With summer right around the corner, we’re dreaming of a seaside escape or a fairytale-status European adventure. So we rounded up the 40 best islands across Europe, including popular destinations everyone should see in their lifetime and hidden gems you may not have heard of yet. From sun-soaked shores to rocky winter beaches to colorful cliffside locales, these European island destinations belong on your bucket list. Ready set, start island hopping (at least virtually, for now).
Pakleni Islands, Croatia
Dotted along the Adriatic Sea, you’ll find Croatia’s Pakleni Islands. Here, gorgeous crystal clear waters and secluded beaches abound. You can go on cave tours, enjoy an afternoon of wine tasting, and then float in the stunning lagoons.
Tenerife is the busiest of the Canarian islands, with a bustling club scene and beaches that stretch on for miles. Off the coast of the Western Sahara, it has such a unique landscape. Be sure to explore the pirate cave Poris de Candelaria and ride the cable car up to the active volcano while you’re there.
The Baltic Sea is dotted with gorgeous islands, though they’re admittedly quite a bit cooler (temperature-wise) than those along the Mediterranean. Gotland is off the Southeastern coast of Sweden. The old city is a Unesco World Heritage Site, with a preserved medieval wall and rows of seriously charming homes swathed in vivid colors and florals.
Comino is the smallest of three islands in Malta. It’s a tiny little chunk of limestone—one and a half miles long and just under a mile wide—with just a single hotel (Comino Hotel). Still, it’s one of the most popular destinations in Malta, mostly thanks to its remote, barren landscape and stunning blue lagoons.
Geographically closer to Italy, this French island has a little bit of everything. According to CN Traveler, this is the island where Henry Matisse fell in love with color. Corsica is known for its amazing hiking trails in the lush, rugged nature reserve (cyclists, rejoice!), but for those who’d prefer to hang out at sea level, there’s plenty to do, from snorkeling to sunning and swimming. So outdoor adventure-seekers will especially love it.
The biggest island (and island country) on our list, Iceland has so much to offer. From the many natural hot springs to the black sand beaches, volcanoes, and many design-savvy destinations, it’s ideal for rugged outdoor enthusiasts and luxury travelers alike. While you’re here, you absolutely have to check out the Blue Lagoon, Iceland’s unique geothermal water spa.
Are we on Mars or are we in Europe? Wherever it is, it’s definitely the most Instagrammed spot on the planet. When it comes to unique rock formations and sand, you can’t beat Milos, Greece. This sweet little swimming spot is called Sarakiniko Beach.
Torshavn, Faroe Islands
Torshavn is the capital of the Faroe Islands, a string of volcanic islands in the North Atlantic between Norway, Iceland, and the United Kingdom. The charming harbor and old-town city center is a lively weekend destination, especially in the summer. It’s perfect for anyone looking to get off the beaten path.
On Mallorca, you’ll find outdoor activities in every direction, from hiking to swimming, boating, and more. It’s a must-visit for its many beautiful beaches, secluded mountains, and high-energy nightlife. It’s also the largest of Spain’s Balearic Islands, so you hang out in the hilly villages and countryside vineyards or stick by the hustle and bustle of Palma proper.
Okay, so you’ve definitely heard of Capri, but it’s one of the most popular islands in Europe for a reason. From the out-of-this-world food to the breathtaking views, picturesque pedestrian-only streets, and unbeatable luxury shopping, it’s definitely worth adding to your bucket list. This island is famous for its Blue Grotto and rocky shoreline.
Incredibly lush, the Portuguese island of Madeira feels like a mix between a tropical vacation and a European town. Make sure you swim in the natural swimming pool of Porto Moniz, hike the Vereda dos Balcões up to the lookout point for panoramic views, and see in the Risco waterfall in the island’s leafy forest.
The second largest island of Matla, Gozo, is is the perfect destination for travelers looking for a small, quaint place to explore that still offers beautiful, sunny beaches in the Mediterranean as well as cultural excursions and delicious food. And let’s face it, who isn’t looking for that?
Sao Miguel, Portugal
São Miguel is the most populous island in the Portuguese Azores, with a lively city center and plenty of cultural excursions. But it’s also nicknamed the “green island,” thanks to the lush mountains that stretch out in every direction. It’s also home to the breathtaking Lagao das Furnas and Lagoa do Fogo, pictured here.
Quieter than nearby island party destinations Ibiza and Mallorca, Menorca is a magical beach locale perfect for honeymooners and nature lovers. All it takes is one look at that cliffside restaurant and bar and we’re sold.
Isle of Harris, Scotland
The Isle of Harris is scenic beyond belief. This Scottish island is full of pristine beaches, rugged coastlines, old castles, and gorgeous greenery. It’s known for it’s Harris Tweed, too, so if you’re in the market for some new wool clothing, you won’t want to miss the weaving shops here.
Dodge the crowds in Venice by heading to the colorful Venetian island of Burano. Similarly romantic canals snake their way between back streets and town centers and vibrant buildings abound. It’s known for its homemade lace. You can easily do it for a day if you’re already in Venice.
With a population of 200, much of Porquerolles is a nature reserve. Back in 1912, it was a private island—François Joseph Fournier gave it to his wife as a wedding gift and started a vineyard. Now it’s most famous for hosting asummer jazz festival. It’s worth visiting for the day by boat if you’re staying in the nearby town of Hyères.
The capital city of Malta, Valletta, is right at the edge of the largest island. Awash in a sea of white, the walled city dates back to the 1500s. Now you won’t have to choose between unwinding on island time and touring Baroque landmarks. History buffs and sun worshippers, say hello to your next vacation spot.
