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Going on a summer vacation doesn’t require traveling across the world. Give the old continent a chance and explore one (or all) of these beautiful islands in Europe. Enjoy tropical-like shores, rugged peaks, picturesque villages and endless hours of sunshine. Here are the top European islands you should visit this summer.
Sweden may not be the first country that comes to mind at the thought of islands, but you may be pleasantly surprised. Home to over 220,000 islands, including sandy atolls and tiny outcrops, Sweden offers a wide array to choose from.
Our top choice: the Weather Islands, known locally as the Väderöarna. Located at the most westerly point of Sweden, these islands feature breathtaking beauty and endless tranquility. As many of them are empty you can enjoy long walks or hikes across nature, serene days on the beach looking for shellfish or relaxing evenings on rocky outcrops and sandy atolls. Ferries depart from Fjällbacka and Hamburgsund, on the mainland near Gothenburg.
Flores, which means flowers, is one of the islands of the western group of the Azores, Portugal. If you are a nature lover you will definitely love Flores, which features deep valleys and high peaks, and in the summer the island is covered with hundreds of thousands of hydrangeas. Accessible via air, Flores is ideal for those who love canoeing, hiking, surfing, bird watching and whale watching. Flores is definitely what you need if you are looking for secluded shores and tranquil landscapes.
Even the most famous Greek archipelago has some fairly unknown islands. Part of the Cyclades, Andros is a green haven, and is actually closer to the Attica Peninsula than to its sister islands. With crystal-clear waters, sandy shores and verdant valleys, Andros is a top choice for hikers due to its extensive network of ancient paths. Add to this a stunning main town with shipowners’ mansions and you will understand why it is one of Greece’s best-kept secrets.
Located off the French Riviera between Cannes and Marseilles lies the île de Porquerolles, one of the three Îles d’Hyères. The island is small but has beautiful little beaches in the north, enclosed by eucalyptus and pine trees and rugged cliffs in the south. The island has only one village, which dates back to the 1820s, and is a popular day trip destination for families and friends, who enjoy the sandy beaches and explore the island via bike or on foot. You can book a room in the luxurious Le Mas du Langoustier Hotel, or do like the locals and enjoy the island on a day trip.
Elba is a green oasis. The island is known as the place where Napoleon was sent into exile, and features golden-sand beaches, clear waters, bushy shores and rugged cliffs. We highly recommend you visit the oldest winery on the island, Tenuta La Chiusa, to try the island’s tasty wine.
Lying off the coast of Pontevedra in Galicia, the Cies are a group of islands accessible via ferry from Vigo. Considered the crown jewel of Galicia, the Cies islands are often dubbed the Galician Caribbean or the Galician Seychelles. You will love Rodas beach, the longest beach, where the ferry docks during the summer. Besides its sandy beaches, the Cies are famous among hikers and bird watchers. There’s a camping site and a few basic restaurants. If you are looking for serene shores, tranquility and splendid nature, then the Cies islands are definitely for you.
Our pick of Germany’s islands is Sylt, a beauty in the Frisian archipelago of the North Sea. Known for its beaches, resorts and relaxed lifestyle, Sylt is connected to the mainland by a causeway exclusively used by trains from Hamburg, although flights are also available during the summer. You will love its pristine beaches, its villages with authentic character and its Frisian charm.
With its plethora of islands, Scotland deserves a spot on this list. Thanks to its small yet charming vibe, the isle of Barra is our top choice. As the most southerly of the Outer Hebrides, Barra is often called Barra-dise. This little haven is connected to Glasgow via air and Oban via sea. Explore the fantastic scenery by bike or on foot (the Kisimul Castle is a must), indulge in some delicious seafood and simply relax. You will leave Barra refreshed and looking for the next opportunity to visit.
An island in the Adriatic Sea, Vis is one of over 700 islands in Croatia but is often considered one of the best in the country. Having resisted mass development, Vis has maintained its authentic charm and is a hub for seafood lovers, wine enthusiasts and beach bums. The farthest inhabited island from the mainland, Vis is easily accessed via ferry. Rent a scooter or a boat to explore.
The Lofoten Islands in northern Norway are comprised of four main islands, all connected by road. These islands seem like rugged fjords rising from the waters. Ideal for hikers and kayak enthusiasts, they feature spectacular landscapes and scenery. One highlight is the Magic Ice Museum, where the islands’ story is told through mesmerizing ice sculptures. Those interested by Viking history will enjoy the Lofotr Viking Museum. You can also see the Northern Lights here in winter.