9 Mediterranean islands you should visit this summer

Updated February 7, 2023
Published May 29, 2018

By Mary Novakovich

Summer holidays on a sunny Mediterranean island – who can resist such a thought? But with so many to choose from – from small sleepy islands to the Med’s big hitters – where do you start? We’ve rounded up some of the most enticing destinations, from tiny volcanic outcrops to the largest islands in Europe.

1. Sicily

The biggest island in the Mediterranean, Sicily reveals one surprise after another as you explore its craggy coastline, hilltop villages and historic cities.

It’s not just beach lovers who will want to jump into the inviting sandy coves at the foot of chic Taormina – history buffs will revel in the glory of the ancient Greek and Roman amphitheatre that overlooks the Ionian Sea. And in the background is the smouldering white peak of Mount Etna, the tallest active volcano in Europe.

While the east coast harbours other treasures – Syracuse and its ancient Greek ruins, and the baroque splendours of Catania – head west to the vibrant capital, Palermo, for some of the island’s best street food and to chill out on the beaches at San Vito Lo Capo and Castellammare del Golfo.

2. Majorca

This Balearic beauty has more than 200 beaches to explore, including the blinding white sands of Cala Llombards and Es Trenc along the southern coast. Combine the seaside with dramatic views of the Tramuntana mountains on the west coast, where exquisite villages are tucked in among the peaks and valleys. Look out for pretty Valldemossa and the spire of its Carthusian monastery, or take the vintage tram from Port de Soller through orange groves to the attractive village of Soller.

If you fancy a city break, head for the island’s capital, Palma. In just a few days you can soak up an astonishing amount of sun, culture, history and sublime food.

3. Crete  

Greece’s largest island has a compelling mix of exceptional beaches, a fascinating ancient Minoan culture and some of the Mediterranean’s most celebrated cuisine. Go west past Chania and you’ll be bowled over by Balos Beach and Falassarna Beach. Step back in time 4,000 years ago to the age of the Minoans among the ruins of the Palace of Knossos.

As you stroll the cobbled streets of Heraklion and Rethymno, you’ll discover the legacy of the Venetians as well as wonderfully long stretches of beaches. For five-star luxury, take your pick among the classy resorts in Elounda.

4. Corsica

It may be part of France, but Corsica has its own distinct identity, thanks to a mingling of Ligurian and French influences. It has some of the most enchanting coastal towns in France, from colourful Bastia in the north to the gravity-defying clifftop town of Bonifacio in the south. Head into its mountainous interior for breathtaking hikes through the Natural Regional Park of Corsica.

Take a tour of the beaches of the Balagne coast on the northern coast, starting in fashionable Calvi with its lofty citadel. Hop on the little train that trundles along the coast all the way to Bastia.

5. Formentera

Ride the ferry from Ibiza and you enter a different world once you land on the jewel-like island of Formentera. In the mood for doing very little? This baby Balearic is just the place for kicking back on a blissful white-sand beach that wouldn’t look out of place in the Caribbean. Flop on the sands of Llevant, Migjorn or Illetes – they shouldn’t be hard to find, as the island is only about 20km (12.4 miles) long.

Hire a bike for lazy excursions from sleepy village to village, including the capital, Sant Francesc. It’s easy to slide into the island’s slow pace, as they’ve kept development to a bare minimum.

6. Malta

Fly to the deep south of the Mediterranean to discover Malta’s captivating blend of cultures, unusual landscapes, ancient ruins and underwater marvels. Once you’re within the historic walls of Valletta, you’ll see why this baroque gem has previously won the title of European Capital of Culture.

Check out the laidback beach resorts on the northern fringe of the main island, including Armier Bay. From here you can catch a boat to Comino and swim in the Blue Lagoon*. Another boat will take you to Gozo, where you can bask on the red sands of Ramla Bay or go diving in the Blue Hole.

7. Sardinia

North, south, east, west – wherever you choose to stay in Sardinia, you’ll have a dizzying range of resorts, beaches and scenic villages to visit. If all you’ve ever heard of is the glitzy Costa Smeralda on the north coast, you’re in for a pleasant surprise.

The south is home to the charming capital, Cagliari, along with countless heavenly beaches including Chia’s Su Giudeu and Santa Margherita di Pula. Stretching along the west coast are the seemingly endless sands of Pineta di Is Arenas, while along the east coast in Ogliastra is Bari Sardo, whose beach seems to go on forever.

8. Menorca

Majorca’s quieter neighbour is the place to come for long walks along cliff paths, slow bike rides through pine forests and languorous days on the beach. Bookended by the attractive towns of Mahon and Ciutadella, the island is ringed by intimate coves of sandy white or golden beaches.

One of the loveliest is Cala en Turqueta, which is set in a deep bay on the southern coast east of Ciutadella. Its close rival for beauty is just to the east at Cala Macarella. Closer to Mahon is the whitewashed beach resort of Es Grau, which is backed by a nature reserve.

9. Ischia

Leave the bustle of Naples behind and take the boat across the bay to the volcanic island of Ischia. You’ll soon see why things are bubbling under on this island – it’s the home of thermal springs. Wallow in the warm waters of Ischia’s thermal parks at Negombo, Poseidon and Castiglione.

On the southern side of the island is the appealing little village of Sant’Angelo, where cars have been banished and you can stroll along happily with a gelato in hand. While you’re there, stop for a swim in the thermal pools at nearby Aphrodite Apollon.

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