The 11 Best Secret Sunny Holiday Destinations in Europe!

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If the idea of a summer spent basking in the sunshine on sandy beaches, sipping a refreshing glass of white wine, and dining on exquisite seafood is a dream we all need to make into a reality.

But there’s always one thing that bursts our dream bubble when it’s turned into reality – hordes of tourists. And it seems like everyone and their grandmother are thinking of a European summer vacation this year.

people walking on beach with surfboards

Now you may be thinking all the hidden gems are less hidden these days due to the digital age we live in (thank you Tik Tok) that doesn’t mean there aren’t any secret sunny European destinations left to explore.

In this guide, we’ve listed our favourite sunny holiday destinations in Europe that are a little less crowded, so you can enjoy a European summer without the crowds.

Sunny Holiday Destinations in Europe

So without further ado, here are the best sunny places in Europe to visit for those looking for some much-needed Vitamin D!

1. Cilento, Italy

view of azure waters off the coast of palinuro
Palinuro in Cilento National Park

When you think of sunny holiday destinations in Spain, your mind often pictures Sardinia or Palermo, which are lovely, but they are crowded from June to September.

As long as you avoid August, when the Neapolitans troop to the area en masse for their annual beach holiday, the Cilento National Park is a delightfully tourist-free, typically southern Italian seaside idyll.

So much so that UNESCO named Cilento one of only four regions in Italy where you can still find the classic dolce vita – that means amazing food, beautiful beaches, sun-soaked days, and plenty of Italian vino!

Of course, the area is already listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its historical and cultural importance, including the remains of two major ancient cities.

Just an hour south of the Amalfi Coast, Cilento is an area covered with olive trees, featuring 100km of coastline dotted with sandy beaches and cosy bays, all framed by spectacular mountains.

And, other than the sleepy locals, you’ll have it all virtually to yourselves.

2. Bozburun Peninsula, Turkey

view overlooking buildings and bay p f Bozburun Peninsula Turkey
Bozburun Peninsula

Okay, it’s not exactly Europe, but since a small part of Turkey connects to Europe through Istanbul, we can make an exception for this incredible destination. Plus, it’s still a somewhat hidden gem!

Lying a good two hours from Dalaman airport means that the area is avoided by most package holiday tourists, but the Bozburun Peninsula, protected by heavily enforced conservation laws, is well worth the drive.

Offering a stunning coastline, with turquoise waters dotted with traditional Turkish gulets, hidden coves, and craggy cliffs, plus heavenly-scented pine forests and villages virtually unchanged for centuries.

Just one very windy road traverses the cliffs, ending abruptly at a small harbour from which boats can be hired and it is entirely possible to drive the whole way without encountering another vehicle.

This is Turkey as it once was – see it now before it disappears.

3. Emporda, Spain

The village of Calella de Palafrugell (Costa Brava, Catalonia, Spain)
The village of Calella de Palafrugell (Costa Brava, Catalonia, Spain)

Mention the Costa Brava and images of sunburnt Brits swigging lager and eating full English breakfasts probably come to mind.

However, turn east instead of south when you leave the airport and you’ll come to an entirely different Costa Brava in Spain.

You’ll find no brash water parks, no paintball centres, and no lines of quad bikes attempting to overtake you in Emporda.

This wine-soaked region is, instead, lined with craggy cliffs, hidden inlets, and spectacular clifftop paths, and best of all, it is still very Spanish.

You have your pick of beaches too – two miles of sand at Platja de Pals at the base of the hilltown of Begur, followed by a seemingly endless stream of pretty coves all the way to La Fosca, each more empty and remote than the previous and each with its own charm and character.

4. Brac Island, Croatia

small beach cove

Ever since Dubrovnik was featured in Game of Thrones, more and more people are discovering the delights of Croatia, including its most beautiful beaches on the Mediterranean Sea.

While many people flock to this ancient city for their beach vacation, those who prefer a quieter holiday can breathe a sigh of relief as there are still places off-the-beaten-path in Croatia offering white sands, crystal-clear waters, and relaxed vibes.

turquoise beach in Bol on Brac island
Zlatni Rat famous turquoise beach in Bol on Brac island

For a beach vacation in Europe, Brac Island in Croatia is the ultimate choice. It’s a small island off the coast of Split, and is known for its windsurfing and resort town of Bol, where you’ll find one of my favourite beaches on Brac Island (and maybe even Europe), Zlatni Rat, also known as the Golden Horn or Golden Cape because of its horn-shaped beach.

For a more laid-back vibe and a quieter atmosphere, head to the town of Pučišća which has traditional architecture and several hidden beaches nearby.

5. Formentera, Balearic Islands, Spain

People on Migjorn beach in Formentera
Migjorn beach in Formentera

If you’ve ever experienced Costa del Sol in August, you might be balking at any suggestions of visiting Spain for a sunny holiday destination in the EU.

But what many people don’t know is that Spain is not just one country and has several small islands in its territory as well. Mallorca is the largest and most famous in the Balearic Islands archipelago, and let’s not forget Ibiza as well, but if you want somewhere quieter, consider Formentera.

