Our Guide to the 8 Best Mediterranean Islands
Published on: June 16th, 2023
Last modified: December 28th, 2023
The Mediterranean is one of the world’s most beautiful and fascinating regions. It encompasses 22 different countries, including some of the top destinations in Europe. And considering that it’s centred around the Mediterranean Sea, it’s no surprise that many of the area’s most sought-after spots are islands.
From the sandy shores of Sicily, to the scenic cliffs of Santorini, there’s a Mediterranean island for every type of traveller. The idyllic isles of Italy, Spain, Greece and Croatia offer romantic escapes for couples, fun-filled activities for families and an abundance of art, history, culture and cuisine – from fresh seafood to delectable desserts.
If you’re looking for the most beautiful beaches in the Mediterranean, head straight to Sardinia. Its crystal-clear waters and pristine stretches of sand make it the perfect place to soak up the Mediterranean sun. That said, places like Paros and Mallorca also promise some of the best beaches in Europe.
Luckily, all of these islands are relatively easy to reach, with plenty of direct flights from other European destinations. Gateway cities like Athens and Barcelona can be just as exciting as the islands, creating the perfect opportunity to add an adventure on the mainland to your trip.
Although this is a popular region among travellers, it’s possible to find secluded spots and hidden gems if you know where to look. With that in mind, our travel designers have chosen the best Mediterranean islands for an unforgettable holiday. Here are their top picks to help you get inspired for your next trip.
What’s the Best Time to Visit the Mediterranean Islands?
The best time to visit the Mediterranean islands is peak summer, the months of July and August. This is when temperatures are warmest and days are long and sunny. The shoulder season months of May, June, September and October also promise fantastic weather and attract smaller crowds for a more comfortable experience.
Beyond the obvious allure of sun and sand, the best Mediterranean islands offer plenty of other attractions – many of which are best enjoyed in spring and autumn. In October and November, you can sample freshly harvested produce and visit spectacular vineyards. And if you want to experience local festivals, spring is one of the best times to visit Greece or Spain.
Which Mediterranean Islands to Visit?
The Mediterranean islands are lined with beautiful beaches, sandy coves and boast interiors awash with culture, history, cuisine and adventure. We’ve compiled a list of our favourite islands and what they are best for. We’ll mention our top tips for each island and some of our favourite hotels too.
1. Sicily – Best Mediterranean Island for Ancient Ruins
Sicily is not only one of the most beautiful islands in the Mediterranean; it’s also a haven of history and culture. Here you can visit the ruins of ancient Greek cities like Syracuse and Agrigento, then admire the cathedrals and castles built in the centuries since.
2. Sardinia – Best Mediterranean Island for Beautiful Beaches
The Mediterranean is full of gorgeous beaches, but Sardinia is arguably home to the most beautiful beaches. Here you’ll find everything from soft white sand and sparkling waters to hidden coves and rocky cliffs.
Beyond its postcard-worthy coastline, this Italian island also boasts forests, mountains, ancient ruins and eclectic architecture. We recommend spending a week or more exploring it.
Santorini’s reputation as the most beautiful island in Greece is certainly well-earned. It’s easy to combine a few days here with another destination, especially since it’s only a five-hour ferry ride from Athens. One of our top picks for a great place to stay is Canaves Oia.
5. Crete – Best Mediterranean Island for a Family Trip
Crete may not be as flamboyant as some other Greek islands, but that’s exactly why we love it. It’s the perfect destination for families and active travellers of all ages, with a wealth of outdoor activities and cultural sites to discover.
6. Paros – Best Mediterranean Island for a Romantic Getaway
It’s difficult to imagine a more romantic place than Paros, with its winding cobblestone streets, whitewashed houses and colourful flowers. Although it’s the second-largest Greek island, it feels refreshingly calm and cosy.
7. Mykonos – Best Mediterranean Island for Vibrant Nightlife
Mykonos is world-renowned for its nightlife, with plenty of glamorous hotels, restaurants, bars and beach clubs where the party continues into the early hours. But it’s also bursting with impossibly picturesque windmills, whitewashed towns and red-domed houses.
8. Korčula – Best Mediterranean Island to Get Off the Beaten Track
Located off the coast of Croatia, the intriguing island of Korčula is a wonderful alternative to the more well-known Mediterranean islands. It’s famous for its verdant forests and vineyards, as well as a charming medieval old town that happens to be the birthplace of Marco Polo.
San Domenico PalaceHoused in a 14th-century convent, you’ll find San Domenico Palace perched on a rocky promontory high above the Ionian Sea. Drink in astounding views of Mount Etna and the ancient Greek theatre. With the charming town of Taormina on your doorstep, the hotel is perfectly positioned for enjoying everything this part of Sicily has to offer. At the hotel’s signature Michelin-starred restaurant Principe Cerami embark on a culinary journey curated by award-winning chef Massimo Mantarro. The Etna-born chef presents quintessential Sicilian cuisine showcasing local ingredients and traditions. When you’re not out exploring the riches the region has to offer, unwind at the San Domenico Palace spa, or cool off in the clifftop infinity pool.
