Top Island Destinations in Europe
Top Island Destinations in Europe – They can be large or small. Sometimes islands can be found few meters from the shores or in the middle of the ocean, waiting for you to discover them.
Top Island Destinations in Europe – Suffice to say, no matter what type of vacationer you are (beach bum, active hiker, surfer, partyer; you name it), you’re bound to find at least one, probably several, of the best islands in Europe that are just perfect for you.
Top Island Destinations in Europe – Ibiza, Spain
Ibiza is the third largest of the Balearic Islands. It lies in the western Mediterranean 50 miles (80 km) southwest of Majorca.
The island was a strategic point of great importance in ancient times and was inhabited by the Phoenicians and Carthaginians.
It has some notable archaeological sites, relics from which are housed in the Archaeological Museum at Ibiza city, also called La Vila.
The island’s hilly relief, culminating in La Atalaya (1,558 feet [475 meters]), is truncated in the central northern coast to form a costa brava (rugged coast) with cliffs exceeding 800 feet (240 meters) and penetrated by calas (small coves).
There are several irrigated lowlands, and the hillsides are intensively terraced.
Agriculture is mainly of a subsistence nature, but almonds, dried figs, and apricots are exported.
Salt produced by the evaporation of seawater has been the main export for centuries.
Fish and charcoal surplus to local needs are also sent to the mainland.
Ibiza is one of the Balearic islands, an archipelago of Spain in the Mediterranean Sea.
It’s well known for the lively nightlife in Ibiza Town and Sant Antoni, where major European nightclubs have summer outposts.
It’s also home to quiet villages, yoga retreats and beaches, from Platja d’en Bossa, lined with hotels, bars and shops, to quieter sandy coves backed by pine-clad hills found all around the coast.
The best things to do in Ibiza appeal to celebrities, hippies and boozy backpackers who all descend on this Balearic island off the southern coast of Spain.
It’s a hedonist’s dream, with non-stop party action and the finest DJs in the world descending on the island throughout the summer months.
But away from the dance floor, this volcanic island is home to ancient towns, fantastic beaches and excellent restaurants.
Enjoying the treasures of Ibiza doesn’t come cheap, but if you’re looking to party, it’s one of the best places in the world.
Best Things to Do in Ibiza, Spain
Walled Old Town
Café Del Mar
Torre des Savinar
Top Island Destinations in Europe – Crete, Greece
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the 88th largest island in the world and the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, after Sicily, Sardinia, Cyprus, and Corsica.
Crete rests about 160 km south of the Greek mainland, and about 100 km southwest of Anatolia.
Crete, Modern Greek Kríti, Ancient Greek Crete or Krete, Latin Creta, Turkish Girit, Venetian Candia, island in the eastern Mediterranean Sea that is one of 13 administrative regions of Greece.
Crete is the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean and the largest of the islands forming part of modern Greece.
It is relatively long and narrow, stretching for 160 miles (260 km) on its east-west axis and varying in width from 7.5 to 37 miles (12 to 60 km).
The administrative center is Irákleio on the north coast.
Area 3,218 square miles (8,336 square km).
Pop. (2001) 594,368; (2011) 623,065.
If there was one word to describe the Greek island of Crete, it would be diverse.
Sandy beaches hide among soaring mountains, palm tree forests grow in the middle of sprawling plains, bustling modern cities share coastlines with centuries-old structures.
And speaking of cities — in Crete, they reflect the people that came before.
The streets are lined with architecture mirroring the styles of the Minoans, the Venetians and the Ottomans, as well as contemporary Greeks.
Despite the visible contradictions, this island maintains a sense of unity, felt whenever you step onto the street, dine at a local taverna, or enjoy a glass of raki at a sidewalk café.
Crete’s experiences are as assorted as its history, so take some time to decide what type of vacation you’re looking to have before you set anything in stone.
For an urban setting with a variety of restaurants, bars and nightclubs, consider staying along the northern coast in Chania or Heraklion.
Those who prefer the great outdoors should head to Rethymnon or Agios Nikolaos for the many beautiful beaches.
Best Things to Do in Crete, Greece
Palace of Knossos
Heraklion Archeological Museum
Top Island Destinations in Europe – Sardinia, Italy
TexSardinia is a large Italian island in the Mediterranean Sea. It has nearly 2,000km of coastline, sandy beaches and a mountainous interior crossed with hiking trails.
Its rugged landscape is dotted with thousands of nuraghi – mysterious Bronze Age stone ruins shaped like beehives.
One of the largest and oldest nuraghi is Su Nuraxi in Barumini, dating to 1500 B.C.
Sardinia, Italian Sardegna, island and regione (region) of Italy, second in size only to Sicily among the islands of the western Mediterranean.
