Mediterranean islands have that special allure. With pristine beaches, rich history, and plenty of beach bars – what more could you want from a holiday? You’ve already chosen wisely by narrowing your search to an island in the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean region is stunning and packed with delicious food and attractions dating back to the ancient world. However, these are the islands that you will want to put at the top of your list.
Top Mediterranean Islands
In this guide, we’ve picked our ultimate recommendations for the best Mediterranean islands to visit. Here are this year’s top island travel destinations, with islands featuring white sand beaches, Roman ruins, and even an active volcano or two.
1. Mallorca, Spain
Mallorca is the largest Balearic island. And besides this size title, it’s easily one of the most popular islands in the Mediterranean for tourists. Mallorca made its way onto our list for its golden beaches and friendly vibe. You could drive around the island’s circumference in 5 to 6 hours.
The island has pine forests and beautiful architecture like Santa Maria Cathedral. Despite having a nightlife hotspot in the island’s capital, Palma, the island is family-friendly. Mallorca is also brilliant on a budget, with plenty of low-cost airlines running regular flights from major European cities.
Things To Do In Mallorca
- Catch the vintage train from Palma to Soller
A beautiful tram ride is a quintessential way to travel in Mallorca. This vintage train runs from Palma to Soller, passing orange groves and pine forests. Book your tickets here.
- Hike Ruta de Pedra en Sec
Ruta de Pedra en Sec is a stunning cobbled mountain trail that hugs the side of cliff faces and dramatic gorges. While 170km long, you can easily pick a smaller section for a less ambitious hike.
2. Santorini, Greece
Santorini is a Greek paradise, and everyone knows it. Aside from blue-domed churches and bright white buildings, Santorini has developed a reputation as among the Greek islands’ most luxurious. It is easily one of the most popular of the Mediterranean islands. Between its luxe atmosphere, things to do, and iconic status, we just had to include Santorini on our list.
Santorini itself was formed by a volcanic eruption. The eruption occurred thousands of years ago yet set out Santorini’s distinctive geographical layout for centuries. The craggy remains of the volcanic rock cut a stark contrast to Santorini’s glossy white buildings.
Things To Do In Santorini
- Red Beach
Red Beach is a must and (as you may have guessed) is a trademarked burnt red color. It is ideal for a beach day with a difference.
- Three Bells of Fira
Three Bells of Fira is a top choice amongst the blue-domed churches of Santorini. The Catholic Church is set above the ocean on a scenic clifftop.
Read More About Planning a trip to Santorini:
- Where to Stay in Santorini: Your Guide to The Best Places
- Best Cave Hotels in Santorini – The Ultimate Luxury Vacation
- The Best Places to Visit in Santorini, Greece
- A Photography Guide to Santorini – Getting that Postcard Shot
3. Menorca, Spain
Menorca is the second largest Balearic island. The Spanish island is more lowkey than Mallorca or Ibiza. It lacks the hardcore partying and resorts – instead famous for sandy beaches and a bit of peace and quiet. While still on all the major flight routes, it offers a more tranquil experience. This quality really stood out to us, and it had to go onto our list.
Menorca is probably 50% sandy beaches and 50% pine forests. But the capital Mahon has some cultural elements too. We suggest renting a car and beach hopping, then venturing into Mahon for food and culture.
Things To Do In Menorca
- Cala Algaiarens
Cala Algaiarens is a vast sandy beach sheltered by cliffs and with calm waters ideal for swimming. There’s also a hiking trail nearby for the adventurous.
- Parc Natural de s’Albufera des Grau
This nature reserve is beautifully explored by kayak or by snorkeling. The marshlands are a conservation area and peaceful for wildlife watching.
4. Corfu, Greece
Corfu is a significant island in the Mediterranean. The Greek island is off the west coast of the beautiful mainland. Both cruise lines and airlines flock to Corfu – it’s a popular spot amongst all. Busy and unapologetically a channel for passing tourists, Corfu has a constant movement of people. An easy fix to that, though, is visiting in shoulder seasons. In shoulder seasons, markets and attractions are much quieter, and the spring or autumn salty breeze keeps you cooler anyway.
