Discover the most exotic islands in Europe

 In Europe, Go exploring

Europe is a fascinating continent to visit. It is made up of 44 culturally and geographically distinct countries, and some 200 languages are spoken on the continent. Be prepared to stray off the beaten path, and discover 17 of the most exotic islands in Europe.

Exotic perhaps not in the traditional sense, but more in the cultural sense. From dogsledding with the Inuits in Lofoten, to sidecars driven by women in traditional outfits in the Estonian archipelago and back to the glitz and glamour of the Italian Aeolian Islands. Europe never ceases to amaze, especially when you dig deep and uncover the true roots of the continent.

Exotic islands in Northern Europe

Best islands in Europe - Kihnu Island Estonia
Folklore on Kihnu Island (Source: Meelika Lehola for Visit Estonia)

Estonian Archipelago (Estonia)

Explored by Caro from Veggie Wayfarer

In the northern most reaches of Europe lies an archipelago of 2000+ islands filled to the brim with culture, heritage and tradition. These are without a doubt some of the most exotic islands in Europe and belong the country of Estonia. The vast majority of the islands is not inhabited, those that are offer the perfect backdrop for a scenic hiking or camping trip.

The list of islands is extensive, so for the purpose of brevity three have been hand-picked to highlight the diversity of the region. Saarema is the largest island of the Estonian Archipelago and boasts no less than 8 spas, and best of all they make their own delicious home-brewed beers on the island. Next in line is Hiiumaa with its beautiful lighthouses and unspoilt nature. This island was created after a large meteorite blast hit some 455 million years ago (this might just be the oldest island on the planet). And last but not least, the UNESCO classified island of Kihnu. To clarify, the island itself has not been classified but rather the women wearing Kihnu traditional costumes driving around on vintage motorcycles to run errands. Quite simply an absolute must-see cultural phenomenon for anyone visiting the region. Be sure to check out the full list of islands to plan in the perfect summery island getaway.

Practical details for visiting the Estonian Islands

  • How to get to the Estonian islands: The islands are serviced by ferries. To get to Saarema take the ferry from Virtsu or Sõru (Hiiumaa) harbours; to get to Hiiumaa take the ferry from Rohuküla or Triigi (Saaremaa) harbours; reach Kihnu by erry from Pärnu or Munalaiu harbours.
European Islands - Lofoten Norway
Lofoten (Source: Cheriseandshine)

Lofoten (Norway)

Explored by Cherise from Cherise and Shine

Nestled in the Arctic Circle, few places evoke a sense of unparalleled bliss and natural beauty as the Lofoten Islands. With dramatic mountains, crystal clear turquoise waters, incredible hikes and remarkably picturesque and colorful, charming fishing villages peppered throughout the archipelago, there’s something beautiful and exciting here for everyone to explore. The Lofoten are probably one of the most exotics islands in Europe!

Summer is the most popular time to visit Lofoten due to the midnight sun, impressive hikes and stunning views the region has to offer. While weather here can be unpredictable and wild, thanks to the warm Gulf Stream that runs through this region, Lofoten is actually relatively temperate compared to other places around the world at the same latitude (during the winter, you can expect a range of -4-6 C). This also makes Lofoten (and its famous neighbor, Tromsø) an ideal place to chase northern lights in the winter.

Practical details for visiting Lofoten Islands

  • How to get to the Lofoten: The closest airport is Leknes Airport or Svolvær Airport. Both are regional airports so you will need to fly via a major Norwegen city first. For non-flight options, you can also take a ferry from Bodø on the mainland, which will take a few hours.
  • How to get around the Lofoten: Renting a car (€ 40 – € 110/day) or use the local public transport (buses run only a few times a day)
  • Best time to visit the Lofoten: Summer is ideal for road trippers and hiking enthusiasts, while winter is ideal for winter activities and chasing northern lights
Exotic Islands in Europe - Faroe Islands
Mulafossur Gasadalur Vagar on the Faroe-Islands (source:globetrottingsu)

Faroe Islands (Denmark)

Explored by Sunetra from Globetrottingsu

One of the least explored, untouched and underrated European islands are the mythical Faroe Islands. A self-governing archipelago, Faroe Islands consists of 18 rocky, volcanic islands in the North Atlantic Ocean. They are situated between Scotland, Iceland & Norway and are home to some of the most idyllic sea-side villages.

