Beach holidays are meant to be the ultimate act of relaxation. But even in a coastal destination, dealing with language barriers, cultural differences, and unfamiliar roadways can take the sense of serenity out of your vacation. That’s why sometimes, it’s best to leave the itineraries to the experts.
Here are seven of the best guided trips to some of the world’s most untouched and idyllic beaches.
Make new friends at Turkey’s Blue Lagoon
You’ll find Turkey’s famous Blue Lagoon along the country’s southwestern coastline. No, it’s not connected to the 1980 Brooke Shields movie of the same name (that was filmed on Fiji’s Turtle Island), but it’s just as beautiful, with calm turquoise waters and a long stretch of white sand running alongside the beach resort town of Oludeniz.
This is where Friendship Travel’s new journey along the Lycian Way — a long-distance walking trail that follows ancient caravan routes — begins. You’ll climb high along the coastal cliffs for epic coastal views, with plenty of opportunities to swim in the sea. The tour company caters primarily to solo travellers, with the tour priced at £795 ($1522) per person for seven nights including flights from the UK (you’ll have to sort your own flights to get to England). friendshiptravel.com
Explore a Canadian beach rich with Indigenous history
Canada probably isn’t the first destination that springs to mind for days in the sun. But it has the world’s longest coastline, stretching for 243,042km. Granted, much of this is inaccessible and icy, but there are some incredible exceptions to that rule — including the remote and wild Haida Gwaii, also known as the Queen Charlotte Islands. Located off the coast of British Columbia, its crescent-shaped white-sand beaches wouldn’t look out of place in the tropics.
Haida Gwaii is also rich in Indigenous culture and history that dates back more than 10,000 years, including at the Unesco site of SGang Gwaay. Today, visitors can still see remains of the village, including its massive carved poles and large cedar long houses. Only accessible by boat, the best way to get there is on an eight-day boutique expedition cruise with Maple Leaf Adventures. Operating from May until July each year, the all-inclusive trips start from C$8100 ($9339). mapleleafadventures.com
Cycle along Sri Lanka’s golden coastline
Sri Lanka is perhaps most famous for its large tea and spice plantations, quaint fishing villages, and lush green jungle vistas, but it’s increasingly being recognised for its picturesque beaches and azure waters.
In addition to exploring these golden coastlines, Intrepid’s Cycle Sri Lanka tour, A$3565 ($3859), is a blend of adventure, history, and eco-tourism, with plenty of opportunities for cultural immersion. Over two weeks, you’ll ride the rails, explore ancient ruins, do tastings at Colombo’s night markets, and even go on leopard-spotting safaris. intrepidtravel.com
Walk along one of Scotland’s most beautiful — and remote — stretches of coastline
We’ll forgive you if you googled images of Scotland’s Luskentyre Beach and mistook it for Australia’s Whitehaven Beach. After all, it’s hard to believe that such stunning white sand and incredibly blue-green water could be found in the Outer Hebrides. But that’s exactly what you’ll find when you arrive at the Isle of Harris’ most scenic spot, which frequently makes lists of the world’s best beaches.
Brightwater Holidays has multiple tours that visit Luskentyre, including its five-day Walking the Outer Hebrides tour from £1090 ($2088), which also takes in the Standing Stones of Callanish (an archaeological site that predates Stonehenge), and the coastline of the Isle of Skye. brightwaterholidays.com
Swim your way to serenity in the British Virgin Islands
From the Bahamas to the Dominican Republic, the Caribbean is replete with unspoiled beaches, known for their pristine warm waters and crystalline white sands. So, it can be tough to narrow down just where to go.
Here’s one serious contender: SwimTrek’s seven-day guided tour of the British Virgin Islands. This holiday will see you swimming distances of up to 5km per day alongside hawksbill turtles and shoals of exotic fish, completing the iconic crossing from Britain to America (from the BVIs to the US Virgin Islands) and, of course, exploring plenty of beaches along the way. Packages start from £4270 ($8180). swimtrek.com
Go backcountry on the world’s largest sand island in Australia
Like the Caribbean, Australia is a country of unforgettable beaches — but many are easy to access on your own. One that’s worth touring with a group is K’gari (formerly Fraser Island). The world’s largest sand island is only accessible via 4WD and if you’re self-driving, it can be easy to get bogged down or miscalculate tide times.
Signing up for a tour with K’gari Explorer takes away the guesswork, allowing you to focus on taking in the sights, including the renowned 75-Mile Beach and the silica beach of Boorangoora/Lake McKenzie. While visiting the island’s lakes, champagne pools, and ancient forest, make sure to keep an eye out for K’gari’s healthy population of wild dingoes. Day tours start from A$259 ($280) for adults, with options up to five days in length also available. fraserexplorertours.com.au
Be one of the few tourists to set foot in Japan’s Ryukyu Islands
Japan isn’t necessarily known as a beach destination — but once word gets out about the Ryukyu Islands, it may become one. Stretching in an arc southwest of Kyushu towards Taiwan, this string of subtropical islands boasts clear aquamarine waters (ideal for swimming, snorkelling, and diving) and some of the whitest sand in the world. Yet, they’re still rarely visited by international tourists.
On Coral Expeditions’ 14-day cruise through the archipelago, you’ll learn more about the islands’ unique ecology, history, and culture, including touring through a thousand-year-old cedar forest, trying your hand at traditional Ryukyu glassmaking, and exploring diverse underwater ecosystems in the Kerama Island Group. The all-inclusive cruise — which begins in Fukuoka, Japan and ends in Keelung, Taiwan — starts from $14,650. coralexpeditions.com