Corfu Town is the central hub of the island. However, resorts stud the entire circumference of the island, and fine sand beaches are all over. Rent a car and pick your ideal section of the coastline.
Things To Do In Corfu
- Old Fortress of Corfu
This ancient fort is historically fascinating and also perfect for scenic views. Check out the displayed artifacts and allow a few hours to explore the grounds.
- Porto Timoni Beach
A remote beach in a rocky region surrounded by lush greenery and forests – Porto Timoni Beach speaks for itself. It’s an adventurous beach day destination.
Planning to visit Corfu? Stay at Mon Repos Palace located walking distance from Corfu Town on the Mediterranean Sea.
5. Sicily, Italy
Sicily is the largest of all islands in the Mediterranean. The Italian island sits off the west coast of the mainland and screams natural beauty. It is also a living and breathing museum, with Roman and Greek ruins everywhere. Plus, there’s the thrill of Mount Etna, one of the most active volcanoes in Europe, on the island’s east coast. Sicily is beautiful and exciting. It’s a winning combination if we ever did see one.
Things To Do in Sicily
- Valley of the Temples
This magnificent historical landmark is a vast archaeological site covered in ancient temples and an engaging museum.
- Take the cable car up Mount Etna
Taking a cable car up to Mount Etna is one of the most exciting things to do in Sicily. You get dropped at a final section of the hiking trail and emerge at the volcano’s crater. There are also a number of jeep tours if you want a more unique route up.
6. Capri, Italy
Capri is a beautiful island in Italy’s Bay of Naples, popular amongst luxury seekers. It is hard not to love its exclusive and glamorous appeal – whether you are on a luxury budget or not. The island has stunning beaches and a world-famous Blue Grotto, which can be visited by boat. Its glamor, things to do, and beaches are what won us over.
Things To Do in Capri
- Blue Grotto
The Blue Grotto is a massive blue lagoon in a collection of sea caves. The light reflects, making the seawater ultra blue (electric blue at midday). You enter in a small fishing boat and can swim in the bright blue water. Book your tickets here.
- Chairlift up Mount Solaro
The Mount Solaro chairlift is a few minutes long but gives you stunning views of the ocean and rock formations. There’s also a cafe – the perfect espresso point.
7. Ibiza, Spain
Ibiza is a Mediterranean island with a party scene. It is a historic addition to the Balearic islands with 16th-century walls, yet it is better known for electronic dance music. Ibiza is one of the best islands for a party holiday. And when you are recovering from a night out, it has plenty of beautiful beaches and picturesque agricultural areas to explore with wild herbs and citrus groves.
Things To Do in Ibiza
The clubs in Ibiza are unrivaled. Some, like Pacha, have been open since 1973 and are iconic in their own right.
- Castle of Ibiza
Even the biggest party holiday has room for a bit of history. This hilltop landmark is a medieval fortification and is well worth a visit.
8. Hvar, Croatia
Hvar is the best party island in Croatia. The island thrives on all things party-style. By day, you can enjoy beach parties, boat trips, and water sports. By night, the nightclubs whir into full action. Off the coast of Split, it is easily added to a holiday on the mainland. It wiggled onto our list because of its infectious sense of nightlife and ideal location.
Things To Do in Hvar
It goes without saying that you should party in Hvar. There are plenty of options, from beach bars to boat trips and nightclubs.
- Candlelight dinner in Humac
Humac is a deserted stone hamlet. It runs a deliciously atmospheric candlelit dinner experience in the evening in a traditional setting.
Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean. Officially a republic in its own right, the picturesque island is full of gorgeous beaches and vibrant nightlife. Whether you stay on the north coast or the south, you’ll experience Greek or Turkish culture. Most visitors choose one of the other as a hard border is in the middle of the island. But you could always combine the two if you have time.