The best way to explore and experience the beauty of the Faroe Islands is through a road trip. The individual islands are very well connected by both roads & ferry. Scenic drives are indicated with small green signs carrying a yellow flower (Buttercup roads). Either pop your own car on the ferry from Denmark or rent a car (prices range from € 400 to € 700 per week). Be sure to always keep your lights on when driving (mandatory on the island) and drive on the right hand side.

There is plenty to do in the Faroe Islands. A few highlights you will not want to miss are: The islands of Vagar, Streymoy and Eysturoy; the fairytale villages of Saksun, Bøur & Gjogv; the puffins on the island of Mykines, hiking to the Kallur lighthouse in Kalsoy and exploring Tinganes, Tórshavn’s old town.

The Faroe islands are truly one of the most exotic islands in Europe. To this day they are still relatively unknown and unexplored, waiting to be discovered by those who love nature and authentic adventures.

Practical details for visiting the Faroe Islands

  • How to get to the Faroe Islands:
    A. Ferry (smyrilline ferry between Denmark and Iceland with a stop in the Faroe Islands.
    B. Flight (Atlantic Airways or Scandinavian Airlines)
  • Best time to visit the Faroe Islands: June to September – Days are long (up to 19 hours) and the weather is mild and dryer.
  • Where to stay in the Faroe Islands: Most hotels and accommodations are located in Torshavn (about 1,5h drive from all the main tourist sites)
  • What to pack for the Faroe Islands: Make sure to pack for all seasons. Bring a pair of good walking boots and a rain jacket
Best islands in Europe - Greenland
Greenland (Source: Filip Gielda for Visit Greenland)

Greenland (Denmark)

Explored by Caro from Veggie Wayfarer

Greenland is about the most exotic island in Europe that one can think of. Contrary to the name, the island is less lush and more artic than one might first envision. Summers are a breezy -10 C and winter temperatures dip down to well below -30 C. It will come as no surprise then that most of the island is actually covered by a giant glacier.

Due to the relative remoteness of Greenland, the history and culture of the island have remained untouched for thousands of years. Remnants of the Norse population (that disappeared from the island around 1500 AD) can be found through the many ruins in South Greenland and Nuuk.

The national dish in Greenland is “Susaat”, a stew with seal meat. Whale, reindeer and musk oxen are considered a delicacy in the Greenlandic cuisine and found on the menu relatively often. As Greenland is an island, fish, clams and shellfish will also appear on the average menu quite often. Vegetarians might have a slightly harder time finding alternatives on the island.

The island offers a plethora of outdoor and culture activities: Kayaking, hiking, biking, climbing, dog sledding, cross country skiing and so much more.

Practical details for visiting Greenland

  • How to get to Greenland: You can take a direct flight (Air Greenland via Copenhagen and Air Iceland from Reykjavik) or via a cruise ship.
  • How to get around Greenland: The landscape is rugged and untouched, with no roads between towns and communities. You will need to count on passenger boats (ferries), helicopters and planes to get you from point A to point B.
  • Best time to go to Greenland: June to August sees the mildest temperatures (-10 C), the midnight sun and allows you to whale watching. Spring and autumn have the least amount of crowds and are ideal to see the Northern Lights or to go ice diving.
European Islands - Berneray Scotland
Berneray Island (Source: Wikivoyager)

Berneray Island (Scotland)

Explored by Kristin from Travelwithensuite

Scotland has roughly 800 islands, most of which are uninhabited. The majority of the islands can be clustered into four groups: Shetland, Orkney, Inner Hebrides and the Outer Hebrides.

Berneray island is one of the 15 inhabited islands which make up the Outer Hebrides, the archipelago of islands just off the West Coast of Scotland. This group of European islands is still relatively unknown and makes for a great few days of exploring if you happen to be in the area. Berneray island is rich in nature & wildlife, and sparse in inhabitants (a mere 130).

At only 10 square kilometres Berneray is so small it is possible to walk around it in a few hours. The island is most famous for its beach, which stretches along the entire west side of the island. Berneray beach is not only one of the best Outer Hebrides beaches it was also recently voted the third nicest beach in Europe by Lonely Planet.

Aside from a beautiful beach, the other great attraction is the infamous Hebridean hospitality. Locals are friendly and love to partake their knowledge of the island. Once you have seen the beach, and had a chat with the locals it is time to go seal watching. The village of Backhill is the place to be to catch a glimpse of a local seal, be sure to go during low tide.

