Sometimes all we want to do is escape the rat race and head off to our own desert island. And while this may prove to be a little extreme, not to mention infeasible, this desire speaks to a deep seated need to find one’s own place, if only for a week or two, and islands offer the perfect refuge. Though there are not too many desert islands in Europe, there are hundreds of thousands of outcrops, islets, isles and atolls dotting the seas of the continent, and here is a look at the very finest, with advice on the best ways to experience them.
Sometimes all we want to do is escape the rat race and head off to our own desert island.
And while this may prove to be a little extreme, not to mention infeasible, this desire speaks to a deep seated need to find one’s own place, if only for a week or two, and islands offer the perfect refuge.
Though there are not too many desert islands in Europe, there are hundreds of thousands of outcrops, islets, isles and atolls dotting the seas of the continent, and here is a look at the very finest, with advice on the best ways to experience them.
Santorini Island, Greece
Voted by many as the most beautiful island on planet earth, enchanting Santorini sits in a dream-like volcanic setting, with traditional, white-washed Greek homes hugging the cliff sides of the now dormant caldera. When walking up the steep winding lanes of Santorini you will feel like you have stepped back in time, or perhaps that you have been transported to another world, so wonderful and unreal is the majestic, volcanic setting here. Perhaps the best way to visit Santorini is to secure a bareboat yacht charter from a nearby Greek island and visit as part of a wider tour to the seductive and relaxed islands that populate the surrounding seas.
Hiddensee Island, Germany
The Baltic coast of Germany may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of tourist resorts, but the peaceful limestone islands that lie off the mainland draw millions of visitors each year. And one of the most special has to be Hiddensee, a piece of land covering just seven square miles. Hiddensee is quaint and relaxing, and one element that contributes to this serene and pleasant atmosphere is the fact that there are no private motor vehicles on the island. So you can rest easy knowing you will not be woken up by a loud car or camper van thundering past on a quiet Sunday morning. With such a peaceful air it obviously makes sense to visit this island on foot, or perhaps utilising pedal power and hiring a bicycle. The wildlife on display here is particularly stunning, and the array of colorful beach flowers and plants has attracted artists here since the 1920s.
Lindisfarne, or Holy Island as locals know it, lies just off the coast of picturesque Northumberland in windswept North-Eastern England. Connected to the mainland by a causeway that is cut off by the sea twice a day, this small island possesses an historic charm that it has retained since its days as a religious refuge. Saint Cuthbert and Saint Aidan lived here, in a soaring, majestic monastery whose ruins you can wander around to this day, while relics and clues to the island’s mysterious past can be gleaned from just about every street corner. If you fancy, you can hire a bareboat charter from the island’s modest marina and sail out to the nearby Farne Islands, where colonies of grey seals and puffins can be seen up close.
Mljet Island, Croatia
Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast is home to thousands of distinct islands, many of which are the most stunning and evocative in the world. Islands small enough for just one light-house can be seen in the Adriatic, while ancient towns tightly hug cliff sides in others. Yet Mljet Island is so pristine and so perfect that the Croats turned it into a national park. Just under 23 miles in length, the island is a verdant green paradise of lakes and forests, hidden convents and churches, secluded villages and coastal quaysides. Even the shortest trip here will produce memories to last a lifetime.
John is an experienced travel writer who can usually be found haggling for the best yacht charter down in Newport Beach, California.