Isles of paradise

Discover Europe’s most stunning secret islands

Turkish delight

by Zoe Bishop |

Turkish delight

Ela Tenedos Hotel
Ela Tenedos Hotel

It’s changed hands several times through the ages – having previously been conquered by the Phoenicians, Athenians, Greeks, Persians, Venetians, Byzantines and Ottomans – and the charming little island of Bozcaada now belongs to Turkey. Also known as Tenedos, it’s bursting with culture, and its Grecian influence can still be felt, particularly in the historic part of Merkez (Bozcaada Town), where you’ll find cobblestoned streets, colourful houses and Greek-style tavernas set under shade-giving grapevines. Visit the museum to discover the island’s history, and check out the well-preserved Bozcaada Castle. Because the island is a popular weekend break away from Istanbul from mid-June to mid-September, expect Ayazma – the main beach – to be bustling with sunbathers and snorkellers during high summer. For a more relaxed option, Akvaryum beach is a good bet. Inland, a third of the island is covered in vineyards, and sampling the local produce – either on a vineyard tour or from the island’s wine boutiques – is a must. Look out for the most renowned brands Corvus, Ataol, Amadeus and Talay.

• Stay at the Ela Tenedos Hotel, which overlooks the Bozcaada Castle, boasts panoramic sea views from the terrace, and is just three minutes’ walk from the centre of the island. Prices start at £40.76 per night, based on two people sharing a small double room. Go to Booking.com to book.

Kick back in Croatia

Kick back in Croatia
Kick back in Croatia

Close to the mainland city of Split and sometimes referred to as its suburb, the island of Šolta offers a much slower pace of life and more tranquil experience. Set in the Adriatic Sea with crystal clear waters and quiet pebble beaches, there are plenty of places to soak up the sun and splash in the surf. Away from the shore, foodies should head to the family-run farms serving up wine, honey or homemade olive paté and anchovies in golden olive oil. Its liveliest and most attractive resort is Maslinica on the west coast, which has a 300-year-old castle, pretty marina and pine woods surrounding its stone buildings. There’s also a beautiful archipelago of seven islets in the bay, which are best viewed as the sun sets behind them. Grohote – the oldest and largest settlement that acts as the island’s administrative capital – is worth exploring, too. Wander its narrow central alleyways and stop for refreshments in its hidden taverns.

• Stay at the five-star Hotel Martinis Marchi, which overlooks a beautiful bay and offers seven luxurious guest rooms, a pool, restaurant and spa facilities. Prices start at £181 per night. Go to[ Hotels.com](http:// Hotels.com) to book.

Watch sunsets in Spain

Watch sunsets in Spain
Watch sunsets in Spain

The Balearics’ baby sister Formentera lies just five-and-a-half miles from Ibiza and is reachable from there in 30 minutes by hydrofoil. With white sand beaches and crystalline waters, it offers unspoilt beauty and the chance to really switch off and relax. Snorkel, swim or dive in the clear blue waters, or hike or scoot your way around the island. The buzzy marina of La Savina is where the ferries drop off and boasts plenty of places to eat or drink, while Es Pujols on the north coast has cocktail bars and al fresco cafés that are open until the early hours for those wanting a scaled-back version of neighbouring Ibiza’s renowned nightlife. The island’s “capital village” Sant Francesc Xavier is worth a wander, as are the lantern-lit hippy markets of El Pilar de la Mola, and there’s a natural mud bath in its centre to seek out, too.

• Stay at the four-star Cala Saona Hotel & Spa, which is just 150 feet from Cala Saona Beach and offers spectacular views of the mountains and sea. Prices start at £184.73 per night for two people in a standard double or twin room. Go to Booking.com to book.

French fancy

French fancy
French fancy

Set in the Mediterranean and located just 20 minutes by ferry from Hyères on the Côte D’Azur, Porquerolles is one of the Golden Isles – a group of islands with beaches, trails and underwater shipwrecks. Recently established as a National Park, the crescent-shaped island boasts a charming village in its centre, offering a wide variety of accommodation and restaurants. On the southern side, the coast is made up of steep cliffs and secluded creeks, meanwhile the northern coast has sandy beaches and turquoise waters and is likened to the Caribbean. The best way to get around is by bike, with rentals available from the village, or you can hike the winding pathways and marked trails.

• Stay at the three-star Hotel Résidence Les Mèdes, which is perfectly located for the island’s illustrious silver beach. Prices start at £95 per night. Go to Hotels.com to book.

Italian idyll

Italian idyll
Italian idyll

The largest of the Egadi islands and the closest to the coast of Sicily, Favignana stretches for 9km and resembles a butterfly in shape. Nestled in the centre, you’ll find the main accommodation options, the three largest markets – Marina Square, Europa Square and Matrix Square – and the 18th-century church. Its stunning beaches are mostly rocky, except for Lido Burrone, which is also the best served in terms of amenities. Renting a boat to get around is popular, affordable and recommended to enjoy the best views and explore some of the more secluded coves, while scuba diving is a great way to discover the island’s underwater beauty. Dine on local specialties, including spaghetti with sea urchins, pasta with lobster, grilled tuna steak or “pane cunzatu” – a sandwich of seasoned bread with tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. After dark, you can enjoy lively, but sophisticated nightlife under the dazzling stars.

• Stay at the four-star Camarò Favignana, a modern aparthotel that’s within minutes’ walk to the town and boasts a year-round pool and pretty gardens. Prices start at £99.14 per night for two people in a one-bedroom apartment with terrace. Go to Booking.com to book.

Please check Gov.uk/guidance/travel-advice-novel-coronavirus for travelling advice following the outbreak of the coronavirus

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us