12 best beach holidays in Europe

CNN  — 

Whether it’s cold outside or the temperature is rising, the temptation to drop everything and run away to sunnier climes is never far away.

Wondering where to escape to? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

Here are 12 European beach vacation destinations that are worth visiting.

Papagayo Beach, Lanzarote, Spain

Spanish archipelago the Canary Islands, positioned west of Morocco, is a renowned destination for both summer and winter sun thanks to year-round sunshine, with temperatures reaching around 75 F (24 C) in November and 68 F (20 C) in December.

While each of the islands boasts impressive beaches, Lanzarote is home to what is considered to be the most impressive on the archipelago.

Positioned in an area of volcanic hills, shell-shaped Papagayo is the portal to a series of secluded stretches of white sand coastline. But its best feature is actually hidden underneath the surface: The waters beneath Coloradas Bay, bordered by Papagayo, are home to Europe’s first underwater museum, the Museo Atlantico.

Where to eat: Ideally positioned next to Papagayo Beach, Casa Angelina offers great views of the volcanic landscape as well as fantastic plates of fresh paella.

Casa Angelina, Playa Blanca, Las Palmas, Spain

Where to sleep: The four-star Hotel THe Mirador Papagayo is situated on Playa de Las Coloradas beach and is also within easy reach of Papagayo Beach.

THe Mirador Papagayo, Calle Las Palmas, 5, 35580 Playa Blanca, Las Palmas, Spain; +34 928 09 35 35

Nearest international airport: Lanzarote Airport, sometimes called Arrecife (ACE)

La Concha, San Sebastian, Spain

La Concha is mild and warm all year round.

Spain’s La Concha, also known as Playa de las Conchas, is nestled in the shell-shaped Concha Bay, home to Monte Urgull.

It’s even been given the royal seal of approval – Queen Isabella II came here for her bath therapy on the recommendation of her doctor back in the 19th century.

The beach is located in the coastal city of San Sebastian in the Basque country, which has long been a favorite with families thanks to its sands (Playa de Gros is another highlight), not to mention its weather, which is mild and warm all year round.

Although it’s sunniest between June and August, sea temperatures are still around 60 F (15F) in November.

Where to eat: Pedro Subijana’s three Michelin-starred Akelarre restaurant, which overlooks the Bay of Biscay, serves up sublime eight-course tasting menus.

Akelarre, Padre Orkolaga Ibilbidea, 56, 20008 Donostia, Gipuzkoa; +34 943 31 12 09

Where to stay: Built in 1912, Hotel María Cristina flanks the famed La Concha beach and is a favorite with the stars. Former guests include Elizabeth Taylor, Bette Davis and Julia Roberts.

Hotel María Cristina, Paseo, República Argentina Kalea, 4, 20004 Donostia, Gipuzkoa; +34 943 43 76 00

Nearest international airport: Bilbao Airport (BIO)

Zlatni Rat, Brač, Croatia

Zlatni Rat is a great spot for surfers.

The most photographed beach in Croatia, Zlatni Rat lies on the southern coast of the island of Brač, in the region of Dalmatia.

This spit of land extending out into the Adriatic Sea is fringed by a Mediterranean pine grove that’s home to the remains of an ancient Roman villa.

The movement of the wind here means that one side takes the full impact, making it a great spot for surfers.

This area has a mild climate throughout the year, however it’s worth noting that winters can be unpredictable. But Croatia is nonetheless a year-round destination, with many big events taking place during the Christmas and New Year period.

Where to eat: Based in the village of Donji Humac, Konoba Kopačina serves up Brač specialities like vitalac, which is skewered lamb offal wrapped in lamb meat.

Konoba Kopačina, Donji Humac 7, 21423, Donji Humac; +385 21 647 707

Where to sleep: Comprised of 23 suites/maisonettes and 12 rooms, adults-only Hotel Lemongarden is one of the top hotels on the island of Brač.

Hotel Lemongarden, Perića Kala 1, 21403; +385 21 660 062

Nearest international airport: Split Airport (SPU)

Myrtos, Kefalonia, Greece

Myrtos beach had a starring role in the movie "Captain Corelli's Mandolin."

Based at the foot of a series of towering limestone cliffs, Myrtos looks like something out of a movie, because it is. The spectacular beach made a guest appearance in 2001 film “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin,” and its turquoise waters and white sands are even more striking in the flesh.

The island of Kefalonia is the largest of Greece’s Ionian islands, boasting a warm Mediterranean climate, reaching highs of 86 F (30 F) in the summer. It remains quite mild here during the off-peak season, with an average temperature high of 55 F (13 C), and is decidedly quieter, so you’ll have the beach to yourself (well, almost).

Where to eat: Tassia is a family-run, waterfront restaurant serving quality Greek cuisine using the finest ingredients from local producer.

Tassia, Fiskardo, Kefalonia 280 84; +30 2674 041205

Where to stay: Overlooking Sami Bay, the chic Odyssey Hotel features an outdoor pool, spa and a gym.