Sant FrancescLocated in the heart of Palma’s historic centre is the Sant Francesc, a renovated 19th century mansion. The hotel features 42 rooms and suites, many with traditional wooden beams and original frescos and mouldings. Mallorcan quarry stone and French oak is used throughout, which is perfectly complemented by the contemporary art and photography that adorns the walls. Windows look out over San Francesc Square and if you head up to the roof terrace, you’re guaranteed stunning views of the bascillica. There is a rooftop pool for when the Mallorcan sun is beating down and it’s the perfect place to enjoy a drink as the sun sets over the rooftops. The hotel restaurant is located in the former stables and offers guests a menu inspired by the culinary traditions of the Mediterranean. In the warmer months you can choose to dine al fresco.
Canaves Oia HotelThis elegant seaside hotel, nestled in a volcanic cliffside, perfectly captures the spirit of Santorini in its stunning white luxury and minimalist décor. The 18 stylish rooms and suites have been newly renovated with comfort and class in mind. Some feature private balconies and outside dining areas with views out over the Caldera and the Aegean Sea. Bright whites, soft Mediterranean colours and brilliant aquamarines echo your surroundings and create a tranquil space for proper relaxation when you’re not out exploring the city. For the ultimate in Aegean luxury, book the River Pool Suite and luxuriate in the unique river pool Jacuzzi. Enjoy a casual lunch and light snacks at the Infinity Pool Bar Restaurant, and try the refreshing cocktails into the late afternoon, to the sounds of relaxing lounge music. The all-day menu features Greek and Mediterranean cuisine. Wine-lovers shouldn’t miss the wine tasting experience which introduces guests to some of the finest Santorinian grape varieties.
CosmeSet in the charming, whitewashed village of Naouss on the island of Paros, with the clear blue Aegean sea all around, is the Cosme resort; is a little slice of paradise. The design and decor here is quintessentially Greek with a sophisticated and a nostalgic feel to some of the furnishing. White washed walls reflect the powerful sun and a combination of clean, straight and inviting, curved walls and staircases feature both internally and externally. Calm and tranquil grounds lead you to the restaurants, bar and wellness area. Volta Restaurant serves delicious breakfasts every day. Parostià Restaurant sits in an enviable location overlooking the beach and shimmering sea offering lunch and dinner everyday serving generous portions of delightful greek food, including fresh fish. There’s a cooling outdoor swimming pool with inviting sun loungers for guests to relax on. The hotel also boasts its own beach club where you can enjoy days in the sunshine with your feet in the sand on the hotel’s own comfortable loungers with parasols for shade. The resort’s location means you can easily visit the picturesque little town of Naouss where you can enjoy shopping, restaurants, bars and winding cobblestone streets of this typical Greek island town. This beautiful resort offers 40 suites over 6 room and suite categories, all are very well appointed and many come with outside terrace areas and beautiful views. All the rooms have a one-of-a-kind feeling to the decor with art work, carefully selected wooden furniture and an array of pared back, yet comfortable soft furnishings. Neutral tones are used throughout; this is a wonderful place to feel calm and relaxed.
Bill & Coo CoastNamed for the act of whispering affectionate endearments to a loved one, Bill & Coo is a collection of private Mykonian suites which combine comfort and luxury. Each of the 30 elegant and spacious suites features indigenous accents and encapsulates the very best of Cycladic living. Enjoy unpretentious, yet high-quality food at Beefbar which serves the best cuts of meat with their delicious signature purees and spices. Then sip on innovative, mixologist-crafted cocktails at Bill & Coo Lounge Bar as you drink in the Mykonian sunset over the ocean. Bill & Coo’s specially-designed spa suites put the focus on personalised service and promoting overall well-being. Choose from a variety of treatments for both men and women.
Domes Zeen ChaniaThis seaside resort and spa is a beautiful Mediterranean escape where you can relax beneath the bright Aegean skies and gaze out at inviting blue seascapes. Find yourself surrounded by an oasis of tropical vegetation, banana, and palm trees. Set above the beach, the reception offers uninterrupted views of Chania town, thick bamboo fields and beyond. It’s the perfect place to call home while you explore Chania and its surrounds. The 102 rooms range from lavish villas to well-appointed family bungalows. While away the hours beside the pool or head down to the resort’s private beach. The buildings have been designed to appear woven into their natural surrounds. The charming bungalows, inspired by a traditional Greek village, boast private gardens and have been built around a central gathering agora. The decor has been handcrafted using organic materials and textures reminiscent of those you’ll find in the tropical oasis outside. Domes Zeen Chania offers an array of culinary options inspired by the wealth of flavours, colours and textures of Greece and Crete. Discover creative local and fusion dishes, prepared using freshly-picked ingredients.