My dear Lola,
Already counting the days missing for the summer to come? dreaming to dive in crystal clear waters? imagining yourself tanned on a fine white sand or simply enjoying your break in one of the best islands in Europe? This is possible, nowadays, without crossing the Atlantic.
And it is that without leaving the old continent it is possible to enjoy some of the most spectaculars islands on Earth, some filled with history and other known for its nightlife, but all with spectacular landscapes that will make you want to return again and again.
Santorni, the best sunsets (Greece)
Santorini is considered one of the most beautiful islands in Europe and of the world. And that’s not all; their sunsets from the picturesque village of Oia have been recognized internationally as the most romantic and spectacular ones.
The island owes its rugged geography, characteristic for its cliffs, to an enormous volcanic explosion that led to the emergence of a huge boiler that is currently flooded by water and separates the mainland from the island of Thirasia. These 300-meters high cliffs, which can be ascended both by cable car or riding a typical donkey, turn Santorini into a unique island that organizes its charming blue and white buildings in winding streets where to lost yourself in.
Islas Cies, a pearl in the western atlantic (Spain)
Neither with airport nor with any hotel facility but a little camping, the only way to reach this little Spanish paradise is by taking ferry that leaves from different Galician cities several times a day. Be warned though, it is advisable to book it in advance, since the islands admits only 2.200 visitors a day.
The three islands: Monteagudo or Illa Norte, Illa Do Faro or Illa do Medio and San Martiño or Illa Sur surprise their visitors with a mixture of a Caribbean and idyllic landscape and the cold water of the Atlantic, so It’s common not see many people getting the best of its turquoise waters. For the most adventurous ones, there are 4 different hiking routes available, as well as diving and snorkelling and guided sea kayak tours. You see Lola, there’s no time to get bored.
Oileáin Árann/ Aran Islands, in Gaelic please! (Ireland)
There is no better place on earth to get to know the Irish culture that the Aran Islands; Arainn or Inis Mór (Inishmore in English), Inis Meáin (Inishmaan) and Inis Oirr or Inis Oirtheach (Inisheer), where their inhabitants still preserve their ancestral traditions. I think Lola, that during the whole year I spent in Ireland, the Aran Islands were the only territory where most of its population speak Gaelic as a native language.
The economic activity is based on tourism, fishing and pure Irish wool sweaters knitting and the best way to travel around and discover them is to rent a bike and cycle Inis Mór 14 kilometres or enjoy the scenery on a carriage while his coachman delights your ears with stories, anecdotes and everything you need to know (and more) about the Aran Islands.
Île Sainte-Margarite, the mysterious island (France)
Although perhaps it is not the most idyllic one of all listed, it may be the most historical one. The 2km² Île Sainte-Marguerite, with its single point of access located at the cinematographic city of Cannes’ harbour, it is famous for its prison fortress (the Royal Fort), where the “Man of the iron Mask” was imprisoned in the seventeenth century for unknown reasons and whom identity has been never revealed.
But the island offers the visitor more than a creepy history. It also houses the second most visited forest in the Gallic country, representative for the quality of its wood, mostly from eucalyptus and pine.
Lido, the most cinematographic island (Italy)
Facing the Venice Lagoon one side and the Adriatic Sea on the opposite one, the long and narrow Venetian island of Lido is dresses up every September to host one of the most important and glamorous events of the current international cinematographic scene: La Biennale di Venezia, Venice International Film Festival.
During the festival, Hollywood actors and actresses sail the canals with gondolas and private yachts and lodge in the wonderful (and expensive) Grand Hotel des Bains Grand and Hotel Excelsior. The rest of us, we must resign ourselves to walk around the Gran Viale Santa Maria Elisabetta, the island main street where to find all kinds of shops, hotels and restaurants at reasonable prices, and take a dip in its crowded beaches frequented by local Venetians.
Marken, Holland idyllic island (The Netherlands)
Protected by a dike built in 1957 after the numerous floods that Marken was regularly subjected, it is nowadays one of the country most charming islands, although being often unnoticed for travellers.
A trip to this picturesque town located in the North Holland province offers the possibility to discover the typical Netherlands clogs creation secret in its factory museum: “The clog experience” and going in depth into the typical Dutch architecture admiring the houses built on piles and mounds to avoid the risk of flooding.
Clogs factory museum
Vestmannaeyjar/Westman Islands, under a Volcano shadow (Iceland)
Heimaey, the Vestmannaeyjar only inhabited island appears as a small city-museum that comprises the most typical icelandic activites, landscape and culture. From whale watching, golf competitions under the midnight sun and an economy based on fishing and tourism, to the appearance of the famous Puffins in summer season. All this, under the Eldfell volcano shadow, which marked significantly the life of its inhabitants after the 1973 eruption causing the entire population evacuation and most of the island reconstruction.
For music lovers, the “Þjóðhátíð” massive music festival takes place in August when thousands of young people gather together to have fun, drink, camp … oh, and dance of course :)
The cheapest option to reach Heimaey is from Landeyjahöfn, on the mainland south coast, where ferries depart from several times a day for a half-hour trip.
Find out more on: A weekend in Heimaey, Westman Islands
Mykonos, the Greek Ibiza (Greece)
Considered the best party island in Europe, together with Ibiza, Mykonos receives many more travelers that the total number of the island inhabitants.
Mykonos is located in the centre of the Cyclades archipelago, between the islands of Tinos, Delos, Syros and Naxos and it becomes the largest and the most important, especially for tourism.
Hundreds of travelers come to the island on cruise ships, ferries and planes, concentrated mostly in the summer season, to enjoy its beaches, its characteristic architecture based on white buildings accompanied by red or blue painted doors and windows according to their owners professional trade (blue for the fishermen and red for the shepherds) and obviously recognized for its parties. All this under the watchful eye of Chora windmills, its capital, as an idyllic background.
Find out more on: Mykonos and Santorini week – The Ultimate Mykonos Travel Guide
A country, an island and a city; Amager (Denmark)
Just a few islands, such as Amager, can boast of including in its territory the capital of one of the most developed states of Europe; Copenhagen, in the Kingdom of Denmark. Both the capital and its international airport are located among its 100 km², which turns this Danish island into one of the most densely populated ones in Europe.
But the urban tourism of the city is not the only one that succeeds. The University of Copenhagen, Denmark’s National Aquarium, Den Blå Planet (the northern Europe largest aquarium) and the easy access to the beaches from the centre of the capital (less than 5km accessible by Metro), converted the island into a perfect destination for both tourists and locals, especially for young people who have filled it with students flats and college apartments.
Definitely, a booming island that plans to become one of Copenhagen most developed and “it” areas in the near future.
Lofoten Islands, paradise over the Arctic Cercle (Norway)
Commonly known as the Lofoten Islands, all together they form an immense archipelago that connects its little islands by bridges, not only between themselves but also with the rest of the Norwegian mainland.
All together, this territory has won many awards and global recognition for its unmatched beauty due to its picturesque villages surrounded by the Atlantic, which are set deep between their fjords, and for the preservation of the typical old Rorbu, antique traditional fishermen’s huts, nowadays turned into a tourist attraction and accommodation.