And finally, you might want to walk up to the highest point of the island to explore the giant 2,5-meter-high, upright stone which dates back to the Middle Ages. According to historians, this exact location is believed to have been a site for religious ceremonies.

Practical details for visiting Berneray Island

  • How to get to Berneray Island: Domestic flight from Glasgow, Ferry from Isle of Skye
  • How to get around Berneray Island: Walk or rent a car (Be sure to drive over to the island of North Uist via the bridge if you have the time)
  • What to pack for Berneray Island: 4 seasons in one hour is not unusual, so be sure to dress in layers and bring a raincoat.
Exotic Islands in Europe - Shetland
Rugged landscapes on Shetland - Source: VisitBritain

Shetland (Scotland)

Explored by Nichola from Globalmouse

The second group of Scottish islands we will delve deeper into are the Shetland Islands. The islands are located between Great Britain, the Faroe Islands and Norway. Only about 15 of the islands are inhabited, the rest are blissfully uninhabited aside from the local fauna and flora.

Until the 14th century these European islands belonged to Norway, due to their strategic location (300 km off the coast of Norway) this might come as no shock. The Scandinavian influence can still be heard in the local accent – Distinctly Scottish with a bit of a twang.

The islands are fantastic to visit, despite being isolated and remote they have cultivated a very welcoming and homely feel. One of the best activities to do is to go wildlife spotting: Whales, seals, otters, puffins and storm petrels are but a few of the frequent visitors to the islands. If wildlife is not up your alley, why not settle for some good old Viking history. Shetland was once a stronghold for Vikings and this can still be seen and felt throughout the islands. Make sure to add the remnants of Jarlshof, Old Scatness, Catpund to your itinerary or time your visit with the Up Helly AA fire festival to get a real Viking feel.

If you’re visiting as part of family holidays in Scotland then don’t miss the chance to ride the Shetland ponies that are the sweetest creatures around. Spend some time in the capital, Lerwick, which is undertaking a real foodie revolution and simply wonderful to explore.

Practical details for visiting the Shetland islands

  • How to get to the Shetland island: Direct flight (from Scotland or in the summer from Bergen Norway) or ferry (16 hours)
  • Local festivals: Helly AA Fire Festival (Fire Festival held on the last Tuesday of January)
Exotic islands in Europe - Waddeneilanden
Ameland (Source: Sabine van Dijk)

De Wadden Islands (Netherlands)

Explored by Caro from Veggie Wayfarer

The Wadden Islands or Frisian Islands are a group of 37 islands, split between Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. This group of exotic islands in Europe lies off the Northern Coast of the Netherlands & Germany and the West Coast of Denmark in the Wadden sea. What makes these islands some of the coolest islands in Europe is the fact that their vicinity to the mainland provides you with the option to walk to them, through the sea. Yes, you read that right, when the tide is low it is possible to walk from mainland Netherlands to a select number of the islands (Mudflat walking). This is a popular activity amongst both locals and tourists.

The largest of the islands is Texel, part of the Dutch territories, a reported 13.000 people live on this little island, it is a true haven for outdoor sports enthusiasts. If you are into star gazing, be sure to pop over to Terschellingen, this island is one of the darkest spots in Europe and has a set of fun activities set up for those of you who want to stare into the night. If you are looking for scenic bike rides and a cool lighthouse, then Ameland is your go-to island. As is often the case with islands, there is a deep respect for nature which has translated into a wide range of eco-conscious initiatives in an effort to be as carbon-neutral as possible (electric bikes, green lighting, …).

Practical details for visiting the Wadden Islands

  • How to get to the Wadden islands: Multiple ferries run every day to the main islands. For Ameland check the timetable here for Texel you can verify the timetable here . Be sure to check which islands allow cars before you book your ferry ticket.
  • Best season to visit the Wadden Islands: Aim for the summer months when the weather is warm and chances of sun are the highest.

Exotic islands in Southern Europe

Exotic Islands in Europe - Hyères French Riviera
Beautiful Hyères Island (Source: Unsplash Alexisc35)

Hyères Islands, French Riviera (France)

Explored by Elisa from France Bucket List

The Hyères Islands, in Southern France, is one of the best places to visit in the French Riviera. This exotic set of islands in Europe is located in the Mediterranean Sea and consists of three main islands: Porquerolles, Port-Cross, and Le Levant. Porquerolles and Port-Cross are privately owned islands (but open to the public) and have been turned into national parks ensuring the protection of their beautiful natural environment.

