There are 189 islands in the Mediterranean (if you exclude the tiny and the uninhabited ones). But which are the fairest of them all? Where should you head for the most spectacular scenery, sumptuous beaches, and incredible architecture?
Oh, there are some difficult choices here. The Mediterranean is full of beautiful islands, and each of them has its own special something.
But these 10 islands should give you a taste of the best of the Mediterranean.
Often overlooked by everyone (except the French of course) is the stunning island of Corsica, the fourth-largest island in the Mediterranean and one where you’re spoilt for choice for natural delights.
Corsica is famous for the challenging GR20 long-distance hiking path which graces its forested peaks.
But it’s also home to some of the best sandy beaches in Europe as well as some gorgeous old towns, hilltop villages and unusual rock formations. Corsica has it all, I reckon.
It would be impossible to make a list of the most beautiful islands in the Med and not include Santorini.
Visitors from around the world flock to this Greek island honeypot to enjoy its unique clifftop buildings and jaw-dropping sunset views. Santorini is the tip of a volcano, and its unique geology results in a spectacular lunar landscape and whitewashed cave architecture.
Beach lovers should set their course for the Italian island Sardinia. The second largest island in the Med, Sardinia is undoubtedly the best destination for beaches – it has an abundance of white sand and crystal clear waters.
Italy’s rich and famous flock to the fancy Costa Smeralda.
Other highlights include the Gulf of Orosei and the secret islands of La Maddalena. Head inland to enjoy untouched landscapes and a unique ancient culture.
The Greek island of Folegandros typifies up the appeal of the Cyclades – sugarcube houses, intense seas, pristine beaches and stark landscapes that make the most of the special light that seems to fall on the Aegean.
Folegandros also offers a tranquility that you won’t find in the more popular Greek islands Santorini and Mykonos.
Of all of Croatia’s (hundreds of) islands, Hvar is arguably the most beautiful. Lush, green and sunny, with several fine medieval towns and villages that have been immaculately preserved.
It’s definitely not undiscovered though – Hvar is one of Croatia’s most popular destinations, and its main town is where beautiful people come by yacht to sample some of Croatia’s finest nightlife.
Solitude seekers can head inland to enjoy a pristine landscape scented by wild herbs.
Sardinia’s main rival for incredible beaches is the Spanish island of Menorca.
Smaller and more laid-back than its Balearic sisters Mallorca and Ibiza, Menorca is ringed with glorious bays of turquoise waters and lovely sun-bleached beaches.
Historic Mahon and Ciutadella provide cultural interest should you tire of exploring its 216km of coastline.
Culture vultures will adore the island nation of Malta, whose mid-Mediterranean position has ensured a rich history and some of the most astounding architecture – thanks to the Knights Hospitaller as well as other occupiers.
Arrive by boat if you can – sailing into the capital city (and UNESCO World Heritage site) Valletta is an entrance you won’t forget in a hurry.
But the baroque bounty is not limited to Valletta, with intriguings towns, rocky lagoons and prehistoric sites dotted around the island.
The Greek island Kefalonia seduces you with its colours. Big green mountains, blinding white beaches, and seas that are a startling shade of electric blue. It’s a landscape that induces poetic raptures in its devoted fans.
The elegant harbour at Fiskardo escaped the earthquake damage that destroyed much of the island’s original Venetian architecture in 1953 (an event documented in the film Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, which was set and filmed on the island), whilst Assos has been sensitively restored.
Sometimes you just want to get away from it all. And if you love nature and peace and quiet then the Croatian island of Mljet is just the place for you.
One of the greenest islands in the Med, most of the island is a protected National Park. you’ll hear nothing but birdsong and the waves. It has a lush beauty, its rolling hills carpeted in dense vegetation.
Rent a bike to explore the island and its saltwater lakes.
The spiritual home of summer vacations in the Med, the Spanish island of Mallorca is another island that has it all – a buzzing capital, historic towns, great nightlife, gorgeous beaches, and charming villages.
The rugged Serra de Tramuntana mountains in the north are UNESCO listed and provide great hiking opportunities. Just avoid the south-west pocket of Mallorca (around Magaluf) which is where the worst of the overdevelopment is concentrated.
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Menorca: © Naeblys / Adobe Stock, Bonifacio: © Andrea Sirri / Shutterstock.com, Santorini:© neirfy / Adobe Stock, Sardinia: © Elisa Locci / Shutterstock.com, Folegandros: © jcfmorata / Adobe Stock, Hvar: © Evgeniya Moroz / Shutterstock.com, Menorca: © Roberto Zocchi / Adobe Stock, Malta: kavalenkava / Shutterstock.com, Kefalonia: © Miniloc / Adobe Stock, Mljet: © novac.elcic / Shutterstock.com, Mallorca: © Balate Dorin / Shutterstock.com