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11 remarkable islands in Europe to visit in 2024

If you’re contemplating a European adventure, consider at least one of these islands. Each offers its own unparalleled flavor of relaxation, fun and indulgence.

Sometimes another world is just a ferry ride away. A world with fewer cars and more trees, but not just any trees – the variety that give off a fragrance you’ll forever associate with that place. Of course, not all islands are created equal. But some are truly worth exploring, even if it’s just to watch the sun setting over turquoise waters or to taste a dish prepared by a local chef.

Such moments are rare opportunities to step back in time. Fortunately, travelers are spoiled for choice when it comes to exploring the unique heritage and history of European islands. Whether you prefer a warmer climate with hidden coves or cobblestone alleys that lead to incredible vantage points, every island has its own character and charms. You can use this guide as a gateway into each location in order to make an informed decision about your next getaway.

Hvar, Croatia

Best islands in Europe

Accessible by ferry, Hvar is a small island located along Croatia’s Dalmatian coastline. Whether you’ve come for the nightlife, the ancient landmarks or the secluded beaches, Hvar has it all. Teeming with restaurants, bars, shops and beaches, Hvar Town is easily the island’s most popular destination, with all these attractions within walking distance. However, if you plan to explore other parts of the island, consider hiring a scooter or car. The best months to visit are May and September when the weather is still warm and the island has fewer tourists.

Places to stay:

  • Palace Elisabeth, Hvar Heritage Hotel: Located in Hvar’s sea-facing main square with a luxurious spa, and interiors inspired by Empress Sisi of Austria.
  • Little Green Bay: A boutique hotel in a secluded bay that boasts a pebble beach, mini-spa and private speedboat.
  • Heritage Villa Apolon: A neoclassical villa overlooking the bay in the town of Stari Grad.

Madeira, Portugal

Best islands in Europe

It’s been referred to as the Hawaii of Europe for its lush vegetation and subtropical climate that can be enjoyed all year round. Whether you’ve come to visit the ancient Laurissilva Forest or to explore the island’s famous Central Mountain Range, this jewel off the coast of Africa is as rich in culture as it is in tropical fruits and wine. Catering to a range of interests, including gastronomy, sport and music, there’s typically an event or festival scheduled to celebrate all that the island has to offer.

For arguably the most spectacular scenery, the north coast is where you’ll find examples of traditional architecture – also known as casinhas de Santana – coupled with natural wonders as you traverse Madeira’s Laurissilva Forest. Funchal is the capital and commercial center of Madeira.

Places to stay:

  • Reid’s Palace, A Belmond Hotel, Madeira: Renowned for its tropical gardens overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
  • Casa Velha do Palheiro, Relais & Chateaux: A five-star manor house hotel in the foothills of Funchal.
  • Enotel Lido: Located in Funchal, with direct access to an oceanfront promenade.

Menorca, Spain

Best islands in Europe

Menorca is among the most picturesque islands in Spain, thanks to its coastal scenery and turquoise waters. It’s the second-largest Balearic Island, nestled in the Mediterranean Sea in an area that was declared a Biosphere Reserve in 1993, as well as boasting the largest Biosphere Marine Reserve in the Mediterranean.

As you can imagine, the wildlife and natural beauty are unparalleled. If you love hidden coves and white sandy beaches, some of which are only accessible by boat or a hike, Menorca won’t disappoint. There’s even a cave bar – Cova d’En Xoroi – that should be reserved for sunset.

During your stay, be sure to try a locally prepared lobster stew and the island’s highly prized delicacy: Mahón cheese, which was named after the capital. It’s easily recognizable by its distinct orange rind and salty flavor.

Menorca can be reached by ferry from the nearby Balearic Islands of Ibiza and Majorca or by plane via Menorca Airport.

Places to stay:

  • Vestige Son Vell: A historic sandstone sanctuary that includes a dairy farm and citrus groves.
  • Menorca Experimental: An ecologically minded hotel constructed with local materials.
  • Villa Le Blanc Gran Meliá: A carbon-neutral resort located on Menorca’s southern coast.