Porquerolles is the main island in the archipelago, spanning 9 km in length and 2 km in width. It is the island where visitors will find the most extensive choice of accommodation, entertainment, and places to eat. Porquerolles is the perfect island to spend a few days relaxing, snorkelling in the crystal clear waters, hiking, bike riding or sunbathing in one of its beautiful beaches in the northern part of the island.

Port-Cros is a beautiful island occupied mainly by the Port-Cros National Park, and it is the perfect place for hiking. In fact, there are over 30 kilometres of paths to explore. Accommodation and restaurants in Port-Cros are concentrated in the little harbour. Few visitors stay in Port-Cross; most of the visitors come to this island on a day trip from Porquerolles or Le Levant.

Le Levant is most-known for its naturist village, the Heliopolis. People like to visit Le Levant to be in a naturist environment.

Practical information for visiting the Hyères Islands

  • How to get to the Hyères Islands: Visitors have different shuttle services from various places in France mainland to Porquerolles, Port-Cros, and Le Levant. It usually takes around 30 minutes from the mainland of France to Hyères.
Islands in Europe - La Maddalena Italy
La Maddalena Cala Soraia Beach (Source: Paolo-giocososime4corners)

La Maddalena, Sardinia (Italy)

Explored by Rachel from Average Lives

Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean sea and is surrounded by a host of smaller island groups. One of these groups is the the Archipelago of La Maddalen, located off the coast of North Sardinia.

The archipelago consists of 7 main islands: La Maddalena, Caprera, Budelli, Santo Stefano, Santa Maria, Spargi, Razzoli. What makes this set of European islands worth visiting is the opportunity they give you to catch a glimpse of the true beauty of Sardinia: Enchanting, idyllic and isolated stretches of beach. The Archipelago became a national park in 1994 and is now one of the most exotic islands in Europe thanks to its untouched and unspoilt nature.

These dreamy islands offer a host of exciting activities be sure to exploring the markets and the historical centre of La Maddalena and take in the bustling ambience of this little island.

Next up cross the road bridge to Caprera Island. Widely known for its exceptional beaches, such as Cala Napoletana, Cala Cotticio which are best explored via a 30-40 minute hike or boat on the glistening sea. And finally, make sure to visit the shipwreck at Spiaggia Del Relitto or take a tour of the Garibaldi Museum which was where Garibaldi spent the last 25 years of his life.

If you have a bit more time, you will want to visit the pink beach on the Budelli island. A beautiful stretch of beach filled with light pink sand.

Practical details for visiting La Maddalena

  • How to get to La Maddalena: Take the fast ferry from Palau to La Maddalena island which runs multiple times a day (30 minutes // €42 euro return for one vehicle and two people)
European Islands - Sardinia San Pietro Island
San Pietro Island-La Caletta Beach (Source: Claudia from Strictly Sardinia)

Isola di San Pietro, Sardinia (Italy)

Explored by Claudia from Strictly Sardinia

A second island around Sardinia you will want to visit is the small island of San Pietro, located off the southwestern coast of Sardinia. Mostly unknown to mass international tourism, this exotic island in Europe is a real gem of a place.

Blessed with one lovely colourful small town, called Carloforte; a bunch of beautiful beaches, and various hiking trails and sunset spots the island has plenty to offer. Additionally, San Pietro is also a great diving destination, although the currents are such that it is only for expert divers.

The best beach in San Pietro is by far La Caletta, at about 15 minutes drive from Carloforte. It’s one of the biggest beaches on the island, with clear shallow waters and fine white sand; and a nice kiosk where you can get food and drinks and rent all sorts of beach equipment.

The village is quaint and absolutely lovely to visit. It was founded by the Tabarkine, a community of Genoese origins that settled in San Pietro after having lived in Tabarka, an island off the coast of Tunisia. In fact, the language spoken in Carloforte today is still Tabarkine, which resembles Genoese more than anything else!

