Not all beaches are created equal — as anyone who’s ever fought traffic, stalked people for parking, endlessly searched for a spot not occupied by tourists or trash, and then tolerated whichever aspiring DJ decided to set up camp 20 feet away, can attest.
But with the right scenery… and the right shoreline… and the right conditions, whatever hassles and headaches it took to get you to that idyllic stretch of sand cease to matter. Some beaches are near mystical in their powers to slow time, erase reality, and hook you into a force greater than yourself. Here are 20 of the world’s most beautiful beaches: Whether you’re into majestic cliffs and rock formations or smooth, wide nothingness, sugary white sand or pink or black or golden, they’re all perfect no matter how tough the journey.
It almost looks like a little slice of Thailand up and dropped itself here at the merging of the Aegean and Mediterranean seas. About 10 miles from the town of Fethiye, lush green peaks border perfectly clear turquoise water, with a peninsula separating one stretch of beach from another. The beach is a national marine sanctuary, so you won’t find any eyesores or resorts stinking up the place.
Bonus: Diving here is also first rate, with some fascinating caves and an abundance of marine life with near-limitless visibility
Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands
Nobody knows how this garden of perfectly smooth granite boulders ended up on the shores of Virgin Gorda. They back up against palm-filled mountains, lending the place its mystical-pirate-hideaway, there’s-definitely-buried-treasure-here-somewhere vibe. Even when the beach is filled with pasty tourists.
Bonus: Stroll through the boulders and swim into secluded grottos, where the sun peers in through the rocks and creates some of the best photo ops in the Caribbean.