© Marco Bottigelli/Getty

Coastal Mecklenburg – Western Pomerania

This spectacular stretch of the Baltic coast is certainly one of Europe's better-kept secrets. But Germans know better and flock in summer to its dazzling clean white sand and glittering seas.

Hot spots during the all-too-brief beach-going season include three leafy resort islands: sprawling, villa-lined Rügen; car-free Hiddensee; and Usedom (which Germany shares with Poland). Warnemünde, the seaside resort near Rostock, is another sandy hot spot – when it's hot. For natural drama, the cliffs of Jasmund National Park are stunning.

Stralsund is the prize town of the region, combining seaside charms with beautiful old architecture. Other highlights include the gracious university town of Greifswald, which retains some exquisite medieval architecture, as does Wismar.

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