Practical details for visiting San Pietro

  • How to get to San Pietro: Daily ferries run from Porto Scuso or Calesetta directly to San Pietro (30 min – depending on sea conditions)
  • How to get around San Pietro: Bike, walk or drive around the island
  • Good to know: If you take the ferry from Calesetta, be sure to explore the charming little town located on the Sant’Antioco Island (connected to mainland Sardinia via a bridge)
Best islands in Europe - Vulcano Island
Views from Vulcano Island at sunset

Aeolian Islands, Sicily (Italy)

Explored by Caro from Veggie Wayfarer

The Aeolian islands are perhaps the most exotic islands in Europe. In fact, many Europeans will not have heard of this little group UNESCO classified islands that is nestled off the coast of Sicily. The Aeolian islands ( also know as Lipari islands) are made of up seven volcanic islands: Lipari, Panarea, Vulcano, Stromboli, Salina, Alicudi and Filicudi

Lipari is the largest of the islands and the closest to Sicily, making it an easy daytrip or weekend getaway for local Sicilians. The island has a castle, a Greek acropolis and a normal cathedral to visit. Panarea is the smallest, and most exclusive of the seven. The port holds a few gelateria, supermarkets and bakeries as well as a famous nightclub that attracts youth from all over the islands and Sicily. A lot of younger travelers come to the area specifically to go to the nightclub because it’s so infamous. The youngest visitors will use their fake ID Washington to get in then boogie the night away! These parties can continue until dawn, especially on special dates like New Year.

Vulcano has an active volcano on the island and the sulphurous smell hangs around the port area of the island. Rent a scooter for a day and visit Capo Grillo, the port of Gelso or the black beach (Spiaggia Sabbie Nere).

Stromboli is the most active volcano in Europe, you can witness its eruptions on the island of Stromboli or from the island facing the volcano (Panarea). The island also houses a quaint fishing village (Ginostra) and a beautiful lighthouse. Salina is the second largest of the Aeolian islands and home to some of the archipelagos most beautiful nature (la Fossa delle Felci) and beaches (Pollaro beach). And last but not least Alicudi and Filicudi which are the most pristine of the region, a rich marine life make for great snorkelling and diving. In Alicudi, cars are forbidden on the whole island.

Practical details for visiting the Aeolian islands

  • Getting to the Aeolian Islands: By Hydrofoil (highspeed boats) leaving from Milazzo or Messina
  • Getting around on the Aeolian Islands: The easiest way is to rent a scooter or ATV. Alternatively, you can look into renting a car (though prices tend to skyrocket in summer)
  • Best time to go: Shoulder season has wonderful temperatures (25 C) and less tourists. Aim to go from March-June or end of September & October.
Islands in Europe - Malta
Aerial view Riviera Beach Malta (Source: Visit Malta)


Explored by Caro from Veggie Wayfarer

The archipelago of Malta has increase in popularity over the last years, emerging as one of the new tourist hotspots. This group of European Islands consists of no less than 7 islands, of which 3 are inhabited: Malta, Gozo and Comino. The islands are filled with cute churches (365 of them to be precise), pristine clear waters, chatty locals and mesmerizing nature. Add to that the eternal warm weather, sunny days and delicious vegetarian food et voil : The dream location for many a traveller.

The archipelago has plenty of hidden gems that will satisfy even the most ardent traveller. Try hiking in Wied Il-Ghasri (Gozo) with its rugged cliffs and deep underwater caves that merit exploring. Grab a beer and witness the most beautiful sunset of the Maltese archipelago on top of the Dingli cliffs (Malta). Put on your goggles and go snorkelling at the majestic blue lagoon (Malta), or simply enjoy the plethora of local vineyards dotted across the islands. Head to Malta Guides for more information on what it’s like to visit Malta. You might even be tempted to move there!

Practical details for visiting Malta

  • How to get to the Maltese archipelago: Take a flight with Air Malta (lands on Malta island)
  • How to travel between the islands: Ferries that run daily. Be sure to check out the timetable before you go.
  • Best time to visit Malta: The average temperature is 23 C making it the perfect location to both escape the winter blues as well as sip an ice cold spritz in the summer.
  • Good to know: Malta is the largest island and the commercial, cultural and administrative centre. Comino is largely uninhabited and completely car-free.
European Islands - Syros Greece
Ermoupoli, the port town of Syros (Source: discovergreece)

Syros (Greece)

Explored by Aimee from Snaphappytraveller

Greece has an estimated 6000 islands which are traditionally split into the following clusters: Argo-Santonic Islands, the Cyclades, the North- Aegean islands, the Dodecanese, the Sporades and the Ionian Islands.

