It may not be the most obvious choice when planning a seaside escape, but Africa offers beach holidays with a difference if you're willing to explore outside your comfort zone. Journey north to the countries skirted by the Mediterranean Sea to soak in the African sunshine at your choice of uncrowded, exotic beaches.


Sunny Tunisia is the heart of Africa's Mediterranean coast, within reach of Sicily and Sardinia. Influenced by Arabic, Turkish and European empires, this once Carthaginian powerhouse is now a laidback beach resort mecca. Historic Hammamet on the Cap Bon Peninsula is frequented by water sports enthusiasts, with paragliders and jet-skiers dotting the seascape. Leisure seekers, however, can be spotted on the Tunisian Island of Djerba, trekking the beach on camelback against a startling pale blue sea before checking into luxury spa resorts.


Avoid the crowds with a stopover in Algeria, a North African country with burgeoning tourism potential. Capital Algiers is a city of contrast, bathed in white-washed French architecture with heritage highlights standing strong through years of unrest. Algiers and visitors flock to the seafront to watch ships come and go and embed their sunshades in the coarse sand. Heading west, Oran may play second fiddle to the capital but its nightlife is hard to top – dance to the sound of the surf at the La Corniche after a leisurely day at Les Sablettes or Ain El Turk.


Beyond the pyramids and alluring ancient attractions, Egypt's north coast is blanketed in scintillating white beaches and history-rich port cities, none more so than the magnificent Alexandria. Known as the "window to the Mediterranean", Alexandria has a multitude of beaches in and out of the city centre – settle in for a seafood feast at Abu Kir, bathe in rays at Maamoura Beach or relax among the Marina socialites.