We love the cultural aspect of Cyprus and also its size. There are many reasons to visit. And its red hot weather and party culture are just cherries on top.
Things To Do in Cyprus
- Archeological Site of Nea Paphos
These stunning Roman ruins feature tombs, mosaics, and a fortress.
- Party in Ayia Napa
Ayia Napa is party central in Cyprus. There are tons of huge nightclubs with special entrance deals.
10. Zakynthos, Greece
Zakynthos (aka Zante) is one of Greece’s most popular islands. The island is revered by partiers and those wanting a classic Greek island escape. When you aren’t partying, there is the dramatic Shipwreck Beach to discover, plus white sand beaches and baby turtles. It encapsulates all the benefits of a brilliant Mediterranean island. Its wide range of activities is what impressed us. Read more about Zakynthos here.
Things To Do in Zakynthos
- Shipwreck Beach
Shipwreck Beach is the iconic snapshot of the rusted shipwreck at the bottom of a limestone cliff. The fine sand beach is only accessible by cruise and has characteristically bright blue waters contrasting the white cliffs.
- Snorkel with sea turtles
Who doesn’t want to come face-to-face with a sea turtle? Zante is the perfect spot to snorkel with sea turtles or volunteer with baby turtles if you have time.
11. Rhodes, Greece
Rhodes is the largest of the Dodecanese – the Greek islands off the coast of Turkey. This Mediterranean island is packed with history and is heaven for anyone wanting to jump between ancient ruins in between beach days. In fact, its history is what caught our eye (and UNESCO’s since its old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site). Rhodes also has a fascinating history of occupation, and the Ottomans and Italians have put their stamp on its cultural makeup.
Things To Do in Rhodes
- Lindos Acropolis
The towering columns of Lindos Acropolis rival that of even Athens’ Acropolis. Reaching the ancient scene is a long walk up a steep cliff.
- Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes
This palace was reconstructed in 1940 and is a beautiful landmark that speaks to Rhodes’ medieval and ancient heritage.
12. Elba, Italy
Elba is a Mediterranean island off of Tuscany. It provides an azure window into living on the Tuscan coast. Elba was Napoleon’s place of exile between 1814-15. Despite being a historical destination, Elba is a quiet place to embrace natural beauty. Its pristine beaches are dreamy and set in the Tuscan Archipelago National Park – which won us over.
Things To Do in Elba
- Fortress of Volterraoi
This historical landmark dates back to the 13th century and is a stunning place for views over the Mediterranean island.
- Villa San Martino
This villa was owned by Napoleon Bonaparte, a definite claim to fame. Stop by to experience the remainder of living history.
13. Gozo, Malta
Gozo is a Maltese island and one of the least visited islands in the Mediterranean. This Mediterranean island is laidback and full of fishing villages and peaceful beaches. Some people recommend spending as little as half a day here. But you’ll quickly enjoy a week or more if you want somewhere to really unplug. We’ve recommended it because it is so peaceful and ideal for those needing a break.
Things To Do in Gozo
- Inland Sea Dive Site
Scuba diving in a scenic inland lagoon might be niche, but it is a fun activity in Gozo. If you have a PADI, check out this dive site.
This heritage site contains two of the oldest free-standing structures in the world. The limestone temples date back to the Neolithic era and are incredibly well-preserved.
14. Milos, Greece
Milos is another Mediterranean island with sheer white cliffs. Except it also has moonlike landscapes- which is why we’ve added it to this guide. The volcanic island is situated off the east coast of Greece and has striking geographical features. It has also built an impressive reputation as a party spot, considering it is one of Greece’s lesser-known islands.
Things To Do in Milos
Sarakiniko is Milos’ lunar beach. The beach is covered in limestone rock, and it’s widely compared to walking on the moon.
- Boat trip to the sea caves
Milos’ sea caves are stunning. The white limestone caves are only accessible by boat and contrast beautifully with the blue waters.
