Top 10 Things To Do On Crete

Marco Polo’s list of the top 10 things not to be missed on Crete! Our best recommendations – from the top down – help you to plan your tour of the island’s most important sights.

Crete Marco Polo Guide

1. KNOSSOS
The reconstructed palace of Knossos, near the island’s capital of Iraklio, gives visitors an idea of the splendour of the more than 3,500-year-old Minoan culture.

2. ARCHAIOLOGIKO MOUSEIO, IRAKLIO
The museum’s rich collection of art, ritual objects and everyday utensils, unearthed by archaeologists in Crete, are all beautifully exhibited and clearly explained.

3. CHANIA
Over 500 years of Venetian rule left their mark on Crete, and nowhere is this more evident than in Chania, Crete’s second largest city.

4. RETHIMNON
A particularly large number of Ottoman-era minarets soar above the city; and its harbour is the most picturesque in Crete.

5. FARANGI SAMARIAS
A hike through the Samaria Gorge, in the White Mountains, is an exciting adventure that combines physical challenge with great nature, and it finishes off with a ferry trip.

6. GORTIS
Many of the ruins of the former Roman capital are picturesquely scattered through an ancient olive grove.

7. PHAISTOS (FESTOS)
The Minoan palace of Phaistos lies in a scenic location on a hill overlooking a fertile plain between Mount Ida and the Asterousia Mountains.

8. GOURNIA
The excavation of this small Minoan country town gives one a vivid impression of how the
island’s ordinary people lived more than 3,500 years ago.

9. MONI ARKADIOU
In a solitary location on a high plateau, this Renaissance monastery is a national shrine and symbol of Crete’s struggle for independence – hundreds of Cretans sacrificed their life here during a rebellion against Turkish rule.

10. AGIOS NIKOLAOS
The small, picturesque town in the east boasts a freshwater lake as a fishing port, an excellent museum and a former leper colony as an excursion destination.

 

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Crete Marco Polo Guide

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Top 10 Things To Do In Lake Garda

Marco Polo’s list of the top 10 things not to be missed in Lake Garda! Our best recommendations – from the top down – help you to plan your tour of this beautiful lake’s most important sights. 

Lake Garda Marco Polo Guide

1. SIRMIONE
Beautifully located on the south of the lake, Sirmione boasts one of the best preserved moated fortresses in Europe.

2. MALCESINE & MONTE BALDO
The 13th-century Castello Scaligero is one of the best-known landmarks in Lake Garda. Monte Baldo, a place to escape the heat of summer down on the water.

3. GARDA
With its wonderful lakeside promenade (Lungolago), Punta di San Vigilio around the corner and Isola del Garda a few minutes away by boat, the variety of attractions Lake Garda has to offer can all be enjoyed from just one place.

4. SALÒ
Reminders of the town’s eventful history can be seen all down Lungolago, one of the most elegant promenades on the lake with a sophisticated atmosphere to match.

5. RIVA DEL GARDA
This little town became the haunt of poets, writers and philosophers at the turn of the 20th century. Its grandezza and beautiful architecture can still be seen today.

6. PIAZZA BRA & ARENA DI VERONA
Who wouldn’t want to sit on Verona’s world-famous square, gazing at the Roman amphitheatre and dream of being Romeo or Juliet?

7. PIAZZA DEI SIGNORI
Shakespeare may be better known but the memorial in the centre of Verona honours another great writer, the poet Dante Alighieri who wrote his masterpiece, the Divine Comedy, in this city.

8. PIAZZA DELLE ERBE
Verona’s ‘belly’ – its market – provides a stage for everyday life, set against a magnificent backdrop of palazzi from various eras and the Torre dei Lamberti.

9. BERGAMO
The Città Alta (Old Town) with the Piazza Vecchia is one of the most beautiful places in northern Italy. Simply taking the funicolare from the lower town is an experience in itself.

10. LAGO D’ISEO
Framed by wooded slopes in the southern foothills of the Alps, Lago d’Iseo has the longest lake island in Central Europe – Monte Isola – with a scattering of idyllic villages, olive groves, cherry and chestnut trees.

 

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Lake Garda Marco Polo Guide

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Top 10 Things To Do On Lanzarote

Marco Polo’s list of the top 10 things not to be missed on Lanzarote! Our best recommendations – from the top down – help you to plan your tour of the island’s most important sights. 

