Born and raised in Greece, whether a country we choose to travel to is famous for its beaches or not has never been a factor for us. We’ve always thought that our own country is home to the most spectacular beaches in the world. Although this sounds narrow-minded, to a large extent, it is actually true. However, our 2-week long trip to Puglia proved us wrong. Surprise! There are indeed equally (if not more) gorgeous beaches elsewhere in the world too. So, here’s our guide to the best beaches in Puglia, one of Italy’s most laid-back and authentic regions.
So, the fact that, up until our eye-opening trip to Puglia, we never planned a trip abroad so as to go swimming, meant that we went to Puglia in late April – early May. Which, in its turn, meant that we didn’t enjoy the region’s beaches as much as we’d like. The weather was quite warm, but not warm enough for two spoiled Greeks to soak in the crystal clear waters of some of the best Puglia beaches. The fact that we visited Puglia in mid-spring is also the reason why you will notice that some beaches look rather untaken care of or deserted in the photos. None of those beaches is THAT tranquil in the summer. Looking back, we’d definitely plan this trip in June so as to have the best of two worlds: enjoy Puglia’s pristine beaches to the fullest but without the peak season crowds.
12 Best Beaches in Puglia Italy
We decided to list these 12 best beaches in Puglia in the order we visited them during our 15-day road trip across the region. To make it easier for you, just keep in mind that the beaches listed here appear in the order they would appear on a map if we set Polignano a Mare as the starting point and Punta Prosciutto as the ending point. Moreover, we did our best to include both beaches that are easily accesible on foot from city centres and others which are accessible by car or public transport. If driving, use a GPS device or Google Maps rather than rely on road signs.
1. Lama Monachile or Cala Porto
Most probably these names don’t ring a bell to you. However, this is perhaps the most recognisable beach (and destination) in the entire region. Although the beach has two names, everybody calls it by the name of the location instead: Polignano a Mare Beach. Cala Porto is one of the best beaches near Bari and one of the most spectacular we have seen in our lives. The beach enjoys a unique location with cliffs holding the stunning Old Town on their shoulders looming above it. Swimming in the emerald waters while gazing at a centuries-old Italian city doesn’t happen every day, does it?
That said, Lama Monachile is not so much about the swimming experience as for the beach itself. Hanging out on the large pebbles among happy locals is priceless. If you decide to go for a swim though, sea shoes might be a great idea as pebbles tend to get bigger and bigger the more you approach the water. Strangely, Cala Porto has no entrance fee. There are toilets but no sunbeds/umbrellas. The beach is just outside the historic centre of Polignano a Mare so it’s super easy to reach on foot.
2. Grotta della Poesia
Situated in Roca Vecchia, a seaside location of great archaeological significance, this is not a beach but a natural pool of unique beauty that does justice to its name: Cave of Poetry. Diving in its crystal clear waters from the cliffs above is not for the faint of heart. However, adventurous people from all over the world do so and love it. For the rest of us, access to the water can be achieved after walking a tiny path that leads to some rocks just above sea level. Again, sea shoes are not a bad idea because the rocks are quite slippery.
There is no entrance fee and no services. There is no beach, actually. Just this wonder of nature in the middle of nowhere. From Lecce, it takes 30′-40′ by car or 1h 15′ by bus to get to the Grotta della Poesia. From Otranto, it is a 30′ drive or a 45′ ride on the bus.
3. Torre dell’Orso
Torre dell’Orso is a dreamy almost 1km long beach with white sand. It is one of the most popular sandy beaches in Puglia. Therefore, during peak season, its many beach clubs can get super crowded. Towards the southern end of the beach, one can marvel at Le Due Sorelle (The Two Sisters), a pair of rocks just off the shore that have a rather sad story to tell. Legend has it that two girls were swimming in the wild sea and when they realised that they wouldn’t be able to make it to shore, the gods turned them into these impressive rocks in the sea. Nowadays, Le Due Sorelle have become one of the symbols of Salento and Puglia in general.
It is free to visit Torre dell’Orso but there is a fee if you want to use sunbeds/umbrellas. It is a 30′-40′ drive or 1h by bus from Lecce to get to the beach. From Otranto it takes 30′ to reach Torre dell’Orso either by car or by bus.
4. Spiaggia degli Alimini
The Alimini Lakes is an area of great natural importance in Puglia which consists of two lakes surrounded by thick forest. The entire area is a natural reserve which welcomes many species of migratory birds. The nearby Spiaggia degli Alimini is a superb beach of fine sand that stretches for more than 5km. Complete with sand dunes and a thick pine forest, this beach is also ideal for windsurfing lovers. This super long beach has many spots where you can hang out for free but there are also many beach clubs along its entire length where you can rent sunbeds/umbrellas for a fee. Spiaggia degli Alimini lies just 15′ north of Otranto either by bus or by car.
