Ammos in Xerokampos in Crete’s far south-east is a spectacular beach, surely up there with the top beaches in the world. From the first glimpse on the heartstopping drive over the mountains you can tell it is a special place. With a bay of dreamy soft white sand and azure water sparkling and clear, the gorgeous scenery is enough to make you shed a tear of joy! And amazingly this loveliness is completely unspoilt and quiet. The nearby village of Xerokampos has a taverna and a smattering of apartments and makes for an idyllic stay. Heaven.
Fragrant pines, Skiathos, Sporades islands
The Kalamaki peninsula in the south of Skiathos is where you’ll find my favourite beach, Kanapitsa. The narrow strip of sand is backed by fragrant pines and is pretty as well as accessible. Dip your toes in the cool shallow water without leaving your sunbed. While away the hours, as we did, watching the blue and white water taxi as it putters back and forth between the little wooden jetty and Skiathos town. You can arrive on this boat, spotting dolphins if you’re lucky, or hop off the island bus at stop 12, a 10-minute coastal stroll away. We’ve visited every year for two decades, and it hasn’t changed.
Shimmy to the beach, Milos, Cyclades
In the pantheon of Greek islands, Milos’s stunning volcanic landscape, mineral diversity and unique beaches often go underappreciated. South-facing Tsigrado is a small sandy cove with crystal-clear water, and famed for its precarious access route. Beachgoers must first shimmy down a rope on a sloping cliff face to enjoy this secluded paradise. However, if scaling cliffs isn’t your cup of tea, you can take a boat ride from nearby Firiplaka beach. The reward for this daring descent (or relaxing boat ride) is a quintessential Greek beach that is peaceful and stunning, with calm, glass-like water perfect for wading.
Lunar playground, Milos, Cyclades
Sarakiniko is a stunning beach in Milos. White volcanic rock sculpted by wind and waves curves over the sapphire-blue waters and offers swimmers a wild playground amid a lunar-like landscape, with a strip of white sand and tall cliffs. Bring your water shoes to scramble over the rocks before diving into the turquoise deep. Jutting out beyond the coast are little islets ready to be conquered.
Mamma Mia! memories, Pelion, mainland
A short walk around the headland from Agios Ioannis on the Pelion peninsula is Damouchari, a fabulous pebble beach where the Dancing Queen scene from Mamma Mia was filmed. Sunbathe, swim in the clear waters, jump off a rock, retire to the taverna for a cold beer and repeat.
Beach like a belly? Messinia, mainland
Voidokilia beach is also called Vouvota, which means ox belly. With its lovely turquoise waters and exquisite curve – which presumably someone thousands of years ago likened to an ox – it must be among the most paradisiacal and exotic places in Europe, and being in the south-western Peloponnese is not as busy perhaps as some of the beaches on the islands.
Boho vibes, Larissa, mainland
Psarolakas on the east coast is a laid-back, sheltered rocky beach, accessible only by a (poorly signposted) dirt track. The boho beach bar at the bottom of it makes up for the underwhelming journey to get there. Here visitors can sip iced coffee on large bean bags or rattan rockers then, when basking in the heat gets too much, cool off with a dip in the warm green water. The shallow cove makes for a safe and easy swim, although be wary of little black urchins and their spikes near the submerged rocks. It’s a lovely quiet family-treasure of a beach, with plenty to keep both kids and adults entertained.
Floating in paradise, Ithaca, Ionian islands
Take care, the sparkling white sand of Gidaki beach on Ithaca is so bright you’ll be dazzled unless you’re wearing good sunglasses. The beach is best reached by boat or water taxi from Vathy, the island’s main town (although there is a path from Skinos – where there’s a pleasant pebbly beach – that takes about an hour to hike). The combination of blinding white pebbles, electric blue sea and bright sunshine form a potent visual cocktail. Throw yourself into the sea and take in the stunning backdrop of steep tree-covered cliffs. It’s like floating in paradise. As dusk draws in I find that drinking a beer while eating octopus salad at the beach shack here is a fine way to end the day.
Antipaxos idyll, Ionion islands
The beach of Voutoumi in Antipaxos may not be the easiest beach to get to (we got there by boat from Paxos), but that has helped preserve its amazing beauty. White sand with crystal clear light blue water, it is a perfect idyll, and relatively quiet – perfect for families and couples.
Double the pleasure, Corfu, Ionion islands
Dodge the crowds and bathe in tranquillity in the turquoise waters of Corfu’s best-kept secret, Porto Timoni. It’s an unusual double-sided beach which some guides claim is only accessible via sea; however, you can park on the road near the Porto Timono restaurant and hike downhill in about 20 minutes to reach the beach on foot. There are no facilities at the beach, but you can stop off at Porto Timono restaurant on the way back for a refreshing watermelon cocktail and panoramic views of the secluded beaches.