Europe is home to some amazing and rather diverse set of places. Amongst the top of that list of places are the some of the best islands in Europe which can range from the arid yet tropical Canary Islands, the volcanic and dramatic Iceland and the Faroe Islands to the idyllic sunseekers destination that is Santorini. Europe really has it all! 🤗
Suffice to say, no matter what type of vacationer you are (beach bum, active hiker, surfer, partyer… you name it), you’re bound to find at least one, probably several, of the best islands in Europe that are just perfect for you.
With that in mind, here are 16 of the best islands in Europe that you have to visit. 😍
1.) Corsica, France
Ah, Corsica… famous for its beauty and seemingly perpetual sunshine, this stunning French island boasts dramatic cliffs beautiful sculpted by the element.
When you’re here, definitely want to visit the Calanche de Pianna Cliffs – made from a startling red granite, these already stunning cliffs become even more beautiful as they catch the light from the sunset.
The road here is also an absolutely breathtaking drive and there are plenty of hiking trails for those who want more of a challenge. Another popular attraction to check out here is the Maison Bonaparte, the ancestral home of Napoleon Bonaparte.
2.) Crete, Greece
Crete is the largest island in Greece and 5th largest island in the Mediterranean Sea! Crete also has the distinction of being one of the most southern points in Europe – which technically means it’s a lot sunnier than most of Europe. 😍
Rich in history, this island was once the epicentre of Minoan civilization, which is the earliest recorded civilization in all of Europe.
For the adventurous types, strap on those walking shoes and head on a fairly challenging day hike to an impressive, dramatically beautiful 18-km Samaria Gorge.
For those who are more interested in the history and culture of Crete, you simply must visit The Palace of Knossos, which is the reputed former palace of King Minos of mythological fame. This whole island is actually quite rich in Greek mythology – somewhere on Mount Ida lies a cave which is said to be the birthplace of Zeus.
Visiting Crete? check out our post here on all the things you have to see and do on the island.
3.) Mykonos, Greece
When we think of the idyllic Greek island, Mykonos (along with Santorini below) is the pretty much the image that pops to mind with its bright blue sea and blindingly white houses.
While It does have a reputation for partying and revelry, there is, however, a rich history here and a beautiful side to the island that doesn’t necessarily always get the credit it deserves. (Seriously, it’s so beautiful here).
In Mykonos, you can visit the statue of Manto Mavrogenous, a female warrior who helped lead the Greek revolution against the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century.
For those looking for a cultural respite from the more playful side of the island, there are a number of wonderful museums to visit as well, including the Aegean Maritime Museum and the Archaeological Museum of Mykonos.
4.) Capri, Italy
Capri has been a resort area since back in the days of the Romans and it is easy to see why! This is one of the most famous and one of the best islands in Europe to sneak away to for some much-needed rest and relaxation.
With its gorgeous beaches and clear blue water, this is a veritable paradise, offering plenty of to just kick back in the sun.
Tired of lounging in the sun? Be sure to visit the Gardens of Augustus, a gorgeous botanical garden that is built in terrace levels overlooking the sea.
Another must-see place is the Blue Grotto, which is a sea cave that gives visitors a glimpse of rather otherworldly beauty as the sunlight catches the water and the entire cave becomes illuminated in a gorgeous light!
When you’re in Capri, it’s also a really great time to explore all these amazing places in The Amalfi Coast.
The ruggedly beautiful island of Malta is one of the best islands in Europe to holiday in yet somewhat one of the most under-rated ones! It’s absolutely stunning and one that a deep vault of history that cuts across Europe.
At various point in time, it has been occupied by everyone from the Phoenicians to the Knights of Saint John to the Romans. The best scuba diving here is pretty amazing though as you can find a wide variety of colourful corals and marine life – including octopuses, stingrays and moray eels.
Heads up though, while there might be lots of colourful and fascinating fish here, there are from time to time a few predatory sharks, though perhaps more so during the colder winter months so it’s best to pay attention to what the locals say before you go diving here.
6.) Sicily, Italy
Sicily is one of those places in Italy that’s so beautiful and so laidback that even the Italians go here for holidays. You think of Sicily and you just think ‘idyllic, chilled, Italian holiday” but there is more to Sicily than just that.
For starters, there’s the impressive Mt. Etna which, at 3,329 meters tall, is the highest active volcano in Europe! This mountain is rumoured to be the home to the forges of Hephaestus, the Greek god of blacksmithing as deep in the bowls of the volcano is where he is said to fashion all of the weapons for the gods.
Then there’s the food – oh the food! Italy is pretty renowned for food across the board but when you’re in Sicily you have to try some Arancini, Pasta alla Norma and cool off with some Granita.
While you’re around the south of Italy (technically 😁), here are 12 absolutely beautiful towns in southern Italy worth checking out.
7.) Azores, Portugal
The Azores are of nine islands volcanic islands in the mid-Atlantic that are amongst the most fascinating and definitely one of the best islands in Europe to visit for anyone even remotely intrigued by our planet’s geography.
Here, you will find beautiful coastline views and a vibrant blue sea set against a lush background of green vegetation!
If you want to see one of the most gorgeous spots in the Azores, be sure to visit Sete Cidades Caldera, which boasts two gorgeous lakes nestled in the crater that resulted from a series of massive volcanic eruptions!
8.) Rhodes, Greece
Rhodes is the largest and most popular of the twelve Greek Dodecanese islands and definitely one Greek island you need to spend some time in.
Rich in culture and history, this island was once occupied by the Knights of St. John during the Crusades. There are, of course, the requisite beautiful beaches to kick back in balanced out by many ancient ruins, such as the Colossus and the Acropolis of Lindos.
The old town here lies on the north part of the island, and it is very well preserved, so be sure to head here (if you’re not already based here on your visit).
