Uncover the best islands in the Mediterranean with this easy to read guide to the land of olives and pine.
The Best Islands in the Mediterranean
When it comes to beautiful mediterranean islands, truthfully, I don’t think you can go too wrong. Whether you want the postcard perfect crystal clear waters and beautiful beaches or would prefer a unique twist of culture mixed with olives and the scent of pine, the Med can deliver.
Over the years, I’ve travelled to many a mediterranean island and in response to your questions, here are the ones I’d recommend.
Happy browsing and happy planning!
The Balearic Islands
The Balearic islands float off the eastern coast of Spain at a considerable distance from the shore. Each has a distinct identity, although together they have a lot in common as well.
As the biggest island in the Balearics, Mallorca has a lot going on. The main city of Palma hosts boutique hotels, massive resorts, language schools and all the trappings of a sunny mediterranean spot. But you’ll also find UNESCO protected land and UNESCO approved intangible heritage through the Song of the Sybil.
Menorca may be the little sister to Majorca but her island charms do not take second place. She’s a great island for hiking and water sports, for eating great food, visiting picturesque villages and gin distilleries and soaking up history at the Talyotic settlements.
- Find a more detailed comparison between Mallorca and Menorca here.
Ibiza may be known for its parties and nightlife and, well, so it should. This probably is the best island in the Mediterranean for dancing the night away. However, beyond the clubs you’ll also find quieter pine scented spots, with boutique yoga retreats and mindfulness training centres.
The Islands of Croatia
Croatia stares across the soulful Adriatic to Italy, with a cluster of islands along the way. Unlike the other sections, here we’ll talk about the city-ports that form a base for island hopping onto smaller islands in the blue.
From the cool city of Zadar, you can hop on a ferry and visit islands like Ugljan in 25 minutes for tranquil walking or Pag for big parties. Zadar itself offers intriguing Roman and Venetian ruins as the oldest continuously inhabited Croatian city.
The stunning stone walls and narrow streets of Dubrovnik make for a romantic visit as long as the cruise ships are not in town. From this famous spot, take a private boat or ferry to some of the tiny Elaphiti islands for walking or lazing on the sand.
- You can stay overnight on Lopud Island, in a luxury hotel with a gleaming white spa.
The Greek Islands
Nowhere in the Mediterranean is known for its islands better than Greece – and with good reason. Whether you take a flight or charter your own boat, island hopping in Greece is virtually a national pastime. Here are the most famous spots.
Santorini wins all the instagram prizes with its pretty white walls and blue domes washed down with stunning sunsets. Head here for perfect views of a purple-tinged Aegean Sea.
- Exploring the most important landmarks in Greece.
Mykonos is a party island, the kind that attracts world class DJs and whose clubs stay open until dawn. If that doesn’t put you off (hello fellow middle agers!) then it’s surely one of the best islands in the mediterranean to visit.
Home of the minotaur, craggy cliffs and stunning water, Crete is to Greece what James Dean was to Hollywood. Gorgeous and something of a rebel.
Alongside the usual Mediterranean beauty, check out the palace of Knossos for some ancient history and minotaur mythology and drive the backroads of this island to meet some welcoming and wild people.
Malta & Gozo
The Maltese islands have a character all of their own, glittering in the Mediterranean Sea and basking in centuries of seriously curious history.
Malta swoops and swirls with ancient and medieval history that could have been lifted right from the Da Vinci Code.
In fact, the city of Valletta itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a stunning collection of stonework linked to the Order of St John of Jerusalem.
As well as stony labyrinths and acres of history, Malta also features high rise, party resorts if that’s more your kind of thing.
As Malta’s second largest island, Gozo offers a wilder yet quieter experience than the main island of Malta.
Gozo’s best-kept secret is its wild coastline, followed closely by its UNESCO World Heritage Site at the Ggantija Temples. It’s the type of place where you only need to take a few steps before you find yourself on an unspoilt beach with clear water and sand as far as the eye can see.
- The temples that are older than the pyramids in Gozo.
The Valley of the Temples UNESCO World Heritage Site
The Islands of Italy
Bathed in sunshine and history, Italy’s best mediterranean islands deserve a mention on this list.
Known to school children across the world as the island that the boot of Italy kicked into the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily has a history and a landscape that deserves a little more respect.
Sicily’s capital Palermo reflects the time of the Ancient Greeks, Phoenicians and Carthaginians who roamed around these parts. And the sense of drama is heightened by the resplendent Teatro Massimo Bellini and the shadow of volcano of Mount Etna to the east.
Sardinia is Italy’s largest mediterranean island, a spacious, rugged landscape with Bronze Age remnants that resemble of beehives and a network of pleasant hiking trails. Coastal resorts promote water sports and activities while boutique hotels offer historic and contemporary retreats.
Other Islands to Consider
Beyond these mediterranean islands, of course, lie many other places to explore. the Republic of Cyprus stands out as one of the larger islands, over to the east and across the water from Syria.
Rhodes, Lesbos and Kos also come highly recommended. To paraphrase a saying… I haven’t visited all the mediterranean islands yet. But they’re on my list!
Beyond the Mediterranean ISlands
- Discover beautiful and unusual things to do in Greece
- The famous landmarks in Greece you need to know
- Croatia’s Elaphiti Islands: from Dubrovnik into the wild
- 13 Interesting facts about Sicily