Sardinia, Italy

Best islands in Europe

Only second to Sicily in terms of its size, Sardinia was identified as the first ‘Blue Zone’, so there’s certainly something to be learned from the locals, who are known for their laid-back lifestyle. Between March and May the island is in full bloom, so it’s the perfect time to explore the hiking trails and the Feast Of Sant’Efisio in Cagliari in May.

Whatever season you choose, a visit to Neptune’s Grotto – a popular ancient natural attraction – is a must, as is Costa Smeralda, also known as Sardinia’s playground for the wealthy. If relaxation is what you’re after, spend a day strolling through the charming village of Castelsardo. It’s just the place for enjoying panoramic views while sipping on a glass of red wine.

Sardinia has three airports to choose from that connect the island to Italian and European cities. However, there’s also the option to take a ferry from Italy, France or Barcelona if time permits.

Places to stay:

  • Petra Segreta Resort & Spa: This luxury retreat is a convenient 30-minute drive from the airport and is nestled within Mediterranean shrubs and greenery.
  • Il Borgo dell’Arcangelo: Owned by the Lugas family, this 18th century farmhouse is a gateway to experience archeological sites and wild horses roaming the Giara plateau.
  • Capo d’Orso: A five-star boutique hotel that is perched above the ocean in Sardinia’s north coast.

Santorini, Greece

Best islands in Europe

This popular bucket-list destination should be visited at least once in a lifetime. And if you know how to avoid the crowds, you’ll be able to get the most out of your stay. Oia and Fira are where most people tend to congregate, so you may wish to consider avoiding these towns altogether and head for Finikia, Imerovigli or Pyrgos instead.

May and September are the months when the temperatures are cooler, and there are fewer crowds. Just below Oia is where you’ll find Ammoudi Bay, which is lined with seafood restaurants that are as equally tempting as the crystal clear waters. Finally, if you’re seeking an unforgettable sunset in a more tranquil setting, be sure to check out the village of Imerovigli.

Places to stay:

  • Santorini Princess Spa Hotel: With spectacular views of Caldera, the Princess delights its guests with traditional Cycladic architecture and modern convenience.
  • Pegasus Suites & Spa: Pegasus Spa features a sauna, an indoor pool with hydromassage facilities and hammam, as well as various massage treatments.
  • Kapari Natural Resort: Prides itself on being the only Greek member of National Geographic’s ‘Unique Lodges of the World’.

Ibiza, Spain

Best islands in Europe

Whether you’ve come to explore the Mediterranean marine life or for the boat parties, the many faces of Ibiza mean that you can pack your party dress and your yoga pants without having to compromise one in favor of the other. While it has a long-held reputation as the party island, in recent years this has been overshadowed by a move toward wellness offerings, health and spirituality for the wealthy.

With year-round sun and warm temperatures, Ibiza’s coastline is a haven for all manner of water sports, especially from July to September. The entire island is dotted with beaches and coves that are perfect for beach-hopping before you head to Café del Mar for an evening of live music and drinks as the sun sets over the Mediterranean.

The most convenient way to reach the island is with a direct flight from Madrid, Barcelona or Valencia. But you can also choose to take a ferry from Denia and Valencia.

Places to stay:

  • Cas Gasi: A boutique hotel set in the heart of Ibiza’s countryside.
  • The Standard Ibiza: Conveniently located in the center of the Old Town with a five-star hotel room service.
  • Sir Joan Hotel: An intimate and centrally located retreat with exceptional interiors.

Jersey, United Kingdom

Best islands in Europe
Image: Bam Perspectives

Located in the English Channel, Jersey is uniquely influenced by both Britain and France and is accessible by ferry or plane, depending on where you’re coming from. While it used to serve as a refuge for lawbreakers, today it houses all the attractions for an epic family holiday.

It’s an island that’s famous for its cows and its potatoes, so keep your eye out for stalls selling Royals along the country lanes between the months of March and July. Despite its size, when it comes to sightseeing, Jersey has something for everyone. Highlights include the world-class zoo, war tunnels, castles and museums. The national forest and rugged wind-swept coastline are also invitations to indulge in some much-needed forest bathing or coastal foraging.

