48 Hours of Bliss in These Mediterranean Destinations

Balos Beach, Crete│
Balos Beach, Crete│ | © Panegyrics of Granovetter / Flickr
Ethel Dilouambaka

More of us are choosing to spend our holidays on weekend breaks; it’s hard to resist the temptation to book a quick weekend getaway and explore some of the incredible sights, cuisine and culture on offer just a short flight away. You can now fly to over 150 destinations direct from London Stansted Airport, and getting there via Stansted Express – with trains from central London taking 47 minutes – has never been easier. Here we’ve selected some of our favourite relaxing beach breaks from across Europe.

Corfu, Greece

Marked by a blend of civilisations that consecutively dominated the island, Corfu is a fun, cosmopolitan destination for a beach holiday. Combining a rich past with breathtaking nature, the Emerald Isle has many wonders to offer visitors.

Want to take a refreshing dip in shallow, blue waters? Ipsos Beach is just the right place for that. Characterised by a long sandy stretch of coastline, the beach is fully organised and even features a diving centre and water sports infrastructures.

If you want to have a go at kitesurfing, Issos Beach is an ideal location to try it out. Blessed with an endless shoreline and unique sand dunes, Issos boasts beautiful, clear waters. Because of the strong winds in the area, it is a favourite spot for not only kitesurfing but also windsurfing. And if you need some shade from the sun, take a break from the beach and explore the nearby Korrision Lagoon.

Flights take approximately three hours and 10 minutes.

A beautiful view of coast in Ipsos on the island of Corfu

Las Palmas de Gran Ganaria, Spain

The perfect beach destination to break away from your daily routine, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria is a beautiful island in the North Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of northern Africa. As such, it is a place where visitors can discover a blend of influences from Spanish and other cultures. With a creative cuisine, breathtaking beaches and sea resorts, Las Palmas will definitely make you forget all about your responsibilities back home.

Probably one of the most beautiful beaches of the island, Maspalomas is popular for its sand dunes, which stretch over six kilometers. A paradise for sun worshippers, the beach offers up endless activities suited to all travelers. The eastern part is next to Playa del Inglés and offers family-friendly activities, while the center of the beach has designated sports areas and even nudist zones.

Flights take approximately four hours and 25 minutes.

Maspalomas beach is often considered the most beautiful in Gran Canaria

Athens, Greece

The capital of the country, Athens boasts a vibrant cosmopolitan vibe, a plethora of historic monuments, plenty of museums plus a long coastline of beautiful beaches bordered by turquoise waters. Combine days on the coast with dining on delectable Greek cuisine, and you will return home completely refreshed.

For a full seaside experience without the hassle, head to Asteras Beach Complex. This seaside resort lies in Glyfada, in the southern suburbs of Athens, and includes several venues, including Balux Cafe: The House Project. A vast beach house where you can relax on lounge beds and eat delicious food, this venue also has a study room and a playground. Located next door, the Balux Seaside Escape features a pool where you can sample Polynesian-inspired dishes and exotic cocktails.

If you prefer a more laid-back beach, head to Schinias, near Marathon. Stretching over three kilometres (1.9 miles), Schinias Beach, approximatively 45 kilometres (28 miles) north of Athens, is a long sandy coastline, shielded by a pine forest. In this area, you will also find other free beaches open to anyone as well as a few private ones with an entry fee.

Flights take approximately three hours and 35 minutes.

The beautiful Schinias sandy beach, one of the most popular beaches in Attica

Lamezia, Italy

The Italian region of Calabria may not appear in beach holiday guides as much as Puglia or Sicily, but it’s certainly well worth a visit.

Capo Vaticano is a little gem of the coast of Calabria, a few kilometers away from the popular seaside resort of Tropea. Located opposite Stromboli and the Aeolian Islands, the area includes several beaches, including the breathtaking Grotticelle, a popular spot among locals and visitors. If you long for quieter spots, don’t worry, there are many secret coves and beaches easily accessible along the coastline.

Flights take approximately three hours.

Rest and relaxation is easily achieved at Grotticelle beach

Thessaloniki, Greece

Greece’s second largest city may be under the radar, but it offers the perfect city trip experience paired with a relaxed vibe. Thessaloniki is, indeed, a vibrant city where you can sample excellent fusion cuisine, world-class culture and even beaches.

For a refreshing plunge into the sea, head straight to Epanomi Beach in the suburb of the same name. The sandy shore, located 25 kilometres (15.5 miles) away from Thessaloniki, easily connects to the city by bus, which explains why it’s crowded in the summer. With plenty of accommodation and food options, Epanomi is your gateway to Halkidiki, one of the most popular destinations in northern Greece.