Lanzarote Marco Polo Guide

1. PARQUE NACIONAL DE TIMANFAYA
Head to the “Fire Mountains” and you’ll feel as if you’ve landed on the moon – the region was shaped by a volcanic eruption in the 1700s.

2. TEGUISE
A jewel from the Colonial Era. The island’s former capital with its well-preserved centre is a wonderful place for a stroll.

3. JAMEOS DEL AGUA
This “eighth wonder of the world”, a complex created by César Manrique in a collapsed volcanic tunnel, is one of the best-visited attractions on the island.

4. LA GERIA
Created by an eruption in the 18th-century, the black lava fields of Lanzarote’s most significant wine-growing region are littered with walls to protect vines from the wind.

5. FUNDACIÓN CÉSAR MANRIQUE
You can see work by César Manrique and his artist friends displayed in his former home. The house itself, now the headquarters of the César Manrique Foundation, is an architectural masterpiece in its own right.

6. PLAYAS DE PAPAGAYO
Named after a parrot, these beaches in the south are the most beautiful on Lanzarote. They boast several swimming bays, light-brown sand and crystal-clear water.

7. ARRECIFE
Head to the island’s capital to experience a taste of urban living. Visit the small museums, enjoy some drinks, go shopping and take a walk through the streets and alleyways.

8. CUEVA DE LOS VERDES
This network of lava tunnels was created by volcanic activity many thousands of years ago – it’s a fantastic subterranean world.

9. PUERTO CALERO
Welcome to this watery wonderland! You can spend time admiring yachts in the marina, take a day trip aboard a catamaran, or dive right down to the bottom of the sea in a submarine.

10. BETANCURIA
The most beautiful town on neighbouring Fuerteventura. Once the island’s capital, it’s home to some handsomely restored colonial houses that hark back to a bygone golden age.

 

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Lanzarote Marco Polo Guide

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Top 10 Things To Do In Dubai

Marco Polo’s list of the top ten things not to be missed in Dubai! Our best recommendations – from the top down – help you to plan your tour of Dubai’s most important sights.

Dubai Marco Polo Guide

1. BURJ KHALIFA
The tallest building on earth entices people in with its 452m (1,483ft) high viewing terrace up on the 124th floor. You’ll feel on top of the world in Dubai’s number one attraction.

2. DUBAI CREEK
This natural creek is the city’s lifeline – it’s where the story of this modern metropolis began.

3. DUBAI MUSEUM
Dubai’s most beautiful museum has been set up in the historic Al Fahidi Fort, the oldest building in the city.

4. BASTAKIYA
The old wind towers and palaces built by Persian merchants along the Creek have been beautifully restored. They’re home to museums, shops and restaurants today.

5. JUMEIRAH MOSQUE
Dubai’s most beautiful mosque – a magnificent ivory coloured edifice – is the only Islamic place of worship in the UAE that non Muslims can visit.

6. BURJ AL ARAB
Standing on its very own artificial island, Dubai’s most famous luxury hotel is the symbol of the UAE. Make sure to book well in advance if you’d like to come here for some tea or a cocktail.

7. THE SOUKS IN DEIRA
A shopping experience straight out of the Arabian Nights: The Spice Souk is awash with the scent of spices and perfumed oils, and the Gold Souk boasts over 200 jewellers huddled together in rows.

8. SHEIKH SAEED AL MAKTOUM HOUSE
The current ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, spent part of his childhood in this historic windtower palace by the Creek. The structure is a national monument today.

9. THE DUBAI MALL
Dubai’s largest mall is a city within a city: all the top fashionistas have a store here alongside some outstanding restaurants and the Dubai Aquarium.

10. DUBAI MARINA
Dubai Marina – the largest artificial marina in the world – is surrounded by an impressive array of extraordinary high-rise buildings.

 

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Dubai Marco Polo Guide

Do you have any other tips for visiting Dubai that you’d like to share? Leave a comment below, tweet us @MarcoPoloGuides or tell us on Facebook.

Top 10 Things To Do In Florence

Marco Polo’s list of the top ten things not to be missed in Florence! Our best recommendations – from the top down – help you to plan your tour of Florence’s most important sights.

