I hope you can keep a secret, because it’s time to leave the crowds behind and discover eight beautiful Mediterranean’s islands where hunting for space on a crowded beach simply doesn’t exist.
So put down your guide to Mallorca and start planning a trip to one of these dreamy destinations:
1. Porquerolles, France
The French Riviera is a byword for luxury – but where can you peel back this layer of glitz and glamor to experience traditional French culture? Step forward Porquerolles, an idyllic island located just 20 minutes by ferry from Hyères. The locals are loco for pedal power, so rent a bike and get exploring. You can rent one from almost every corner, and they’re the perfect mode of transport for stopping at one or two (or three) of the numerous wineries that are scattered across the island. It’s the ideal location to have no set plans, as when you start exploring, you’ll find little pathways leading to breathtaking beaches where you’re unlikely to find any other tourists. One of the more popular beaches is Pointe Prime, where a small ribbon of sand connects a smaller island to the beach.
2. Nisyros, Greece
It’s pretty tough to find a Greek island that isn’t beautiful, but you’ll struggle to find one as special as Nisyros. Not only is the island literally a volcano, but it’s also home to the most gorgeous church in Greece (Church of Agios), and few tourists venture here compared to Kos, its famous island neighbor. In the quaint port town of Mandraki, you’ll find a mixture of white and colorful houses that are actually made of volcanic rocks. You can even take a walk on the wild side by hiking through the volcano crater. If you’re after water adventure, the island’s rugged coastline is ideal for windsurfing and snorkeling.
3. Biševo, Croatia
With a mere 15 permanent residents and measuring only 6 km2 in size, the little island of Biševo would probably go unnoticed if it weren’t for its famous caves. This tiny Croatian island is perfect for a day trip from Viš, another island that’s well worth a visit. Rent your own ship or hop on a tour boat and explore ten entirely different caves along the coast, with the most famous known locally as Modra Špilja or simply the Blue Cave. Here, sun rays shine through an underwater crack in the rocks and set the cave alight with a vivid blue color. You can’t visit the Blue Cave with your own boat, unfortunately, but there are several local companies who offer tours. Make sure you go around lunchtime when the blue is the brightest. Away from the caves, Biševo is home to beautiful beaches, with two of the best found at Porat and Salbunara.
4. Agistri, Greece
It’s hard to compete with the likes of Santorini or Mykonos, but Agistri, a little island just one hour from Athens, comes pretty close. Here, you can enjoy an authentic Greek holiday away from the hoards of tourists and sky-high hotel prices. Its proximity to Athens allows you to combine an island getaway with a quick city trip. Simply take the ferry from Piraeus, the main port of Athens, and you’ll be unwinding in no time. Most of the hotels are found in Skala, just five minutes from Agistri’s ferry terminal. From here, Chalikiada Beach is just a short hike away. After marveling at the ocean views from atop the cliff, head down a small cliff path to feel the white sand between your toes.
5. Ischia, Italy
Sitting next to Capri is the sun-soaked gem of Ischia. Known as ‘Isola Verde’ (Green Island) due to the azure ocean clashing with the island’s colorful fauna, Ischia is a welcome break from the crowds of Capri. Away from its dreamy beaches, you’ll find Castello Aragonese, a dramatic-looking Medieval castle sat atop a craggy islet. After a day of sightseeing, enjoy a breathtaking view of the castle while enjoying delicious Italian dishes at Da Maria, a restaurant that you can only reach by boat. Of course, no trip to Ischia is complete without relaxing on the island’s beautiful beaches, and if you visit during the summer shoulder months, you’ll enjoy the tranquility of island life away from the scorching summer heat.
6. Elba, Italy
If you think Ischia is the only hidden Italian paradise, you’re very much mistaken. Sandwiched between Corsica and the Tuscan coastline, lies the picture-perfect island of Elba. The ferry ride from the mainland to Portoferraio, which is the island’s largest town and well worth exploring, gives you a taste of what’s to come as it skips across the ocean. In addition to its crystal-clear waters, pebbled beaches, and spectacular cliffs, Elba boasts an extensive amount of history. So, if you’re ever sick of relaxing on a beach (is anyone ever?), there’s plenty for your inner culture buff to enjoy, including the mansion that Napoleon Bonaparte lived in while exiled on the island.
7. Formentera, Spain
The Balearics. Everybody’s heard of Mallorca, Menorca, and Ibiza, yet for some reason, a little island just nine kilometers from Ibiza has managed to stay out of the spotlight. Formentera, with its white sand beaches and crystalline waters, is one of the most idyllic islands in the Mediterranean. There are no wild party nights like on neighboring islands; it’s where people come to chill out to the max. While Formentera is the epitome of relaxation, it’s also a hub for adventure with its clear water providing the perfect setting for snorkeling and diving. Hiking or hopping on a scooter to one of the old lighthouses (especially Cap de Barbaria) to watch the sunset is a must.
8. Cunda Adası, Turkey
Doesn’t an olive-grove-covered island between Greece and Turkey sound like a place you want to be? If the answer is yes, then Cunda, the largest of the Ayvalık Islands, is the place for you. From the moment you arrive, start exploring the narrow alleyways, which are home to stone houses, colorful shutters, and vibrant flowers. The island’s main landmark, Taksiyarhis Church, will make you feel like you just traveled back in time while the island’s plethora of beaches and selection of fine fish restaurants will ensure you enjoy all the perks of a Mediterranean break, but away from the crowds.