5 Mediterranean islands to explore

The Mediterranean is surrounded by Europe, Asia and Africa and is connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Strait of Gibraltar. The Mediterranean has more than 150 islands of varying size. The five largest Mediterranean islands are Crete, Corsica, Cyprus, Sardinia and Sicily. Bigger is not necessarily better, some of the smaller islands such as Mallorca and Ibiza have a lot to recommend them.

Thinking of the Mediterranean conjures up images of clear turquoise waters and rocky cliffs. The many beautiful islands of the Mediterranean embody diverse cultures and countries. There is a rich history that spans thousands of years. Over the ages, many beliefs and cultures have claimed the islands and left their mark. They came, they saw, they conquered and I’m not just talking about the British in Magaluf. For some these islands are home, for others they are wonderful vacation destinations.

On each of these islands, tourism plays a vital role in the economy. The number of tourists the Mediterranean islands receive each year is more than double the number of permanent residents! High rates of tourism, however, have a huge impact on the natural resources of the islands, especially fresh water. Due to this high demand and the resulting overexploitation, groundwater has become saltier and requires increased treatment. Mediterranean tourism is only set to grow, and it is up to these island governments to ensure that it becomes more environmentally sustainable.

Majorca

Jewel of the Mediterranean, Majorca attracts millions of tourists throughout the year. Visitors come from all over the world. Mallorca has it all. It’s a shame it’s been stigmatized in the past as a playground for rude behavior, mud sticks. Mallorca is much more than that. Palma, the capital has been voted the best place to live in the past. I can attest to that, as I live in Palma during the summer months. There is always something going on in Palma, music festivals, pop-up markets, processions.

There are 262 beaches with a total length of 50 km with quite a few fancy beach clubs. The Tramuntana mountains in the north of Mallorca are breathtakingly beautiful with picture postcard villages, Deia, Valldemossa and Fornalutx immediately come to mind. There is peace and quiet away from hot spots. There are more exceptional restaurants dotted around the island than you can live without.

Mykonos

Mykonos is easily accessible by plane and ferry. It has an international airport and receives flights from Athens and many European cities. The island has daily ferry connections from the ports of Piraeus and Rafina in Athens but also from other islands. Mykonos has drawn an international crowd like a magnet since the 1960s and has been repeatedly voted one of the best summer vacation destinations for good reason.

The nickname of Mykonos is “The Island of the Winds”, due to the very strong winds that usually blow on the island. Tourism is a major industry and Mykonos is known for its lively nightlife and for being a gay-friendly destination with many establishments catering to the LGBT community. The island has many luxury hotels, award-winning restaurants, cosmopolitan vibes, designer boutiques, stylish bars and a crazy party scene. In addition to the stunning clear waters surrounding the island, Mykonos has much to be proud of.

Nowadays, it’s hard to imagine a time when Mykonos was a humble little island, with no electricity, just a stopover on the way to famous Delos. Things changed in the 1950s, with the arrival of Aristotle Onassis, Maria Callas, Jackie O, Marlon Brando, Grace Kelly, Princess Soraya, Elizabeth Taylor, Nureyev, Pierre Cardin, Stavros Niarchos… legendary names in jet international set that has partnered with Mykonos. Mykonos has quickly become Greece’s favorite holiday destination for the super-rich, artists and movie stars. Don’t let that put you off, it suits the more humble visitors well.

Ibiza

The original party island. World-class dance halls abound and top class DJs make regular appearances. The home of Cafe Del Mar where the godfather of chillout music, Jose Padilla gave birth to the genre. If music and partying are your thing, Ibiza is the place to visit. A smaller island than neighboring Mallorca, Ibiza has a very different vibe.

The old town of Ibiza is a marvel and a very attractive place to visit. Housed in a fortified citadel, wander its narrow, winding streets and relax in the many cozy cafes. The island has superb villas and first class restaurants. Small coves bathed in the intense blue of the Mediterranean, pine forests that flow into the sea, sleepy villages with rural charm, luxury beach clubs, accommodation in heavenly settings. Ibiza is a heavenly Mediterranean destination, a place where you can let loose and enjoy the laid-back hippie atmosphere of its fashion and street markets, relax on a Balinese bed by the sea or watch the sunset surrounded magnificent landscapes.

Corsica

This French island has 3,350 square miles and only 322,120 inhabitants. Less developed than other regions of France, the Corsican economy relies mainly on tourism for its survival. An interesting fact about Corsica is that Napoleon Bonaparte was born here. The 2013 Tour de France started on the island, it was the 100th edition, one of the cycling Grand Tours.

For the most part, the relief of Corsica is mountainous. About two-thirds of it is made up of an ancient crystalline massif which divides the island on a northwest-southeast axis. The silhouettes of the mountains are very spectacular and their granite rocks display vivid colors. The mountains drop steeply in parallel ranges to the west, where the coast is cut into steep gulfs and marked by high cliffs and headlands.


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Emerging from the Mediterranean like an impregnable fortress, Corsica resembles a miniature continent, with astonishing geographical diversity. Within half an hour’s drive, the landscape stretches from shimmering bays, bustling coastal towns and fabulous beaches to jagged mountain ridges, verdant valleys, dense forests and hilltop villages forgotten by the time. Holidays in Corsica offer extremely varied possibilities: from hiking and canyoning to snorkeling and sunbathing.

Although Corsica has been part of France for over 200 years, it feels different from the mainland in everything from customs and cuisine to language and character. Locals love to explain their Corsican identity, so many engaging evenings await, especially if the holy trilogy of harmonious Corsican food, wine and music is involved.

Sardinia

Sardinia has some of the dreamiest beaches you will find without leaving European shores. The sand is truly white and the sea the bluest of blues. Drop anchor in the beautiful bays of the Costa Smeralda, where celebrities and models enjoy the turquoise waters. Sheer cliffs are embracing and offer seclusion. Whether you are walking barefoot on the dunes of the Costa Verde or lounging on the Costa del Sud, relax and dream.

Sardinia is one of Europe’s last great island adventures. Wander through the lush and tranquil interior to the ruins of Tiscali. Enjoy a walk along the vertiginous coastal path to the crescent-shaped bay of Cala Luna, where climbers tackle the limestone cliffs. The sea is irresistible to windsurfers on the north coast, while divers explore shipwrecks off the coast of Cagliari, the underwater cave of Nereo and the submerged Roman ruins of Nora.

The juxtaposition of alpine forests with snow-white beaches is remarkable. The island is also unique culinary, with distinct dishes for pasta, bread, and its own wines, Vermentino whites, Cannonau reds, and island-produced piquants and cheeses. The island is dotted with 7,000 Nuragic Bronze Age towers. Sardinia is also an island of fabulously eccentric festivals, from the carnival parade of macabre mamuthones of Barbagia, believed to banish winter demons, to the death-defying S’Ardia horse race in Sedilo.

Danny Frith is director of SkiShop. SkiBoutique is a luxury ski chalet agency based in Switzerland.

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