Syros is one of the Cyclades islands located in the Aegean Sea off the coast of Greece. A mere 45-minute ferry ride away from the often visited Mykonos, Syros has remained surprisingly untouched by mass tourism throughout the years making it a perfect candidate for one of the most exotic islands in Europe. Blissfully local and bursting with culture, ready to be explored!

The little European Island of Syros dates back all the way to 4000 BC. The island’s capital city Ermoupoli is considered one of the most beautiful capitals of the Cyclades islands. It was originally built by the Ionians, and later colonized by Turkish, French and Romans. Each wave of colonization left their mark on the island and to do this day the local culture is an interesting and authentic mish-mash of different influences. The Turkish influences can strongly be felt when tasting the most popular local food: Loukoumia also known as a ‘Greek Turkish Delight’, often orange flavoured.

The island of Syros is very laid-back, a perfect place to take a breather. There are a few highlights you might want to visit, in-between sunbathing: Galissas beach, hike up to Agia Pakou church for sunset; leisurely stroll around the charming capital city of Ermpoupoli for some culture (check out Vaporia Quarter, the church of resurrection); partake in some shopping or have a wonderful traditional Greek meal.

Practical details for visiting Syros

  • How to get to Syros: Ferry from Athens’ Piraeus port (3 hours) or fly from Athens directly
  • How to get around Syros: On foot or by bike. There is a local bus that will transport you from one side of the island to the other (price € 2)
Islands in Europe - Milos Greece
Milos at sunset (Source: Flickr Annette Bernhardt)

Milos (Greece)

Explored by Dymphe from Dymabroad

Milos is also one of the smaller Cyclades islands, located close to the tourist hotspots of Santorini and Mykonos. This exotic island in Europe is still relatively off the radar, although in recent years it has started to gain popularity, especially amongst travellers who are looking to get a more authentic feel of Greek island life. It is considered the prettiest places in Greece by both locals and tourists alike.

When you are in Milos be sure to visit the little village of Plaka. It is comprised of the quintessential elements that make up the make-up of the Greek islands: Pristine whitewashed houses, blue doors, flowering bougainvillea, spine-tingling views over crystal blue water and cats – so many cats. Clamber up to the Plaka castle for the best views of the town.

If you are looking for an (even more) authentic feel, head over to one of the many fishing villages: Mantrakia, Firopotamos, Pollonia or the most famous (former) fishing village of Klima, once the bustling main harbor of the city. On your way to Klima, be sure to make a pitstop at the Ancient Theatre of Milos.

And last but not least, pop down to Sarakiniko Beach, the islands prettiest beach made up of white volcanic stone.

Practical details for visiting Milos

  • How to get to Milos: Ferry from Athens (Port of Piraeus), Flight direct from Athens
  • How to get around Milos: Rent a car, bike, ATV or Motorbike. Alternatively you can get around the island with the local bus
Beautiful islands in Europe - Kalymnos
Kalymnos at sunrise (Source: Greece-is)

Kalymnos (Greece)

Explored by Alice from Adventures of Alice

One of the most beautiful exotic islands in Europe is Kalymnos, the fourth largest of the Dodecanese Islands located in the south eastern Aegean Sea. The island is relatively small, making getting there a little harder than your average European island. This in turn has ensured the island has kept it’s authenticity and tranquillity and is undeterred by mass tourism.

Arriving in Kalymnos, the first thing you will notice is the lack of development compared to the Greek islands. Keep this in mind when searching for activities to do, options are more limited than on the major islands. But do not let that deter you, this is the island where you can get a true feel of traditional Greek island life and get back in touch with nature.

A few of the highlights the island has to offer are: Exploring the ancient castles (Chora Castle & Chrysocheria Castle); relaxing on Kantouni beach (one of the most beautiful beaches on the island); rock climbing on one of the 2000 rock-climbing routes. Or alternatively organise a day-trip to the tiny neighbouring island of Telendos.

As with any island, seafood is abundantly present in the cuisine. If you want to get a feel for some traditional dishes try the fouskes and octopus meatballs. Alternatively, if you are vegetarian, stick to some of the delicious dishes containing fresh, locally grown veggies.

