Formentera Aerial
20th April 2016

Europe’s Hidden Island Bucket List

Who doesn’t love an island? We’re huge fans, and the more remote and undiscovered the better. If you’re getting itchy feet thinking about the fast-approaching summer and you just can’t decide where to go, feast your eyes on these nine beauties for a bit of paradise island inspiration…

Formentera

Formentera Spain

The baby of the Balearics and relatively hidden compared to its neighbours, Formentera is just a short ferry ride and a whole world away from its neighbour Ibiza. You won’t find banging Superclubs, herds of party people, and crowded beach raves here. What you will find instead is white sand beaches, sweetly scented pine groves, sand dunes, incredible seafood, ludicrously clear water, and probably a little bit of inner peace too. Which is always nice.

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Lofoten Islands

lofoten islands norway

These are remote. Really remote. Right up near the top of Norway remote. You’ll have a few more hours travel ahead of you once we’ve left you at Oslo, but some places are worth the journey. This kind of remote means Northern Lights in winter, the midnight sun in summer, and the kind of indescribable, untouched natural beauty that could actually bring tears to your eyes.

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Gozo

The world famous Azure Window in Gozo island - Mediterranean nature wonder in the beautiful Malta - Unrecognizable touristic scuba divers

Slap bang in the middle of the Mediterranean, the Maltese archipelago punctuates the Med’s beautiful blue hue like three little gold nuggets. Malta is the big one, with the big city and the lion’s share of the tourist traffic… and then, a short ferry ride away, there’s Gozo. Gozo is quieter, more rural, more laid back. Gozo is the one with the famous Azure Window (pictured above) and the diver’s dream, the blue hole, beside it. Gozo is gorgeous. Go to Gozo.

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PorquerollesPorquerolles South France

 

Just off the beautiful blue Mediterranean coast of France, you’ll find an archipelago of four little islands called the Îles d’Hyères, the largest of which is Porquerolles. Most of Porquerolles is a designated National Park and conservation area, and has been since the early 70s. Go here and you’ll get a good idea of how the whole Riviera looked before it became built up. Spoiler alert: it’s gorgeous. Oh, if you really like to hang loose on holidays, head two islands over to Île du Levant. It’s a naturist Island, so you don’t even really need to pack anything…

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Colonsay

Colonsay Scotland

Yep, believe it or not, Scotland has itself some paradise islands and Colonsay in the Inner Hebrides is one particularly beautiful one. Ok, so it doesn’t have a tropical climate – it’s still Scotland, after all – but it has crystal clear waters, pristine sandy beaches, rugged dramatic cliffs, rare flora and fauna, and utterly untouched natural beauty (only 100 people live here). If you really want to get away from it all, this is the island for you. Gt to Glasgow and then enjoy the incredibly scenic journey from the airport out to Oban, where you get the ferry. This one is all about peace and quiet.

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Cíes Islands

Cies Islands Spain

Locals have been known to call them the Galician Caribbean. The Romans named them the Islands of the Gods. One look at the stunning Cíes Islands, with their pearly white sands and pristine turquoise waters, and you’ll see why. Rodas Beach, which connects two of the islands, looks like what you think of when you think of a paradise beach. The islands and their surrounding waters are also a highly protected nature reserve – in fact 80% of the park is sub-aquatic – so you can expect to see plenty of pristine natural beauty (if you can drag yourself off the beach long enough to go exploring).  Visiting the islands is not a free-for-all and there is a limit to how many people can visit each day, so book your place on the boat well in advance.

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Stromboli Italy

Stromboli island volcano

Trip to an active volcano anyone? Stromboli, just off the northern coast of Sicily, is one of Italy’s eight Aeolian Islands and one of its three active volcanoes. It’s constantly active and its fiery mouth is often visible a distance, which explains its nickname – ‘The Lighthouse of the Mediterranean’. This island inspired J.R.R. Tolkein (Mordor is based on Stromboli) and features in Jules Verne’s Journey To The Centre of the Earth, and It counts none other than Dolce and Gabbana among its regular visitors. It’s dramatic and beautiful and well worth visiting.

