Dive into a totally new vacation experience by visiting these dreamy eco island getaways in Europe.
Most world travelers have heard of Capri and Santorini. But there are hundreds of stunning islands to explore that are full of dramatic scenery, unspoiled beaches, delicious local wine, and some of the freshest seafood you’ll ever taste in your life.
On your next summer trip to Europe, I highly suggest adding in at least one island. You see, they are steeped in thousands of years of history and are full of castles, Greek and Roman ruins, and ancient temples to explore. You’ll have authentic experiences of how things were because more often than not, life on the island still is how it was. And don’t forget the beach discos and amazing nightlife. It’s a vacation after all so you can recover on the beach in the afternoon.
Imagine scuba diving in the morning, beach hopping by boat taxi in the afternoon, sunset dinners in a castle overlooking the port, and then partying all night long at a beach disco with a famous DJ spinning the latest dance music. Well, that’s what most locals just call Tuesday.
Here are my top 5 picks for dreamy eco-island getaways in Europe:
1. Gozo, Malta
Gorgeous dramatic landscapes, sandy beaches, charming ports with brightly colored boats, winding maze-like citadels, crystal clear waters for swimming and boating and even a blue hole for divers, Gozo is a island where you come to truly relax. Perfect for history buffs, Gozo dates all the way back to the Bronze Age and the Ggantija temple complex, a world heritage site, is one of the oldest stone buildings ever. In Gozo, you eat well. The street food and pastries are tasty and authentic Mediterranean. Fancy savory cheese from sheep’s milk served fresh or marinated with peppers? Or try ħobż biż-żejt: bread first soaked with tomatoes then drizzled with fresh olive oil and topped with anchovies and mint. To protect its gorgeous natural resources and the Gozitan way of life, the tiny island has a big Eco Initiative. By 2020, it’s goal is to become (almost) totally sustainable.
2. Corsica, France
Naturally wild, Corsica is home to 6 nature reserves. Although the island is surrounded by some of Europe’s most gorgeous beaches and coastline like Gulf of Porto, the interior is mostly mountainous and forested. Something for both the sailors and hikers in your group. And even, the skiers. Come in March and you can sail in the morning and ski in the afternoon. Either way, build up your appetite because Corsican cuisine is some of the best in the world. You’ll never have to choose between going for French or Italian because in Corsica you get the best of both. And it’s not just seafood but also wild boar and other alpine specialties. If you’re a sailing enthusiast who wants to rub elbows with Europe’s who’s who then head to chalky cliffs of breathtaking Bonifaccio. Or if you want to lose yourself in wilderness, gear up, get a guide, and head down Corsica’s famed and extremly challenging GR 20 hiking trail.
3. Ischia, Italy
Just about an hour on the fast boat from Naples, Ischia is too close to miss. Heralded The Island of Heath, its (almost magical) curative mud and thermal waters have been studied by famous scientists for decades. Europe’s chic jet set crowds have been flocking to Ischia for its film festivals and mud baths since Italy’s La Dolce Vita era of the ’50s and ’60s. But even before that – say 2,000 years ago – the Greeks and Romans built their baths on the island that you can enjoy now in modern spas. Maurizio Orlacchio, a native of Ischia and the GM of the famed San Montano says, “This is a place where you take your watch off.”
When not at the beach or soaking in thermal waters, hit up some the nightlife and enjoy innovative cuisine at the Michelin-starred restaurant Indaco with native head chef Pasquale Palamaro and dine over Ischia’s most infamous waterfront. Make sure you try the local white wines. Some have a refreshing slightly salty flavor at the end, which pairs perfectly with Mediterranean seafood.
4. Menorca, Spain
You’ll pinch yourself while enjoying a tinto (red wine) at sunset over turquoise water and white sand beaches. Effective preservation has kept Menorca so pristine and beautiful that it’s now a UNESCO biosphere reserve. So its stunning Parc Natural S’Albufera d’es Grau and open museum-style ancient sites are protected. Make sure to visit Pregonda beach where you can recover from some of Menorca’s incredible nightlife full of discos, beach bars, and chill out lounges. After all this is a Spanish island where dinner doesn’t start until 11pm. And you’ll be the first one at the club if you show up at 1am.
- Madeira, Portugal
Not many of us associate Portugal with lush islands but there are some beauties in the Atlantic ocean. One of the most beloved by European travelers is the volcanic island of Madeira. Its rich soil grows just about anything and the terraced valleys create incredible views. It’s incredibly lush Laurisilva Forest is where you can peek into the past and see how Europe’s topography used to be. Stunning beaches, waterfalls and gorgeous natural parks please the nature enthusiast. And wine lovers will not be disappointed with the local Madeiran reds ranging from dry to sweet. If you went overboard on the wine the night before, relax on the beach. Or get up early and explore the over 1,000 miles of irrigations channels with accompanying footpaths that wind through Madeira’s striking landscapes and gorgeous flora.
So give your next trip to Europe a twist and add in one of these incredible eco islands that put the very best of Europe at your fingertips!
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Photos courtesy of: Pawel Kazmierczak / Shutterstock.com, Shutterstock.com, Small Luxury Hotels of the World, Instituto de Turismo de España, (Turespaña), Regina Isabella Spa & Resort, Mariya Siyanko / Shutterstock.com