Take a ferry and get off the beaten track by visiting one of these nine European islands that have not been discovered by tourists.
There are many tantalizing facts about Svalbard that will require adventurers to visit: it is one of the most northerly inhabited areas in the world, its name means “jagged mountains” in Dutch and is home to more polar bears than people. In summer, the sun never sets, and in winter, the northern lights illuminate the sky. Sold? You can take a flight from mainland Norway (either Oslo or Tromso) to get there.
Where to Stay: The Coal Miners’ Cabins offers an in / ski area close to the main attractions and restaurants of Svalbard.
Are you brave? If you are stingy at risk, opt for Stromboli at a safe distance on the water. Adventurous? Spend a night or two on this European island. Really bold? Live on Stromboli, one of eight Aeolian islands in northern Sicily, where the volcano “bursts” every ten minutes or so. These eruptions are minor, but there was a major explosion in 2009 – yet visitors still dare to come to the island, even going up to the top of the volcano.
Where to stay: Hotel Villaggio Stromboli has a private beach and swimming pool and is close to the Stromboli Volcano.
Tiree Island, Scotland
If you’re a fan of Scotch, you’ve probably heard of Islay, Jura, and Skye, all of which are part of the Inner Hebrides archipelago of Scotland. You may not have heard of Tiree Island, a lesser-known European island that is the westernmost in this chain. It is nicknamed the “Sunshine Island”, which is not something you expect to find in dark Scotland! However, thanks to the location of the island near the Gulf Stream, it is one of the sunniest places in the UK. Come to this secret European island to soak up these golden rays on the white sand beaches of Tiree.
The Azores, Portugal’s group of nine archipelagos, have been flying under the radar of tourism for a while, but all this is changing thanks to direct (and fast) flights from Boston and New York. Most visitors visit the most easily accessible islands (such as Sao Miguel and Terceira), and pass by lesser explored islands like Pico Island. Pico owes its name to its imposing mountain, which is the highest mountain in Portugal. At 7,713 feet, it can be climbed in one day by ambitious tourists. Still, it is highly recommended to hire a guide to navigate the hard-to-follow trails of the volcanic mountain.
Where to stay: Hotel Caravelas has an outdoor pool from where you can enjoy the mild climate of the Azores all year round.
Nestled between mainland Greece and the island of Crete, Kythira is easily accessible by ferry, but you can also fly there from Athens. Surprisingly, Kythira is one of the largest islands in Greece, but it is completely ignored by most tourists who wish to visit the most famous neighboring European islands (like Mykonos and Santorini). Kythira has a diverse geography that includes waterfalls, cliffs, green hills and many beaches. You should add it to your Greek island itinerary.
Where to stay: Kythira Golden Resort has a beautiful rooftop terrace with a pool that overlooks the sea.
Dugi Otok, Croatia
The name of Dugi Otok means “Long Island” but it is far from the most famous of New York that shares its name. A quick glimpse of the map asserts the name of Dugi Otok: it is 27.7 miles long and 3 miles wide. If you are looking for solitude, you will find it here in one of the many secluded beaches that dot the coastline. Sakarun is the most famous beach, thanks to its incredibly clear water and its white sand.
Where to stay: Hotel Maxim is a four star hotel near Sakarun beach.
Hop on a fast ferry from Vaxhom, Sweden, and in an hour you will land on Grinda, an inhabited island that is also a nature reserve. Take a hike, kayak or swim, but be sure to end the day with a relaxing session in Grinda’s floating sauna. You can rent a sauna raft over a wood fire for two hours, for a totally unique experience.
Where to Stay: Fredriksborg Hotell & Restaurang. Set by a fortress from 1735, this waterfront hotel on Värmdö Island offers impressive views of Solöfjärden and the surrounding archipelago. It provides free Wi-Fi, a café in a conservatory, a restaurant and free use of bicycles.
Mykines, Faroe Islands
Mykines is home to only about 10 human residents all year round, but it is home to hundreds of birds, which gives it the nickname of “bird paradise.” A famous species, the puffin, nestles in the cliffs during the summer months. Hundreds of them attract dedicated bird watchers. Mykines is the most westerly island in the Faroe range, and you can hike to the Mykineshólmuron lighthouse on the westernmost tip of the island for breathtaking views of the ocean.
Where to Stay: For a cozy and intimate experience, check out Marit’s House Bed and Breakfast.
Bled Island, Slovenia
The bright turquoise water surrounds a fairytale castle rising from lush green trees – Bled Island is so incredibly beautiful that it looks like Photoshopped. The island, located in the middle of Lake Bled, is real, and you can visit it by taking traditional wooden boats that look like gondolas. Once you have landed, climb 99 stone steps to the Church of the Assumption of Mary. Make a wish and ring the bell of the church-legend says it will be granted.
Where to stay: The Grand Hotel Toplice is a luxury hotel located on the shores of Lake Bled, offering comfort and views of the castle.