Where to find the world’s most untouched beaches

The black-sand beach below Vestrahorn Mountain on Iceland’s southeast coast is a photographer’s dream.
(Oleksander Kotenko / Getty Images / iStockphoto)

Beaches can be so much more than the intersection of sand and sea. Online travel agency FlightNetwork asked more than 1,000 travel professionals where to find the world’s most untouched beaches. These six topped the list of 50 (which you can check out at World’s Best Beaches for 2018).


Tourists usually take a dip in the Blue Lagoon’s naturally hot waters. Less well known to outsiders is a black-sand beach with clear-blue waters at the base of Vestrahorn Mountain on the country’s southeast coast. The draw here is photographing the unspoiled landscape. When waters are calm, you can snap a perfect reflection of the mountains, or, if you’re lucky, the Northern Lights. Research driving directions to the Stokksnes peninsula and the nearest town of Höfn; Google Maps won’t help much. You pay a small fee to enter the beach. Info: Visit Vatnajokull


Agiofarago Beach won’t be found on a usual tour of the Greek islands. You have to cross a gorge ringed by steep walls on foot (or take a boat) to get to this spot on the southwest coast of Crete, the country’s fifth-largest island. Your reward: a fine pebble beach, azure waters, a rock arch you can swim under, and cliffs you can climb for wide-angle views. This is a place whose caves are still inhabited by monks. Stop at St. Anthony’s chapel on the way to the beach to fill bottles with fresh water. Info: Cretan Beaches



Haystack Rock is a popular attraction at Cannon Beach, Ore.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

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Cannon Beach is the only U.S. site to rank in the top 50, and with good reason. You can easily walk to the famous Haystack Rock and other rock formations amid 4 miles of sandy beach. There are tidepools to explore and, from May to Labor Day, tufted puffins nesting and raising their young on Haystack (volunteer guards offer scopes and interpretive information while keeping visitors from getting too close). Keep walking to see more of the rugged coast, such as a waterfall and sea caves at Hug Point about 3 miles south. Info: Cannon Beach Chamber of Commerce


Wineglass Bay on the east coast of Tasmania not far from Hobart usually stakes a spot on best beach lists. Here’s the catch: You have to walk about two and a half hours to what many guides promise is an empty beach with epic scenery. White sand at the base of pink and gray granite mountains provides the backdrop to a sheltered stretch of sparkling water where you can swim, sea kayak or continue to explore on foot. Info:


There are no hotels, restaurants or shops at Malhao Beach in the country’s Algarve region, making this one of the most natural beaches around. Golden sand and rock formations jutting out into the ocean are the stars of this coastal stretch. Body boarders and surfers will find good waves but strong rip currents too. Take time to hike and explore the cliffs. Info: Travel in Portugal


South Africa

Coffee Bay is on the Wild Coast, which refers to a stretch of land in the country’s Eastern Cape province. Backpackers and others seeking solace come to check out the area’s dark-rock cliffs and white sand beaches. Hole in the Wall, where a natural hole has been carved out of an ocean-side formation, is a must-see. And the name? Coffee beans supposedly washed ashore from a ship, but the trees never really took hold. Info: