Europe isn’t as blessed as Asia when it comes to the abundance of islands. Still, the variety of landscapes and cultures on Europe’s archipelagos leaves the vast majority of wanderers in awe. From the icy cliffs of the Faroe Islands to the sun-drenched coasts of the Mediterranean, Europe’s collection of islands is exceptionally diverse.
In this article, we share 10 of the most beautiful islands to visit in Europe.
With its delectable cuisine, a magma-spitting volcano, spectacular architecture, and enjoyable beaches; Sicily packs heaps of ingredients most people love about Italy, plus this comes with a Mediterranean breeze. Before you start exploring, try some cannoli – a delicious cream-filled pastry that originates from Sicily. There are endless possibilities on the island, but soaking up the rugged landscapes of Mount Etna and the alien white cliffs at the Stairs of the Turks will likely end up on your list of favourites. Sicily’s interior is also charming, with stonehouse communities and fertile pastures.
In terms of city life, Palermo and Catania both are cultural treasures to the island. Palermo is home to the dazzling 12th-century Palermo Cathedral and the picturesque Teatro Massimo, while Catania has the Duomo Di Catania shining in its heart and the remnants of a Roman theatre to discover. It’s simply impossible to get bored on Italy’s largest island.
Lofoten Islands, Norway
This chain of little islands in northwest Norway draws adventure travellers and photographers from all over the globe. This is due to its unmatched natural beauty and charismatic fishing villages. Enjoy the peaceful inlet Trollfjord, take a moment to inhale the magic of Bunes Beach, and admire the colourful houses on stilts at the iconic viewpoint of Hamnøy.
Hiking fanatics will be pleased to see the archipelago’s craggy scenes, and via numerous trails, you can navigate through the most heart-stopping parts. A scramble up to Reinebringen is one of the most satisfying, as it leads to epic panoramas over the Reinefjord and the namesake town in the abyss. More seasoned trampers can tackle the track from Sørvågen to the stunning Munkebu Hut as a day-hike.
Located above the polar circle, the Lofoten Islands also form a loveable region for observing the Northern Lights in the winter months. The chances of witnessing this spellbinding phenomenon are most significant between October and April.
On the map, Malta is nothing more than a tiny dot in the Mediterranean Sea. When zoomed in, Malta has three main islands full of architectonic jewels, beautiful nature and incredible history. Many people start their trip in the capital of Valletta, but the former capital Mdina is visually more appealing. This fortified city with its stunning baroque St. Paul’s Cathedral and Vilhena Palace with its precious ornaments certainly is an eye-catcher.
Leave the urban environment for a visit to the Blue Grotto viewpoint, where breathtaking cliffs are carved out by the sparkling blue water.
Gozo is the smaller island in the north, but it doesn’t lack wonderful features. Enjoy the scenery at Ramla Beach, explore the rock formations at Dwejra Bay, or hike to the towering Ta Cenc Cliffs. Also, be sure to venture over to Comino Island and spent some time relaxing in the Blue Lagoon.
The Azores aren’t the most accessible island destination in Europe, but those who set their first foot on this remote archipelago will soon realize it was worth the journey. All the islands of the Azores are created by the forces of nature, and signs of their volcanic past are visible everywhere. One of the Azores’ most adored sight is the Lagoon of the Seven Cities on the island of Sao Miguel (seen below). Here, a blue and green lake are located within a massive caldera of an extinct volcano. If you’re in good shape and up for a challenge, try to tackle Montanha do Pico on Pico Island. With its 2351 metres, this is the highest peak in all of Portugal.
The Azores are a dream come true for dive lovers. Nutrient-rich currents bring a tremendous variety of marine creatures to the island group. In the right season, you might encounter dolphins, hammerhead sharks, rays, or even blue whales.
Fuerteventura belongs to the Spanish Canary Islands and you’ll find it encompasses the volcanic character of all the islands in this archipelago. Therefore, travelling to Fuerteventura sometimes seems more like an expedition to the moon. In Rural Park Betancuria and Cuchillos de Vigan, a barren landscape of stones and rugged peaks make for epic walks and photo opportunities. But heaps of travellers don’t come to Fuerteventura for the volcanic scenery, but for the grandiose beaches glued to the coastlines. Cofete is – second to none – the most spectacular shoreline: this strip of sand lies directly at the end of a sloping mountain range.