Why lounge on the beach when you can see the Northern Lights? The remote Lofoten Islands of Norway are full of one-of-a-kind experiences, especially when it comes to striking views, charming fishing towns, and hiking tall peaks. Hamnøy is seriously picturesque, and it’s connected to the mainland by bridge, so you’ll be able to access it by car.
Mykonos has it all. From a buzzing night life scene to sun soaked beaches, iconic architecture, and unparalleled Greek food, what more could you want out of a European island vacation? There’s a reason it’s one of the most popular destinations in the world.
Also off the coast of Naples, Ischia is the Amalfi destination for you if you want to experience an Italian island without quite as many hoards of people as Capri. It’s a favorite for its unpretentious personality, beautiful ancient castles, and of course, that world famous spaghetti.
Eysturoy, Faroe Islands
While you’re in the Faroe Islands, hop over from the capital to the island of Eysturoy. The jagged, rocky cliffs make it rife with adventure like bird-watching and hiking.
The rich history of Cyprus is palpable, and there’s tons to learn about its present-day cultural landscape. This is partially due to its geographical location. It’s technically in Asia (some would even say the Middle East) but culturally and historically, many categorize it as European. Today, the two largest communities are the Greek Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriots. Explore the Roman and Ottoman Empire ruins and enjoy the sun-soaked beaches.
Pink sand beaches are just. so. cute. And photogenic, of course. Just off the northern coast of Sardinia, Budelli is an Italian island is beach bliss epitomized.
White-washed villas, black sand beaches, and views of the blue Aegean Sea are a few of the reasons why this Greek island is just begging for couples to check it out.
Yes, even landlocked-Germany has islands! This itsy bitsy island is smack dab in the middle of Bavaria. Chiemsee is an expansive lake home to a few islands, this largest of which is Herreninsel. Plan a day trip here to explore an eighth-century convent, an unfinished palace, and more. You could also check out Fraueninsel (it translates to “women’s island”), which is slightly smaller, but the striking Gothic bell tower is worth the trek for architecture aficionados.
One of the smaller island in the Azores, Terceira is home to the beautiful town of Angra do Heroismo. It’s one of two of Portugal’s five Unesco World Heritage sites, thanks to the colorful town and hypnotizing patchwork meadows. Come for a day trip from the larger Sao Miguel while you’re on remote archipelago.
Located on a little peninsula on France’s north west coast (off the coast of Normandy), Guernsey is a major gem. As one of the Channel islands on the Gulf Stream, it boasts a complex blend of French, Anglo, and Norman histories and cultures. Walk around the bustling St. Peter’s Port or take a look at the the rugged cliffs.
Okay, so this isn’t technically an island, or at least not in the way you’d think of a tropical beach with palm trees and Mai Tais, but Stockholm, Sweden is the perfect destination for anyone who loves interesting cities with tons of action while also being able to enjoy coast lines.
Huge limestone cliffs skyrocket above gorgeous turquoise waters. Whether you come for a day trip or for a few nights while Greek island hopping, make sure you squeeze in an excursion to the notorious shipwreck beach at Smuggler’s Cove.
This island off of Greece’s northwest coast has rugged mountains and plenty of resorts along the shore. It also has plenty of history and culture, including medieval lanes, the grand Palace of St. Michael and St. George, and Venetian fortresses to check out.
The largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily has gorgeous beaches and mild weather. The island is packed with history, and contains many historical sites, museums, and churches. Oh, and the food is next-level.
Isle of Skye, Scotland
Located off the west coast of Scotland, the Isle of Skye boasts steep, rocky cliffs, picturesque harbors, and a cool climate. People love to visit the Fairy Pools, with their gorgeous blue-green waterfalls, and Quiraing, an ancient landslide with a hiking loop.
Crete is the largest and most heavily populated of the Greek islands. It has a wide range of landscapes, from beautiful beaches at Elafonisi to the White Mountains. Crete also boasts the Ideon Cave, which Greek mythology says was the birthplace of Zeus, and several ancient ruins like the Phaistos Minoan Palace.
Faial Island, Portugal
Part of the Azores, Faial has the Capelinhos Volcano, which is one of the most western areas of Europe. Plan on visiting in the summer: The island has a huge amount of hydrangeas in bloom that time of year, and beautiful marinas to explore.
Take a ferry from the Scottish mainland to visit Hoy, which has dramatic coastlines. Hoy has a huge and varied bird life, along with several landmarks like the Dwarfie Stane, a rock-cut tomb. Fun fact: The 1984 video for the Eurythmics’ “Here Comes the Rain Again” was shot here.
Paros Island, Greece
Paros is located in the Aegean Sea, and has a perfect mix of marinas, beaches, and traditional villages. The island’s Kolimbithres beach has plenty of swimming coves. When you’re tired of the beach life, you can check out historical landmarks like the Panagia Katapoliani, a Byzantine-era church.
This Croatian island is a popular summer resort with history. It has 13th-century walls, a fortress, and a main square that boasts the Hvar Cathedral. It also has beautiful beaches on the coast and lavender fields when you travel inland.
Formentera is a small but scenic island. Visitors can reach it by ferry from Ibiza and, like its bigger (and more popular) neighbor, Formentera has clear waters. People come for the beaches, as well as snorkeling and sailing. Don’t miss Calo des Mort and Ses Illetes beaches.
While Lanzarote is off of the coast of West Africa, it’s considered part of Spain—and therefore, Europe. Lanzarote is known for its beautiful beaches, volcanic landscape, and warm, gorgeous weather all year. There are plenty of things to check out on the island, including Timanfaya National Park, Cueva de los Verdes caverns (which were created by an underground river of lava), and the resort town of Puerto del Carmen, with its gorgeous villas.
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