Places to stay:

  • Longueville Manor: Considered the most prestigious hotel in Jersey with direct access to woodlands.
  • The Royal Yacht: A luxury yacht-inspired hotel with views overlooking the marina.
  • The Atlantic Hotel: Renowned for its fine dining and unique location on a headland.

Sicily, Italy

Best islands in Europe

With its eclectic history influenced by the Phoenicians, Greeks and the Romans, Sicily boasts such a wide selection of archaeological sites that you could come here just to explore its rich history. Some of the most popular destinations to explore are Palermo, Taormina and Catania, however one of the most picturesque destinations is the charming small city of Cefalù on the north coast of Sicily – an hour’s drive from the capital, Palermo.

Places to stay:

  • Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea: A refurbished Cornish engineer’s seaside villa, offering the best in understated luxury.
  • ADLER Spa Resort Sicilia: A contemporary Italian spa hotel founded on sustainable principles.
  • Villa Igiea: A belle epoque hotel overlooking Palermo’s Acquasanta port.

Korčula, Croatia

Best islands in Europe

Whether you’re arriving by passenger or car ferry from Split or Dubrovnik, Korčula is one of the most striking coastal Dalmatian towns. Unlike its neighbor Hvar, the fortified medieval old town caters more to wine and culinary lovers than it does for party goers. Instead you’ll find plenty of destinations that showcase the best red wines the island has to offer, served alongside authentic Dalmatian dishes. Apart from fine dining, the crystal clear waters of the Adriatic offer the perfect opportunity to enjoy water sports like swimming and kayaking. Pupnatska Luka Beach – a short drive from the old town – stands out for its breathtaking views of Lastovo Island.

Places to stay:

  • Lešić Dimitri Palace: Offers a perfect balance of aged and contemporary style of architecture.
  • Hotel Liburna: Set on a small peninsula near downtown Korčula.
  • Aminess Korčula Heritage Hotel: Located by the sea, in the heart of the old town of Korčula.

Sainte-Marguerite Island, France

Best islands in Europe

A short 15-minute ferry ride from Cannes takes you to a small slice of paradise, also known among the locals as the ‘forest on the water’. Blessed with the scent of eucalyptus and an underwater sculpture museum, the largest of the Lérins Islands offers relaxation and unspoiled nature for a day.

While you’re there, be sure to check out the mysterious ‘Man in the Iron Mask’, just meters from the island or Fort Royal, where the story of this subject is explained. Sainte-Marguerite is first and foremost a natural sanctuary with a botanical trail and an abundance of heavenly swimming spots.

Places to stay:

  • Mondrian Cannes: Located in the heart of the Croisette.
  • Hôtel Barrière Le Majestic: An exclusive five-star property located in the center of Cannes.
  • Hôtel Martinez by Hyatt: Located on the iconic La Croisette Boulevard with breathtaking views of the Mediterranean Sea.

Bornholm, Denmark

Best islands in Europe

As the first destination in Europe to be named a World Craft Region, the Baltic island’s culture centers around artisanal crafts. This, coupled with its culinary wonders and sunshine make it an ideal weekend escape. From smokehouses to local liquorice manufacturer Johan Bülow, Bornholm is full of surprises, including a Michelin beach shack. Regardless of where you choose to dine, be sure to try ‘Sol over Gudhjem’ – a local specialty featuring smoked herring.

Bornholm is accessible via plane from Copenhagen or other airports in Denmark. However, if you fancy traversing the famous disappearing bridge to Sweden and then taking a ferry, this is another option. Once you reach the island, consider hiring a bike.

Places to stay:

  • Hotel Nordlandet: located on the shores of the northernmost tip of the island with views overlooking the Baltic Sea.
  • Green Solution House: designed by Danish architectural practice 3XN to provide a glimpse into a fully sustainable world.
  • Hotel Siemsens Gaard: a 17th-century building that houses 51 well-appointed rooms and a range of facilities, and that’s situated in the harbor town of Svaneke.

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