Ah, Ibiza – Europe party capital. Suffice to say, a trip to Ibiza is one that’s pretty much defined by fun but there’s so much more to Ibiza than that.
The first time I got to find out this part was when we visited out of season with friends and got to realise that aside from being a great place to party, Ibiza is actually a stunning island and arguably one of the most beautiful and best islands in Europe.
The water here is beautifully clear and blue, the jagged, dramatic landscape all around it only adds more to this beauty and the entire island (especially when you head up to the North of it) is something that will leave you picking your jaw up from the floor in amazement.
10.) Majorca, Spain
Majorca is one of the best islands in Europe when it comes to all-around fun for travellers of all ages. Of course, there are beaches to visit (that’s kind of a given), but there is so much more to do here aside from just sunbathing and sipping on cocktails! (Though I’d happily spend a fair bit of my time here doing just that!)
For a bit of history, be sure to stop by the Alcudia Old Town which, back in the 14th century was a walled city. Here there are more bars and restaurants than you can shake a stick at so grab yourself a table, pick a nice bottle of wine and dive into some pretty great Spanish food.
Some of the best places to head to here are Sa Roqueta (which is actually more Italian than Spanish but so good you’ll probably need to book a table before heading here in the evening), and Como En Casa (for some really great Mediterranean food).
We leave all the warm islands to head to our first colder island – the aptly titled Iceland.
Iceland is one of those places that we’re all not strangers to but just in case you were looking for reasons to visit here are a fair few – the Northern Lights (in winter), the Midnight Sun (in summer), volcanoes, ice caves, black beaches, iceberg lagoons, delicious food, geothermal springs, the Blue Lagoon… to mention just a few (I really could just go on and on :-D).
This is one of the best islands in Europe for its sheer natural beauty and one that’s such a pleasure to visit time and time again.
12.) Santorini, Greece
Nestled in the Cyclades Islands in the Aegean Sea, Santorini is the epitome of Greek island perfection.
Random backstory: Santorini’s rugged coastal landscape is the result of a volcanic eruption that all but destroyed the island in the 16th century BC and in fact, the entire island is set upon the underwater crater of this same volcano, which remains active today. (People never realise they’re still on an active volcano when they’re in Santorini 🤗).
Famous for its blindingly white buildings along the coastline that beautifully compliment the blue sea surrounding the islands, Santorini is home to some rather interesting beaches – not least of which is its black beaches and red beaches.
For a bit of history, you should definitely visit the Akrotiri Archaeological Site, which is the ruins of the city that was buried underneath volcanic ash sometime in the late 17th Century BC, sometimes referred to as the Pompeii of the Aegean Sea! (The city stood on the very ground where the museum is).
We have a fair few posts on Santorini so check them out here for a bit of insight before you visit. If you wondering what to eat though, that’s in this post here and this post here has the lowdown on what to see and do when you visit.
13.) Isles of Scilly
The UK’s beautiful tropical islands are one part of the UK a fair few people don’t know about but absolutely need to visit.
We’re talking white sandy beaches, water so clear and blue, it feels like you’re in the Caribbean and a way of life that really epitomises the best of England and the UK as a whole (like you can walk into shops and to roadside stalls with no one attending them and just use an honesty box to pay for whatever you buy). I mean – the island even has palm trees!
The Isles of Scilly benefits greatly from what makes the UK much warmer (especially so in winter) than the rest of Europe – the Gulf Stream; a warm current emanating from the Gulf of Mexico which means that these islands are so much warmer than they would be given their latitude and definitely much warmer than the rest of the UK.
The food is also pretty good here too (tried and tested by yours truly) so be sure to arrive hungry and ready to tuck into some amazing treats the entire time you’re here…. and here’s a guide to the islands to help you plan your trip here.
14.) Faroe Islands
The Faroe Islands are easily one of the most dramatic islands of the lot here. Think Iceland but more jagged, much taller and much windier. The places you’ll find here sometimes feel like they couldn’t exist in real-life until you see it and realise that it really does!
The islands are also particularly fantastic places for spotting my favourite birds (and an obsession for many a traveller), puffins. Actually, I don’t even know if puffins are my favourite birds, I just got so obsessed with wanting to see them for the longest time and find them like clumsy little clowns when I finally did that they’ve just kinda become so special to me.
Anyway, if you’re into beautiful landscapes, with a chance to see the Northern Lights or Midnight sun, the Faroe islands is really where you should be heading. Oh, and we’ve got a guide to the island for you here, showing you what to see, eat and do when you visit.
If you love Greece, chances are that you’ll love Cyprus as a whole. This island is one that’s become an easy favourite for holidaymakers all across Europe, not just because of how beautiful it is but also because of how amazing the weather is here.
The coastline here is absolutely stunning and one of the main reasons to visit so when you’re here, be sure to set aside some time to truly take all of this in.
Once you arrive at the coastline here, you’ll understand straight away why this is one of the best islands in Europe! (Sidebar – it’s also one of the sunniest which is always a great plus on holidays!)
Svalbard is one of the most Northernmost inhabited places in the world and about halfway between Norway and the North Pole. As a result of this, the landscape and general scenery here is truly unlike anything else you’ve experienced in Europe. It really is one of the best islands in Europe for anyone looking for a truly unique yet amazing travel experience!
It’s one of the only in Europe where you can get to see wild polar bears (amongst other amazing wildlife of course) and get to see Icebergs that will leave you totally amazed and in awe of the planet. A trip here might not be one for sunshine but is one you won’t be forgetting for time to come.
If you’re looking to explore other parts of Norway, you definitely have to check out this complete itinerary for exploring some of the most beautiful places in Norway.
The above are 16 of the best islands in Europe but if you want to be surprised by Europe’s tropical islands, look no further than these 5 below.