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5 underrated Mediterranean islands you need to visit

From Greece to Malta, we’ve covered the most overlooked parts of paradise.

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There doesn’t seem to be room for worry or stress in the Mediterranean. The dramatic, volcanic mountains make you feel as if you can finally breathe, the azure waters help to shift you into a state of relaxation, and the sunny, mild climate means you won’t have to pack for every imaginable season.

Then there’s the food. The Mediterranean diet is rich in fruit and vegetables, whole grains, and fresh fish and low in processed foods. It’s a diet that has been scientifically proven to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. In fact, in some Mediterranean regions, life expectancies are among the highest in the world.

So, when are we going? And where are we going? If you’ve been saving your dreams and pennies for that perfect Mediterranean escape, and you’re hoping to avoid the crowds, we have rounded up an incredible selection of underrated islands to visit. From the family-run tavernas of Greece to Malta's heavenly waterholes, we’ve got you covered.

The most underrated Mediterranean Islands

Cres, Croatia

Did you know that the Croatian archipelago is the largest in the Adriatic Sea? It’s also one of the largest in the Mediterranean Sea, second only to the famed Greek archipelago.

When you think of a holiday in Croatia, you might be tempted to head to the walled city of Dubrovnik, or if you're wandering off the mainland, you might be tempted to pick Hvar - the queen of the Croatian Dalmatian islands. But Croatia is home to a staggering 718 islands (!) so you can venture far beyond the touristic sites.

The Croatian islands are famed for charming fishing towns, well-kept medieval buildings, vineyards, and of course, turquoise swimming spots. And would you believe it: Cres has all four! While Cres is tied with Krk as Croatia’s largest island, it has a comparatively small population of 3,000 people.

A Cres must-see is Sveti Ivan, where all the water babies are sure to feel at home. The quiet cove lies beneath Lubenice, a medieval fort city that sits atop a 1246-feet high ridge overlooking the twinkling Adriatic Sea. Sveti Ivan can be accessed by foot or by boat. The underrated island is also famed for being rich in biodiversity, being home to a colony of rare griffon vultures.

Suggested tour: Croatia's Istrian Riviera & Lake Bled 

Lipari, Italy

While the largest island in the Mediterranean, Sicily, might draw most of the crowds, Lipari is an underrated island steeped in mythos.

The largest of the seven volcanic Aeolian archipelagos, the sparkling isle draws its name from Liparus - father-in-law to Aeolus, the god of wind. Lipari is fantastic in the winter when you will find plenty of sunny days and near-deserted beaches. Be sure to check out Quattrocchi Viewpoint, where you can clock panoramic views of the dramatic cliffs and coastline.

On our Sicily tour, you’ll journey to Lipari and spend hours wandering the colourful streets beneath a 1,000-year-old castle or go for a dip at a secluded corner of the island. You can even hire bicycles or scooters.

Suggested tour: Classic Sicily, Etna & Taormina

Meganisi, Greece

 

You can’t go past Meganisi in Greece. Though you might, because it’s a tiny island that’s accustomed to being overlooked in favour of the popular neighbouring island of Lefkada (which happens to be one of the few Greek islands accessible by car, as it is connected to the mainland by bridge). It’s been a day trip destination for many years, given the short ferry ride, but it’s worth more days than just one.

The water on Meganisi is divine. All its bеасhеs аrе pеbbly, whiсh makes the water even more iridescent. So you won’t be missing the sand. With a small population of around 1,000, and with tourists usually flocking to the larger islands, you won’t need to fight for the perfect beach spot.

On the northern side of the island, keep watch for a series of impressive fjords, an incredibly unique formation on the Grecian landscape. The Ionian isle is also fantastic for local, sun-kissed tavernas. Head to Vathy, one of the main towns, to get a prized spot at the harbour. Take it from us: it’s perfect people-watching territory.  

If you’re wanting to take it easy on your Mediterranean escape, cruise with us. Spend a tranquil morning eating breakfast on board before setting sail for Meganisi. Along the way, you’ll pause at the uninhabited islet of Atokos, one of the most isolated of the Echinades Islands. Revitalise in the sea with a quick swim, and then refuel with a delicious lunch on board. Finally, you’ll reach the paradise that is Meganisi, where several tavernas and bars wait for you.

Suggested tour: Greek Island-Hopping Adventure 

Syros, Greece

Syros is simply waiting to be explored. At the heart of the Cyclades, the island is known for its musical past. The distinctive local genre, Rebetiko, is famed for being the ‘Greek blues’. The island’s medieval town of Ano Syros was the birthplace of Markos Vamvakaris, a musician who shaped Rebetiko in the thirties. To this day, his music still wafts through the medieval streets and tavernas of the island.

With its stunning coastline, Syros offers a range of waterfront cafes, sandy beaches, and remote swimming holes. Unlike the major tourist destinations of Santorini or Mykonos, Syros is more affordable, with accommodation and dining being well-suited to the local budgets and travellers who aren’t looking for a luxurious escape.

Journey to Syros on boat trip and dock close to the heart of Ermoupoli, where pastel-hued villas and palm-lined waterfronts, Ouzeries and beautiful beaches shine underneath the Mediterranean sun. 

Gozo, Malta

Off the coast of Malta lies the small island of Gozo. At just 26 square miles, the size is one of its main charms. It's packed with secluded coves and rocky plunge pools, with a must-visit spot being Mgarr ix-Xini, the most picturesque place for swimming.

If you’re a foodie, keep an eye out for the island’s abundance of traditional village bakeries and waterfront seafood restaurants. Most local spots will serve up a Gozitan platter, featuring fresh tomatoes, peppers, beans, and capers, served with some wine produced on the island. For more wine, head on over to Tal-Massar Winery.

There’s no airport on Gozo, so one of the best ways to reach this phenomenal slice of paradise is to fly into Malta and take the ferry directly over. Or you can join a guided tour. On our Malta trip, you have the choice to take an unforgettable excursion to Gozo. After the short ferry crossing to Mgarr, spend the entire day exploring Gozo, where a fortified citadel looms over the capital of Victoria and the landscape is dotted with Neolithic temples and burial mounds. If you’re not looking for a holiday until later in the year, and perhaps a bit of winter sun is more your style, then this is the island for you.

Suggested tour: Malta & Sicily

Serena is a writer based in London. Born in Malaysia and raised in Australia, she calls the UK home despite only recently acclimatising to the dearth of sunshine. Her writing has appeared in The Independent, Business Insider, South China Morning Post, i-D, Refinery29, Glamour, Vox, Metro, ELLE, Harper’s Bazaar, and Cosmopolitan. She has also published a book of aerial photography: How Women See The World. Throughout her decade-long career, Serena has told the stories of Arctic explorers, human rights activists, award-winning chefs, refugees, and the UK’s last lighthouse keepers.

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