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A chameleon on Bolonia beach in Tarifa (Cádiz). 

Spain’s 10 best beaches, according to Valverdedelcamino readers

10 fotos

These are the spots that received the most votes by followers of the travel supplement El Viajero in a recent online survey. How many of them do you know?

  • This three-kilometer stretch of sand on the Atlantic preserves a semi-rustic look – in fact, it is still possible to take pictures of cows near the water. This is partly because it is located in a not-very-handy spot between Valdevaqueros and Zahara de los Atunes, and partly because it belongs to the natural park of the Strait. Beachgoers are advised to show up bright and early, as it gets quite crowded. But this is offset by the infinite pine-covered spaces that surround the beach, and of course by the splendid Roman-era city-factory of Baelo Claudia located nearby. The fact that this is a windy beach is attested by the sand dunes, which rise to nearly 30 meters at one end of the strand.
    1Ensenada de Bolonia. Tarifa (Cádiz) This three-kilometer stretch of sand on the Atlantic preserves a semi-rustic look – in fact, it is still possible to take pictures of cows near the water. This is partly because it is located in a not-very-handy spot between Valdevaqueros and Zahara de los Atunes, and partly because it belongs to the natural park of the Strait. Beachgoers are advised to show up bright and early, as it gets quite crowded. But this is offset by the infinite pine-covered spaces that surround the beach, and of course by the splendid Roman-era city-factory of Baelo Claudia located nearby. The fact that this is a windy beach is attested by the sand dunes, which rise to nearly 30 meters at one end of the strand.
  • In 2007 the British newspaper ‘The Guardian’ claimed that Rodas was the best beach in the world. Now, readers of ‘El Viajero’ have ranked it as Spain’s second prettiest. Everything about this sand strip located in the Cíes islands, in the northwestern region of Galicia, reminds visitors of the Caribbean – except for the freezing water, of course. Rodas has white sand and crystal-clear waters, it flies a blue flag and emanates a sense of well-being that comes from sitting at the opening of the Vigo estuary, with the Atlantic on all sides. It is best for visitors not to pile up near the wharf where the boats dock, and instead spread out across the sandy strip. Down in the back, where the pine trees’ roots are exposed to the elements, it is possible to walk to the lagoon, although the best panoramic views on this isthmus that joins two islands are to be found on the road to the lighthouse, in the elevated spot known as Campana. In order to avoid saturation, visitors must first obtain a permit from the regional government before purchasing a boat ticket. Applications can be made  here .
    2Rodas. Vigo (Pontevedra)  In 2007 the British newspaper ‘The Guardian’ claimed that Rodas was the best beach in the world. Now, readers of ‘El Viajero’ have ranked it as Spain’s second prettiest. Everything about this sand strip located in the Cíes islands, in the northwestern region of Galicia, reminds visitors of the Caribbean – except for the freezing water, of course. Rodas has white sand and crystal-clear waters, it flies a blue flag and emanates a sense of well-being that comes from sitting at the opening of the Vigo estuary, with the Atlantic on all sides. It is best for visitors not to pile up near the wharf where the boats dock, and instead spread out across the sandy strip. Down in the back, where the pine trees’ roots are exposed to the elements, it is possible to walk to the lagoon, although the best panoramic views on this isthmus that joins two islands are to be found on the road to the lighthouse, in the elevated spot known as Campana. In order to avoid saturation, visitors must first obtain a permit from the regional government before purchasing a boat ticket. Applications can be made here.
