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Top Ten Beaches of the World
By Gavin McOwan
From deserted white sand lapped by turquoise water to waves crashing against rugged shores, Gavin McOwan tips 10 dream destinations for every beach bum.
1. Las Islas Cíes, Galicia, Spain
Mention Spanish beaches and most people instinctively think of the Mediterranean. Yet the wilder, stunning Atlantic coastline of Galicia, just north of Portugal, has far more dramatic praias – with far fewer people on them. One of the jewels of this coast is on Las Islas Cíes, a 40-minute boat trip from the pretty town of Baiona. Once a pirates' haunt, Cíes is now an uninhabited and pristine national park, open to the public only in summer. Galegos come here to spend long, lazy summer days on the Praia das Rodas, a perfect crescent of soft, pale sand backed by small dunes sheltering a calm lagoon of crystal-clear sea.
Locals call this their "Caribbean beach", and the water is turquoise enough, the sand white enough to believe the comparison … until you dip your toe in the water. Then it feels more like Skegness. You can sleep in an idyllic campsite, shaded by tall pine trees, with a view over the ocean. And, this being Spain, there's even a proper restaurant serving great seafood.
Where to stay: Camping Islas Cíes is open Easter week and June-September.
2. Tayrona national park, Colombia
I've never been as instantly impressed by a beach as I was the moment I set eyes on Tayrona. After a 40-minute hike through the forest, I was expecting to see a classic Caribbean beach, all white sand and calm turquoise water, perhaps a few cabanas for the tourists. Instead I was greeted with a wild sea crashing on to rocks the size of houses that are dotted along the untamed and semi-deserted beach. In a country with a "healthier" tourist industry Tayrona would undoubtedly be a major resort, but as it's in Colombia the virgin rainforest cascades down the mountainside right on to the sand. And there was no one on it save a small community of backpackers who sleep in open-air hammocks.
On arrival I wandered along it, marvelling at the raw beauty and remoteness of the place but after just 10 minutes I quite literally walked into my friend Jim! It was the unlikeliest spot for a "you'll never guess who I bumped into" travel story, and made for the best beach holiday I've ever had. I gather it's become more popular in the ten years since I was there, but thanks to its national park status the developers have been kept at bay.
Where to stay: Under the stars in a hammock strung between two palm trees.
3. Porto da Barra, Salvador, Brazil
Sydney has Bondi, LA has Venice, Rio has Copacabana and Ipanema - town beaches that are both world famous and a microcosm of their city itself. I lived in Salvador, Brazil's oldest city, for several years and Porto da Barra was where I would come for an early morning swim or a cold beer in the late afternoon. The location is stunning, at the entrance of the magnificent Bahia de Todos os Santos, with a small, white colonial fort at one end and a whitewashed church sitting up on a hill at the other. There's always something going on here: small fishing boats unloading their catch, young lads diving into the sea off the old stone harbour walls, older boys eyeing up girls, beach volleyball, football and tennis. As the beach is in a bay the water is calm and also (given that it is right in the heart of Brazil's third-largest city) incredibly clean and clear, so it's perfect for swimming. And in a country with over 7,000km of east-facing coastline, the Porto is one of the few facing west, so you can watch some fabulous sunsets.
Where to stay: Pousada Estrela do Mar
4. Anywhere on Palawan, the Philippines
Although Alex Garland's backpacker odyssey The Beach is set in Thailand, he took much of the inspiration for the location from the Philippines. The reason? As anyone who has been to Thailand in the last decade will tell you, the chances of finding your very own deserted island paradise in a country that has become synonymous with the backpacker superhighway are close to nil. The Philippines, on the other hand, has over 7,000 islands, a fraction of the tourists and so many deserted beaches that it's easy to hire a fishing boat, sail off into the sun and create your very own "Beach".
The western island group of Palawan, which even Filipinos describe as their country's last frontier, is inconceivably exotic and tropical. It's an archipelago of jagged limestone islands with underground rivers, rocky coves, virgin rainforest and, of course, sugar-white sandy beaches. Honda Bay, which has several islets including Cannon Island, Bat Island and Starfish Island, is one of the most popular but the fun in Palawan is in discovering your own deserted stretch of sand.
5. Nungwi, Zanzibar, Tanzania
The beaches of southern Kenya and northern Tanzania are the only ones I've ever walked on where the powder-white sand is so fine it literally squeaks between your toes. The island of Zanzibar is the jewel of the east-African coast, with its spice trade, labyrinthine old Stone Town and, of course, around 30 beaches, nearly all of which are to die for. One of the best is Nungwi, near the northern tip of the island. The coastline has a shallow slope so the sapphire water, white sand and coral build-ups forming a calm sea which stretches for miles and is home to thousands of marine animals. Dotted with tiny fishing villages that have barely changed in centuries, the Zanzibar coastline has a dreamy timeless air.
Where to stay: The Zanzibar tourist board has further information on accommodation.
Source: The Guardian. Continue readin the complete article and discover the other five of the "Top Ten Beaches of the World".
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