It lies 120 miles (200 km) west of the mainland of Italy, 7.5 miles (12 km) south of the neighboring French island of Corsica, and 120 miles (200 km) north of the coast of Africa.
The capital is Cagliari. Area 9,301 square miles (24,090 square km). Pop. (2022 est.) 1,579,181.
Sardinia, a 9,301-square-mile island situated in the Mediterranean Sea, just west of the Italian mainland, lures travelers with its unique blend of ancient culture and arresting coastal views.
Not only can you lounge on a white beach or wade out into clear, turquoise waters, but you can enjoy a leisurely pranzo (lunch) complete with Sardinia’s own take on pasta and wine.
Snorkel among colorful fish in nearby coves, but you can also explore inland Sardinia’s traditional villages and see shepherds tending to their flocks.
The drive along the island’s northern Emerald Coast would convince you that Sardinia is characterized solely by glamorous hotels and ristorantes, and utterly perfect beaches, but you’d be wrong. It’s also home to humble farms, forested mountains, and friendly but reserved locals.
Best Things to Do Sardinia, Italy
Top Island Destinations in Europe – Jersey & Guernsey, United Kingdom
Located between England and France are several islands which have a unique status in the international community.
They aren’t part of any country, nor are they a territory of a country.
They share the same monarch as the UK but are not part of the Commonwealth.
Top Island Destinations in Europe – Jersey, United Kingdom
Jersey, British crown dependency and island, the largest and southernmost of the Channel Islands, lying south of England’s coast and 12 miles (19 km) west of the Cotentin peninsula of France.
Its capital, St. Helier, is 100 miles (160 km) south of Weymouth, England.
Jersey is about 10 miles (16 km) across and 5 miles (8 km) from north to south.
The Ecrehous rocks (6 miles northeast) and Les Minquiers (12 miles [19 km] south) are in the Bailiwick of Jersey.
The island is largely a plateau mantled with loess, with deeply incised valleys sloping from north to south. Picturesque cliffs reaching 485 feet (148 meters) in height line the northern coast; elsewhere, rocky headlands enclose sandy bays bordered by infilled lagoons.
Coasts are reef-strewn, but a breakwater in St. Aubin’s Bay protects St. Helier Harbour from southwest gales.
Blown sand forms dunes at the northern and southern ends of St. Ouen’s Bay on the western coast.
The climate is less maritime and more sunny than Guernsey’s. Mean annual temperature is in the low 50s F (about 11 °C).
Frost is rare, but cold air spreading from France in spring occasionally damages the potato crop.
Top Island Destinations in Europe -Guernsey
British crown dependency and island, second largest of the Channel Islands. It is 30 miles (48 km) west of Normandy, France, and roughly triangular in shape.
With Alderney, Sark, Herm, Jethou, and associated islets, it forms the Bailiwick of Guernsey. Its capital is St. Peter Port.
In the south, Guernsey rises in a plateau to about 300 feet (90 metres), with ragged coastal cliffs.
It descends in steps and is drained mainly by streams flowing northward in deeply incised valleys.
Northern Guernsey is low-lying, although small outcrops of resistant rock form hills (hougues).
The soil on lower ground is of blown sand, raised beach deposits, and the fills of old lagoons.
The climate is maritime; snow and severe frost are rare, and the annual temperature range is only about 17 °F (9 °C).
Annual rainfall varies from 30 to 35 inches (750–900 mm).
The somewhat scanty water supplies are supplemented by seawater distillation.
Top Island Destinations in Europe – Hvar, Croatia
Hvar is a port and resort town on the Croatian island of Hvar. Yachts fill its harbor in summer.
Ferries connect the town with the several Pakleni Islands just offshore.
These are home to secluded beaches, such as those around Ždrilca Bay, as well as rocky coves and pine forests.
Hula Hula Beach in Hvar and Stipanska Beach on Marinkovac Island are known for their nightlife and lively bars.
Hvar island is incredibly sunny, averaging 2718 hours of sunshine a year.
In fact, the island is so sunny that hotels are required to provide a free night of accommodation if it snows.
It’s the only place in the world with 4 UNESCO heritage sites.
While I am guilty of only visiting Hvar town during my previous trips, celebrities like Beyonce, Prince Harry, and Bill Gates have been properly Hvaring all this time.
With its architecture, beautiful nature and mild climate many would describe it as a true fairy-tale city.
When we add to the natural beauties, a high quality accommodation and Mediterranean cordiality and courtesy city of Hvar becomes an ideal destination for couples’, families’ and parties’ holidays.
Best Things to Do in Hvar, Croatia
St. Stephen’s Cathedral
Hula Hula Beach Bar
Venetian loggia and clock tower
Top Island Destinations in Europe – Santorini, Greece
Santorini is one of the Cyclades islands in the Aegean Sea. It was devastated by a volcanic eruption in the 16th century BC, forever shaping its rugged landscape.