  • The beach of As Catedrais (the Cathedrals, in the local Galician language) is a cross between a seaside promenade and a monument that is open to visitors. Hardly anyone actually goes for a swim here, and besides, it is only accessible at low tide. It is hard to say what’s more impressive about this rocky cathedral crafted by nature: its eight slate arcades reminiscent of Gothic arches – the most beautiful ones are nearly concealed by the waves – or the spacious caves, or the imposing entrance arch (which is on the verge of collapse, according to geologists). Between July 1 and September 30 it is necessary to obtain a permit to see this natural monument up close, with a few exceptions ( ascatedrais.xunta.gal )
    3Las Catedrales. Ribadeo (Lugo)  The beach of As Catedrais (the Cathedrals, in the local Galician language) is a cross between a seaside promenade and a monument that is open to visitors. Hardly anyone actually goes for a swim here, and besides, it is only accessible at low tide. It is hard to say what’s more impressive about this rocky cathedral crafted by nature: its eight slate arcades reminiscent of Gothic arches – the most beautiful ones are nearly concealed by the waves – or the spacious caves, or the imposing entrance arch (which is on the verge of collapse, according to geologists). Between July 1 and September 30 it is necessary to obtain a permit to see this natural monument up close, with a few exceptions (ascatedrais.xunta.gal)
  • Few people are likely to forget a day spent at this great dame of beaches that takes one back to the Belle Epoque. La Concha (meaning the shell, because of its shape) offers views on the Cantabrian sea, the island of Santa Clara and the flanking hills known as Monte Igueldo and Monte Urgull. Concealed under the seaside promenade with its iconic white banister, there are bars and canoe rentals. When the tide rises, the beach is quickly reduced to nearly nothing, and it is always amusing to watch unsuspecting beachgoers suddenly hop and skip their way back to dry land.
    4La Concha. San Sebastián (Gipuzkoa)  Few people are likely to forget a day spent at this great dame of beaches that takes one back to the Belle Epoque. La Concha (meaning the shell, because of its shape) offers views on the Cantabrian sea, the island of Santa Clara and the flanking hills known as Monte Igueldo and Monte Urgull. Concealed under the seaside promenade with its iconic white banister, there are bars and canoe rentals. When the tide rises, the beach is quickly reduced to nearly nothing, and it is always amusing to watch unsuspecting beachgoers suddenly hop and skip their way back to dry land.
  • Los Muertos (the Dead) is a must-see of the Spanish beach scene because a) it is part of the natural park of Cabo de Gata-Níjar and b) it is easily accessible from several major tourist spots on the coast of Almería. Not even the fact that getting there requires walking down a hill, or that it is covered with pebbles, or that it is located near an industrial area, have managed to take any of the charm away from Los Muertos. Its straight shoreline ends in a large rocky formation that looks like a piece of cake that broke off from the volcanic mountains. If you are going swimming, watch out for the undertow when the easterly Levant wind is blowing.
    5Los Muertos (the Dead) is a must-see of the Spanish beach scene because a) it is part of the natural park of Cabo de Gata-Níjar and b) it is easily accessible from several major tourist spots on the coast of Almería. Not even the fact that getting there requires walking down a hill, or that it is covered with pebbles, or that it is located near an industrial area, have managed to take any of the charm away from Los Muertos. Its straight shoreline ends in a large rocky formation that looks like a piece of cake that broke off from the volcanic mountains. If you are going swimming, watch out for the undertow when the easterly Levant wind is blowing.
  • At the beach of “the Germans,” there is no windsurf or canoeing or any other kind of watersports. There are no stores, either. But when residents of Tarifa and Zahara wish to go swimming without worrying about the undertow, they come to Playa de los Alemanes. Protected from the Levant wind, this beach is made of thick, golden, loose sand where it is not uncommon to sink down to the knee when walking on it. Seen from the lighthouse of Camarinal at sundown, the sun’s golden rays seem to stop for a while to bathe the beach in a delicate light.
    6Playa de los Alemanes. Tarifa (Cádiz)  At the beach of “the Germans,” there is no windsurf or canoeing or any other kind of watersports. There are no stores, either. But when residents of Tarifa and Zahara wish to go swimming without worrying about the undertow, they come to Playa de los Alemanes. Protected from the Levant wind, this beach is made of thick, golden, loose sand where it is not uncommon to sink down to the knee when walking on it. Seen from the lighthouse of Camarinal at sundown, the sun’s golden rays seem to stop for a while to bathe the beach in a delicate light.
