Eastern Mediterranean Beaches
The beaches along the Eastern Mediterranean range from glitzy and glamorous to perfectly secluded hamlets. While this region is popular on cruise itineraries, some of the region's beaches are still undiscovered by tourists. Here's our selection of the best beaches in Croatia, Greece, Turkey and Montenegro.
Croatia has its share of beautiful beaches along the romantic, rocky Dalmatian Coast. Hvar Island is recognized for its vibrant party scene where the young and beautiful sun by day and catch a siesta before indulging in the open-air clubs by night. The Bonj les Bains beach club is an upscale spot to take in the azure waters and the lively scene. Rent a couple of sun beds on a long wooden deck overlooking the sea or opt for a private and romantic stone cabana. You don't even need to leave the beach for a massage at the Sensori spa. If too much partying has your head in a fog, join the spa staff for the daily meditative walk and give in to the natural splendor.
Dubrovnik has a special spot in the sand for every beach lover, from families to serious sunbathers. The decadent Eastwest Beach Club sits on Dubrovnik's pebbly Banje Beach. There's plenty to look at including stunning views of the city's nearby Old Town and even some possible star-spotting as hipsters and celebrities are known to kick back at the club. At night, the view of the Adriatic Sea is framed by torches and candles creating an exotic party scene. Families prefer the atmosphere at the shady Lapad Beach, Dubrovnik's largest beach. There are seaside promenades, nearby restaurants and hotels, and supervised swimming.
Kolocep is just a 25-minute ferry ride from Dubrovnik, but this unspoiled getaway seems worlds away from the city's busy pace. Kocolep is part of the Elafati Islands, an archipelago made up of 13 islands northwest of Dubrovnik. The Hotel Villas Kolocep is a lush Adriatic getaway with one of the island's only sandy beaches. Be prepared to enjoy alternative modes of transportation -- bike, kayak, sailboat or your own 2 feet -- as cars aren't permitted on the island, adding to the peace and quiet.
The Cyclades, a chain of islands in the Aegean Sea, epitomize the Greece of daydreams with postcard-perfect beaches and whitewashed villages. Most visitors stick to a handful of the most popular spots with comfortable amenities. However, it's possible to visit many of the islands during 1 trip thanks to fast hydrofoil boat rides.
Santorini has spectacular scenery that sets it apart as the crown jewel of the Cyclades. The island is in fact the caldera, or mouth, of an ancient underwater volcano, creating its distinct crescent shape. The beaches' black pebbles and striking red sand make for spectacular scenery. Along the island's southeast shores, Perissa and Perivolos make up the longest sandy stretch of black beaches. Even more unusual are the red-sand shores and craggy cliffs at the Red Beach.
The party never ends on Mykonos Island. Located on the island's south shore, the bacchanalian celebration rocks on all day and night at Paradise Beach and Super Paradise Beach. Cavo Paradiso, a massive outdoor club, sits atop a 150-foot cliff near Paradise Beach. Revelers dance to live DJs and enjoy stunning views of the Aegean Sea.
While most Mediterranean cruises focus on the Cyclades, there's much more to Greece's beach scene. Rhodes, the largest of the Dodecanese islands, is known for its rich history, medieval architecture and clean beaches. On the northern tip of the island, Elli beach is equal parts sophisticated and fun. Families play and sunbathers lounge under brightly colored umbrellas. There's a casino and aquarium nearby for adult and family fun off the beach. Filarki is the destination for water sports, including windsurfing and scuba-diving. Visitors gather in the beachside taverns at night to fill up on souvlaki and take in the sunset before preparing for a night of partying.
Crete is the largest island in Greece with miles of lovely beaches and rocky coves. Some of the island's best beaches can be found a few miles outside the city of Agios Nikolaos. Years ago, Elounda was a peaceful fishing village; today it's packed with glamorous resorts that cater to an A-list crowd. Elounda Beach Hotel has 5-star service, a secluded stretch of beach and a panoramic view of the Aegean Sea. Hotel guests can enjoy a variety of water sports from racing jet skis to scuba-diving. It doesn't get better than the Yachting Club Suites with a private movie theater, pool and sundeck. On the other side of the island, Elafonisi beach charms visitors with its idyllic setting. Though this islet gets crowded during summer holiday, you can still enjoy its unspoiled coral sands and clear cerulean sea.
Olu Deniz is Turkey's most popular beach, meaning you may battle some crowds for the perfect chaise lounge by the sea. Its name translates to 'sea of the dead' which aptly describes the calm and protected waters. While many choose to spend their time in Olu Deniz, chilling on the beach, there's a lot of activity if you don't want to sit still. Hikers can trek along the nearby portion of the Lycian Way, a 311-mile footpath that meanders through the mountains with great seaside views of the famed Turquoise Coast. Daredevils can soar above the water on a solo or tandem paragliding trip from atop Babadag, or Father Mountain.
Antayla has dozens of beaches and even more first-class hotels to pamper guests with luxe accommodations, great water sports and lovely beachfront spots for relaxing. Konyaalti Beach has a festive atmosphere with the mega-complex BeachPark, which boasts twisting waterslides and pools at AquaLand, swims with dolphins, beach volleyball and enough restaurants to satisfy even the pickiest eater in your crew. Live concerts and clubs appeal to the older crowd.
The Bodrum Peninsula, on Turkey's southwest coast, is lined with fishing villages, busy harbors and pleasant beaches. The place to stay is the posh Kempinski Hotel Barbaros. The resort's private beach is lined with lounge chairs and even the infinity pool offers perfect views of the pristine Aegean Sea. Experience local culture with a private boat tour from the resort's marina aboard a traditional gullet, or wooden boat.
Tourism is picking up speed in Montenegro, the seaside country that was once part of Yugoslavia. Situated on the cobalt-blue Adriatic Sea, Montenegro is often referred to as the jewel of the Mediterranean. Kotor is a beach town with a rich culture, refined hotels and a relaxed pace. Book one of the 13 rooms at the Villa Duomo, a palatial estate that was lovingly converted into luxury apartments for summer visitors. The stony beaches are perfect for relaxing and gazing out at sea with few distractions.
Another popular stop on the Montenegrin Coast is Budva with 17 beaches spread out on just 13 miles. Adrenaline junkies can try paragliding, water-skiing and even bungee-jumping from a 130-foot-high platform near Slovenska Beach. The most exclusive spot in the area is Sveti Stefan, a resort area that is undergoing a rebirth since its days as a haven for the rich and famous back in the 1970s. This tiny island is attached to the mainland by just a narrow stretch of land. At the Aman Sveti Stefan's Villa Milo'er, guests relax on the private pink-sand beach between the clear azure Adriatic Sea and rugged snow-capped mountains.
Croatia's main tourist attraction is, and has been, its beaches.