15. Folegandros, Greece
Folegandros is a tiny Greek island. Forget the crowds and major tourist attractions. This Mediterranean island is somewhere to unwind. The miniature ‘capital’ (picture a small town) is full of white-washed buildings. It clings beautifully to the blue waters of the coastline. With some medieval history to investigate, Folegandros is a Mediterranean island for your bucket list. It might be small, but it packs a punch, which impressed us.
Things To Do in Folegandros
- Church of Panagia
This church is located on a dry mountaintop with an iconic zigzagging white stairway to the top. It is a scenic pilgrimage to make, especially at sunrise or sunset.
- Livadi Beach
Livadi Beach is a tiny pebbled cove that suits Folegandros’ miniature aesthetic. It has a small-world feeling and an excellent spot to sit with a book or paddle.
16. Lefkada, Greece
Lefkada is a beautiful Mediterranean island in the Ionian Sea. Technically, it is connected to the Greek mainland, but only by a manmade causeway. So for the sake of this guide (and Lefkada’s dramatic cliffs and blue waters), we had to include it. It is accessible from mainland Greece and is one of the most pretty Greek islands. The limestone cliffs are like Zante’s Shipwreck Beach – just minus the crowds.
Things To Do in Lefkada
- Porto Katsiki
This beach is backed by towering limestone cliffs and bright blue waters. It is one of the best blue water beaches in Greece and is definitely photo-worthy.
- Faneromeni Monastery
Lefkada is full of culture and quiet villages. The Faneromeni Monastery is just one example of this. It is situated scenically on the side of a mountain with ornate furnishings and stunning views.
17. Djerba, Tunisia
Djerba is booming with natural beauty and a dramatic desert landscape. The island is off the north coast of Tunisia and has plenty of influences from North Africa. Djerba has beautiful beaches and is the southernmost island in our guide. We were impressed by its lesser-visited location and the blend of Berber, Arab, African, and Jewish cultures. Djerba is a real cultural hotspot with attractions like fishing ports and handicraft markets.
Things To Do in Djerba
- Horseback riding across sand dunes
Horseback riding is an exhilarating activity in Djerba. Should you possess nerves of steel, it’s one of the best ways to appreciate this Mediterranean island. The long stretch of desert and sand dunes is dream worthy for galloping. And the desert landscape is a unique break from watersports and blue waters.
- Guellala Museum
Guellala Museum is full of historical pottery displays and art exhibitions. But it has another draw, too – its observation tower at sunset. It is a brilliant place for culture and an excellent viewpoint to finish.
18. Naxos, Greece
Naxos may be the largest of the Cyclades islands in the Mediterranean. However, size doesn’t correlate with popularity here; Naxos isn’t the most popular of the Greek islands. We have no idea why because it is stunning. It’s turquoise bays and golden sand do make it a sought-after beach destination for those in the know. And its capital, Chora, is a picturesque historic base full of iconic white cube-shaped houses. For us, the beaches and laidback vibe are major selling points.
Things To Do in Naxos
- Naxos Old Town
Naxos has a beautiful Old Town with houses resembling tiny sugar cubes. The white-washed buildings are pretty to walk between, and there are plenty of al fresco coffee shops with seating to people watch.
- Kite surfing
Kite surfing is a random addition. However, kite surfing is one of the best things to do in Naxos. Laguna and Mikri Vigla have the best kite surfing beaches.
Why Should You Visit The Islands of the Mediterranean?
Whether you choose a Spanish island or a Greek island, the largest island or smallest island, the Mediterranean will be a fabulous holiday destination. Each island has its own distinct personality. The Mediterranean islands are a full spectrum of different holiday types and experiences. Hopefully, you have now got a couple in mind.
Looking for more inspiration about the Mediterranean islands and region? Check out our guide on the best Mediterranean dishes to try when you visit. And if Hvar particularly caught your eye, Croatia has plenty of other beautiful islands to see nearby. Otherwise, have a wonderful time on your gorgeous island of choice.