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    From Greece to Malta, the Mediterranean is full of islands waiting to be explored. But with so much choice (and so much beauty) how do you choose which islands to visit? With this ultimate guide, First Class will take you off the beaten path to some of the lesser known islands scattered throughout the Mediterranean.


    Image courtesy of Go Ferry

    Greece

    1. Chrissi

    Chrissi boasts beautiful sandy beaches, pristine swimming and gentle winds, perfect for kite surfing. Found off the southern coast of Crete, Chrissi is easily accessible by boat, and this former pirate island is home to a dense forest of Lebanon cedar, a medieval chapel, Minoan ruins, Roman graves and a plethora of large shells, which are a unique feature of the island.


    Image courtesy of Cretan Garden

    2. Serifos

    Often overlooked for its better-known neighbours, Santorini and Mykonos, Serifos is an oasis away from the crowds where you can enjoy the charm of traditional white-washed houses, venture along secluded hiking trails and laze on some of the most beautiful, umbrella-lined beaches in the Mediterranean. The only water sport available on Serifos is swimming, making it the perfect location for relaxing in peace.


    Image courtesy of Discover Greece

    3. Nisyros

    Move over Kos… the island Nisyros might not be as well-known as its neighbour, but it’s equally as beautiful and has the added advantage of being a well-kept secret. The island is actually an ancient volcano, but that hasn’t stopped people from making their homes here – there are gorgeous churches, monasteries, and blue and white houses scattered all around the island.


    Image courtesy of Discover Greece

    4. Ithaca

    They say nothing worth having comes easy, and this is definitely true for Ithaca. The island is hidden between Kefalonia and mainland Greece and is notoriously difficult to reach. But it’s well worth the effort to see the lush, mythical home of Homer’s Odysseus, where you can walk through the charming capital of Vathi, relax on Schinos beach and reside at Villa Schinos, where the cast of Mamma Mia, and even Madonna, have been known to spend time.


    Image courtesy of Discover Greece

    France

    5. Iles Sanguinaires

    Translating to the ‘Blood Islands’, the four islets of the Iles Sanguinaires archipelago which lie off the coast of Corsica are named for their dark-red porphyry rocks. The islands are also famous for their brilliantly lit purple sunsets and the many shipwrecks which make for great diving locations. Be sure to keep an eye out for dolphins, as they love to play in the island’s surrounding waters.


    Image courtesy of Corsica Tourism

    6. Ile Piana

    Found 300 meters off the southern tip of Corsica, Ile Piana is a haven for kayakers and kite surfers. Depending on the tide, the island can be reached by walking or swimming from Corsica’s Piantarella beach. With some of the clearest waters in the Mediterranean, Ile Piana is a must for ocean lovers.


    Image courtesy of Bonifacio

    7. Porquerolles

    If you prefer to get around on two wheels instead of four, Porquerolles is the Mediterranean island for you. Porquerolles is located just a 20-minute ferry ride from Hyères, just off the coast of Provence, and it’s a car-free island. With bicycles available to rent across the island, you can freely explore the island’s winding pathways and secluded (often empty) beaches – paradise for those seeking a carefree escape and that private island feel.


    Image courtesy of Hyères Tourist Office

    8. Cavallo

    Once sought out by the Romans for its stone, which was perfect for sculptures and construction, Cavallo is now one of the best kept secrets in the Mediterranean, due largely to its privately-owned status. This rocky island, surrounded by turquoise waters, is located off the coast of Corsica in the Lavezzi archipelago. It can only be reached by helicopter or boat and offers exceptional snorkelling and diving opportunities.


    Image courtesy of Cavallo Island

    Italy

    9. Palmarola

    Those who have witnessed this secret paradise atoll consider it to be the jewel of the Mediterranean. The island is uninhabited, wild and incredibly enticing. With soaring cliffs, colourful pebble-stone beaches, dense Mediterranean bush and crystal-clear grottos, Palmarola is an adventure. Once you know this island exists, it’s hard to resist its siren call.


    Image courtesy of ronnybas

    10. Alicudi

    Alicudi is the wildest of the Aeolian Islands: the streets remain unpaved, there are no cars and no electricity. But for an island this beautiful, leaving technology behind for a few days is easy – there is plenty to explore both on and off land. On land, visit the hidden coves, volcanic caves, summit Monte Filo dell’Arpa (675 metres above sea level) and visit to the pale-yellow-painted church of San Bartolo. Off land, Alicudi offers excellent swimming and diving just off its rocky shores.


    Image courtesy of Visit Sicily

    11. Linosa

    The volcanic atoll, Linosa, is closer to the coast of Tunisia than to the Italian island of Sicily, and it can take 24 hours to reach from Rome, but as one of the most exceptional and unique Mediterranean islands to visit, the journey is worthwhile. The beach of La Pozzolana has sulphur-yellow and red layers that cause a jet-black appearance. Adding to the island’s uniqueness, you can hike to Monte Vulcano, an extinct volcano that’s covered in fluorescent green prickly pears. The island is also home to loggerhead turtles – if you’re lucky you might even witness the hatchlings make their way to the ocean. Just remember that turtles follow light, so if you see them hatch, keep the lights off and let the moon do its thing.


