10 best European islands
You don’t have to fork out on a trip to the Caribbean for a slice of island life — there are plenty of beautiful landscapes to enjoy not too far from home...
Tenerife, the largest Canary Island, attracts tourists looking for a beach holiday with the opportunity to explore Spain’s highest mountain, World Heritage sites and pretty hillside villages such as Garachico (below). Pico del Teide is 3,718m high, and from its peak travellers can see the island’s volcanic craters and rich wildlife.
The University of San Fernado de La Laguna in San Cristóbal de La Laguna is the oldest university in the Canary Islands and one of two World Heritage sites in Tenerife, the other being Mount Teide, a volcano which is currently dormant.
Ibiza (main picture) achieved notoriety as a destination for young travellers due to its infamous super-clubs Pacha, Space and Amnesia, which are packed with world-famous DJs, glamour models and celebrities at this time of year. It is home to the largest club in the world, Privilege, with a capacity of 10,000, but the island is more than just a hotspot for hedonists; it also attracts tourists for its beautiful scenery.
The Es Vedrà, a nature reserve 2km off Ibiza’s western coast in Cala d’Hort, is uninhabited and gives tourists the opportunity to enjoy spectacular sunsets.
The Ionian island of Corfu is deeply connected to Greek mythology. It is the place where the God of sea, Poseidon, brought his wife Korkyra, and the poet Homer recognised it as a paradise in The Odyssey.
Nowadays, Corfu is noted for its vegetation and is often referred to as the ‘green island’. Olive trees, which can grow up to 20 metres tall, dominate the southern part of the island.
Cultural landmarks in Corfu include the monastery Moni Paleokastritsa, which is situated on top of a rock and offers fantastic views of the island.
Spain's largest island is famous for its fabulous scenery and bustling nightlife. The clubs and bars in the centre of the capital, Palma, and city El Arenal attract revellers from all over Europe. For the morning after, Majorca has pristine beaches such as Puro in Palma to relax on.
Palma also offers sites such as the Cathedral La Seu and the Palacio Real de la Almudaina for travellers more interested in culture than nightlife. Beyond the capital, there is a chance to discover idyllic villages and quirky local markets when travelling through the heart of the island, near Manacor.
Floating 125 miles off the coast of West Africa, Gran Canaria is a sparsely populated island and a hot spot for tourists who want to relax on one of its many dune beaches, near the southern town of Maspalomas. Culture vultures can visit Castillo de la Luz, a former fortress built to protect the town from pirates, in the capital Las Palmas.
Travellers who want more adventure from their holiday can visit the centre of Gran Canaria, which boasts a 2,000m-high mountain, Pozo de las Nieves, attracting hikers from around the world
This Greek island owes its spectacular landscape to volcanic eruptions.
It is known for its unique architecture with white houses and blue domes built into the cliffs. Holidaymakers interested in history can walk along routes formed by the former volcanic craters or visit excavated ruins in Old Thera.
Santorini’s romantic backdrop and spectacular beaches make it a particularly popular island destination for couples.
The Canary island of Fuerteventura is a big hit with fans of water sports.
The island is known for its strong winds and it attracts tourists with a passion for sailing, surfing and windsurfing.
Only 70 miles from the Moroccan coast, Fuerteventura is also famous for its immaculate white beaches and black volcanic ones, which travellers can take guided walks on.
This idyllic Greek Island is home to the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The old town in Rhodes City has remnants from the Middle Ages and has been declared a World Heritage Site.
Other than historical attractions, the windprotected bays in Kallithea make Rhodes a popular destination for beach holidays and there are also great scuba diving opportunities on the island.
Menorca is the second-largest Balearic island. It attracts sunseekers to its numerous beaches, such as Macarella, plus those with an interest in archaeology. Its cave systems, excavation spots and ancient ruins make it a hot spot for excursions. For those with an interest in architecture, La Mola Fortress, set over Mao harbour, is a top destination for tourists, and Museu de Menorca, a 15 th-century monastery, offers a chance to learn the island’s history.
The Spanish island of Lanzarote is the fourth largest of the Canaries. Its landscape was shaped by volcanic eruptions, and travellers to its national park in Timanfaya can learn about the volcanic origins of the island while enjoying food in nearby El Diablo restaurant, where fresh local cuts are grilled over a volcanic vent. It’s fascinating to take a tour through the island’s caverns and tunnels formed by underground lava flows in the Cueva de los Verdes, in the north of the island near the Jameos del Agua.
In 1994, Lanzarote was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. The island’s fiestas are famous throughout Spain.
Hotel price comparison website trivago.co.uk has compiled the ultimate guide to the top 10 European islands. The list is based on the most researched destinations on their website in summer 2009, and includes the best destinations for sun, sea, culture and nightlife.