The east coast is blessed with more jagged peaks and glistening beaches, where you can pick up some wind- and kitesurfing skills as well.
Note: the first image is also of Fuerteventura.
Thundering waterfalls, snow-covered bluff, and vibrant wooden houses with grass on the rooftops; the Faroe Islands provide the kind of scenery outdoor-minded travellers crave for. This autonomous region within the Kingdom of Denmark consists of roughly eighteen main islands and can best be described as ‘wild’. This is displayed sublimely at the viewpoint at the Múlafossur waterfall. Here you can see the waterfall dropping straight into the ocean, with a tiny village and fantastic mountains providing a dramatic backdrop. Another thrilling place is the Mykines Holmur Lighthouse (see below), where the cliffs are astonishing, and thousands of puffins breed in the summer months.
For more bird-related adventures and extraordinary scenery, take a boat tour to the Vestmanna Sea Cliffs where countless aquatic birds circle above your head and majestic rocks rise from the sea.
While Mykonos and Santorini are the most notable of the Greek islands, Milos certainly is an underdog between the tourist magnets. However, the limestones rocks and the white-plastered houses are present in abundance. Visit the multicoloured fishing village Klima for a taste of both traditional Milos and the best food the sea has to offer.
Combine beach and surreal scenery at Sarakiniko (seen below), where the blinking limestone rock formations almost give you an illusion of snow. For a sense of Milos’ history, head for Plaka village, where the remnants of a Venetian fortress and the glazing white Charalambos church draw all attention. Besides this, Plaka is a fabulous spot to watch the sunset, as it is quite elevated.
Isle of Skye, Scotland
Scotland has a spotless reputation in Europe when it comes to natural spectacles, and the Isle of Skye is an exemplary location. As you cross the Skye Bridge from Kyle of Lochalsh, the mountainous terrain appears on the horizon. Skye is all about nature, and a journey through this western part of Scotland wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Fairy Pools. A stream tumbling over multiple cascades crosses pasture lands that roll down from Skye’s highest mountains. Make your way up north to the Staffin area, where grazing sheep, basalt cliffs and waterfalls falling into the sea dominate the landscape.
The Isle of Skye is ground zero for hikers, and the areas around the summits of Sgùrr Alasdair and Bla Bheinn are full of challenging trails, lakes and vantage points.
Hiking is big on Corsica, and the endless network of trails is reason enough to visit this French island in the Mediterranean Sea. Especially the mountainous interior is walking heaven, as the pointy summits are sensational and the wildlife special, with sightings of mouflons and birds of prey as your guides along the way.
Beaches can be found all around this island, but Plage de Saleccia is often regarded as one of the most secluded and enchanting. This beach is a postcard come to life, with its white waterfront and crystal blue water.
Spend some time in the city of Ajaccio where you can try the Corsican cuisine, explore some decent art museums and appreciate the architecture.
Shetland Islands, Scotland
The Shetland Islands are quite isolated, but should still be marked as an attractive travel destination nonetheless. Even though the Shetland Islands are a small group, they exhibit a unique culture of fishing and sheepherding. Displays of ancient settlements add to the cultural value, and it’s worth stopping by ruins of the Norse settlement in Jarlshof and the Broch of Mousa from the Iron Age.
Even though the Shetland Islands aren’t as balmy as some other destinations on this list, outdoor activities are diverse and equally fun. Surrounded by the rolling prospects, you can take on sea kayaking, rock climbing, fishing, mountain biking, and even diving to fully delve into the northernmost part of the United Kingdom.
No matter the type of holiday you’re after in Europe, the continent has fabulous islands to choose from. Whether you want to rest your head on a sandy shore, be submerged in volcanic panoramas or stretch your legs in the fjords of northern Europe, there will always be an archipelago of your dreams.
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