How about slowing down the pace and opting for an island vacation in Europe?
Surprisingly, Europe has an excellent collection of islands that are perfect for a barefoot leisure holiday or an adventurous expedition. They’re also an ideal way to escape from daily realities of life and the hoards of tourists that frequent Europe’s most popular cities. So, why not head to these exquisite islands to experience a unique European holiday?
Islands of Greece
When it comes to planning an island holiday in Europe, Greece is on top of the list. This gorgeous nation is made up of a cluster of islands scattered in the Aegean and Ionian Seas. The moment someone mentions Greece, images of endless stretches of azure waters lapping on white sandy beaches and sunny blue skies surface in one’s mind.
Set in the southeastern Europe, Greece is a fabled land filled with rich culture and ancient civilizations. The country’s the Ionian Islands or the Seven Islands are known for their breathtaking panoramas, while the islands of Corfu, Paxos, Lefkas, Ithaca, Cephalonia, Zakynthos, and Cerigo are steeped in culture and historical influences from many European settlements.
A cruise visit to each of these islands is a great way to explore the unique experiences they have to offer. An expedition into diverse landscapes, sheltered bays and caves, and serene lagoons with a backdrop of soaring cliffs are mesmerizing to behold. Santorini is one of the best islands to visit in Greece. Here, take in a sunset from the coastal township, and a stop for a photo opportunity on one of the picturesque whitewashed lanes lined with churches.
Isle of Skye, Scotland
Spectacular sceneries of rugged cliffs and clear lochs wait for you at Isle of Skye in Scotland. With a unique landscape of jagged cliffs and mountainous terrains dominating the panorama, Isle of Skye offers some of the most dramatic vistas in Scotland. Not the usual sight of open bright blue seas or white sandy beaches, Isle of Sky surprises you with misty brown mountains and clear waters.
If you’re interested in an island vacation that includes wilderness adventures, the Isle of Skye offers amazing hiking trails and walks of varying levels of difficulty. Hardcore adventurers can push their limits with challenging climbs. Those who love to stroll through nature can opt for pictorial walking tours to Coral Beach, Cuillin Mountains, Boreraig, and Talisker Beach to name a few places. On the way, you may even spot white-tailed sea eagles, puffins, otters, seals, whales, dolphins, and red deer. Stop by the Scottish villages of Portree, Dunvegan, and Trotternish for a pint of the finest Scottish malt whiskey. Have a pleasant time mingling with locals and savoring some Scottish meals.
Canary Islands, Spain
A fusion of stunning beaches, spectacular natural sceneries, charming culture, and pleasantly warm weather, the Canary Islands are your answer to a tranquil Spanish holiday without the chaos of tourists. Considered as one of Europe’s best winter sun destinations due to their moderate climates, the Canary islands offer a thrilling island adventure amid extraordinary scenic settings. An archipelago set deep in the Atlantic Ocean, away from the Spanish borders, the islands of Gran Canaria, Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote, El Hierro, La Gomera, and La Palma offer sanctuary for those seeking tranquil escapes and cater to all kinds of beach lovers.
The unspoiled beaches, turquoise waters, and glorious sunshine coupled with tropical forests that are dotted with waterfalls, quaint seaside villages teeming, and charming locals, the islands allure their visitors with spectacular natural vistas and a vibrant verve.
There is always an event or celebration going on throughout the year. For leisure seekers, relax on laid-back sunny beaches after a dip in the tepid waters or set sail into the ocean to spot dolphins and whales. For outdoorsy adventurers, hike on meandering trails, or try scuba diving beneath the deep blue waters. Take some time to visit the seaside hamlets and historic townships, and don’t forget to watch a superb sunset along the horizon or stay at the beach late into the night for an awe-inspiring star-gazing experience.
Deemed one of Europe’s most exotic places to visit, Madeira is a Portuguese archipelago consisting of four islands that lie far away from the European coast. Located in the Atlantic Ocean north of the Canary Islands, Madeira is a mountainous region rather than a beach destination.
Rich in verdant foliage, soaring cliffs, and mountain peaks, Madeira is a haven for adventure lovers. There are many activities to do here, such as taking a cable car ride that gives you wonderful aerial views of Funchal, exploring the historic sites, or taking in the colonial architecture. Take a self-drive tour to check out the beautiful churches overlooking the cliff edges and the vast expanses of water, try surfing one of Europe’s best surf zones, or gear up for an adventure trek on the misty Pico do Arieiro.
Madeira is a spectacular epicurean destination that is famous for its wineries. A haven for keen food lovers, it is a delight to delve into a delectable range of cuisines made out of fresh farm produce and seafood that is complemented perfectly with an array of the finest sparkling wines from the region. Tourists flock to Madeira during New Year celebrations for its warm weather and astounding fireworks display that is certified as the largest fireworks show in the world by Guinness World Records.
Italy is undoubtedly well known as a destination drenched in art, history, and culture, but the country also offers amazing experiences of blissful island living. Italy’s assorted islands and its coastal towns are quite famous for providing insight into the quaint lifestyle steeped in authentic Italian culture and cuisine amid spellbinding scenic vistas. Sicily is the largest Italian island, offering an intense blend of unspoiled sceneries that are reminiscent of a bygone era, refreshing scents, and delectable flavors.
The colorful coastal settlement of Taormina perched right the border of the gleaming deep blue Mediterranean waters is a sight worth taking in. Mount Etna is another must visit attraction that offers stunning nature park, and grottos to explore. The UNESCO sites of the Noto Valley and Villa Romana del Casale take you back in historical times, while the refreshing sights of rolling green vineyards, olive groves, and citrus orchards are enough to confirm that the palette of food you will be relishing in will be fresh and delicious. Forget about piling up calories and let yourself loose on an amazing array of delicious Sicilian dishes, such as pastries, croquettes, ricottas, breads, tomatoes, meats, and genuine extra virgin olive oil.
Iceland is a one-of-a-kind experience that needs to be visited at least once in your lifetime. In contrast to its name, Iceland isn’t a country covered in sheets of ice, but its sheer natural beauty is attributed to its glacial fields. Other landscapes include volcanic mountains and lava fields, making Iceland a place where ice and fire coexist in harmony. The landscape is marvelous and distinct. There are no lush forests or tall trees, just shrubbery and moss-covered uneven topography.
The natural splendor of Iceland is astounding and surreal. The island is speckled with magnificent waterfalls, volcanic terrains, gorgeous fjords, stunning beaches, and clear lakes. The long days here give you a feeling that tomorrow may never come, and you have loads of time in one day to explore the country. The black beaches of Laugarvatn Lake, Reynisfjara, and Vik, the icy blue glaciers of Jökulsárlón and Vatnajökull National Park, the dramatic multi-hued vistas of Westfjords, the natural hot pools at Krosslaug and Deildartunguhver are some of Iceland’s extraordinary sights that will be etched in your memories forever. If you are traveling in the right season, you can even catch the gleaming Aurora borealis in Iceland.
The beauty and warmth of these European islands act as a rejuvenating salve for the tired soul. Though set apart from the mainland, a trip to these islands is an unparalleled experience and is sure to leave you wanting for more of the European island lifestyle.