Sure, we’re used to having our Instagram feeds filled with pictures of great coastlines – Cinque Terre in Italy, Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, the blue and white cliffside villages of Greece’s Mykonos and Santorini – but there are plenty of slightly lesser-known seaboards and shorelines that are just as beautiful, and a little less overrun with tourists too. Prepare yourself, friends, for some serious coast porn.
Oman, with more than 3000 kilometres of beautiful coastline combined with a warm Middle Eastern climate, is a hidden Arabian gem. Off its coasts are abundant coral reefs and tiny tropical islands. Surrounding the stunning capital city of Muscat, the white sandy beaches make way for towering cliffs and crashing oceans. It’s stunning.
#2 Western Coast and Lofoten Islands, Norway
Any coast where you can see the Northern Lights is au fait with me, and the beautiful fjord-laden western coast of Norway looks like it’s out of a certain ice-based Disney film. With huge ice-capped mountains, adorably colourful Scandinavian fishing villages and surprisingly clear water, it’s one of the most picturesque coastlines in the world; even when you’re there, it seems too beautiful to be true, particularly if you’ve got the Aurora Borealis beaming down from above you at night.
Albania is just killing it at the moment. One of the hottest up-and-coming destinations in the world, the formerly closed-off communist country is full of incredible history, a diverse culinary culture and – another thing to add to the list – a stunning coastline. There are beaches set at the foot of lush mountains, turquoise tropical bays near the country’s Greek border and colourful villages nestled into the side of cliffs. It’s all the most charming parts of Europe rolled into one beautiful (and not yet overly touristy) little country.
#4 Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt
As it would turn out, there’s much more to Egypt than the pyramids and the Nile. Sharm el-Sheikh, which sits right at the end of the Sinai Peninsula (that tip right at the bottom of Egypt, FYI) translates as Bay of the Sheikh, and has been nicknamed the City of Peace. With crystal clear blue waters and long piers sitting underneath sandy Egyptian cliffs, the resort town is popular with British and European travellers, but all its natural beauty – a spot of tropical paradise in desert-laden Egypt – is still there.
#5 Brittany and Normandy, France
It’s hardly the world’s most tropical destination, but Brittany and Normandy in the north-west of France are home to some pretty dramatic and stunning coastlines. Not only is it home to the majestic ancient monastery Mont Saint-Michel (which was literally built in the middle of the sea) but France’s biggest peninsula has towering precipices too. It looks particularly nice in the winter when the wild seas of the English Channel smash against them – there’s also lots of rocky little islands, traditional lighthouses and even a Pink Granite cost with pale pink rocks.
#6 The UK & Ireland
Britain? Dramatic coastlines? But – surely not. It’s too busy raining there to look nice. Think again, my skeptical friend. From the Shetland Isles off the coast of Scotland and Ireland’s Cliffs of Moher, all the way down to the White Cliffs of Dover and the surfing hotspot of Cornwall at the bottom of England, there are some stunning natural coasts all the way through the UK. Though they may not be sunny and balmy, they’re amazing for clifftop walks and make for excellent photos. The cold certainly doesn’t stop the Brits from taking a dip, either.
Real talk: Morocco is THE dream. This gateway to Africa promises more than just endless cous cous and peppermint tea, markets and lavish palaces to explore – it has the most amazing Mediterranean coastline ever. The main coastal areas sit at the foot of the Rif mountain range, which are great for hiking along ancient mule tracks, and the mix of culture and history differs so vastly from town to town you could spend weeks just on the one coast. There are fishing towns, old Spanish military villages and little arty cities with influences from all over Europe and Africa to name a few, all bordering sun-drenched beaches and sand dunes that are your first glimpse of the Sahara Desert.
#8 Tayrona National Park, Colombia
When you think of Colombia, its capital city Bogota and its surrounding mountains will probably be the first thing to pop into your head, but the little country on the northern tip of South America actually boasts some incredible coastlines – and Tayrona National Park is up there with the best. Bordering the Caribbean sea, these coastlines are lush and tropical, and Mother Nature has practically created it for visitors: natural lagoons and swimmable reefs line the 150 kilometre coastline and back on the beaches you can rent a hammock for the night or hike up to the ancient ruins of El Pueblito.
#9 Snæfellsnes Peninsula, Iceland
The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is another Scandinavian, Northern Lights-boasting coastline which almost always looks photoshopped – even in real life. It’s the picture-perfect Icelandic region: huge volcanic peaks with glacier tops framing sparkly fjords, golden beaches and massive sea cliffs in between teeny-tiny little fishing villages – and with regular buses and reliable roads, it’s super easy to reach from Reykjavík. In winter, everything – EVERYTHING – is white and Christmassy, and in summer there are wild birds and killer whales around the beaches; so no matter when you go, there’ll be magic to discover.
#10 South Georgia Island
Nope, I’m not talking about the country between Russia and Turkey, or the Southern US State. South Georgia and the Southern Sandwich Islands is a group of islands in the southern Atlantic Ocean, sort of between South America and Antarctica. It’s a British Overseas Territory, and is accessed by cruises that are also going to Antarctica – but don’t mistake it for just another stop along the way. Its coastline, with huge glaciers towering over emerald-green seas, is full of amazing wild animals, like huge colonies of king penguins, seals and whales, and the islands’ conflict in 1982 has left behind some fascinating history and military paraphernalia too.
(Lead image: Chris Combe/Flickr)
Matilda is a British-Australian-French freelance writer. She has flat-packed IKEA furniture in London and Melbourne, and no idea what's coming next. She’s written for The Guardian, FasterLouder, mX and Grazia, and really likes hot chocolate.