Speaking of Halkidiki, why not explore it? Kalyves, located 45 minutes away from the airport, is a quiet settlement that boasts one of the longest sandy waterfronts in the country. An overlooked destination for a long time, it is starting to gain some recognition, but you will still be able to find that secluded nook you were seeking.

Flights take approximately three hours and 20 minutes.

The seashore of Epanomi, near Thessaloniki

Chania, Crete

The second largest city of Crete, Chania is a charming little port town on the north-west coast of the island. A place where Venetian, Turkish and Greek civilisations collide, it boasts a shielded waterfront bordered by many cafés and restaurants offering local fare and international cuisine.

After touching down, make your way to Stavros, a lovely village on the Akrotiri Peninsula. The beach, located east of the village, is on a circular bay fully protected from the winds. With white sand and blue-green waters, Stavros Beach is definitely a place for relaxation and well-being.

While you may not want to spend a lot of time in the car to get to a beach, you won’t regret it with this next one. Located 55 kilometres (34.2 miles) away from Chania, Balos Beach is a little paradise near the Cape of Gramvoussa. With white sand and shallow, crystal clear waters, you will feel like you are lying on the sandy shores in the Maldives or the Seychelles, minus the jet lag.

Flights take approximately four hours.

Stavros Beach on Crete island, Greece

Cagliari, Sardinia

Italy’s Capital of Culture for 2015 welcomes you with open arms, and can be reached in under three hours from the Stansted Airport. Dynamic, vibrant and full of life, Cagliari is a great destination to visit if you enjoy soaking up culture, fine dining and splendid architecture. But since this is all about beach holidays, let us take you straight to our favorite spot.

An hour drive from the airport, on the southwestern coast, you will find the seaside village of Chia. The area, with Instagram-worthy bays and beaches, stretches out all the way to the southernmost point of the island, Capo Spartivento. Bordered by turquoise waters, the beaches in Chia (we highly recommend Su Giudeu or Chia Beach) boast white sand shores, and you may even catch a quick glimpse of dolphins swimming by the coast. In love with flamingos? The inland lagoon behind the beach is a major breeding ground for them. See if you can spot them!

Flights take approximately two hours and 35 minutes.

Chia beach packs plenty of lively holiday goers

Skiathos, Greece

The most cosmopolitan island of the Northern Sporades cluster, opposite the Pelion Peninsula, Skiathos is a charming little verdant island blessed with hidden coves, secluded beaches, lush pine forests, small villages and a plethora of exciting water sports. At night, the main town and many beach clubs welcome a host of young people, all ready to party. But don’t worry; Skiathos is far from being the new Mykonos.

Once you have your rental car keys in hand, make your way westward, all the way to Mandraki. Protected by a thick pine forest, this sandy coastline is accessible via small trails that wind through the forested area. It is home to two beaches: Xerxi Beach, a pretty unspoilt area, and Elias Beach, where you will find a small cantina and several sunbeds.

There is something about being on a boat and setting sail to an unknown place. Don’t you agree? Take advantage of it and jump on a boat in Skiathos and head to Lalaria. This spectacular, dreamlike beach is only accessible by boat on days when there is minimal wind, and once you arrive, prepare for something you won’t soon forget – white imposing cliffs rising out of turquoise waters and a sandy shoreline. You may have to head back soon, but for now, you should just enjoy your time on its gorgeous white coastline.

Flights take approximately three hours and 25 minutes.

Lalaria beach on the Skiathos island in the Aegean Sea, in Greece

Zakynthos, Greece

One of the most beautiful islands in the Ionian Sea, Zakynthos, also known as Zante, is famous for its aquamarine waters, green inland and laid-back atmosphere. Zakynthos also boasts a great food scene and is also known as a major nesting spot for the Caretta Caretta turtle.

Make your friends jealous with snaps from Gerakas Beach, considered one of the most beautiful on the island. With golden sand, shallow waters and stunning scenery, this picture-perfect locale is a protected area of the Zakynthos Marine Park, where you can even spot turtle nests; just make sure not to disturb them.

Since you are here for a weekend, change up your beach game and make your way north to Makris Gialos. This sandy stretch of land with deep waters is perfect for snorkelling, so don’t forget your gear. Because the beach is unorganised, it hardly gets crowded and makes for a relaxing day before heading home. Of course, if time allows it, make sure to visit Navagio Beach, only accessible by boat.

Flights take approximately three hours and 25 minutes.

Gerakas beach, a protected sea turtle nesting site in Zakynthos

Menorca, Spain

Forget Ibiza and opt for under-the-radar Menorca, a paradise of hidden beaches surrounded by crystal clear water. Free from excessive development, Menorca is an unspoiled destination where you can admire interesting history, delicious and innovative food and fantastic architecture.

