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From legendary nightlife hotspots to volcanic outposts far from the mainland of the continent, Europe has islands in abundance. But for every Mykonos, Ibiza or Santorini, there is a lesser-known and equally beautiful spot where you can escape the crowds and get closer to nature.
Here are some of the best islands in Europe to get away from almost everyone:
Schiermonnikoog, The Netherlands
The Netherlands is better known for canals, dikes and tropical Dutch Caribbean islands like Bonaire and Curaçao than for the sand-spun islands along the country's North Sea coast. However, one of Europe's most peaceful island escapes awaits at Schiermonnikoog in the West Frisian Islands, situated off the north coast of the Netherlands on a shallow bay of the North Sea known as Thewadden sea.
Home to just 950 residents and a secluded town, Schier, as the locals call their island, is mostly a national park landscape, covered in dunes and forests and boasting some of the most pristine beaches in Europe.
“Apart from the beautiful nature and its vastness, there is not much to do on the island. And that is exactly what makes it so appealing,” says Annemarieke Romeijn, who has a holiday home on Schiermonnikoog and has been coming here all her life.
Only residents are allowed to drive cars on the island, which you can reach from the mainland Dutch village of Lauwersoog by taking a 45-minute ferry ride. Once there, visitors can spend their time scouring the island's vast white sandy beaches for pieces of amber that wash ashorekitesurfing lessonsalong natural sandbars and cycle and hike along the island's miles of secluded paths.
Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland
There are more puffins here than humans, but human visitors are amply rewarded.
The island is home to more puffins than peoplehome islandin the Vestmannaeyjar (Westman Islands) off Iceland's south coast looks straight out of a storybook, with emerald cliffs dotted with sheep, a sweeping black-sand beach and sea caves yawning from the rugged coastline.
“Just looking at it when you come to Heimaey takes your breath away,” says Eyrún Aníta Gylfadóttir fromHotel Ranga, a hotel on the Icelandic mainland that regularly sends guests on day trips by ferry to the Westman Islands, a 40-minute crossing. "The harbor is surrounded by high cliffs and is home to many seabirds such as puffins, gannets, fulmars and Manx shearwaters," she says.
A catastrophic volcanic eruption on Heimaey in 1973 blanketed the area in 200 million tons of ash and lava, but miraculously only one death was reported. Today is complete tranquility, with secluded hiking trails to explore and expansive sea views.
Only about 4,500 people share Vestmannaeyjar with almost a million pairs of puffins that make up the largest puffin colony in the world. During the breeding season, between April and late summer, birds fly off the cliffs and carry fish to their young in the cliffside caves.
Flores Island, Azores, Portugal
On the island of Flores in the Azores, waterfalls cascade down an imposing rock face.
One of the most isolated islands in an already remote archipelago, Flores Island in the westernmost reaches of the Azores is a nature lover's dream.
Deep blue crater lakes, bright green slopes, deep valleys, waterfalls and boiling hot springs are among the otherworldly sights on the 55-square-mile volcanic island, home to about 3,400 people, and which you can reach by flights from other Azores islands
“On this island you have the feeling of being in another world. No pollution, no stress, no noise,” says Gabriela Silva, 69, who was born in Flores and still lives on the nearby islandAirbnbshe rents to guests. "The sea all around is very clean, deep blue and you can dive in and feel like you are in the house of the gods."
One of the most magical places on Flores isRocha dos Bordões, a geological formation of basalt columns cloaked in vegetation that looks like the setting of a dinosaur movie.
With just 26 rooms, Hotel das Flores is the largest hotel in Flores and is located in the island's main port city, Santa Cruz das Flores. Apartments are scattered all over the island.
Visitors must fly to Bodø in northern Norway and then continue north by boat to reach this private island, owned by Norwegian adventurer Randi Skaug, the first Norwegian woman to climb Mount Everest.
NaustholmenStaying in rooms spread across three houses on the island, guests spend their days kayaking to white-sand beaches lapped by deep blue waters or hiking nearby peaks to take in the views to enjoy the Lofoten in the north. You can also just swing in a hammock (or even sleep outside) and do nothing, surrounded by the stillness and beauty of this remote place.
