Mediterranean Islands You Must Visit In Your Lifetime
Is it the sea, the strange sense of security, or just that wonderful feeling of escaping from life on the mainland that makes an island break so special? Whatever the exact chemistry, islands make brilliant holiday destinations, and nowhere more so than in the Mediterranean in summer. With the help of our experts, we've created the definitive list for this summer – selecting the best island in each of 10 categories, with a runner-up in case you fancy somewhere different.
Best for beaches
1. Winner: Formentera
As soon as you kick off your flip-flops, step on to the warm white sand and gaze into the gently rippling transparent water that surrounds Formentera, you’ll understand why the tiny island just south of Ibiza is so often compared to the Caribbean. Some parts of Migjorn beach, which curves around the south of the island, get busy in summer, but you can always find a quiet spot. Take your snorkel and mask to Ses Platgetes, a string of tiny coves protected by pines, with boat shacks and places where the freshest fish is always on the grill.
2. Runner-up: Naxos
The south-west-facing coast of Naxos has the longest beaches in the Cyclades. The sand derives from marble or granite, so it’s uncharacteristically bright and white for Greece. "My favourites are the far, duney end of Plaka, and hidden coves around Kouroupia headland with its juniper groves," says Marc Dubin. "The Kavos Hotel Naxos is closest to these."
Best for luxury
3. Winner: Sardinia
Sardinia has been drawing the wealthiest clients since the Aga Khan stumbled on the island nearly 50 years ago. There was only one small coastal strip that interested Prince Karim, however: the Costa Smeralda, which today has all the essential ingredients of a luxury enclave: fabulous beaches that eschew the regimented and overdeveloped in favour of the natural style; a romantic backdrop of granite peaks; bars and boutiques where the top brands are flaunted, and yachts aplenty. The hotels match up too, most with their own private strands not to mention fairways and helicopter pads – but prices can be eye-watering.
4. Runner-up: Cavallo
The tiny island of Cavallo, just off Corsica, is made of granite and discretion. Already dubbed the New Mustique, it has no cars, one smart hotel, a marina, two simple restaurants and 10 beaches. Most visitors disappear by golf buggy into lavish villas, camouflaged by rock and maquis, for a life of pizza and chic.
Best for families
5. Winner: Mallorca
With dozens of child-friendly beaches, plenty of activities both in and out of the water for kids of all ages – plus parents and grandparents – and resorts of all shapes and sizes, Mallorca is unbeatable for a family holiday. Platja de Muro, on the north-east coast, has a long stretch of golden sand with Blue Flag status, and shallow water where small children can paddle safely.
Just up the coast, the resort of Port de Alcudia offers a huge range of watersports. Cala Mesquida on the east coast, framed by dunes and pine forests, is popular with windsurfers and walkers.
6. Runner-up: Corfu
Corfu has some great beaches, and plenty to hold children’s interest for a week (or two), with attractions ranging from a water-park to horse riding. Agia Varvára or Marathiá in the south and Agios Stefanos Gyrou in the north-west have more protected or gently shelving beaches than the exposed west coast.
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