Florence Marco Polo Guide

1. DUOMO SANTA MARIA DEL
This magnificent building is the symbol of the city and third-largest church in Christendom – il Duomo is a source of great Florentine pride and is the city’s top attraction.

2. GALLERIA DELL’ACCADEMIA
Home to Michelangelo’s David, an imposing (4.1m /13.5ft high) masterpiece that was sculpted from a single block of Carrara marble. Other sculptures by the master are also on display in the museum, which was founded in 1784.

3. SANTA CROCE
With 23 monumental graves and hundreds of tombstones, this Franciscan church is Florence’s pantheon.

4. PIAZZA DELLA SIGNORIA
The beautiful piazza is dominated by the Palazzo Vecchio, the Loggia dei Lanzi, the Uffizi and the enormous Neptune Fountain.

5. PONTE VECCHIO
At sunset this is one of the most picturesque sights in Florence when “the old bridge” jewellery shops and the River Arno are all aglitter.

6. GALLERIA DEGLI UFFIZI
One of the largest and most famous art galleries in the world: the works of art – paintings, tapestries and statues – are exhibited in over 100 rooms and a series of corridors.

7. MUSEO NAZIONALE DEL BARGELLO
What was once the city’s goal and torture chamber is now one of the most famous sculpture galleries in Italy.

8. SANTA MARIA NOVELLA
The main attractions of this Dominican church are its marble facade and precious frescoes.

9. PALAZZO PITTI
The largest of all of Florence’s palaces, the complex and adjoining Boboli Gardens, now house seven museums. The Galleria Palatina, with its exquisite collection of paintings, is especially fascinating.

10. SAN MINIATO AL MONTE
A classic example of Romanesque architecture and sweeping vistas of Florence – this iconic location is recognisable from Florence guidebooks, and the reality more than lives up to the image!

 

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Florence Marco Polo Guide

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Top 10 Nudist Beaches

Ooh er missus! If sunbathing in your birthday suit is right up your street… then we have the perfect list for you! The top 10 best nudist beaches around the world, as chosen by Marco Polo authors…

Cuban dead tree

Photo credit: Tim Kelly

1. Grande Saline, St Barthélemy

St Barth, as the little Caribbean island is called for short, is popular among celebrities. Nudists also feel at home on the velvet sandy beach of Grande Saline in the area reserved for nudists.

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2. Nordstrand, Helgoland, Germany

The island’s secret jewel is not actually on it, but next to it – the 32 acre beach on the north of the dune has very fine sand. You can relax here with or without clothes on – or in a fur coat like the seals. The magical North Sea!

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3. Praia da Ursa, Cabo da Roca, Portugal

Praia da Ursa with its fascinating rocks is hidden between cliffs in the far west of Europe. Thanks to the fact that it cannot be seen from anywhere, the beach is especially popular among nudists. Be sure to take your own food and plenty to drink with you as there’s nowhere to buy anything in this secluded spot.

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4. Kordovon Beach, Jerolim,  Croatia

Anyone taking a boat from Hvar to this tiny island, one of the Paklenis, can shed their clothes and enjoy the untouched wooded scenery. Kordovon Beach is the perfect place for a totally relaxed holiday free from all constraints. As one sign proudly announces, nudists have
been more than ‘Welcome since 1896’.

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5. Platja del Mago, Portals Vells, Mallorca, Spain

The boats anchored in the bay seem to hover above the crystal-clear water. All along the rocky shoreline crooked pine trees have established themselves up the slopes around the cove where there are lovely views over the sea. The Platja del Mago is an official nudist beach.

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6. Cap d’Agde, France

It’s not just the fine sandy beach on the Cap d’Agde that makes this one of the most popular resorts for naturists on the Mediterranean. It is also the fact that this is a large village-like complex where nudism is the norm night and day.

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7. Kókkinos Ammos (Red Beach), Mátala, Crete, Greece

Picturesque Kókkinos Ammos, the ‘Red Beach’, enjoys a peaceful, sun-soaked location that can only be reached after a 20-minute hike. Naturists aim for the northern part of the shimmering red sandbank. Don’t forget to take enough food and drink with you!

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8. Nida, Lithuania

The regulations in the Baltic State of Lithuania are strict – at least as far as nudism on the Curonian Spit goes. There are separate areas for men and women to (sun)bathe in the nude. Make sure you observe the signs whatever you do – vyrų pliažas is the beach for men and moterų pliažas for women.