"Have lunch over a fire on a beach, hike the spectacular Nordskot Traverse or listen to a mini-concert in a local cave," says Torunn Tronsvang, CEO of the tour companyOn Norway. "This is a place that will give energy and inspiration."
Isle of Tiree, Scotland
This turquoise paradise lies off the west coast of Scotland.
One look at the turquoise and sapphire waters and the perfect surf waves rolling onto the shore and it's clear why the Isle of Tiree is sometimes referred to as the Hawaii of the North.
The westernmost island of the Inner Hebrides archipelago off the west coast of mainland Scotland, 12-mile-long Tiree is known for its mild climate, clean air and gorgeous white-sand beaches that could easily be mistaken for the Caribbean in photos if you look doesn't see them in person (August water temperatures are in the brisk upper 50 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 14 degrees Celsius).
Intrepid surfers know Tiree for its uncrowded beach breaks and eight roomsReef Innaimed at the board riding crowd. The annualTiree Musikfestivalattracts up to 2,000 visitors to a Scottish folk music extravaganza each July, but most of the time you'll have the island's mostly flat walking and cycling routes and 46 miles of beautiful beaches to yourself. Visitors can reach Tiree via a four-hour ferry ride from Oban or Loganair flights from Oban or Glasgow.
About six miles off the coast of Peniche, the Berlengas Archipelago is an excellent diving destination.
One of Portugal's most surprising island destinations awaits visitors arriving by boat for day trips or to stay overnight in the Berlengas Archipelago, three groups of mostly uninhabited islands within the Berlengas ArchipelagoUNESCO-listed Berlengas Biosphere Reserve.
About six miles off the coast of the Portuguese mainland city of Peniche, theArchipelagois best known for the Fort of São João Baptista, a 16th-century fort that commands an imposing presence on a rocky outcrop on Berlengas Grande, the largest island in the chain. In summer, rooms can be booked for overnight stays in the Burggasthof.
Berlengas Grande has campgrounds open during the summer where visitors can stay overnight and feel all alone under the Milky Way.
"The landscape is arid but beautiful, and the sight of the Atlantic Ocean crashing around the islands is impressive," says Arlindo Serrao ofPortugal Diving. According to Serrao, the archipelago is one of the best places for diving in Portugal, thanks to unique currents and a climate influenced by the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.
Mola Mola (sunfish) can sometimes be seen in the waters and the islands are one of the most important sites along the coast of mainland Portugal for seabird breeding.
Alicudi, Sicily, Italy
Leave the “White Lotus”-inspired crowds behind for Taormina and make your way to Sicily's westernmost and most remote volcanoAeolian Islandsfor a special experience.
Wild and rugged, Aliduci is the least inhabited of the seven islands in the chain off Sicily's north coast, which includes Stromboli and Lipari, among others.
“It is the wildest island in Sicily. They still use donkeys to transport goods on Alicudi,” says SicilianFrancesco Curione. “If you are looking for tranquility and a shipwreck this is the place.”
The distinctive volcanic cone of Alicudi rises out of the Tyrrhenian Sea to dramatic effect, while colorful fishing boats bobbing along the shore, completing the postcard look. Don't miss out on buying the fish directly from the fishermen in Alicudi.
There are no cars and only about 100 residents, so finding a quiet spot to yourself is never a problem. The higher you go on lava stone steps leading up the volcanic slopes, the deeper the stillness and escape.
However, there are no hotels on Alicudivilla rentaland Airbnbs make it easy to settle in and stay for a while.
Skyros is one of two dozen islands in the Greek Sporades chain.
Greek islands like Santorini and Mykonos in the Cyclades can be so packed with tourists during the summer months that you might wonder what all the hype is about. For a more off-the-beaten-track experience in the Greek islands, turn your gaze north in the Aegean to the island of Skyros instead.