  • Stretching 5.3 kilometers, this beach boasts several distinctions: a blue flag, ecobeach designation, a Q label for quality and more, making it the most richly awarded semi-urban beach in Spain. There are quality hotels nearby, and the old-school, no-frills beach bars have morphed into beach clubs with Balinese beds and a carefully selected food menu. A case in point: the brand new Coconovo Beach.
    7La Barrosa. Chiclana de la Frontera (Cádiz) Stretching 5.3 kilometers, this beach boasts several distinctions: a blue flag, ecobeach designation, a Q label for quality and more, making it the most richly awarded semi-urban beach in Spain. There are quality hotels nearby, and the old-school, no-frills beach bars have morphed into beach clubs with Balinese beds and a carefully selected food menu. A case in point: the brand new Coconovo Beach.
  • This geological prodigy is nestled inside the oldest stretch of coastline in the peninsula, and it is the spot that offers the best insight into the volcanic activity that produced the natural environment of the Cabo de Gata-Níjar natural park. It certainly feels out of the ordinary to walk in a bathing suit right by a rock-solid wave of lava. The black sand is tempting, so much so that it is advisable to come early, as once the parking lots get filled up no more vehicles are allowed in the area.
    8Mónsul. Níjar (Almería)  This geological prodigy is nestled inside the oldest stretch of coastline in the peninsula, and it is the spot that offers the best insight into the volcanic activity that produced the natural environment of the Cabo de Gata-Níjar natural park. It certainly feels out of the ordinary to walk in a bathing suit right by a rock-solid wave of lava. The black sand is tempting, so much so that it is advisable to come early, as once the parking lots get filled up no more vehicles are allowed in the area.
  • The second-longest beach in Cabo de Gata weaves its exquisite curve between the heights of Ave María and the volcanic plug known as Genovés. The fine white sand, the mild waves and the easy walk into the water, which is ideal for children, make this a uniquely popular beach. All around, a steppe covered in esparto grass and agave is dotted with Mediterranean dwarf palms and eucalyptus that blend in with fields of dunes. When the wind blows, though, the fine sand feels like shrapnel on the skin. Vehicle restrictions apply here as well, so come early.
    9Ensenada de los Genoveses. Níjar (Almería)  The second-longest beach in Cabo de Gata weaves its exquisite curve between the heights of Ave María and the volcanic plug known as Genovés. The fine white sand, the mild waves and the easy walk into the water, which is ideal for children, make this a uniquely popular beach. All around, a steppe covered in esparto grass and agave is dotted with Mediterranean dwarf palms and eucalyptus that blend in with fields of dunes. When the wind blows, though, the fine sand feels like shrapnel on the skin. Vehicle restrictions apply here as well, so come early.
  • Ses Illetes is part of the world’s best-beach circuit thanks to its extremely fine sand and the water’s shifting blue hues, made possible by the action of the posidonia seagrass and by the protection afforded by the natural park of Las Salinas in Ibiza and Formentera. Moored yachts line up near the shore, and some of the most coveted beach restaurants in the entire Mediterranean region are located here. Ses Illetes, so called because of the nearby islets, is only accessible on foot, which involves a two-kilometer trek from the port of La Savina, or else by boat.
    10Ses Illetes. Formentera (Balearic Islands)  Ses Illetes is part of the world’s best-beach circuit thanks to its extremely fine sand and the water’s shifting blue hues, made possible by the action of the posidonia seagrass and by the protection afforded by the natural park of Las Salinas in Ibiza and Formentera. Moored yachts line up near the shore, and some of the most coveted beach restaurants in the entire Mediterranean region are located here. Ses Illetes, so called because of the nearby islets, is only accessible on foot, which involves a two-kilometer trek from the port of La Savina, or else by boat.