The whitewashed, cubiform houses of its 2 principal towns, Fira and Oia, cling to cliffs above an underwater caldera (crater).
They overlook the sea, small islands to the west and beaches made up of black, red and white lava pebbles.
Geologically, Thera is the remaining eastern half of an exploded volcano.
Its bow-shaped rim and the remnant isles of Thirasía and Aspronísi form an open lagoon that measures 37 miles (60 km) in circumference. In the centre of the lagoon are two active volcanic islets, Néa Kaméni (“New Burnt Island”) and Palaía Kaméni (“Old Burnt Island”).
Thera proper consists largely of lava and pumice, the latter of which is the island’s main export.
Red-wine grapes are also grown.
The lagoon is rimmed by red, white and black striped volcanic cliffs rising to almost 1,000 feet (300 meters). The summit of Thera is the 1,857-foot (566-meter) limestone Mount Profítis Ilías in the southeast.
The chief town, Thíra (locally called Firá), was badly damaged by an earthquake in 1956.
Other settlements include Emboríon and Pírgos to the south and the port of Oía at the north entrance to the lagoon, which was destroyed by the 1956 earthquake.
A massive volcanic eruption around 1650 B.C. forced the center of what was then a single island to implode and succumb to the sea.
Some say that this was the original home of the lost city of Atlantis, which long ago disappeared into the ocean’s depths.
Whatever remains of this mythological metropolis is now guarded by beautiful beaches and stately whitewashed homes.
Today, Santorini consists of two inhabited islands and several islets.
Most visitors spend their time on Thira (the archipelago’s largest island), which is home to Santorini’s major towns, including Fira and Oia. Sleepy Thirassia makes for a relaxing daytrip too.
And don’t count out the quieter islands: Nea Kameni and Palea Kameni are worth exploring.
Enjoy the colorful beaches – the black and red sands make for a memorable visit.
Next up, indulge in the archaeological delights of the impressively preserved Ancient Akrotiri or hike to Ancient Thera to see the ruins of three empires, including the Romans.
From there, catch a breathtaking view of the caldera, a brilliant turquoise pool of water that serves as the nucleus for the varied isles of this archipelago.
Some would say you only need a day to enjoy these islands’ charms (they are a popular port of call for cruise ships), but to really drink in all Santorini has to offer, you’ll need a few days to a week.
Then you’ll have plenty of time to learn there’s more to these comely dots of the Cyclades than meets the eye.
Best Things to Do in Santorini, Greece
Watch the Sunset
Take a Boat Tour
Walk Along Skaros Rock
Go Wine or Olive Oil Tasting
Top Island Destinations in Europe – The Azores, Portugal
The Azores (pronounced “ah-SORSH” by locals) is the kind of place you’d imagine to be the backdrop of a fantasy novel.
The Azores, an autonomous region of Portugal, are an archipelago in the mid-Atlantic.
The islands are characterized by dramatic landscapes, fishing villages, green pastures and hedgerows of blue hydrangeas.
São Miguel, the largest, has lake-filled calderas and the Gorreana Tea Plantation.
Pico is home to the 2,351m Mt. Pico and vineyards sheltered by boulders.
Azores, Portuguese in full Arquipélago dos Açores, archipelago and região autónoma (autonomous region) of Portugal.
The Azores are divided into three widely separated island groups: the eastern group, consisting of São Miguel, Santa Maria, and the Formigas islets; the central group, consisting of Faial, Pico, São Jorge, Terceira, and Graciosa; and the northwestern group, consisting of Flores and Corvo.
The capital is Ponta Delgada on São Miguel.
The nearest continental land is Cape Roca, Portugal, which lies 875 miles (1,400 km) east of Santa Maria.
The Azores, rising from the ocean atop the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, are in effect a major mountain range.
The islands rise steeply from shores lined with rock and pebble debris (scree, or talus) to heights reaching 7,713 feet (2,351 meters) above sea level on Pico, the highest point in metropolitan Portugal.
Their unstable geologic nature is indicated by numerous earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
In 1522 the town of Vila Franca do Campo, then capital of São Miguel, was buried during a massive convulsion, and as recently as 1957–58 the Capelinhos eruption enlarged Faial.
Indeed, many island houses are constructed of building blocks made of basalt.
Deep craters (calderas) as well as lakes are a dramatic feature of the islands.
On São Miguel the volcanic heat on the shores of Lake Furnas, a popular picnic spot, is sufficient for cooking.
In a way, the Azores is that fantastical place.
The Azores, a group of nine islands located about 1,000 miles off the coast of mainland Portugal, were formed by a series of earthquakes and eruptions that took place thousands of years ago.
Its Atlantic climate has given way to evergreen vegetation to take hold of its remaining debris, resulting in landscapes that are otherworldly and ripe for exploration.
