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Karpathos, Greece
Photograph: Shutterstock

12 of the best alternative Mediterranean beach breaks for 2023

Planning a beach holiday on the Med? Skip the Costa del Sol and sink your toes into these lesser-trodden sands this summer

Edited by
Grace Beard
Written by
Time Out editors
&
Time Out contributors
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Does anything conjure up an image of beach bliss quite like the Med? Surrounded by 22 countries and bordered by three continents, the Mediterranean Sea boasts miles and miles of coastline – not to mention hundreds of islands. And while there are certain seaside spots where you’ll need to fight for space on the sand (we’re looking at you, Barceloneta), there are plenty of other secluded stretches of coastline across the Med. Our selection of alternative beach spots, chosen by Mediterranean-based travel writers, takes you beyond Europe to North Africa and the Middle East.

From wild, flamingo-frequented beaches in Spain to a culture-packed port city in France, this is where to find the Mediterranean’s best alternative (and affordable) beach breaks. There’s plenty of room to lay out your towel here.

Grace Beard is Time Out’s deputy travel editor, based in London. At Time Out, all of our travel guides are written by local writers who know their cities inside out. For more about how we curate, see our editorial guidelines and check out our latest travel guides written by local experts.

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Underrated Mediterranean beach breaks

Morinj, Montenegro
Photograph: Shutterstock

1. Morinj, Montenegro

Montenegro is quickly becoming the next big thing in the travel world, but many who holiday in the picturesque Balkan country head to the busy resorts around the Bay of Kotor, leaving Morinj to locals and those in-the-know. Here, Morinjska plaža comprises a narrow rectangle of natural pebble beach, lapped by clear waters reflecting the surrounding greenery. Chestnut and pine trees offer welcome respite from the long, long hours of sunshine. Isolated enough to keep crowds away but developed enough to provide a beach bar, toilets and rentable sun loungers, Morinj fringes a seafaring community once ruled by Venetians, hence the lovely stone houses further along the shore.

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Peterjon Cresswell
Editor, Time Out Crotia
Tangier, Morocco
Photograph: Stephen Emms

2. Tangier, Morocco

Uniquely located where the Atlantic meets the Med, Tangier’s breezy city beach is surprisingly vast, its fine white sand dotted with thatched parasols. Stroll past busy cafes along the palm tree-lined corniche to the new marina, all clinking masts, glam lounges and Ibizan-style restaurants (the ruby-red tuna tacos at Chiringuito are a must). If the hot sun proves too much, escape to the dusty warren of alleyways in the ancient medina, enjoying a mint tea in the shady Petit Socco, or set lunch at legendary café Saveur De Poisson, before an evening climb up to the white-washed Kasbah. Whatever you do, don’t miss the sunset at Café Hafa, overlooking the Straits.

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Stephen Emms
Contributor, Time Out Travel
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Tropea, Italy
Photograph: Shutterstock

3. Tropea, Italy

Perched on a cliff in southern Italy and surrounded by two long stretches of sandy beach, Tropea is the uncontested ‘pearl’ of Calabria. Famed for its powdery white sand, crystal-clear water and vibrant sunsets, this is a beach-lover’s dream – and there’s plenty to discover in town, too. Tropea is filled with historic palazzi and quaint trattorias nestled in its many outdoor courtyards: don’t miss wandering inside the seaside monastery of Santa Maria dell’Isola for aerial views of the beach. Most of Tropea’s beaches are free but you can pay for a lounger (and enjoy a local lunch) at Lido Isola Bella and Lido Calypso. Tropea is famous for its red onions, so be sure to try them during your trip.

Discover Italy:
🏝 The best Italian islands to visit
🌊 The best beaches in Italy

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Livia Hengel
Contributor, Italy
Sète, France
Photograph: Shutterstock

4. Sète, France

Sète is in an ideal spot to make the most of the Occitanie region’s sprawling white sands. But you’ll want to spend just as much time exploring the south-eastern city itself. You may know it as home to Gilles Peterson’s achingly edgy Worldwide Festival, but Fiest’à Sète, spread over two weeks in July and August, offers a more low-key vibe (headliners on my visits have included Mali’s Rokia Traoré, Angolan legend Bonga and funk bassist Bootsy Collins). The Espace Georges Brassens and Musée Paul Valéry will fill you in on how this small city inspired both the legendary chanteur and the symbolist poet they’re respectively named after (New Wave film director Agnès Varda also grew up here, fyi). And the region’s culture can also be sampled in the shape of the tielle sétoise: a spicy pie filled with octopus and tomato. After all that, you’ll barely even have time for the beach.

Discover France:
📍 The best places to visit in France
☀️ The best beaches in France

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Huw Oliver
UK Editor
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Ksamil, Albania
Photograph: Shutterstock

5. Ksamil, Albania

The Ancient Greeks must have had an eye for the perfect Mediterranean beach town, because when they spied southern Albania’s Ksamil peninsula – where holm oaks and olive trees crowd low headlands, and small, sandy beaches, rocky coves and tiny offshore islets form a barrier to a vast, shallow lagoon famed for its shellfish – they quickly established the town of Butrint. Uninhabited today, the honey-coloured ruins, which lie close to the modern beach town of Ksamil, are the largest and most romantic of Albania’s historic sites. As well as being home to one of the most impressive ancient landmarks in this part of the Mediterranean, Ksamil seduces modern arrivals with a multitude of beaches, sunset views to nearby Corfu, cliff-top walks and excellent seafood.