Odyssey Hotel, Agia Efimia, Kefalonia, Ag. Effimia 280 81; +30 2674 061089

Nearest international airport: Kefalonia International Airport (EFL)

Balos Beach, Crete, Greece

Balos is one of the most beautiful beaches in Crete.

Not only is Crete the largest island in Greece, it’s also one of the hottest due to its proximity to Africa, and stays reasonably warm during November and December.

With a coastline spanning 1,046 kilometers (649 miles), It’s an ideal destination for avid beach lovers.

Balos Beach and lagoon in Kissamos, Chania, is one of the most scenic spots on the island. A protected natural area, it holds around 400 species of plants, and an estimated 25 of these are indigenous in Crete.

The island, once the heart of Europe’s most ancient civilization, also holds various Minoan historic sites, so there’s a lot more to see here besides white sands.

Where to eat: Gramboussa, located near Balos, boasts great views of nearby Kissamos Bay and offers an intricate menu of traditional dishes.

Gramboussa, Emmanouil Diktaki 1, Kaliviani 734 00; +30 2822 022707

Where to stay: Set up in the style of an island retreat, Kaliviani Traditional Hotel is just nine kilometers from Balos Beach.

Kaliviani Traditional Hotel, Kaliviani 734 00, Greece; +30 2822 023204

Nearest international airport: Chania International Airport (CHQ)

Plage des Grands Sables, Belle-Ile-en-Mer, Brittany, France

Plage des Grands Sables is the most impressive of Brittany's many beaches.

Positioned off the coast of Brittany in northwest France, the island of Belle-Ile-en-Mer is an Instagrammer’s paradise. The “beautiful isle” boasts several old forts and a magnificent coastline, with 60 beaches dotted around.

While there are plenty to choose from, the fabulous Plage des Grands Sables takes the prize as the most impressive. Stretching for three kilometers (about two miles), it’s one of the rare convex beaches in Europe and a hot favorite with visitors to Brittany’s largest island.

Travelers flock to Belle-Ile-en-Mer during the summer months, particularly in August, when it holds an annual Opera festival. Although the island is warmest during this period, it has less rain and much milder winters compared to the mainland.

Where to eat: 180° at the Castel Clara Hotel allows diners to feast on the island’s finest produce while taking in panoramic views over its coastline.

Where to stay: The cliffside Castel Clara Hotel is located along the coast of Belle-Ile-en-Mer, overlooking the Bay of Goulphar, featuring two restaurants, and a spa.

Castel Clara Hotel, Port Goulphar, 56360 Bangor; +33 2 97 31 84 21

Nearest international airport: Dinard–Pleurtuit–Saint-Malo Airport (DNR)

Porto Santo, Madeira, Portugal

Porto Santo was once home to Christopher Columbus.

The Portuguese island of Madeira is in the Atlantic Ocean, situated about 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) away from mainland Portugal.

The average temperature doesn’t change much throughout the year here (although it’s slightly warmer in summer), but the waves can be better during fall and winter, so this is a great time for surfing enthusiasts to visit.

There are plenty of dazzling beaches around capital city Funchal, as well as the remarkable natural volcano swimming pool at Porto Moniz. However, our top pick is located on neighboring island Porto Santo, north of Madeira.

This stretch of sand is about as tranquil as it gets, with plenty of dive sites lurking underneath the waters. Christopher Columbus once resided on Porto Santo and principal town Vila Baleira houses a museum dedicated to the Italian explorer, based in his former residence.

Where to eat: Based at the historical fortress of São Tiago, Restaurante Do Forte is one of the best dining spots in Madeira.

Restaurante Do Forte, Tv. do Forte 3, 9060-123 Funchal, Portugal; +351 291 215 580

Where to stay: Designed by renowned architect Ricardo Bolfill, Hotel The Vine houses a spa as well as a three-Michelin-star restaurant.

Nearest international airport: Madeira Airport (FNC)

Hotel The Vine, R. dos Aranhas 27, 9000-027 Funchal; +351 291 009 000

Chia, Sardinia, Italy

Baia Chia has white sands, golden dunes and turquoise waters.

Sardinia’s six-month warm season is one of the many reasons why it remains such a popular beach holiday destination. The island enjoys sunny weather from May to October, and while things start to cool off in the fall, temperatures can still reach up to 63 F (17 C) this time of year.

Although there are countless beautiful beaches in the area, some of the standouts are located in the coastal village of Chia, positioned on the southwest coast.

The main beach stretch of beach here is Baia Chia, which boasts white sands, golden dunes and turquoise waters ideal of snorkeling and scuba diving.

However, its top selling point is that it’s positioned in front of a lagoon that serves as a flamingo breeding ground, meaning you can spot flamingos (and sometimes dolphins) in the distance as you soak up the sun.

Where to eat: Ristorante Mirage serves traditional Sardinian food using only local ingredients.

Ristorante Mirage, Viale Chia, 10, 09010 Domus De Maria CA, Italy; +39 070 923 0249

Where to stay: The 41-room Aquadulci is located just a short walk away from Su Giudeu Beach and Baia Chia Beach.

