The Mediterranean sea boasts more than 200 islands with thousands of beaches. Albeit, finding a peaceful spot on the beach in summer is very difficult. Of course, you can opt to beat the crowds and go early in the morning. But what about secluded islands often accessible only by boat?
An island in the Balearic, a true gem for the beach purists and environmentalists. These hate any disruptions to the flora and fauna impacting the environment. In fact, some prefer visiting the place in off-peak seasons when the resorts are practically empty.
Formentera is accessible in less than an hour by a boat from Ibiza. I was impressed by the traffic flow of the island with merely one main road taking you everywhere. This road stretches from the Barbaria lighthouse at the west, the port La Savina in the north to the eastern part at Faro de la Mola.
The protected beaches at Playa de Illetas and Playa de Llevant are difficult to access by car as the parking facilities are limited. So, I found riding a scooter was the best option, especially for those traveling solo or in a couple to hop around beaches without walking hours in the scorching summer heat. However, with small kids riding scooters can be a bit tricky. In this case, I would suggest skipping breakfast and head early to the beach with a packed lunch.
Where to stay
For families with kids or whoever prefers not to drive, I suggest you find a resort with a pool and a private beach. With a kayak, a deserted beach is accessible with a few rows from your resort.
Insotel Club Maryland at Playa Migjorn with an All Inclusive package was a good choice for me. My advice is to book early and do not expect anything to be cheap here in the peak season.
La Maddalena National Park
La Maddalena National Park is an archipelago of secret islands situated in the strip between Corsica and Sardinia.
In less than half an hour from the port of Palau, Sardinia, you get a first glimpse of the islands. Here, the area is protected for its unique naturalistic value. You will soon be spellbound by the array of pink granitic and schist islands and islets, impeccably sculpted by the wind and the waves and decorated by stretches of beaches with a few green shrubs, all surrounded by turquoise colored lagoons.
A popular stop is usually Spiaggia Rosa on the island of Budelli, a pinkish quartz beach one can only admire from the boat. Other highlights include Caprera, Razzoli, Santa Maria, Santo Stefano, and Spargi.
Elena tours navigate through these islands daily even through rough seas changing its itinerary according to the weather conditions. Don’t worry, a stop at the main island La Maddalena is always guaranteed. Here, tourists on a day tour come for a couple of hours to shop local products or otherwise find a nice restaurant or coffee shop for a quick bite.
For wildlife but also flora and fauna enthusiasts, there are many dolphin and whale watching tours one can book usually departing from Golfo Aranci, Olbia, Porto Cervo and also from La Maddalena’s port. The sea turtle carretta carretta is also indigenous to this terrestrial paradise.
Where to stay
Elba is the largest island of the Tuscan archipelago.
Thanks to the geological formations and the abundance of minerals, the visitor is spoilt by the coastal views, by the secluded beaches offering a range of sand from fine to white pebbles generally from aplites rocks. You can touch black metallic hematite sand and visit the shores of the mining area. This gem is a paradise not only for geologists but for anyone who enjoys looking at rock formations, pebbles, and minerals or just enjoys the beaches surrounded by their crystal clear cobalt blue water.
It takes roughly only one hour to cross the sea between Piombino, Italy to Portoferraio. Once arrived you will soon realize that this is a very calm, laid back, warm and happy place.
The spot that really stole my heart is Sant’Andrea. On the way, we could enjoy the views of the islands Capraia and Corsica. This place is sometimes called the island within the island because it is far from the other tourist sites. It was once inhabited by fisherman and farmers and you can still enjoy the view of vineyards up the mountain.
The place has two main beaches – Sant’Andrea beach with various establishments and the small and secluded beach of Cantoncello.
And if you’re still not sure that this place is really a beauty, aren’t you curious to see the large granite massifs full of huge orthoclase crystals?
Fetovaia is the most photographed beach for its soft white sand and the stretch of the Caribbean like water. The beach is embraced by promontories with magnificent flora, predominantly Mediterranean maquis, broom, holm oaks, and pine forest.
Capo Bianco is another paradise with its white cliffs of aplite contrasting the cobalt blue color of the sea.
Where to stay
For a more peaceful stay choose San Andrea, otherwise, I would choose a hotel near one of the beaches in the vicinity of Portoferraio.
