The wild and woolly Atlantic rolls ashore on the coasts of Iceland, Ireland, the British Isles, France, Spain, and Portugal; imagine the differences in climate between the northern- and southernmost reaches of this region, not to mention cultural influences ranging from Celtic to Moorish.
Far north Atlantic
Iceland is another world, in the Atlantic halfway between Europe and North America. Geographically it’s young - the island of Surtsey only rose from the ocean in 1963. Explore glaciers in the east, fjords in the west, and craggy highlands in the center, all ringed by dramatic black sand beaches. See Iceland from a different perspective on a pony trek, a whale watch, training for the Reykjavik Marathon, or choose hiking, skiing, or maybe a long soak in natural hot springs, while snowflakes drift onto your face. Reykjavik is the world’s northernmost capital and has a reputation for being one of the most sizzling! The nightlife, dining, and shopping are superb, yet you’ll always be just minutes from unspoiled natural attractions. Be sure to pamper yourself with a spa experience, or take a short trip to Hafnarfjördu and learn about Icelandic elves!
Ireland’s Atlantic coast includes the counties of Donegal, with its lovely scenery, the Arran Islands, steeped in tradition, legendary Connemara, dotted with lakes and famous for its capital, Galway, and further south, the renowned Ring of Kerry and the enchanting Dingle Peninsula. This is postcard Ireland; vast expanses of emerald green, charming villages, and people who know the meaning of the word “welcome”. This quintessentially Gaelic region will seduce you with an atmosphere, music, and cooking found nowhere else.
Basque Country leads you into Spain: its irregular coastline, numerous cliffs and rocky inlets make for a most seductive panorama. The excellent beaches on the Costa Cantabria harbor beauties such as the Bay of Santander, nestled among the cliffs. The Costa Verde has some of the most gorgeous beaches on the Iberian Peninsula, as well as picturesque villages and traditional fishing ports. Galicia is full of character: high cliffs alternate with deep inlets, and fishing towns with medieval villages. Finally, in Andalusia, there are two key words to describe the Costa de la Luz: sun and sand. Traditional fishing villages of lime-washed houses welcome your visit. Don’t miss the city of Huelva, which has a fascinating past connected with the discovery of America, or Cadiz, with an equally riveting historical heritage: it was founded 3,000 years ago by the Phoenicians. All along the coast here the beaches are superb.
Portugal’s beautiful Atlantic coast has both beaches and cities to enjoy; Lisbon is proud to be the only European capital to have an Atlantic beach. This magnificent city has a fascinating history, and its old quarters just shine. Visit the historic World Heritage city of Porto, enjoying the mix of architecture, and then stroll along the long, white sandy beaches - and take your board if you surf, these waves are perfect. This is also your cue to dip into the Douro region to sample some port! The Alentejo coastline is so untouched it will seem as if you’re the first person ever to find it. The enticing fishing villages welcome you to snack on fresh seafood while you admire the beach. Then, let yourself relax on a chaise longue, enjoy the sun on your face, fill your lungs with fresh sea air and let the view dazzle you. The spectacular Algarve, with its white cliffs and long, sandy beaches, has endless views of the Atlantic. To get the sensation, like our sailor ancestors, of being at “the end of the world”, go to Cabo São Vincente, on 197-foot cliff, topped by a lighthouse, and watch the sun sink below the waves.