One of 24 islands in the largely uninhabited Sporades chain in the northwestern Aegean, Skyros is reached by flights from mainland Greece and by ferry from mainland and other nearby Greek islands.
Once there, there are secluded beaches to explore, a Byzantine castle towering over the capital and the sea, and even an ancient breed of miniature horse, the Skyrian Horse, which roams only in the wild on this island.
With the exception of the run-up to Lent - when the famous Skyros carnival puts the island into non-stop party mode with parades and costumed feasts and a deluge of Athenians - it's an extremely peaceful place.
Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland
Rathlin Island off the coast of Northern Ireland is six emerald miles long and just a mile wide and is home to only about 150 permanent residents.
Visitors arriving on the mainland via a quick ferry crossing from Ballycastle are transported into a wilderness of dramatic sea cliffs that are home to thousands of nesting birds including puffins, guillemots, kittiwakes and razorbills. Colonies of harbor and gray seals line Rathlin's secluded bays.
Hiking trails crisscross the rugged, scenic island, and experienced divers are drawn underwater to explore the numerous shipwrecks just offshore, including HMS Drake, which was torpedoed by a German U-boat during World War I.
Don't miss a visit toRathlin Westlight, a lighthouse built upside down on the rocks to better penetrate the low, dense fog that often falls on the island.
Fixed Åland, Finland
In the Gulf of Bothnia between Sweden and Finland, the Åland archipelago has more than 6,500 islands, of which only about 60 are inhabited. To say there is room to stretch out and breathe on these Baltic Sea islands is an understatement.
As an autonomous region, the islands belong to Finland but are only 40 km away from Sweden, with Swedish as the official language.
Fasta Åland is the largest island in the archipelago and a good base for exploring. Take a bike tour to nearby islands connected by ferries and bridges, or simply settle into a vacation rental or hotel with a sauna and sea views to relax.
HavsViddenoffers a secluded retreat in northern Fasta Åland with villas with private saunas and views of the rocky coast.
Skyros, Greece. Skyros, the biggest island of the
Standing all alone in the North Atlantic Ocean, the Faroe Islands are undoubtedly one of the most remote places in Europe. Made up of 18 major islands and countless smaller ones, the Faroes' closest neighbours are Scotland and Iceland, both located over 200 miles from its shores.What is the most visited island in Europe? ›
Despite being the smallest island in size to make the list, Santorini is world famous and the most popular island throughout Europe. Part of the Cyclades Island group, Santorini was created after a volcanic eruption in 1600 BCE.
- Great Britain, the largest island in Europe.
- Iceland, one of the largest islands in Europe. Iceland is the second largest island in Europe. ...
- Ireland. ...
- Severny. ...
- Spitsbergen, the island at the gateway to the North Pole. ...
- Ioujny island. ...
- Sicily, one of the largest islands in Europe. ...
Nestled in the Azores archipelago, Corvo is known as Europe's most remote island—and with its lush natural beauty and rich history, it's easy to see why. Let's take a closer look at this magical place and what makes it so special.What is the most difficult island to get to? ›
We are talking about Tristan da Cunha, a part of the British overseas territory Saint Helena and a true sub-tropical heaven. The island sits in between South Africa and South America, 1,491 miles (2,400 kilometres) from the former and 2,088 miles (3,360 km) from the latter.What is the number 1 tourist country in Europe? ›
France. It is perhaps no surprise that France is Europe's most visited country. After all, there are so many reasons to explore and discover France! From the gastronomic delights of the French capital, Paris, to the wine region of Burgundy, there are too many regions in France to choose just one.What is the least visited country in Europe? ›
Liechtenstein: For quiet mountain exploring
Despite this, it's Europe's least visited country. Once you make it in, there are plenty of spots for skiing without the usual tourist crowds, as well as hiking and biking trails to explore.