Start your beach adventure by driving to Macarella, a pristine cove with white sand and intense emerald waters. Protected by pine-covered hills, the cove is truly nature’s masterpiece. Take the time to wander along the trail that connects the cove to the smaller Macarelleta, where you will enjoy outstanding views. Fair warning, bring a pair of comfortable shoes lest you destroy your favorite pair of Havaianas.

Flights take approximately two hours and 25 minutes.

Visitors can bask in glistening turquoise waters at Cala Macarella beach

Rhodes, Greece

The capital of the Dodecanese islands combines cultural visits with beach holidays. With a stunning Old Town, ancient sites and scenic landscapes and sandy shores, the ‘island of the Knights’ is a great destination where you can escape from your busy routine.

Away from the crowds, Tsambika is a little gem. Located 25 kilometres (15.5 miles) south of Rhodes town, this long sandy beach with shallow, crystal clear waters is great for a sun-soaking session. But if you want to do more than just lie down in the sun, there are plenty of water sports facilities nearby.

Approximatively 65 kilometres (40.4 miles) away from the airport lies Kalathos Beach. If all you need and want is seclusion and tranquillity, then Kalathos is just what the doctor ordered. With emerald waters, long stretches of sand, a few sunbeds and bamboo umbrellas here and there, your oasis of peace in Rhodes awaits you.

Flights take approximately four hours.

Tsambika (or Tsampika) is one of the most beautiful beaches in Rhodes, Greece

Kos, Greece

Second to Rhodes in terms of popularity, Hippocrates’ homeland has a rich history still visible in its architecture, mostly in Kos town. With a blend of Ottoman and Venetian architecture, ancient sites and magnificent beaches, Kos has it all.

Treat yourself and spend the day at Therma, an idyllic, black pebbly shoreline enclosed by steep cliffs and famous for its hot springs. Located 12 kilometres (7.5 miles) from Kos town, this seaside locale has a sea pool where hot spring water mixes with the salt water to create a natural warm pool. Ideal for relaxing the body and soul, this little piece of heaven is a favourite spot for locals and visitors alike.

For dramatic scenery, Agios Theologos, near Kefalos, is sure to seduce you. The entire bay is simply breathtaking and features small coves and little beaches. Agios Theologos is also a windsurfing hot spot and perfect for carefree fun in the sun.

Flights take approximately four hours and five minutes.

Agios Theologos beach in Kos

Heraklion, Crete

The largest city in Crete, Heraklion, with its natural beauty and dynamic nightlife, attracts countless visitors every year. With numerous museums, age-old monuments, local churches and rich history, this city offers the ideal, relaxing weekend getaway.

Koudoumas Beach may not be easy to reach, but it is definitely worth the journey. Located 74 kilometres (46 miles) south of Heraklion, the beach lies at the foot of the monastery of Koudoumas. After reaching the village of Sternes, you will have to drive on a dirt road for over 20 kilometres (12.4 miles), descending from over 1,000 metres (3,280.8 feet) to sea level, allowing you to enjoy stunning views. But once you reach your destination, you will find an eerily quiet and secluded beach of small pebbles. If it’s isolation and relaxation you are looking for, then this is an ideal place as it has a network of caves where you can find refuge during the peak hours of sunlight.

If you want to see the north coast of Crete, then the beach of Agia Pelagia, a popular destination close to Heraklion, is a great spot. Offering everything you need to spend a relaxing day on the coast, Agia Pelagia is a long stretch of golden sand lapped by cerulean waters. You can even break your sunbathing session with a little bit of scuba diving or some water sports fun. In Agia Pelagia, the sky’s the limit.

Flights take approximately four hours.

The beautiful coast and the bay of Agia Pelagia near Heraklion, Crete, Greece


Kefalonia, the largest island in the Ionian Sea, is an ideal destination for beach fun. Even if the island welcomes thousands of visitors from Greece and beyond, its sandy coasts are rarely overflowing with people thanks to the size of it. But beyond its spectacular beaches, Kefalonia boasts picturesque villages, beautiful monasteries and scenic nature.

Probably the most famous beach on the island is Myrtos, located on the northern coast. It has been in countless magazines and rewarded for its cleanliness and stunning beauty. Surrounded by impressive cliffs, the semi-circular white sand beach features lines of sunbeds and umbrellas, although a small part of it is left untouched, which makes it ideal for those seeking isolation.

But you don’t have to go that far to find warm sand in Kefalonia; Ammes, just 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) from Argostoli, has clear waters and fine, golden sand. Prepare to stay there for hours as the sunset on Ammes Beach is particularly spectacular; the waters take on a deep red colour as the sun disappears into the horizon.

Flights take approximately three hours and 25 minutes.

Myrtos beach, Kefalonia

Stansted Express runs between Liverpool Street, Tottenham Hale and London Stansted Airport, with trains departing every 15 minutes and direct connectivity to the London Underground. For more information on train times and to book your tickets, visit Stanstedexpress.com.

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