Europe's Best Small Islands

An island getaway is the perfect place to find some peace, reconnect with yourself and let your troubles fade away. While some of the big names are staples in many travel baskets, there are beautiful, lesser-known islands across the globe that many vacationers overlook. Next time you plan a trip, why not travel somewhere off-the-grid and find your own secret paradise? True wonder lies in exploring the unknown. These 10 destinations could be your dream come true getaways.

Jersey

With miles of beaches and plenty to see, you can live your life to the fullest in Jersey. Take beach walks on the coastal paths and don’t forget to taste the seafood on the eateries overlooking the sea. Boat trips will give you a chance to spot seals and dolphins. You can hike the whole of the North Coast by following the cliff paths, but make sure you check the weather ahead of time.

How to get there: Take a direct flight from Heathrow Airport (London) to Jersey Airport.

Don't miss: The Jersey War Tunnels.

Gozo

The island of Gozo is just 30 minutes away from Malta by ferry but feels like another place entirely. It’s smaller, greener and more rural, and is even thought to be Calypso’s Isle featured in Homer’s Odyssey. It’s the second largest island in the archipelago and moves at a more relaxed pace, perfect for a chilled break. Stop by for a glimpse of natural wonders like the Blue Hole and the seawater lagoon.

How to get there: Jump on a ferry from Ċirkewwa in Malta.

Don't miss: The Citadel in Victoria for a historically rich experience.

Formentera

Most people planning a getaway to the Balearic Islands tend to think of Ibiza first. But if you’re looking for a more relaxed vibe you should try Formentera. The smallest of the Balearic Islands is picturesque, with the trademark crystal clear water and sandy beaches. In fact, it's regularly voted among Europe’s best beach destinations. It’s easy to explore the island on foot, or adventurers might want to take advantage of the unique caves and underground passages such as Cova des Fum, Cova Foradada, and Cova d'Estrip found in Cala en Baster.

How to get there: Once you’ve flown into Ibiza, it’s a short trip to the port and a 20 minute ferry.

Don't miss: Punta Rasa sea caves by kayak.

Porto Santo

Once the home of Christopher Columbus, Porto Santo is found just off the Madeira coast. At its widest point, the island is only 11km long. The beautiful turquoise sea laps the beach, and the sand itself has therapeutic properties. It’s the perfect place to unwind. Even better, the temperature tends to stay the same all year round, so whatever the season, the beach awaits your arrival. Taste local drinks and pastries at Casa da Serra or see the amazing organ pipes rock formation before you climb the ridge of the Pico de Ana Ferreira to find the caves.

How to get there: By ferry from Funchal, Madeira to Porto Santo or a short 25 minute flight from Madeira.

Don't miss: Hiking the three mountains, Pico Juliana, Pico Castelo and Pica do Facho.

Aeolian Islands

Found off Sicily’s western coast, the Aeolian Islands are made up of seven UNESCO-protected islands, created by volcanic eruptions. The brave among us might enjoy hiking the volcanos, some of which are still active. Island life moves at a slow pace, and each one has it own distinct offering. Salina is great for foodies, Lipari is the oldest so head there if you’re a history buff, Vulcano is famous for hiking and thermal mud baths, Panarea is where you’ll find the fashion, Stromboli is known for its active volcano and finally Alicudi and Filicudi are so far off the beaten track they don’t have roads. You'll be travelling around by donkey.

How to get there: Grab a hydrofoil from Milazzo in 90 minutes, or Messina in two and half hours.

Don't miss: The incredible black sand beaches of Vulcano.

Azores

The Azorean archipelago has long been under the shadow of more famous islands, but it is absolutely worth a visit. The biggest island here is Sao Miguel, nicknamed 'The Green Island', which  features towering cliffs, green plains, and rolling hills. Check out crater lakes as well as the award-winning Ribeira dos Caldeirões national park. Take a good look at the century-old buildings in the capital of Azores, Ponta Delgada.

How to get there: Fly from London Stansted into Ponta Delgada.

Don't miss: Hot springs and Furnas volcano in Povoação.

Chios, Greece

If you prefer smaller Greek islands with fewer tourists around, Chios will be right up your street. From abandoned villages like Anavatos, to the diverse towns of Pyrgi, Olympi, Mesta and more, you’ll never run out of things to do in Chios. It’s a good idea to rent a car, so you can see as much of the island as possible. The food is affordable and delicious, and you can’t miss the mastic tree, unique to Chios. In just a few days you can explore the history of the island from Neolithic caves through to monasteries.

How to get there: Fly from Athens to Chios, or get the ferry from Athens.

Don't miss: The Nea Monis Monastery - Chios' only UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Evia, Greece

Head to Evia and explore the untouched historical sites of Greece, such as Karababa Castle and Dragon Houses in Styra. For a wild beach experience, embark on a journey to Chiliadou that will take you through sublime mountains and weaving roads. Later, you can wind down in one of the small villages with some of the local ouzo.

How to get there: Fly into Athens then drive via Halkida bridge (Chalcis).

Don't miss: The healing thermal springs in Edipsos.

Brijuni, Croatia

The Brijuni Islands are a group of 14 small islands that only allow a limited number of ships each day. Talk about a hidden gem! Veli Brijun is the largest and the most interesting. It’s a good idea to get a tour guide, or hop on a tourist train. And don’t miss the safari park, home to elephants, zebras and llamas that were gifted to President Tito.

How to get there: From Pula Airport, take a bus to Fažana and then a boat to Brijuni.


Don't miss: Tito’s famous Cadillac parked outside the museum. You can even rent it and take a ride around the island.

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