It’s the smallest island in the group and is only reachable by ferry, which makes getting there a bit of a pain. But you know what they say, nothing good comes easy, and because many people don’t like visiting places that are a little tougher to get to, you’ll find it’s much quieter than its neighbor Ibiza

It’s known for its stunning, clear waters that are a dazzling turquoise colour, as well as long stretches of beach with sand dunes and pine trees.

Grab your snorkel mask and life vest, as this island is teeming with marine life and corals.

6. Lagos, Portugal

stairs going down cliff face to small cove

Lagos is a small town in Portugal’s Algarve region. It’s famous for its historic old town and pristine stretches of beach, backed by craggy cliffs and unbelievably beautiful nature.

For a little peace and quiet, head to one of the best beaches in the area, the sandy cove of Praia do Camilo.

If you enjoy surfing, you’ll find the best surf at Meia Praia and Porto de Mos. Be sure to pack your hiking boots and head out on one of the cliff-top walks over the sweeping headlands.

It doesn’t get much better than this.

7. Taormina, Sicily

square surrounded by historic buildings

If you’re looking for some sun in Europe, one of the best places that people often forget about is Sicily. This small island off the southern coast of Italy is most famous for its wine production since its volcanic terrain has the best soil for growing grapes.

When it comes to finding secret sunny destinations to park your beach towel, you should consider Taormina, a small hilltop town on the island’s east coast.

Sitting near Mount Etna, an active volcano, it’s not exactly a town people go running to (more away from), but you shouldn’t let Etna scare you. In fact, there are many hiking trails leading to the summit from the town!

Taormina is home to many Greco-Roman landmarks, including the Teatro Antico di Taormina, an ancient theater that is still used today.

Of course, no sunny destination would be complete without a beach, and you’ll find many quiet coves and bays below the cliffs. There’s also a narrow stretch of beach that connects the town to Isola Bella, a tiny nature reserve.

8. Madeira, Portugal

person on cliffs overlooking rugged coastline

Madeira is an archipelago of four islands that lie off the northwest coast of Africa. What attracts people to Madeira is its year-round warm and subtropical climate, and of course, its wine.

The main island of Madeira, also called Madeira to make matters confusing, is a huge green island formed from volcanoes, with the capital city Funchal nestled on the south coast.

If Jurassic Park was real, it would look like Maderia.

It’s rugged, green, wild, and untamed, with craggy cliffs and pebbly beaches. If you’re someone who isn’t looking for beaches for their sunny holiday destination in Europe, then you’ll enjoy the adventurous side of Madeira more.

It’s a hot spot for hikers and has 30 official trails, each of them taking you to incredible peaks and rocky ridges overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

It’s also a great place to do some whale watching. All year round you can see whales and dolphins enjoying the warm waters of Madeira, but they are most plentiful between May and September.

Keep your eyes on the lookout for bottlenose dolphins, Atlantic spotted dolphins, pilot whales, sperm whales, and bryde’s whales, which are best seen from October to April.

9. Comino, Malta

blue waters and coastline of comino

One of the best beach destinations in Europe that flies under the radar is Comino in Malta. This small island belongs to the Maltese archipelago and lies between Malta and Gozo in the Mediterranean.

At just 3.5 square kilometres, it’s a true slice of paradise made up of golden sand beaches and turquoise waters.

Comino doesn’t have any hotels, and most people come here on a day trip from Malta, but you should definitely bring a tent and go for a camping holiday here.

It’s peace and quiet and sun – exactly what you need this summer!

10. Menton, France

people on beach and colorful buildings of menton

Located on the French Riviera, just 64 km from Cannes and 29km from Nice, is Menton.

It’s a hilly, medieval town with stunning golden beaches and vibrant gardens. It’s most famous of which is the Serre de la Madone garden which is full of very rare plants.

Enjoy the architecture of 18th-century France painted in its vibrant multi-colours, and then get lost along the winding cobbled streets.

If you’re someone who enjoys a combination of beaches and culture, you’ll fall in love with Menton.

11. El Hierro, The Canary Islands

fallen trees on cliff ridge at el hierro
Fallen trees of El Hierro

While many people rush to Tenerife for their Canary Islands holiday, for a quieter sunny holiday destination in Europe, consider the island of El Hierro.

El Hierro is the second-smallest island in the Canary Islands and is also the farthest south, so it has that beautiful, warm weather that you find in Africa.

The island is simply stunning, with rocky landscapes, dramatic cliffs with sea caves, and craggy peaks formed by its volcanic base, the best way to see this island is to hike around it.

Be sure to check out El Hierro Sabinar, protected trees that have been blown over by the wind, and the Mirador de Isora for some incredible views.

Final Thoughts on Sunny Holiday Destinations in Europe

So there you have it, those are 11 of the best sunny holiday places in Europe to visit, and what’s great about these locations is, they are pretty much sunny year-round, so you can visit in the winter months too!

While your fantasies of Europe in the summer may have conjured up scenes of the Greek Islands or resort towns in Spain, we hope this list gave you some inspiration about some other destinations worth visiting too.

Of course, no matter where you visit, you will find other tourists, but we hope these suggestions off you a quieter holiday away from the massive crowds.

More Europe Travel Ideas

Are you planning a big trip around Europe? Then these other guides might give you some inspiration!

Do you know any other sunny destinations in Europe? Let us know in the comments!

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