10 of Europe’s Most Enchanted Unsung Islands | European holidays
The Côte d’Azur too hectic? Try peaceful Porquerolles, one of the islands of Hyères which is just a ferry ride from Hyères on the French mainland. With cars banned, the only way to get around this densely forested island is on foot or by bike, and the only sound is the crunch of fragrant pine needles under your wheels. The best beaches, such as Plage d’Argent, run along the northern coast. They get busy in high season, but once the day trippers leave, peace reigns again. In the heart of the village, the Hôtel Résidence Les Mèdes offers rooms and apartments.
From £138 per night, hotel-les-medes.fr
Tranquility is hard to find on the Costa Blanca. So head to Tabarca, 22 miles off Alicante, and you’ll discover an island whose waters are so clear it’s been declared the country’s first marine reserve. A 50-minute ferry ride brings you to this car-free paradise. Spend a few days snorkeling, eating fish stew at one of the beach shacks, and then wandering around the fortified walls that surround the town.
Hotel Isla Tabarca has B&B rooms from £78, hotelislatabarca.com
Rich in Greek and Turkish heritage, Bozcaada, off the west coast of Turkey, is where Istanbulus go to escape the summer heat. From its beaches, the Achaeans launched the ships that delivered the Trojan horse. Today, the Greek and Turkish cultures coexist harmoniously, mosques alongside Orthodox churches. The island, a short ferry ride from the port of Çanakkale, offers beachfront tavernas, a vineyard-covered hinterland and a bustling port town. Located on a hill overlooking the castle, Ela Tenedos Hotel offers rooms with sea views.
B&B rooms from £38, elatedosotel.com
La Graciosa, Canary Islands
Three miles north of Lanzarote, tiny La Graciosa offers an entirely different Canarian scene: no cars, no noise and no crowds. Here you will find an idyllic marine reserve with sandy lanes, low-key restaurants, wild sand dunes and pristine beaches. Circle the island by hiking or renting a bike from the whitewashed port village of Caleta de Sebo. Spend your days watching fishermen mend nets at La Laja, or try the wilder emerald waters of Las Conchas to the north. A short walk from Caleta’s restaurants, Evita Beach Apartamentos offers apartments facing the sea.
From £192 per night, booking.com
Forget glitzy Mykonos and instead take the 30-minute high-speed ferry to Syros, where you’ll find the perfect blend of liveliness and rural peace. Ermoupoli, the seaside capital of Syros, is bustling but without tourists. Neoclassical houses rise in tiers from the banks. Greeks linger on long taverna lunches here, and the landscape is varied – a wild interior, dotted with olive groves and orchards, as well as inconspicuous deserted beaches, many only accessible by boat. The new Aristide art eco-hotel has nine stylish rooms, alongside regular artist residencies.
B&B rooms including transfers, from £204, hotelaristide.com
Tiny Cabrera, six miles south of Mallorca, has a checkered past, from Berber pirates and Spanish soldiers to French prisoners of war. Today, nature is queen: this national park is a paradise for Caspian gulls, cormorants and lizards. Mix wildlife viewing with swimming in empty coves. Add a scramble around its medieval castle atop a crumbly hill, then dine at Cabrera’s canteen in Es Port and, for a cheap night, try the hostel.
Cabrera hostal has 12 rooms from £42 per night, for two people, hostalcabrera.es. Boats depart from Colonia de Sant Jordi in Mallorca, excursionsacabrera.es
It may take an arduous four-and-a-quarter-hour ferry crossing from Split to reach Lastovo, but this large Croatian island is so different from its touristy sister that you’ll be glad you made the effort. Spend your time strolling through the pine forests, admiring the island’s Venetian-style houses, then exploring some of its 38 churches or swimming in the transparent waters of Skrivena Luka Bay. There is only one hotel, the aptly named Solitudo, whose restaurant facing the sea serves delicious Dalmatian lobster.
B&B rooms from £57, hotel-solitudo.com
Just 15 minutes by ferry from Mykonos is Tinos, an undiscovered Cycladic island with a fertile hinterland dotted with Venetian-style windmills and dovecotes, stunning villages and tourist-free beaches. Pilgrims regularly flock to Tinos to worship the healing icon of Panagia Evangelistria and it is the church that has saved the island from overdevelopment. There are pretty sleepy villages like Kardiani and Volax, but also a livelier scene with the tavernas and craft shops of Pyrgos.
Agali Bay Hotel offers B&B rooms from £69 including free transfers from the port, agalibay.com
Island of Batz, France
Parisians love the Ile de Ré, but there’s another island off the Atlantic coast that’s cheaper, less fussy but just as appealing. Only 10 minutes from Roscoff, and only 3 km from east to west, the island of Batz is discreet and perfect for families. Hire bikes at the port, then head for the white sands of La Grève Blanche. Then climb the 198 steps of the island’s lighthouse for a panoramic view of the Brittany coast. There is a nautical base and pony rides at the Écuries de Batz. Les Herbes Folles near the port offers rooms with sea views.
Doubles, room only, from £64, hotel-iledebatz.com
Taormina, Sicily, offers old-fashioned glamour, but it can get crowded with tourists, so why not head to the tiny Aeolian island of Filicudi instead? Here visitors can enjoy walks along ancient mule tracks or a more strenuous climb to the top of Fossa Felci, the island’s volcanic crater. Feast on pizzas at Da Nino, a trattoria overlooking the sea that also offers simple rooms at good value for one night. The direct ferry crossing from Milazzo in southern Sicily takes two hours and twenty minutes.
Da Nino offers B&B rooms with sea view and balconies from £42, filicudieolie.it