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9. Saltum Strand, Denmark 

There’s plenty of room for everyone here! The seemingly endless beaches in this kingdom stretch as far as the horizon and are seldom full, especially in the north. Since nude bathing is allowed on every beach in Denmark, as long as you are considerate to others, you don’t need to pack your swimwear for Saltum Strand either.

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10. Neuendorf, Hiddensee, Germany

The dunes where beachgrass grows and the hidden sandy hollows in between, very close to the conservation village itself, provide perfect, secluded spots for bathing in the nude. INSIDER TIP: Afterwards try something completely different – Karl Huck’s puppet theatre in Vitte.

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Do you know any other great nudist beaches you’d like to share with us? Leave a comment below, tweet us @MarcoPoloGuides or tell us on Facebook.

Top 10 Winter Sun Beaches

Fancy escaping the cold this winter in search of warmer climes? Here are Marco Polo’s top 10 winter sun beach destinations…

Egypt beach with camel

1. Eagle Beach, Aruba

The gnarled divi-divi trees, contorted by the wind, look like over-sized bonsais on a sugary-white beach. On ‘One Happy Island’ the sun shines 365 days a year – the word ‘winter’ doesn’t even get a look-in.

INSIDER TIP: If you’re looking for something active, give the latest trend a try – yoga on a stand up paddle board – SUP yoga. Don’t fall off!

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2. Tropea, Italy

The little Calabrian town of Tropea sits sublimely on a 40m (130ft) high cliff above the Tyrrhenian Sea and there is a fine sandy beach at the foot of the Old Town. Even if the temperature here in the most southerly part of the ‘toe’ on the Italian Peninsula isn’t tropical, it’s never freezing either.

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3. Djerba, Tunisia

The soft, wet sand sticks between your toes, palm trees cast their shadows here and there and the occasional camel trots by. The mile-long beach on the Tunisian island of Djerba has a very oriental feel and even at Christmas time the temperature here is very pleasant.

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4. Agate Beach, Lüderitz, Namibia

Gentle, white-capped waves roll in from the Atlantic on Agate Beach. If you’re lucky you may even find a piece of agate in the sand. In this hot, dry climate temperatures can climb up to 25°C in winter.

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5. Sidi Abdel Rahman, Egypt 

Gentle waves have been formed by the wind in the white, fine sand of this beach that stretches down the Mediterranean coast. White sunshades make a perfect contrast to the blue water. In winter, visitors can look forward to mild temperatures here of around 20°C.

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6. Matira Beach, Bora Bora

The name Bora Bora melts in the mouth like a gooey cream chocolate and makes us long for the South Seas – and not just when the Christmas lights are turned on at home. There is no winter on the beach of this atoll. The only thing the colour of snow here is the velvety soft sand between your toes and the only ice to be found is in your cocktail.

INSIDER TIP: A  pareu, a colourful wrap-around makes a lovely souvenir.

 

7. Ras Al-Jinz, Al-Hadd, Oman

The Gulf of Oman is there to enjoy. The waves are like music to the ear and on Ras Al-Jinz beach you can listen to the sound of the sea and watch green sea turtles lay their eggs. All this at a daytime temperature seldom below the 20°C mark.

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8. Papanasam Beach, Varkala, India

The view from the cliff top is breathtaking. Steps carved out of the rock lead down to the beach. Varkala Beach in the state of Kerala is not only unbelievably beautiful but, thanks to its proximity to the Equator, is tropical the whole year round.

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9. Oualidia, Morocco

An oriental lifestyle, the call of the muezzin and the sheltered lagoons of Oualidia soon make you forget the cold north. That’s what the flamingos think too when they stop here in autumn on their way to milder climes further south.

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10. Praia de Santa Mónica, Boavista, Cape Verde

Here, off the coast of Africa, the sun shines 350 days a year and the average temperature is between 21 and 29°C. You won’t necessarily meet a soul on the 18km (11 mile) long beach of fine Sahara sand – which is not really surprising as this idyllic spot can only be reached in a 4 × 4. But the journey is more than worth the effort!

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Do you know any other great winter sun beaches  you’d like to share? Leave a comment below, tweet us @MarcoPoloGuides or tell us on Facebook.