Practical details for visiting Kalymnos

  • How to get to Kalymnos: Take a ferry from Kos (40 minutes) or Rhodes (3- 5 hours), fly directly from Athens (in summer flights run every couple of days)
Exotic Islands in Europe - Madeira
Madeira Island (Source: Charlieswanderings)

Madeira (Portugal)

Explored by Charlotte from Charlieswanderings

Madeira is definitely one of the best islands in Europe to visit! The adventure starts before you have even set foot on the island: Before landing the jagged mountain peaks towering high above the clouds will greet you from your airplane, next its time for a slightly harrowing landing on the on one of the shortest runways in the world. After you have collected yourself, be sure to take in the beauty that is all around you.

The Mediterranean coastline offers sunshine throughout the day, ideal if you are looking to work on your tan. However, the real magic of Madeira lies can in the North, a more rugged part of the islands which has allowed Madeira to be coined the Hawaii of Europe. Think lush greenery, rolling hills, a ton of waterfalls, jaw dropping viewpoints around every corner which leave you with the distinct impression you might be on the set of Jurassic Park (dinosaurs not included of course).

Madeira should definitely be on your bucket list if you love hiking and challenging yourself. One of the most breath-taking hikes (literally and figuratively) is located in the heart of this island: The Vereda do Pico do Arieiro – connecting two of the highest peaks of the island. The views from the top will leave you speechless. Whether it’s your first time hiking or you’re more experienced, this adventurous island has a hike or levada for everyone.

Madeira is an ideal holiday destination year-round due to its forgiving climate. During the winter months there’s a higher chance of rainfall but the temperature is ideal to go hiking! The most popular time to visit Madeira is during spring when all of the flowers are in full bloom. Madeira is often called the island of flowers and it’s not hard to see why!

The ideal way to travel around Madeira is to pick one base, for instance, Funchal, rent a car and go on day trips around the island. But one thing I am sure of is that this little island will leave a big and lasting impression on you, perhaps even making you want to move here after retirement. The cost of living is usually affordable for an average retiree in Portugal. That said, for those of you who are planning to move to Portugal, you might find it useful to check out a company that helps moving abroad.

Practical details for visiting Madeira

  • How to get to Madeira: Take a (direct) flights
  • How to get around Madeira: The easiest way is to rent a car and plan a road trip. Alternatively you could rely on the local busses, though they run sparingly.
Exotic Islands in Europe - Lopud Island
Lopud island (source: Flickr dronepicr)

Lopud Island (Croatia)

Explored by Jürgen & Martina from PlacesofJuma

The lush Lopud Island is the best kept secrets of Croatia. Located in the south of Croatia (near Dubrovinik) it is part of the Elaphites islands. This group if islands in Europe is largely uninhabited aside from Lopudus, Koločep and ipan, Lopud is a respectable 4.63 km and has a mere 240 inhabitants, making it the perfect spot for a relaxing island vacation in Croatia.

Sunj Beach is the real highlight of Lopud island. This fine sandy beach is a very rare find for Croatia. Aside from the beach, there are plenty of walking trails that lead you to the heart of the island, covered with lush forests. The walking trails take you past various interesting historical buildings: The remains of the Rector’s palace, a Franciscan Monastery and various churches dating back to the 15th and 16th century.

Head into the main village (aptly named Lopud Village) for a bite to eat at a local restaurant or fill up on supplies in the little supermarket. Be aware that prices in the local supermarket are considerably higher, so if you are planning to discover this exotic island in Europe, you might want to stock up in the supermarkets in Dubrovnik before heading over.

Practical details for visting Lopud Island

  • How to get to Lopud Island: Direct ferry from Dubrovnik (1 hour)
  • How to get around Lopod Island: The island is car free. Popular modes of transport include walking, biking or kayaking.
  • Best time visit Lopud Island: The island has 2,584 hours of sunshine a year and boast mild temperatures all year long.

Europe has a wealth of places to visit, each offering you a piece of the cultural puzzle that makes Europe such a fascinating place. If you are hopping around Europe, be sure to check out the large variety of different streetfood available in each country! Delicious!

One could spend a month in Europe and not see all the continent has to offer. Sadly, time is often of the essence and two weeks in Europe is about the average time spent. These European islands are also perfect to combine with some mainland European Landmarks.

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Exotic islands in Europe
European Islands
Islands in Europe
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