    Image courtesy of Visit Sicily

    12. Filicudi, Aeolian Islands

    Filicudi has an interesting history with the Mafioso: back in the 1970’s, the worst Mafioso were sent to the island as ‘punishment’, where they could roam free and enjoy island living. With king-sized beds, free meals and that fresh island breeze, their punishment sounds more like a pampered vacation. Thankfully, the Mafioso are no longer there, and you can enjoy the natural spoils of Filicudi, the UNESCO Heritage Site, in peace.


    Image courtesy of Visit Sicily

    13. Salina, Aeolian Islands

    Salina is another of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Aeolian Islands. Despite being the second largest island in the archipelago, Salina has managed to fly under the radar, preserving that classic Italian vibe. The vineyards on the island produce some of the area’s legendary sweet Malvasia wine – why not share a bottle or two while sailing around the island, seeking hidden beaches along the way.


    Image courtesy of Marinas

    14. Ischia

    Known as “Isola Verde” or “Green Island”, Ischia is a haven of colourful fauna, beautiful beaches and tranquil waters. While Capri has the glitz and glam, Ischia offers a welcome break from the crowds, in an equally picturesque setting. The island is home to over 100 thermal baths with healing properties, making Ischia a popular wellness destination, and there’s something for the adventurers too: seated atop a craggy islet you’ll find Castello Aragonese, a medieval castle just waiting to be explored.

    Image courtesy of Visit Naples

    Spain

    15. Medes Islands

    If underwater exploration is your thing, look no further than Spain’s Medes Islands: the Medes Islands are among the most important and well-preserved marine flora and fauna reserves in the western Mediterranean. As a result, they offer a world of colour and life for divers to explore. The islands themselves are full of stories: between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries, they were used as a base for pirates, giving rise to some of the best stories including swashbuckling adventurers and buried treasure. And who knows, maybe you’ll stumble across some of that hidden treasure during your stay.


    Image courtesy of Brava Tourism

    16. Formentera

    If Ibiza is the party capital of the Mediterranean, Formentera is the opposite. Just a day trip from Ibiza, Formentera is all about lazy days on the beach and bicycle rides on the island’s salt flats. You can even experience a natural fish pedicure for free. One of the highlights of the island is experiencing the sunset, and among the best places to do so are out on the water, looking back on the island, or from the old Cap de Barbaria lighthouse.


    Image courtesy of Formentera Tourism

    17. Cabrera

    Leave the crowds in Majorca and head to Cabrera instead. Only an hour by boat from Majorca, the islet of Cabrera is one of nineteen uninhabited islands and islets that make up the only national park in the Balearic Islands. Cabrera is the largest of the archipelago and the only one you can visit. Because the area is highly protected, only between 200-300 people per day (depending on the season) can visit the surrounding protected natural area.


    Image courtesy of See Mallorca

    Croatia

    18. Vis

    For the best gelato this side of Italy, head to Vis. As the furthest inhabited island from mainland Croatia, Vis has remained relatively isolated, but don’t be fooled – there is plenty to do here. Explore the coastline by scooter, dive to the many wrecks below the surface, drink the local wine and visit the glowing Blue Grotto cave.


    Image courtesy of Visiting Croatia

    19. Korčula

    Often called ‘Little Dubrovnik,’ Korčula is full of medieval squares, churches, palaces and terracotta roofed houses. Although it’s up there with the other Croatian islands, Korčula is just a little further away and with fewer ferry services, which means the island is unlikely to be overflowing with tourists. The Old Town and Marco Polo’s House are two top picks for sightseeing on the island, and if you time your visit right, you can see the weekly Moreska sword dance performance.


    Image courtesy of Visit Croatia

    20. Biševo

    The tiny island of Biševo has only 15 permanent residents, but despite its lack of occupancy, it’s a must-see for those who love exploring hidden caves. Only a day trip from Vis, Biševo’s most famous destination is Modra Špilja (the Blue Cave). When the sun shines through an underwater crack in the rocks, the entire cave is set alight with every shade of vivid blue you can imagine – it’s truly magical.


    Image courtesy of Croatia Tourism

    21. Susak

    This isolated island has less than 200 residents, no ATMs and a dialect that’s even tough for other Croatians to understand, but what it lacks in made-made development, it makes up with natural beauty. One of the best places to visit on this quaint island is Bok Beach, where the shallow waters and hot sands are said to have healing powers.


    Image courtesy of Marinas

    Turkey

    22. Cunda Adasi

    Located between Greece and Turkey, this island is the definition of picturesque: with quaint stone houses, olive groves and vibrant flowers decorating the island, it makes for the perfect Mediterranean break away from the crowds. Taksiyarhis Church is a stunning piece of island history and well worth a visit.


    Image courtesy of Visit Turkey

    23. Bozcaada

    Found in the north-eastern Aegean, Bozcaada is steeped in both Greek and Turkish culture. Relax on the crowd-free beaches, cycle through olive groves and vineyards (be sure to sample the goods along the way) and take in the best coastal views from Bozcaada Castle.


    Image courtesy of nejdetduzen

    Malta

    24. Gozo

    Once a prison for sixteenth-century knights, Gozo is now an island paradise that’s not to be missed. With golden sand beaches, the megalithic temples of Ġgantija, mountain biking, kayaking, clifftop hiking and some of the best dive sites in the world, you’ll be spoilt for choice on Gozo, and just 10-minute speedboat ride away, you can take a dip in Comino Island’s famous Blue Lagoon.


    Image courtesy of Visit Gozo

    For more personalised information tips and advice, or to book these incredible holidays, contact your local TravelManagers’ personal travel manager here.

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