In the Azores, you’ll find its islands dotted with miles-long calderas enshrouded in tropical foliage, filled with multi-colored lakes, centuries-old Portuguese villages, or all of the above.
In the water, you’ll find one-third of the world’s cetacean species at any given time.
And if you take a trip to Furnas Valley on São Miguel island, you can take a dip in thermal pools that contain minerals produced from a dormant volcano, which are believed to help with issues ranging from allergies to anemia.
Whichever way you decide to take in the magic of the Azores, know you’ll be hard-pressed to find a place like this anywhere else in the world.
Best Things to Do in The Azores, Portugal
Azores Whale Watching
Sete Cidades (São Miguel)
Lagoa do Fogo (São Miguel)
Top Island Destinations in Europe – Capri, Italy
Capri, an island in Italy’s Bay of Naples, is famed for its rugged landscape, upscale hotels and shopping, from designer fashions to limoncello and handmade leather sandals.
One of its best-known natural sites is the Blue Grotto, a dark cavern where the sea glows electric blue, the result of sunlight passing through an underwater cave.
In summer, Capri’s dramatic, cove-studded coastline draws many yachts.
Island of Capri, Italian Isola di Capri, Latin Capreae, island near the southern entrance to the Bay of Naples, Campania regione (region), southern Italy.
It lies opposite the Sorrento peninsula, to which it was joined in prehistoric times.
The island is a single block of limestone 3.9 miles (6.25 km) long, with a maximum width of 1.8 miles and an area of 4 square miles (10 square km), rising to 1,932 feet (589 meters) at Monte Solaro in the west.
Two indentations in its precipitous cliff-lined coast serve as landing places: the Marina Grande on the north shore, protected by a breakwater, and the open Marina Piccola on the south, used when the north wind is particularly strong.
Inhabited in prehistoric times, the island later became a Greek colony and then a resort (Capreae) of emperors in the early years of the Roman Empire.
Until a carriage road was built in the 19th century between Capri and Anacapri, the latter could only be reached from the sea by a flight of 800 steps called the Scala Fenicia (Phoenician Stairs).
Stone artifacts have been found in one of the caves with which the rocky shores of Capri abound; the most notable of these is the Blue Grotto (Grotta Azzurra), rediscovered in 1826 and accessible only by boat.
Sunlight entering through the water that fills most of the entrance gives it an extraordinary blue light, whence its name.
There are ruins of two medieval castles, the Castello di Barbarossa and the Castiglione, and the oldest church (10th–11th centuries) is that of St. Costanzo, the island’s patron saint.
The flora is among the most varied in Italy, and large numbers of migratory birds rest there for days.
The name of the island has two possible origins, either capra (“goat”) or kapros (“wild boar”).
There are fine bathing beaches and numerous hotels and villas, and Capri is connected with Naples and Sorrento by frequent steamer and hydrofoil services.
Besides tourism, agriculture (vineyards, olives, citrus fruits) and fishing are carried on.
An undersea aqueduct bringing fresh water from the mainland to support all these activities was completed in 1978.
Ports include Civitavecchia, Pozzuoli, Naples, Salerno, and Palermo (in Sicily).
The rugged cliffs and crystal clear waters of the small island of Capri seem to be created straight from dreams and mythology.
It’s rumored to be where the seductive sirens sang to Odysseus and his sailors in Homer’s “The Odyssey,” and we can see why their offer was so tantalizing.
From bright green trees and gardens to colorful marinas and squares, Capri is a paradisiacal destination every bit as beautiful as artistic renderings make it out to be.
The small getaway in the Bay of Naples has been a hot spot for royalty and celebrities since the Roman times.
Thus, it is flush with world-class restaurants, breathtaking hikes, five-star hotels and chic shops.
Whether you’re visiting for a daytrip or for a month-long vacation, you’ll be smitten with the laid-back charm of Capri and yearn to return as soon as possible.
A popular way to see the natural wonders of this Southern Italian island is by boat.
Popular attractions such as the Blue Grotto, Green Grotto and Faraglioni can be seen during a short trip circumnavigating the island.
But you can easily stay on land to have a good time as well.
Two walkable and attractive towns, Capri and Anacapri, have shops, historical attractions and restaurants littered within their winding streets.
And two picturesque beaches sit on either side of the island at either Marina Grande or Marina Piccola.
If you’re a history buff, you can visit multiple museum complexes showcasing Capri’s storied past.
And if you enjoy getting outside and finding the perfect view, you can either take the chairlift up Mount Solaro or take a hike to the Natural Arch.
Just remember to bring your camera, because you’re going to want to keep memories of your trip to Capri for a lifetime.
Best Things to Do Capri, Italy
The Gardens of Augustus
Boat Trip Around the Island
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