Hotel Aquadulci, Loc. Spartivento, 09010 Chia, Domus De Maria CA, Italy; +39 070 923 0555

Nearest international airport: Cagliari Elmas (CAG)

Scala dei Turchi, Sicily, Italy

The Scala dei Turchi is formed by marl, a sedimentary rock with a characteristic white color.

Like Sardinia, Sicily isn’t short of spectacular beaches, but Scala dei Turchi (which translates as “Turkish Steps”) definitely takes the prize for the most breathtaking backdrop.

Mother Nature has transformed the limestone coastline here into what can only be described as a natural staircase, as beautiful as it is dramatic, that leads into the blue Mediterranean waters below.

It’s based in Agrigento, one of Sicily’s oldest towns, located in the southern coast. Known as the “City of Temples,” it’s home to architectural sites such as the Doric temples that stand in the nearby Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Although the region is hottest in August, the weather is mild all year round, so there’s really no such thing as a bad time to visit.

Where to eat: Positioned just a five-minute walk from Scala dei Turchi, Majata serves up local food on the waterfront.

Majata, Contrada Punta Grande, 59, 92010 Punta Grande AG; +39 0922 816485

Where to stay: The four-star Scala dei Turchi Resort is located just 300 meters from Scala dei Turchi, and boasts impressive views of the imposing white rock formation.

Scala dei Turchi Resort, SP68, 92010 Loc.Scala dei Turchi, Realmonte AG; +39 0922 816572

Nearest international airport: Comiso Airport (CIY)

Ölüdeniz Beach, Ölüdeniz, Turkey

You can see why Oludeniz is on a stretch known as the "turquoise coast."

Situated on Turkey’s Turquoise Coast, this famous lagoon beach is one of the most recognizable sights in the country.

Veiled by rugged mountains, its clear waters are a shade of blue so eye-wateringly magnificent, you’ll want to take a dip immediately.

The allure of the “Dead Sea” means it’s packed with tourists during summer, so visiting during low seasons would afford you more breathing (and sunbathing) room. Ölüdeniz is also one of the top destinations in the country for tandem paragliding.

Where to eat: Inci Restaurant – an authentic Ölüdeniz establishment with plenty of Turkish classics on the menu

Inci Restaurant, Ölüdeni̇z Caddesi̇; 48300 Fethiye

Where to sleep: La Boutique Maya is located just 700 meters from Ölüdeniz Beach and offers 30 soundproof rooms.

La Boutique Maya, Oludeniz Carsi Cad. No:23 Fethiye; +90 252 617 01 02

Nearest international airport: Dalaman Airport (DLM)

Butterfly Valley, Turkey

Butterfly Valley: Hard to reach, but worth it.

Due to its designation as a protected area, visitors heading to Butterfly Valley in Turkey’s Fethiye have to take a boat trip or walk down a ridiculously steep cliff to get there, but the undeveloped beach is more than worth the effort.

Although it gets its name from the estimated 100 species of butterflies that can be found here from June to September, it’s actually a great beach to visit almost all year round. While dedicated beach fans opt to camp here overnight, there are plenty of accommodation options in central Fethiye, which is a popular with families, and neighboring beach resort Ölüdeniz.

Where to eat: Fethiye fish market is surrounded by small restaurants where you can have your fish cooked after you buy it, making for a unique dining experience.

Fethiye fish market, Belediye Cad., Fethiye 48300

Where to sleep: With just 15 rooms and suites, luxury hotel Casa Margot has an uber-exclusive feel and is ideally situated right in the center of Fethiye.

Casa Margot, Karagözler Mahallesi, Abdi İpekçi Cd. No:23, 48300 Fethiye/Muğla; +90 252 614 01 90

Nearest international airport: Dalaman Airport (DLM)

Hammamet Beach, Tunisia

The central beach of Hammamet, in Tunisia.

Yes, we’re aware that Tunisia isn’t in Europe, but when the sun sinks on summer across the northern Mediterranean, we’re happy to stretch the frontiers to include somewhere warmer.

Bordering the Mediterranean Sea and Sahara Desert, the North African country is synonymous with golden beaches and sparkling waters. Its top beach town Hammamet is nicknamed “Tunisia’s Saint-Tropez,” thanks in part to its nightlife and incredible coastline.

The 10-kilometer (six mile) long beach here bends around the Cap Bon peninsula, with many different sprawling sections. Meanwhile, the medina, surrounded by 15th-century walls, is where you’ll find souks, spice markets, hammams, a cultural center and the Great Mosque.

Where to eat: Le Barberousse sits high on the medina walls, with view of the Place des Martyrs and the old city as well as a varied menu featuring plenty of seafood.

Le Barberousse, Kasbah, Hammamet City, Hammamet 8050; +216 72 280 037

Where to stay: Beachfront hotel The Sindbad stands over the Gulf of Hammamet and has rooms built in a Moorish bungalow style, surrounded by a lush garden.

The Sindbad, C28, Hammamet 8050; +216 72 280 122

Nearest international airport: Tunis-Carthage International Airport (TUN)