Shot in the dark, but I’m going to wager that most people don’t think of the word “beach” when they hear “China.” But land-wise China is a huge country, and it contains enormous cities, tons of mountains, and endless stretches of rural areas, along with quite a large coastline on the eastern and southern sides. It’s true that Chinese folks aren’t the biggest beach-goers in the world (although with such a large population, generalizations are tricky), but don’t let that deter you. In fact, it means you’ll like have more space to yourself, especially during the hottest part of the day. While Beidaihe in the north is known for its long stretches of sand and shallow water, and Putuoshan Island is worth a trip if you’re in the Shanghai area, the south is really where it’s at. Head to the large island of Sanya and whether you end up at Yalong Bay (the most popular), Sanya Bay (the least crowded), Wuzhizhou (“The Maldives of China;” great for diving), or Tianya Haijiao (the second-most southern point), you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the beautiful sand, surf, and sun.
Northern European country, chilly weather, and only a small portion of its border is coastline — we get it, Germany isn’t an obvious beach country. But with average temperatures in the summer around 72 degrees F (and up into the 80s and even 90s at times), there’s plenty of time to book it to the beach. Sylt, Germany’s northernmost island, has almost 25 miles of fine, sandy beaches, and seeing the sunset from Rotes Kliff (red cliff) near Kampen is highly recommended. Germany actually has a surprising number of islands, with Usedom (which shares it’s 28 miles of coastline with Poland), Amrum (your best chance to have a beach to yourself), Rugen (the largest, with 38 miles of beach, a few seaside resorts, and an average of 1800 hours of sun each year), and Hiddensee and Juist (both totally car-free) rounding out the list. Want to avoid a spell of rock fever? Head to the mainland’s Bay of Lübeck, which has numerous lighthouses dotting its four beaches.
Don’t let the country’s frigid name fool you, Iceland has some ridiculous beaches — it is an island, after all. The temperatures can get quite cold for most of the year, but in the peak of summer, it’s not unusual to see temperature highs land in the low 70s or even low 80s. A two-hour drive from the capital, Reykjavik, is the southern town of Vik and its breathtaking beaches. Reynisfjara Beach has black sand and pebbles, and the nearby basalt caves are more than worthy of a visit. On the flip side, Budir Beach on the Snaefellsnes peninsula in the west is one of the rare light-colored beaches in Iceland. The tip of this peninsula is also home to the Snæfellsjökull volcano, one of the main symbols of the country. Eager to take a dip but worried about the water temp? Nautholsvik (near Reykjavik) is a thermal beach heated by hot water flowing into the bay.
The Taj Mahal is breathtaking and the bustling, the skyscraping metropolis of Mumbai is astounding, but what about all that coastline? People don’t often consider it, but there are many beautiful beaches of all types in India. Baga Beach is by far the most happening and touristy option, but the open sands of its northern Goa neighbors Ashvem, Mandrem, and Morjim (all in a row) are getting trendier each year. Hoping for serenity now? Agonda Beach (south Goa) should be your destination, or the even more remote Radhanagar Beach on Havelock Island in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands — once named Asia’s best beach by TIME Magazine. For the best views, head down to Palolem Beach, unless you’re looking for the best underwater views; in that case, bring your snorkel and scuba gear to southern Maharashtra’s Tarkarli Beach, which features one of the best coral reefs in India.
Shuttertock/ Sergey Lyashenko
Most people know that Croatia and Greece have unbelievably beautiful beaches, but very few people consider the land in between. Just south of Dubrovnik is the border between Croatia and the small country of Montenegro — which should get some attention for its lovely coastline as well. With summer temperatures soaring into the 90s, you’ll want to head for the ocean, so here are a few places to keep in mind. Budva is the most popular destination (for both its beaches and historic buildings), but keep heading south and you’ll reach Miločer Beach, Queen’s Beach, and the islet of Sveti Stefan, known for its pink sand beach. Formerly a small village, all of the islet’s buildings were acquired by the Yugoslav government in the mid-2000s and turned into an upscale hotel.
Shutterstock/ Antony Cooper
It doesn’t get too warm too often in Scotland, but when the heat happens to hit on a summer day, head to the Isle of Barra. The westernmost island in the U.K. offers several beautiful, white sand beaches, with many of them often completely deserted. Our top pick for specific beaches is definitely Traigh Mhor; if there’s a breeze (which there often is), you can watch the surfers and windsurfers ride by, and this is also the same beach where planes land twice daily. No, it’s not part of some tour — the sand runway is actually part of the local airport. There are three runways altogether, and at high tide all three are underwater.
Shutterstock/ Henrik Larsson
Since the weather Sweden is generally thought of as cold and often dark, most tourists don’t consider it as a beach destination — which is quite unfortunate. In the winter, this description can be accurate — especially up north — but it’s important to remember that from top to bottom, Sweden stretches almost 1,000 miles. And as we recently learned from chatting with five random Swedes, when the weather gets warm in the south (Gothenburg temperatures can hit 70 in the summer; Malmö can reach 80), the people head outdoors including trips to one of Sweden’s sweet beaches. You can spend your day at Ribersborg (or “Ribban,” as the locals call it) before checking out the wonderful restaurants of Malmö, ferry out to Fårö off the coast of Gotland (an island off an island) for both family fun and a chance to check out unspoiled sands, or even trek to Tanto Beach if you find yourself in Stockholm on a sizzling summer day.
More than half of Turkey’s border is coastline, but unfortunately, not much is beach. Still, there are some fantastic beaches, including one of the most photographed in the entire Mediterranean. Ölüdeniz (literally “Dead Sea,” due to the exceptionally calm waters) is a small village and resort area with a big, beautiful beach. The region is called the Turquoise Coast, and for good reason — head to the blue lagoon at the mouth of Ölüdeniz’s sandy bay to see for yourself. Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of this place, the beach’s legitimacy and high status can be confirmed considering its Blue Flag certification for passing water, safety, and environmental education and management standards.