Top 10 things to do in Ireland

Marco Polo’s list of the top 10 things not to be missed in Ireland! Our best recommendations – from the top down – help you to plan your tour of the Emerald Isle’s most important sights. 

Ireland

1. RING OF KERRY 

This circular route from Killarney passes through some of the island’s most magnificent  countryside; the breathtaking views and superb coastline earn the Ring first place.

2. BLARNEY CASTLE 

Ireland has castles galore, yet everyone has heard of this imposing bastion and dreams of
ascending to its vertiginous peak to kiss the Blarney Stone.

3. KILKENNY

The Republic’s most beautiful little town is located on the banks of the River Nore and charms visitors with its medieval centre of narrow streets and centuries-old buildings.

4. CLIFFS OF MOHER 

The cliffs drop steeply into the Atlantic the view is best from the water below. Take a trip in an excursion boat and enjoy the awesome spectacle offered as you look up.

5. TRINITY COLLEGE & BOOK OF KELLS 

In Trinity College this priceless and totally unique book is protected behind glass. The two
pages on show are regularly changed.

6. NATIONAL MUSEUM OF IRELAND 

Already an architectural highlight in its own right, this museum houses treasures of indescribable value; it is the pride of Ireland and respected around the world.

7. NEWGRANGE

The burial mound from the Neolithic age offers fascinating insight into Ireland’s past and provides visitors with an incredible experience once a year on the winter solstice.

8. GIANT’S CAUSEWAY

40,000 pillars of basalt, all over 60 million years old. No wonder that Unesco has declared this place to be a world heritage site.

9. ROCK OF CASHEL

Mythology and history unite in a 65 m (213 ft) mountain, which is crowned by a round tower, a
church and a castle. It is regarded as one of the symbols of Ireland and was even blessed by Saint Patrick.

10. DINGLE PENINSULA

The most northern of the five peninsulas in the far southwest of Ireland is steeped in the austere
beauty and history of freedom and adventure.

 

Content taken from the Ireland Marco Polo Spiral Guide

Ireland Marco Polo Spiral Guide

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Top 10 dog-friendly beaches

Sandy beaches, crashing waves and warm sunshine – it’s no wonder our furry friends love going to the beach. Sandy paws equal happy dogs AND happy owners, so Marco Polo have sniffed out the best beaches from all around the world where dogs are welcome with open paws…

Dog on beach

Photo credit: Henning Leweke [CC BY-SA 2.0]

1. Barneville-Carteret, France

Untamed nature and the wind in Fido’s coat… Anyone who loves the bracing sea air will feel at home on this beach in Normandy. Even when it is deserted and nobody can be seen far and wide, dogs still have to be kept on a lead.

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2. Wenningstedt-Braderup, Sylt,  Germany

Endless beaches to make any doggie’s heart beat faster. Where? On the designated dog beach in Wenningstedt on Sylt.

INSIDER TIP: The Hotel Windrose publishes a brochure for guests with dogs with masses of useful tips in it. A must for every dog owner.

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3. Böda Sand, Öland,  Sweden

The climate is harsh, especially when storms blow across the island in autumn. Dogs can run to their heart’s content on the clearly signed dog beach near Böda Sand. Their two-legged friends can relax after a long walk with one of Johan Theorin’s crime novels.

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4. Bagno 81, Rimini, Italy

Quietly relaxing with Lady and the Tramp on the beach and letting the sun warm their coats or even going for a doggie-paddle – everything is possible at Bagno 81. There’s even free Internet access. Woof!

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5. Neßmersiel, Germany

A holiday with a difference for our four-legged friends. Teach your dog new tricks at the ‘Fun Agility Park’ next to the dog beach on the North Sea or simply let them run around. They can then explore the hiking trail for dogs and their owners in Dornumersiel.

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6. Blåvand, Denmark

Chasing clouds, barking at seagulls, digging holes and getting wet paws. Dogs love it on the wide North Sea beaches near Blåvand. There is a fenced-in area of  woodland near Oksby so dogs can run off the lead.

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7. Swinoujście, Poland

Fetch! Since 2011 Fido, Bella & Co. are officially allowed to run around and play on the beach
in Swinoujście in Poland. However, dogs which tend to get over-excited or bite others have to
wear a muzzle.