5. Baia dei Turchi & Caletta Toraiello
There is good reason why we’ve listed these two beaches together. First of all, they are very close to one another. To be precise, one is the natural continuation of the other. Secondly and most importantly, while we were looking for Baia dei Turchi, we ended up in Caletta Toraiello. In fact, for quite some time we thought that we had indeed found Baia dei Turchi. We know what you think: LOL. But, please, don’t laugh, it was an honest mistake. The thing is that, if arriving by car, the parking lot is separated from the beach and the sea by a thick pine forest. One needs to walk along tiny paths in the forest to reach the beach. Depending on the direction you choose, you will end up at one of the two beaches or even at Spiaggia dei Porticcedhri, a third one.
Baia dei Turchi is one of the most popular beaches in Puglia and is in essence the continuation of Spiaggia degli Alimini to the South. It is said that it was on this beach that the Ottomans landed in 1480 on their way to conquest Otranto. Hence its name. As far as access and services are concerned, they are the same as in Spiagga degli Alimini.
Our honest mistake was one that we will never regret. If we hadn’t taken this slight detour we would never have enjoyed the charms of Caletta Toraiello. For us, the latter is one of the best Puglia beaches we saw during our trip. The beach itself is super tiny but the water is uttterly clear and inviting. Furthermore, this gem of a beach is situated in an area of impressive rock formations and hidden natural pools. There is no entrance fee neither services. Access is the same as for Baia dei Turchi.
6. Spiaggia della Riviera degli Haethei & Spiaggia degli Scaloni
It must be obvious by now that Otranto is the ideal base from where to explore the best beaches in Puglia. However, Otranto itself is home to a couple of beautiful beaches right in the heart of the city centre. The two Otranto beaches are adjacent to one another and boast incredibly clear waters that one would never expect to see on a beach that forms part of a city. They are ideal for families with small children as waters are not only clean but also very shallow. Of course, both beaches get really crowded so try to be there very early in the morning or in the evening if visiting during peak season. There is free access and also sunbeds/umbrellas for a fee. You can get to both of Otranto’s beaches on foot from the Old Town.
7. Porto Badisco
Porto Badisco is a secluded cove with emerald waters, ideal for a relaxing escape on the beach. There are a couple of restaurants and cafés if you want to grab a bite or relax in the shade for a while. There is no entrance fee but you need to pay if you want to use sunbeds/umbrellas. From Otranto, you can get to Porto Badisco in 15′ by car and 25′ by bus respectively.
8. Tricase Porto
Tricase Porto got us under its spell instantly and it is definitely among our favourite places in Puglia. It comprises a tiny port with crystal clear emerald waters and a small yet stunning sandy beach at one end of the port. There are a couple of restaurants on the small port, serving mostly seafood and cold beer. All this creates a carefree ambience of endless summer that is hard to put into words. If this isn’t heaven on earth, we don’t know what is. The beach is free to the public and there are no services. Tricase Porto is 25′-30′ by car or 40′ by bus from the coastal town of Santa Maria di Leuca.
9. Piscina Naturale di Marina Serra
As its name suggests, this is a natural swimming pool of outstanding beauty. The small pool is surrounded by cliffs and its waters are incredibly clear. It is the ideal place to relax under the sun, while it is also perfect for children to play around in its shallow waters. There is no entrance fee neither services. It takes 25′-30′ by car or 45′ by bus to reach Marina Serra from Santa Maria di Leuca.
10. Spiaggia della Purità
Another fine example of a wonderful beach which is located just a stone’s throw from a gorgeous Italian Old Town is Spiaggia della Purità in Gallipoli. The long sandy beach boasts a fantastic location and exquisite views to the breathtakingly beautiful architecture of the historic centre of Gallipoli. Whether you are in a mood for a swim or not, Gallipoli Beach is the place to be during sunset when the sky and the sea play the leading parts in an epic spectacle of light and colour. There is no entrance fee neither beach services. The beach is accessible on foot from the very heart of Gallipoli Old Town.
11. Spiaggia di Santa Maria Al Bagno
Yet another place in Puglia which features a gorgeous beach right in the heart of the town is picturesque Santa Maria Al Bagno. This ancient fishing village boasts an amazing beach with crystal clear waters surrounded by cliffs and wonderful old mansions. There is no entrance fee neither sunbeds/umbrellas. Santa Maria Al Bagno is a 20′ drive or a 25′ bus ride from Gallipoli.
12. Punta Prosciutto
Punta Prosciutto, although quite popular, is one of the most pristine beaches in Puglia. For its most part the beach is free and unspoilt, with only a few spots occupied by beach clubs. The crystal clear light blue waters and the tall sand dunes render Punta Prosciutto one of the most exotic beaches in the Mediterranean Sea. There is no entrance fee and you can rent umbrellas/sunbeds. You can reach Punta Prosciutto after driving for about 45′ or riding the bus for 1h 45′ from Gallipoli.
We are pretty sure that this list of best beaches in Puglia is not exhaustive. We’d very much welcome the opportunity to visit this wonderful region again so as to get to know with more of its hidden treasures and pristine beaches. Until then, we can’t wait to hear which are the best Puglia beaches for you in the comments!
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