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Stuart Butler
Contributor, Albania
Saplunara, Croatia
Photograph: Shutterstock

6. Saplunara, Croatia

In Croatia’s far south, Mljet is best known for its national park, overrun with mongooses, that covers a third of this idyllic isle. But at the far eastern tip stretch two sandy beaches, relatively unspoilt but for a couple of bars, and most certainly undersubscribed. Sandy should be specified, as nearly everywhere else in Croatia, beaches mean white pebbles. Backed by pines providing shade and earthy aromas, Saplunara retains the same remote feel as when St Paul was washed up here in 61AD. Nearby Podškoj contains the hidden ruins of a fifth- or sixth-century church named after him.

Discover Croatia:
🐚 The best Croatian beaches

Peterjon Cresswell
Editor, Time Out Croatia
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Karpathos, Greece
Photograph: Shutterstock

7. Karpathos, Greece

Despite its pristine water-lapped coves and long stretches of powdery white sand, Karpathos remains one of Greece’s best-kept secrets. Even at the height of summer, the island’s most popular beaches – including pine-shaded Apella, where rare monk seals love to lounge, and Kyra Panagia, overlooked by its eponymous red-domed chapel – are half-empty. If you want total isolation, pack some water, high-factor sunscreen and something to eat (I recommend the local speciality: traditional raisin-stuffed zibilia pies) and take a boat out to Saria, a stunning, almost-deserted island, where you can play Robinson Crusoe to your heart’s content.

Discover Greece:
🏝 The best Greek islands to visit this summer

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Heidi Fuller-Love
Contributor, Mediterranean
Dalyan, Turkey
Photograph: Shutterstock

8. Dalyan, Turkey

Dalyan’s Iztuzu Beach, colloquially known as Turtle Beach, is known for being home to a number of sea turtle species. Coincide your beach break with breeding season and it’s likely you’ll spot some adorable baby turtles taking their first dip in the sea. The beach – which is gloriously long, sandy and golden – is accessed via a scenic riverboat trip or a public minibus. The Dalyan area will appeal to those with an interest in history, too, as it’s home to the ancient ruined city of Kaunos, together with its Lycian rock tombs and theatre remains.

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Beril Naz Hassan
Writer, Time Out Travel
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Cabo de Gata, Spain
Photograph: Shutterstock

9. Cabo de Gata, Spain

Backed by cactus-studded landscapes that have featured in many spaghetti westerns, the flamingo-frequented beaches of Spain’s Cabo de Gata-Nijar nature reserve are spectacularly wild. The sun-soaked sands of Playa de los Genoveses and Mónsul’s hidden coves are stunning, but the beach you won’t want to miss is Los Muertos. This golden beauty is accessed via a dramatically scenic coastal footpath, which leads to the nineteenth-century Mesa Roldan lighthouse. When you can tear yourself away from those blissful seascapes, explore the hamlet of Carboneras, where you can try local potato stew guiso de pelotas – or hunt for glazed ceramics and bright woven rugs in the lively town of Níjar.

Discover Spain:
👙 The best beaches in Spain

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Heidi Fuller-Love
Contributor, Mediterranean
Hammamet, Tunisia
Photograph: Shutterstock

10. Hammamet, Tunisia

When most people think of a Mediterranean beach destination, they don’t usually think about Tunisia – but they’re missing out. One of the most beautiful seaside destinations is Hammamet, a pretty resort town just an hour’s drive southeast of Tunis. This white-washed town has been attracting well-heeled travelers since the 1920s when Roman millionaire George Sebastian built a grand villa in town. Today, Dar Sebastian is open to the public. Hammamet has a colorful medina selling local crafts, as well as excellent seafood restaurants and plenty of boutique hotels with private beach clubs. Climb inside the fort of Hammamet for views of the emerald sea framed by mosque domes and minarets.

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Livia Hengel
Contributor, Italy
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Nachsholim, Israel
Photograph: Shutterstock

11. Nachsholim, Israel

Set smack in the middle of Israel’s wild coastal plain, Nachsholim is one of the most unassuming-yet-spectacular beaches in the whole country. A far cry from the lively shores of Tel Aviv, Nachsholim is quiet and clean, with only the sound of lapping waves to keep you company. Plus, it’s fabulously photogenic: the rugged, colorful sailboats dotting the shore will have you fumbling for your phone to snap up the scenery. The nearby Nachsholim Beach Hotel and local kibbutz are ideal places to lay your head when the day gets the best of you.

Zapallo Bay, Cyprus
Photograph: Shutterstock

12. Zapallo Bay, Cyprus

Hugged by white rocky cliffs, this short sandy beach in southern Cyprus offers travellers stunning blue waters, the remains of an ancient port, and a chance to see how the local fishermen earn their living. Accessed via a path that cuts through the surrounding cliffs, Zapallo is the perfect nook for those looking for a secluded and peaceful break. The best way to enjoy it is with a good book and a picnic basket full of food – but you can always stop by one of the many cafés and restaurants near the shore.

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Beril Naz Hassan
Writer, Time Out Travel
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