The beach isn’t usually what people think about when planning a trip to Europe in winter, but it should be! While most people in Europe focus on snowy mountains and Christmas markets, the beaches become deserted and more beautiful than ever.
In the north of Europe, the beaches become more spectacularly beautiful than ever. In the south, the waters remain warm enough for swimming, and the golden sands aren’t overcrowded, making a trip to the sea with your friends a relaxing, calming experience (unlike the busy summer months).
To inspire you for your next travel, we’ve decided to show you the prettiest European beaches to visit during winter for a less common experience.
Haukland Beach, Norway
However, it’s during the winter when this beach becomes one of the best beaches in the world. Although swimming would require specialist gear for anyone trying to brave the freezing waters, just standing on the sand and admiring this view is a once-in-a-lifetime moment.
The mountains, green fields, and the beach are covered with a layer of sparkling snow that shines against the iron sky and the sea.
As the Northern Lights dance overhead, the mountains themselves flicker and lean into the beach, you’ll feel like you’ve got a private showing of one of the greatest natural views in the world.
West Beach, Scotland
West Beach on the Isle of Berneray, Scotland, is a 5 km stretch of white dunes, and crystal blue water. It is the kind of beach you’d see on a postcard; in fact, this beach is so perfect it was once featured on a tourist brochure in Thailand to promote Scotland’s beaches!
Enjoy a brisk stroll along the wind-swept sands and the surrounding dunes, paddle in the gentle waves, admire the horses galloping past, keep your eyes peeled for seals, and enjoy some winter sun.
It’s one of Europe’s most calming and invigorating beaches that feels surprisingly tropical. Note that this is also a dog-friendly beach.
In summer, it can get pretty hectic as its beauty makes it so crowded, but in winter, it’s a Scottish paradise.
Prainha Beach, Madeira
I’m cheating a bit, since the Portuguese island of Madeira isn’t in Europe, not geographically at least: it’s located off the coast of Africa, near the more famous Canary Islands that belong to Spain.
The island isn’t famous for its beaches since the island’s volcanic history means they are either pebbly or just a collection of rocks jutting out of the sea.
But Prainha Beach is the exception!
This black sand beach remains warm all year round, so swimming and sunbathing are possible even during winter. The warm, dark sands keep the sun’s heat, and the beach’s sheltered position creates a cozy climate keeping you toasty.
Prainha Beach is a very popular spot in summer since it has good changing facilities and a cute beach bar. However, in winter, few people make the trip, allowing you to enjoy the experience in peace.
Stay tuned for my upcoming post about Madeira to make the most of your time on the island.
Fig Tree Bay, Cyprus
Another beach that’s only politically and culturally in Europe. Cyprus is a great destination that, Andrew, Flytrippers’ co-founder visited (you can read his Cyprus roadtrip itinerary).
If you want to enjoy a traditional trip to the beach with the sun beating down, white sands, islands, and plenty of water sports, Fig Tree Bay is Cyprus’s best offering.
Stretching for 300 meters along the southwest of the island, the fine sands, turquoise water, and stunning grove of fig trees make this bay a haven all year round. A small island sits just off the beach, so you can swim out and look back on the main island.
A nearby peninsula protects the beach, so it enjoys less wind and calmer waters. Striped umbrellas and sun loungers here and there, with bars playing local music and the sound of vendors haggling over prices drifting in the breeze.
In winter, the beach and nearby resort are incredibly quiet, so you’ll find yourself chatting with locals and enjoying better food and more space on the sand for games, picnics, and sunbathing.
Sandy Bay, Gibraltar
The golden honey sand and lush turquoise waters of Sandy Bay, in the British territory of Gibraltar near Spain, is one of the country’s most unusual beaches. It looks like it doesn’t belong because it doesn’t.
The sand from Sandy Bay was actually brought in from the Sahara desert in huge quantities to help restore the beach after a few violent storms. The result is a European beach that feels like a tropical African paradise. A new stone breakwater wall has helped protect the beach, making it now a gentle, warm pool of water.
The lagoon-style beach is packed in summer with tourists looking to enjoy this strange blend of natural and man-made paradise.
The water stays warm all year round, and the sand is soft and perfect for burying your toes in during a winter picnic.
Reynisfjara is one of the only beaches in the world that becomes busier during winter! This world-famous black sand beach is at its most beautiful when it contrasts with the bright white snow.
Lying on Iceland’s south coast, Reynisfjara is arguably the most dramatic and spectacular beach in the whole world.
The black sand is pierced by huge boulders and soaring cliffs of black basalt. Giant columns just out of the water offer a mystical atmosphere.
Even better, this is one of the best places to see the Northern lights. The sheer cliffs, roaring waves, the call of seabirds, and the vastness and emptiness of the beach are all a shock for your senses. When the snow comes, and the rest of the world is all white, the black Reynisfjara beach is unlike anywhere else on planet Earth.
It’s not the kind of beach you sunbathe on, but it is the kind of beach you can’t ever forget.
Learning how to travel for less
Join over 100,000 savvy Canadian travelers who already receive Flytrippers’ free newsletter so we can help you travel for less (and inspire you, too)!
What would you like to know about Europe’s best winter beaches? Tell us in the comments below.
See the flight deals we spot: Cheap flights
Discover free travel with rewards: Travel rewards
Explore awesome destinations: Travel inspiration
Learn pro tricks: Travel tips
Featured image: Reynisfjara (photo credit: Shadman Sakib)