You’ve probably heard of Ibiza, Corsica, and Santorini. But are you familiar with Formentera, Juist, or Saaremaa? Flying well under the tourist radar, these islands are a must-visit for anyone who feels that they have exhausted Europe’s typical destinations.
Even if you haven’t done much traveling in Europe, though, these breathtaking islands are well worth the detour.
They boast laid-back cultures, quiet charm, and an unspoiled nature that simply cannot be matched by the European mainland.
So pack your best camera and get ready for an adventure.
Brittany Kriegstein contributed reporting to an earlier version of this article.
Juist is one of seven inhabited East Frisian islands at the edge of Germany’s Wadden Sea. Its miles of natural, windswept beach have earned it the nickname “Töwerland” (meaning “magic land”) in the local dialect. Although the Wadden Sea can be chilly, activities like hiking the mudflats and soaking in thalassotherapy spas make for a different kind of island experience.
If Ibiza is the older brother who throws the craziest parties, Formentera is the chilled-out, hippie younger sister. Even though the two are only an hour’s ferry ride apart, they differ completely in atmosphere. Go to Formentera to have pristine Spanish beaches all to yourself. Experience local wildlife, go for a sail on turquoise waters, or swim over to Espalmador, a tiny neighboring island where you can slather yourself in revitalizing sulfurous mud.
Just below Corsica, Sardinia mixes the best of Italian food and culture with an island paradise. Snorkel past ancient Roman shipwrecks, hike to crumbling lighthouses, or take in the sapphire ocean framed by dramatic hills. When you’re done, eat top-notch seafood with your toes in the sand at a beachside restaurant, and wash it all down with some local Limoncello.