Gozo is often called Malta’s sister island, but beyond question, it is quite unique both visually and in the attitude. One thing that really strikes visitors is that everything here moves at a different pace. Everything is more relaxed and easy going and most villages are very quiet especially in the afternoons. At night even restaurants may close quiet early especially in winter.
Gozo has no airport and the only way get here is from the main island Malta by boat. It takes less than half an hour to arrive at Mgarr port with the boat from Cirkewwa.
The place is still very rural and the countryside with distant sea views is breathtaking. The image that comes to my mind is Ta’ Pinu church surrounded by the magnificent Ghasri countryside and by the dominant blue sea.
The color of the sea varies from clear turquoise blue in the proximity of sandy beaches while dark blue near promontories which can go as deep as 40m at the shoreline. That’s why it is a diver’s heaven, Sharm el Sheik of the Mediterranean, with popular dives such as Dwejra’s blue hole and inland sea, the double arch reef in Qbajjar and Reqqa Point.
Gozo is also a very rich architecturally with the prehistoric Ggantija Temples being the most emblematic historical point.
A terrific geological site in Gozo is Dwejra Bay in the small village of San Lawrenz, Unfortunately, it has just suffered a big loss with the precipitation of the Azure Window leaving nothing behind. However, a boat ride out from the inland sea and a dip in the blue hole is still worth the trip. Finally, immerse yourself in this paradise by sitting down on the ground full of fossils with the view of the Fungus rock with the backdrop of the majestic vertically sheered cliffs of the Lower Coralline Limestone
For a particular view of Ramla Bay, a red sand-colored beach, then take a torch or some candles and go adventuring in the Calypso Cave. This cave is where Calypso and Ulysses had a love affair according to the Odyssey. Up there in the cave, as you look at the beach, you will partly understand why Ulysses did not want to leave Calypso.
Apart from Ramla Bay, a visit to the beaches at Dahlet Qorrot and Hondoq ir-Rummien is a must!
Where to stay
For solo visitors or a couple, I would book one of the many boutique hotels that are opening both at Victoria, the capital city, but also in nearby seaside villages. However, if you are a family or larger group I would rent one of the farmhouses near Ghasri, Gharb or Nadur. Imagine yourself a week of barbeques near the pool while enjoying the countryside and the clear sky one is expected to find in the Maltese islands.
Naxos is in the Cyclades chain lying between Santorini and Mykonos. Unlike its sisters, Naxos is very peaceful with a very small population. Probably, it has more goats than people.
Getting there and around
Despite flights are flying to Naxos from Athens, many of the tourists hop here using one of the ferries from the neighboring islands.
Naxos is larger than Santorini, Thus, a car might be more comfortable over a quad bike usually popular in Santorini and other smaller islands. Naxos town is the place where most shops and restaurants are making it a wise choice for accommodation.
For those who love long beaches, the southwest part of the island has some of the longest beaches in the Greek islands. Get a bike and unwind on the coastal road look for a nice spot on one of the beaches to admire the sunset. I still miss the dunes of Alyko, and the Cedar trees in the area. What a perfect place to relax and nap in the shade during the hot hours.
If you have time, certainly do not miss the beaches at Mikri Vigla, Agios Prokopios and Agios Georgios.
Apart from the beaches, the Portara is the most recognizable landmark of Naxos. It is mainly a frame marble door, part of an unfinished Temple of Apollo dating 6th century BC.
Where to stay
I would choose all over again Faros Villa at Alyko where you just cross the road to arrive in paradise. If you prefer a greater choice of restaurants, then I suggest a hotel in Naxos Town.
It’s difficult to choose when we’re spoilt for choice. I always tend to choose at the last minute. I get inspired really easily usually by reading a book, or just looking at a photo and why not even finding the cheapest flights helps!
The important thing is going with the right mindset and be ready to immerse yourself in a different world. It’s also important to decide what are you up to. Do you feel more like beaches, culture, shopping or entertainment? You simply cannot go to Formentera and expect shopping centers though Ibiza is less than an hour away!
If you would like a broader list, these other places are currently on my radar: Corfu, Mayorca, Hvar, Crete, and Vulcano.