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By the sea

Besides the abundance of fresh fish and seafood on restaurant menus, the big attraction of a coastal walking, cycling or touring holiday is, of course, the fact that you can pause at beaches along the way.
  • ‘Arctic Caribbean’ may seem oxymoronic, but go to the Norwegian island of Senja and its tiny neighbours and it’ll make perfect sense – here, north of the Arctic Circle, coral-sand beaches are washed by azure waters. Of course, the temperatures don’t match those of the Caribbean, but the walking is fantastic (a mixture of coastal and moorland routes, often with jaw-dropping views of precipitous mountains). What’s more, being this far north, you can see the Midnight Sun from mid-May to mid-July, and – if you are lucky – the Northern Lights at the end of the summer.
  • The Lofoten Islands are characterised by jagged mountains which seemingly rise sheer from the sea. They are a justifiably popular walking destination, and are also a must-see on any ‘highlights-of-Norway’ touring holiday – you don’t need to be a walker to enjoy the dramatic scenery, virgin beaches, and picturesque settlements of red cabins. Further south, the Art Nouveau town of Ålesund serves as a perfect base for exploring the islands on the northern fringes of the fjords.
  • For some of our easiest coastal walking, head to Catalonia, where the broad camí de ronda (a path built originally for anti-smuggling patrols) hugs the coastline, crossing sandy beaches, pine-fringed coves and rocky promontories as it leads from one traditional, whitewashed fishing village to the next. Besides the picturesque coastline itself and the numerous opportunities for swimming en route, one of the big attractions here is the food: the area’s gastronomy, which often combines ingredients from the land and sea (mar i muntanya), is renowned throughout Spain.
  • More reminiscent of North Africa than the Iberian Peninsula, Almería boasts 3,000 hours of sunshine each year. This makes it a perfect choice for autumn and winter walking, as is Lanzarote, where you can walk through volcanic landscapes of many colours. In northern Spain, where we offer both walking and touring holidays, green is the predominant colour on the aptly named Costa Verde, where hills tumble down towards secluded coves. Tranquillity also reigns in northern Ibiza, well away from the party set, and on Menorca, a charming island characterised by golden beaches guarded by crumbling towers.
  • In western France, the Charente-Maritime coastline around La Rochelle is synonymous with long, sandy beaches, but that's only part of the story: our cycling holiday also reveals plenty of history in the form of naval battles and Napoleonic forts; wetlands teeming with waders; and some of France's best mussels and oysters.
  • On the Mediterranean, the towns and villages possess that distinctive southern feel. Choose between two walking holidays: a leisurely discovery of the quiet side of the Côte d'Azur, its elegant villas, manicured gardens and exquisite works of art, or a route on the Côte Vermeille, where the Pyrenees provide a dramatic backdrop as you walk over craggy headlands and rocky coves either side of the Franco-Spanish border en route to Dalí’s favourite place, Cadaqués. 
  • The western side of Algarve feels worlds away from the popular resorts around Faro. Here, the wide beaches are framed by weathered, honey-coloured cliffs and these in turn are backed by the enchanting hills of the Monchique Sierra, which also deserve exploration on foot. For wilder scenery still, opt for the haunting beauty of the Costa Vicentina, whose virgin beaches are backed by dramatic cliffs and washed by the restless ocean.
  • Bathed in plentiful sunshine, Sicily possesses an undeniable exoticism, particularly in the west, parts of which are redolent of North Africa. As you explore, you encounter reminders of this fascinating island’s past: Doric temples, Phoenician remains and Norman basilicas. One of the most beautiful sections of coastline can be found in the Zingaro Nature Reserve, where precipitous cliffs swoop down to a series of white-shingle coves.
  • So remarkable is the Amalfi Coast that it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Mountains clad in olive and lemon groves plunge down to the sea, while picturesque villages cling to the slopes. Further north, in Liguria, the Cinque Terre has also been recognised by UNESCO. Again, the scenery is a dramatic fusion of mountain and coast, with fishing villages of tall, brightly painted houses huddled in the coves. The lower paths are deservedly popular, but our routes take you across the quieter upper slopes for far-reaching views along this spectacular coastline. To avoid the crowds completely, head to little-known Puglia in the far south, whose pristine coves invite you to swim in their blue waters.
  • Although they all boast inviting beaches, our chosen Greek islands are all quite different. For spectacular sunsets, head to Corfu’s charming west coast, where wooded hills slope gently to the sea. For more dramatic scenery, choose western Crete, whose towering mountains and deep gorges vie for your attention with ancient sites and frescoed monasteries. In the Cyclades, you can combine three islands, discovering Serifos’ churches, Sifnos’ terraced hills and Milos’ surreal white-pumice landscapes.
  • In Dalmatia, the sea is omnipresent, lapping at the shores of the myriad islands and promontories. Although there are some beautiful sandy beaches such as those of Saplunara on Mljet, many comprise pebbles or large, smooth boulders, but this is more than compensated by the exceptionally clear water, which is hard to resist. The sea combines with the olive groves, holm-oak woods and expanses of herbs, to create a landscape in which blue and green dominate. It is utterly beguiling and the emphasis of our touring holidays here is squarely on leisurely discovery.
    Such is the length and beauty of Croatia's coastline that it would be remiss of us to only offer holidays to Dalmatia. You can also tour the immense, horseshoe-shaped Kvarner Gulf, where there are idyllic islands to explore, wildlife to seek out and beaches to swim from.
  • North of Copenhagen, on Zealand, the largest of Denmark’s many islands, the coastline is nothing if not colourful. The white sand, blue sea and green dunes are complemented by traditional wooden beach huts painted every colour of the rainbow (and more besides). The fairy-tale villages which lie behind the coast are no less colourful, with red and mustard-coloured cottages topped with thick thatch. Add to all this the grand royal palaces and the delicious seafood, and you have all the ingredients for a very varied cycling holiday. If this appeals, so too will Rügen, a timeless and intriguing island on Germany’s Baltic Coast.
 

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