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8. Grömitz, Germany

Barking, digging and paddling on the flat Baltic Sea beach in Grömitz. Our four-legged friends are allowed off the lead here and can run, jump and do whatever they or their owners like.

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9. Skagen, Denmark

Furry family members will feel especially at home at the northern-most tip of Denmark where the North Sea meets the Baltic. Apart from the fact that (Great) Danes love the wind, there is often an especially strong breeze blowing here, to the delight of all ‘wet noses’.

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10. Schönhagen, Schlei, Germany

When the ball lands way out in the water, all four paws go f ying as Fido chases after it in the waves. The largest dog beach in the Baltic Sea resort of Schönhagen is enough to turn any pampered pooch into a fierce sea lion!

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Do you know any other great dog-friendly beaches you’d like to add to this list? Leave a comment below, tweet us @MarcoPoloGuides or tell us on Facebook.

Top 10 Beaches for Snorkelling

Looking for the perfect destination for diving and snorkelling? Look no further – you’ll be in underwater paradise in no time with Marco Polo’s Top 10 Beaches for Snorkelling: 

Snorkelers with sea turtle

Photo credit: Vlad & Marina Butsky [CC BY 2.0]

1. Ammoópí, Kárpathos, Greece

Conditions are perfect for snorkellers on Kárpathos as visibility under water is excellent. Moray eels, barracudas and crabs can be watched near the shore. The diving centre in Pigádia runs diving courses for beginners as well.

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2. Anse Chastanet, St Lucia

Dive near the Pitons, the beautifully shaped volcanic plugs, and explore Anse Chastanet reef with its brightly-coloured undersea world of parrot fish and wrasses. INSIDER TIP: Another bonus is that the hotel beaches on the island are open to all!

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3. Punta dello Spalmatore, Ustica, Italy

The little island of Ustica is volcanic in origin and for that reason offers wonderful opportunities for snorkelling fans. Punta dello Spalmatore is the perfect starting point for a foray into the undersea world where you can marvel at fish including gleaming barracudas and bream.

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4. El Nido, Palawan, Philippines

Eye to eye with Nemo, the orange-striped clown fish, a whole bouquet of brilliantly coloured coral and water as bewitchingly clear as Finnish vodka. Gaze into the endless skies and feel the soft, warm sand under your feet. In a nutshell – welcome to the Philippines, Palawan and paradise.

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5. Amos Beach, Turunç, Turkey

The water is as clear as neat raki and the swell quite gentle. Perfect conditions on the Turkish Aegean Coast to explore life under the surface. Amos Beach with its large pebbles boasts crystal-clear water and a lively undersea world.

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6. Shell Beach, South Bimini,  Bahamas

Let yourself be swept off  your feet and float above the white sand found on the seabed with its wavy patterns formed by the warm water. Here and there shoals of fish swim past or a large shell can be spotted with beady eyes peering out at you.

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7. L’Estartit, Illes Medes,  Spain

Rays, barracudas, octopuses… the variety of sea life around the seven uninhabited islands that jut steeply out of the water, is simply fascinating. Thankfully, these picturesque islets are in a conservation area.

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8. Navagíou Beach, Zákynthos,  Greece

The chances of seeing a hawksbill sea turtle in the Ionian Sea are pretty good. Just put on your diving gear and head for Navagíou Beach where you will be rewarded with spectacular underwater sights as well as a shipwreck on the beach.

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9. Zeituna Beach, El-Gouna, Egypt

The deep blue of the Red Sea conceals an even more colourful undersea world. Fishing boats take visitors to Zeituna Beach and the adjacent reef. If you are lucky, you’ll see some red lionfish and bluespotted ribbontail rays and sometimes even dolphins pass by here.

Buy the Egypt’s Red Sea Resorts Marco Polo Guide

 

10. Plage de Ficajola, Corsica,  France

Snorkellers can explore the little sheltered beach of Ficajola on the southern tip of the Gulf of Porto, hidden between towering cliffs that stretch some way into the sea. Anyone who dives here is rewarded with an undersea world teeming with life.

Buy the Corsica Marco Polo Map

 

Do you have any other great snorkelling sites you’d like to share? Leave a comment below, tweet us @MarcoPoloGuides or tell us on Facebook.