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16 of the best Mediterranean islands to visit this summer

Photo of Mary NovakovichPhoto of Mary Novakovich
By Mary Novakovich

2 February 202410 min read

A view across a turquoise bay of Cala Santanyi beach and headland on a bright blue day in Majorca, Balearic Islands

Cala Santanyi, Majorca

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?

From tiny volcanic outcrops to the largest islands in Europe, we’ve rounded up some of the best Mediterranean islands for a 2024 getaway.

1. Sicily

Best for luxury stays

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 eastern side harbours other treasures – Siracusa and its ancient Greek ruins and the baroque splendours of Ragusa, Noto and Modica – head west to the vibrant capital, Palermo, for some of the island’s best street food. Chill out on the beaches at San Vito Lo Capo and Castellammare del Golfo.

2. Majorca

Best for couples

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.

Apartamentos Club Sa Coma

  • Sa Coma, Majorca, Spain
  • 11 June 2024
  • Self Catering
  • From Stansted

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£304

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3. Crete

Best for family holidays

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 of the classy resorts in Elounda.

Sunrise Hotel Studios Apartments

  • Sfakaki, Crete, Greece
  • 11 June 2024
  • Self Catering
  • From Newcastle

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£454

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4. Corsica

Best for natural beauty

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 cliff-top 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. Hvar

Best for beach clubs

There’s more than a little of the Ibiza spirit going on in Hvar Town, where lively beach clubs line the harbourfront and boat taxis take party-goers across to Carpe Diem’s second outpost on the tiny island of Marinkovac. For one of Croatia’s most famous views, follow the zigzagging path up to the Spanish Fortress and you’ll have the Old Town and the Adriatic spread below you.

It might be a major ferry port, but the town of Stari Grad is remarkably quiet – and a very attractive place to stroll around, swim and explore the marble alleyways of the Old Town. Head further east for the family-friendly beach resorts of Vrboska and Jelsa.

6. Formentera

Best for getting away from it all

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 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.

7. Malta

Best for fascinating culture

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 was a former 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.

Sliema Hotel by ST Hotels

  • Sliema, Malta
  • 5 May 2024
  • Bed & Breakfast
  • From Stansted

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£390

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8. Sardinia

Best for fabulous food and beaches

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 for ever.

9. Menorca

Best for walking holidays

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.

10. Ischia

Best for quiet luxury

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.

11. Cyprus

Best for culture and beaches

Party-goers flock to the beaches and clubs of Ayia Napa on the east coast, but there’s so much more to explore in Cyprus. Linger in Larnaca and check out its colourful old town, medieval fort, sandy beaches and buzzing restaurant scene. Over on the west coast is Paphos, another favourite of beach-lovers as well as history buffs who want to wander through captivating archaeological sites.

You’ll find a complete change of scenery inland towards the Troodos Mountains. Amid rolling vineyards – producing some excellent Cypriot wines – you’ll come across pretty Lefkara and its traditional stone houses before heading to Platres and its Alpine-like architecture and the hiking trails of Troodos.

Alecos Hotel Apartments

  • Paphos, Paphos Area, Cyprus
  • 14 June 2024
  • Self Catering
  • From Stansted

Prices and availability shown can change. Always check pricing with partner before booking.

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£522

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12. Corfu

Best for a relaxing break

The Durrells weren’t the only ones to fall in love with Corfu. This Ionian island off Greece’s western coast has been a perennial favourite for good reason, not least because of the dozens of beaches all along its undulating coastline.

There’s a style for everyone – long sandy and pebbly stretches with all the facilities such as Kontokali and Dassia on the east coast, the wilder cove at Rovinia reached only by boat or after a dusty hike, the rugged sands of Mirtiotissa and, of course, Kamali Beach loved so much by the Durrell family. Don’t miss a visit to Corfu Town and a stroll around its café-filled Venetian streets and fortress.

The Royal Grand Hotel

  • Kanoni, Corfu, Greece
  • 9 May 2024
  • Bed & Breakfast
  • From Luton

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£422

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13. Korčula

Best for wine lovers

Found Dubrovnik a bit too busy? Discover a less crowded and miniature version in Korčula Town, whose fortifications surround Venetian alleyways fanning out from the centre like a fishbone. Take a water taxi to the little island of Badja for a swim and a look round the Franciscan monastery or hop on the bus to the fishing village of Lumbarda and try some of the village’s extremely drinkable white wine called grk.

Lumbarda is also home to several of the island’s rare sandy beaches, but if you prefer pebbles, the jagged southern coast harbours some beautiful sheltered beaches including Pupnatska Luka and Žitna.

14. Ibiza

Best for hedonists

It’s probably the world’s clubbing capital, but Ibiza has more sides to it than throbbing beach clubs and all-night parties. Base yourself in Ibiza Town and explore its UNESCO-listed Dalt Vila and tapas restaurants before getting wonderful views from the top of its medieval castle. Then hop on the bus to reach two of Ibiza’s loveliest beaches, Ses Salines and Es Cavallet.

If you’re in search of more remote places to swim, try your luck along the northern coast, where the original hippie scene pitched up in the 60s. There’s still very much a hippie vibe at Benirras Beach near the hilltop village of Sant Joan.

Arenal

  • San Antonio, Ibiza, Spain
  • 13 May 2024
  • Bed & Breakfast
  • From Stansted

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Prices from

£217

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15. Brač

Best for watersports

Croatia’s most photographed – and photogenic – beach, Zlatni Rat, dangles from the southern coast of Brač, its smooth white pebbles looking like sand as they’re lapped by every shade of turquoise water. But it’s not just Zlatni Rat that’s the big draw here: the next-door town of Bol is one of Croatia’s biggest spots for windsurfing and other watersports that take advantage of the bura wind that blows along the Adriatic.

Hikers in search of one of the best views in Croatia can follow the rocky route to Vidova Gora, the highest point in Brač as well as the Adriatic islands. It’s from here that you can see Zlatni Rat in all its beauty.

16. Kefalonia

Best for romantic breaks

Kefalonia is the biggest of Greece’s Ionian islands, leaving plenty of room for rugged landscapes and limestone cliffs overlooking sandy and pebbly beaches. If you use the northern village of Fiskardo as your base, you’ll have the soft white sands of Myrtos Beach within easy reach. Backed by limestone cliffs, it’s one of the most picturesque beaches on the island.

Fans of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin will want to bask on the pebbles of Antisamos Beach near the port of Sami where the film was shot. For romantic sunsets, find a spot on Petani Beach on Kefalonia’s west coast and prepare to be dazzled.

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