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Belle-Île-en-Mer

Belle ile mer france

Another French gem of an Island, Belle-Île-en-Mer (Belle Isle) lies off the coast of Brittany and has no fewer than 60 beautiful beaches on which you can pay your weary/lazy head and bask in the sun. It’s a really beautiful island – think sleepy fishing villages, old forts, wild coastal scenery, beautiful French seafood dishes, and even an Opera festival in August of each year. It’s easy enough to get to as well, with ferries from Lorient departing daily. Treat yourself to some Breton lobster while you’re there.

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Sao Miguel

Lake of Sete Cidades from Vista do Rei viewpoint in Sao Miguel, Azores

It’s the biggest and busiest of the Azores, so actually there are more ‘hidden’ islands in this Archipelago, but as far as European Islands go it’s still a bona fide hidden gem. Hike into the belly of a massive volcanic crater, set sail for a whale watching safari, bathe in naturally hot springs, go canyoning in hidden gorges, eat lunch that’s been cooked underground in volcano-steam… This island is perfect for anyone who likes to stay active when they travel.

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Dee Murray

Dee Murray

Dee Murray has a very simple travel MO... Go to great places; do awesome stuff; eat delicious food; then come home and write about it all.

15 Comments

  • Fernando

    What a bout Madeira Island???

    29th April 2016 at 9:45 pm
    • John

      Beautiful Island I hope to visit again soon. Last night I watched a documentary on BBC 4 which gave me a more insightful idea of this unique island. I shall be searching out these hidden gems on my next visit.

      21st November 2016 at 12:54 pm
    • PUCHJMOR

      Madeira for good fresh not farmed fish & sea foods, lovely genuine people, good wine what more do you need for a break away from UK.

      21st November 2016 at 2:37 pm
      • Steve

        Try a beach for a start, oh and some night life, Madeira as travel agents say is for “newly weds and nearly deads”….. as it has no evening entertainment

        21st November 2016 at 6:09 pm
    • Arni

      And Açores

      21st November 2016 at 8:42 pm
  • Fran Read

    What about beautiful Alderney – one of our very own Channel Islands. Very much a hidden gem!

    10th May 2016 at 6:11 am
  • Stuart Clarke

    What about Monte Isola. Big enough to have about 5 beautiful villages on it. It’s in the middle of Lake Iseo Italy. Also big in the news at the moment with ‘Floating Piers’ (look it up!)

    7th June 2016 at 5:33 pm
  • Lynne

    The Isle of Wight just off the .english coast is absolutely beautiful …

    12th June 2016 at 1:54 am
  • Marco

    What about the island of Capri ?

    21st November 2016 at 2:31 pm
  • Jens

    Bornholm is a danish gem in the Baltic Sea. Beautiful small towns in all coulors, rocks, lots of beaches with incredibly white sand, bicycle-roads all over the island, fantastic local food and some very good restaurants. Bornholm is very lively in the summertime with music and all kinds of activities – but you can always find a quiet spot for yourself. Bornholm has something for everyone – and it is the most sunny place in Denmark.

    21st November 2016 at 10:20 pm
  • Yiouli

    And Greek islands ?

    22nd November 2016 at 7:00 am
  • Natalya

    Cíes Islands is the best place that I saw. I have been 4 times there. Wonderful 3 islands with a white sand, a wild forest, beautiful beaches, incredible views from the tower and an enormous ocean. I really recommend everybody to visit this place.

    22nd November 2016 at 9:10 am
  • goldensounds

    The Isle of Man is very scenic and has some great vintage railways.

    24th November 2016 at 5:45 pm
  • Lisa Ringelberg

    So glad to see Sao Miguel now with the others. Having a direct flight with Ryanair has helped our tourism industry but we are still an island where you can often go to the special sites and hidden gems and view all with no one else around. The hiking is amazing, but our weather is unpredictable. I take my travelers to all the hidden spots and private tours are very popular. Trip Advisor has been very kind to me and I love being able to see the sites through my travelers eyes and help them with their itinerary so they do not miss out on the special spots. There really is so much to do when our weather is good. Now is the time to travel here, best months are September/October when there are less people and we are still relatively unknown. You will not be disappointed. Lisa Ringelberg.

    4th January 2017 at 2:03 pm
  • Mark

    Sadly, Gozo’s Azure Window (it-Tieqa Żerqa) is no more. It collapsed into the sea on 8 March 2017.

    13th March 2017 at 10:28 am

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