Top 5 Island Hideaways in Europe

by Jules on November 3, 2013

Nothing beats claiming your own little stretch of golden sand and chilling out at an island hideaway that’s off the beaten track.

Lampedusa, Italy

In the heart of the Mediterranean are the Pelagie Islands, which although technically belong to Sicily, are closer to the coast of Tunisia. And it’s the biggest of these islands, Lampedusa, which has caught travellers’ imaginations lately. The divine Rabbit Beach in the south of the island is named as the best beach in the world – high praise indeed! Besides glorious beaches, Lampedusa also has an intriguing cultural legacy; remnants of Phoenician, Greek, Roman and Arab rule can be spotted within the architecture and historical sights. Don’t miss the highly ornate Catholic Shrine of Our Lady of Lampedusa which was built in 1602.

Hydra, Greece

Sharing a name with the mythical water beast (but not related), Hydra is located in the Aegean Sea and is one of the Greek Saronic Islands. It’s a popular stop off with day trippers from Athens but is also worth a longer trip in its own right. What first strikes travellers about Hydra is the authenticity: there’s no high rise buildings or cars here!  Catch the hydrofoil over and spend time exploring the waterfront and quaint streets around the harbour. Head inland to explore the sights including the highly decorated Cathedral of Hydra which also houses a museum, don’t miss the traditional Hydriote mansions dotted across the island and browse the Hydra Museum. The beaches are more pebble than sand, but there are ample opportunities for swimming, snorkelling and sunbathing.

Corsica

Outdoor adventurers will adore the French Mediterranean island of Corsica as more than two thirds of the landmass is made up of challenging mountains – perfect for climbing and hiking expeditions! There are also a multitude of walking trails, from the intense 17 day GR20 trail, to the Mare e Mare (Sea to Sea) hiking trails which criss-cross Corsica and are ideal for all the family. The capital city is Ajaccio although the most popular tourist center is Calvi which was settled by the Romans. Don’t miss the Citadel and the pink masterpiece L’Eglise Santa Maria. Spend a day at the UNESCO listed Scandola Nature Reserve which is home to rare sea eagles and cormorant. And yes the beaches are delectable; check out Aregno Beach at Algajola and Plage de Saleccia near St-Florent.

St Kilda, Scotland

The isolated archipelago of St Kilda is a real hideaway in every sense. Comprising several small islands, St Kilda is part of Scotland’s Outer Hebrides. This was the first UNESCO world heritage site in Scotland and the whole archipelago is owed by the National Trust. The largest island within the chain is Hirta which is home to the tallest cliffs in the UK. Travellers can walk and hike the challenging landscape, where the main draw are the seabird colonies including puffins, gannets and fulmars. In fact the recent BBC documentary on the Hebrides, voiced by actor Ewan McGregor, highlighted the seasonal plight of these seabirds and the important of the breeding and feeding grounds within Scotland.

Brac, Croatia

The largest island in Dalmatia, Brac is more laidback than its better known neighbour Hvar, making it one of our top island hideaways.  Brac is typified by groves of fig trees, clear waters and hidden bays and coves. Bol is the oldest town on the island and is probably the best place for windsurfing, kitesurfing and diving. The Venetian influence is evident across the town in the ancient monastery and traditional houses which were built by the rulers. Supetar is the largest town on Brac and is noted for its rich architecture and cultural traditional, as well as being blessed with superb beaches. Try climbing the impressive Vidova Gora Mountains, walk the Golden Horn and explore the Blaca archaeological site.

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