Europe is home to an almost unbelievable number of islands, hundreds of thousands in fact. From the islands of the sun-soaked Mediterranean and Adriatic seas to secluded Baltic archipelagos and lesser-known outposts in the North Sea, we take a look at some of the most beautiful islands in Europe.
Where are some of the best islands to visit in Europe?
Most visitors flock to Santorini, with its white roof buildings, or to Rhodes, home to some of Greece's best historic sites, but if you're looking for natural beauty, then Ikaria is the island to head for. A largely unspoiled and mountainous island, it's perfect for outdoor enthusiasts and adventurists. From the hot springs of Therma to the scattered olive groves, hilltop hikes and empty beaches, the natural bliss of the island is truly life affirming, so much so that Ikarian residents are some of the longest living on earth. The closest airport is on neighbouring Samos and from here travellers can take a ferry to Ikaria.
The Finnish Aland archipelago is made up of 6,700 islands. A demilitarised zone with its own government its nickname is the 'Islands of Peace'. The most populated island is Fasta Aland, home of the capital Mariehamn. Outdoor sports and activities are part of the fabric of Arland, as well as spas, saunas and plenty of space for reflection and meditation. Rent your own private island and be sure to catch the amazing sunsets. The island even has its own airport in Mariehamn.
French-speaking Corsica lies closer to Italy than France, in the Northern Mediterranean. To visit Corsica is to enjoy a perfect blend of French and Italian culture, architecture, and cuisine. Almost half of the island is a national park, made up of a huge network of walking trails taking in mountains, forests, lakes and gorges. It's easy to get to Corsica as it has four small airports, located in the four corners of the island: Calvi, Figari, Bastia and Ajaccio.
The ball at the end of Italy's boot, Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean and one that has its own rich culture, cuisine, and history. As the warmest part of the country, Sicily enjoys hot summers and mild winters. From much of the island, the imposing Mount Etna remains in view, one of the most active in the world. There are historical sites, such as the Doric greek temple at Segesta and UNESCO World Heritage sites on the island. These include the Arab-Norman Palermo Cathedral, Villa Romana del Casale, and Syracuse and the Rocky Necropolis of Pantalica. Sicily has four international airports: Catania, Palermo, Trapani, and Comiso.
All three of the Spanish Balearic Islands are beautiful, but as the smallest and least populated, Menorca has more secluded spots, fewer crowds and a slower, genteel vibe. Top natural sites include the Cala Macarella, a huge natural bay with pure white sand, azure-blue water, and lush green hills. The beautiful old town, Ciutadella, is distinctly charming with its cobblestone roads, elegant plazas, majestic forts and marina. When flying to Menorca, you'll land at Menorca Airport, located to the south of the island, close to the capital, Mahon.
This German outpost, once governed by the UK, is a sparsely populated, car-free haven, where the architecture and culture combine to create a German and British hybrid. Heligoland has long been viewed as a therapeutic sanctuary. Unparalleled and uninterrupted views across the North Sea combine with some of the freshest air in Europe to create the ultimate outdoor experience. Even more secluded, if that's possible, is Düne, a small island made up entirely of a nature reserve. There is a small airport on Düne with connections from a number of airports within Germany.
One of 1,200 Croatian islands located in the Adriatic; Hvar is frequently referred to as the most beautiful. Its beauty has long attracted the international yachting crowd, but beyond the moneyed main town and marina is an expansive island. It is home to historic fishing towns, countless natural beauty spots and sequestered beaches, all with over 2,700 annual sunshine hours (double that of the UK). The island's largest crop is lavender, giving it a beautiful year-round scent. The nearest airport is on the mainland at Split. Visitors can then access Hvar by ferry.
Pick your beautiful European island paradise for a relaxing getaway
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