When was the last time you walked around barefoot? When you’re out and about in the UK, chances are that your shoes stay firmly on your feet. When you travel abroad, however, you have the perfect opportunity to reconnect your extremities with the great outdoors. And we aren’t just talking about the Bahamas or Mauritius – there are countless European destinations brimming with beautiful beaches, lush grass and stunning scenery.
1. The calanques of Provence
Provence is a playground for those wanting to leave the rat race behind, but venture away from some of the more cosmopolitan towns, and you’ll find tranquil calanques that are perfect for exploring sans shoes.
Calanques are sheltered, fjord-like inlets carved into limestone, and are abundant in Provence. The best of the best lie between Cassis and Marseille, along ten miles of picturesque coast. Head out by boat, choose your calanque, and wander its beach with your shoes in hand, taking in the gorgeous view out to sea.
2. El Saler, Valencia, Spain
Drive south of Valencia via the V-30 and CV-500, and you’ll find yourself at El Saler. This quiet, naturally sandy stretch of beach is brimming with rugged beauty, surrounded by sand dunes that have been beautifully sculpted by the wind. Whip off your flip flops and feel the soft sand between your toes as you scale the dunes under a clear blue sky.
3. Villars-sur-Ollon, Switzerland
Nestled in the heart of the Vaudoise Alps, Villars-sur-Ollon is just as beautiful during Swiss summers as in ski season. It is also proof that barefoot shouldn’t be solely reserved for the beach.
Head out for a hike in the pristine Alpine countryside, remove your shoes and socks (if only for five minutes), and feel the lush grass beneath your feet. Surrounded by vast expanses of mountains, patches of pine trees and wildflowers, it’s a liberating experience.
4. The island of Vis, Croatia
Largely untouched by the tourism boom that is spreading across Croatia, the island of Vis is a tranquil retreat just crying out for some barefoot exploration.
Take to scenic roads with a picnic basket of authentic Croatian delights, in search of some of the island’s most beautiful beaches and peaceful inlets. Tucked discreetly away from the main hub of Vis, these inlets offer a spectacular window onto the azure ocean, as well as plenty of sand in which to sink your toes.
5. Valmorel, France
When the last of the snow melts away from Europe’s ski resorts, you are left with a vibrant green landscape brimming with life and opportunities to explore the great outdoors. Nowhere is this truer than the Valmorel resort in France: a retreat full of natural beauty and opportunities to shed your shoes. Take to the mountains for a bracing barefoot walk through the cool grass before returning to Valmorel for a taste of French cuisine.
6. Kelebekler Vadisi, Fethiye, Turkey
Located at the foot of a vast mountain, Kelebekler Vadisi (or Butterfly Valley), is a spectacular place to get back to nature. Leave your shoes on the picturesque beach and venture into the protected valley, keeping a sharp eye out for some of the bountiful species of butterfly that call the area home.
7. Piedmont, Italy
The Piedmont region of Italy is a haven for outdoor-loving families, friends and couples, come winter or summer. Alive with lush greenery and hazy, charming views, it’s the perfect place to while away an afternoon of picnicking and leisurely, barefoot strolls. Pack up some prosciutto, a Caprese salad, some focaccia and fresh apricots for a true taste of rustic Italy.
8. Tarentaise Valley, France
France’s Tarentaise Valley is full of places to bear your feet and feel the cool ground against your skin: glittering alpine lakes, perfect for a paddle, alongside vast stretches of grass and flowers. Peppered by quaint hamlets made up of chalets, and surrounded on all sides by the towering Savoy mountains, walking here is a wonderful experience.
9. Praia del Fuoco, Ricadi, Italy
If your idea of paradise is walking barefoot in the sand with a loved one, then a pilgrimage to Praia del Fuoco is in order.
This secluded beach is a hidden gem nestled in southern Calabria, accessible only by boat or a steep path. Getting there will be well worth the effort, however, when you feel the silken sand against the skin of your feet, and the cool seawater lapping over your toes.
10. Myrtos beach, Kefalonia, Greece
Greece is renowned for its film set-worthy beaches. In fact, Myrtos beach is so worthy that it was actually used as a backdrop in Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.
Often referred to as one of the most dramatic beaches in Greece, this mile and a half stretch of warm white sand is sure to captivate even the most seasoned of travellers. Lose your flip flops and take a barefoot stroll along the water’s edge for the best view of the surrounding cliffs and shimmering horizon.
Going barefoot is a surprisingly scary prospect: what if you step on something sharp? What if you feel an insect crawl over your foot? Exercise some caution and forget about convention however, and you are sure to discover a newfound love for this simple pleasure.