Switzerland: Although many European countries offer a better quality of life than the U.S., Switzerland takes the cake. It's globally ranked for its safety, infrastructure and natural beauty. All of this, of course, comes at a cost: Switzerland is one of the world's most expensive countries to live in.What is the best European country to relocate to from USA? ›
Austria. If you're looking for one of the best places to live in Europe, look no further than Austria! This country's industrialized economy, green living philosophy, booming entertainment scene, and highly-rated education make it an incredibly sought-after place to live abroad for Americans.
The easiest country for obtaining a residence permit in Europe is Portugal. There are options like a D7 visa for financially independent persons, a StartUp visa, a visa for retired persons, and the Golden Visa for investors.What are the three major island in Europe? ›
Its nearest neighbour is Banaba Island in the Republic of Kiribati, 300 kilometres (190 mi) due east. Nauru is the world's smallest island nation, covering just 21 square kilometres (8 sq mi), the smallest independent republic, and the only republican state in the world without an official capital.What is the biggest island on earth? ›
1. Greenland. With a total covered area of 2,130,800 sq km, Greenland is 1st largest island in the world. Located between the Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean, Greenland was considered to be an inhospitable land, but now it has been converted to an adventure spot.What is the most isolated tourist island? ›
Tristan da Cunha, a group of volcanic islands in the South Atlantic Ocean, is the most isolated inhabited archipelago on the planet, meaning it is located at the greatest distance to civilization — 1,514 miles south of the island of Saint Helena to be exact.What is the unclaimed island in Europe? ›
One of the unclaimed islands in the world is The Eel Pie Island located on the River Thames in London. For all travel enthusiasts and nature lovers, the Eel Pie Islands is a treat to visit. Tourists can access the islands only by boat or by a bridge.Are there islands where no one is allowed? ›
North Sentinel Island, Andaman Islands
This island topped the list of forbidden islands. Situated in the Bay of Bengal, the North Sentinel Island is best known for its famous inhabitants: the Sentinelese. These are a small tribe who have been residing on the island for more than 60,000 years!
Palawan, Crowned as One of the World's "Most Desirable Island" | Tatler Asia.What is the least visited island? ›
The island of Nauru also claims the title of least visited. Part of Micronesia, its nearest neighbor, Banaba Island in Kiribati, is still almost 200 miles away. Nauru is the place to get off the grid in its truest form.What is the most crowded island? ›
Santa Cruz del Islote off the coast of Colombia is the most densely populated island in the world.
France. According to the French Tourism Ministry, over 90 million foreign visitors arrived in France in 2019. France is one of the most visited countries in the world, not just Europe. Among the best places to see in France is the capital city, Paris.How can I see the most of Europe in one trip? ›
Train travel through Europe is one of the best ways to see the continent. The rail network is extremely developed and train service is very reliable. For longer distances, flying one of the many European airlines is also a great option.What two countries in Europe attract the most tourists? ›
Prior to the COVID pandemic, France was the most visited country in the world attracting 88.1 million visitors in 2019, according to GlobalData. Spain claimed the top spot in 2021, but France is on track to overtake it, having welcomed 66.6 million international visitors in 2022.What is the rarest country in Europe? ›
Liechtenstein. The Principality of Liechtenstein is the leader in the list of the least visited countries in Europe.What is the wealthiest country in Europe? ›
Luxembourg, the richest country in Europe
Luxembourg has a per capita GDP of $128,820 (IMF, 2023), making it the wealthiest country in Europe.
Other high-ranking countries include the rich and peaceful of the Western world (Ireland, Canada, Austria), a few tourist havens (Thailand, United Arab Emirates), and, for some reason, big parts of West Africa. The three countries least welcoming to foreigners are, in order: Bolivia, Venezuela and Russia.What are the 3 most visited countries in the world? ›
- France – 82.6 million visitors.
- The United States – 75.6 million visitors.
- Spain – 75.6 million visitors.
- China – 59.3 million visitors.
- Italy – 52.4 million visitors.
- United Kingdom – 35.8 million visitors.
- Germany – 35.6 million visitors.
- Mexico – 35.0 million visitors.
With cities like that, if you're looking for an iconic culture-filled city holiday, Italy is hard to beat. The dramatic scenery in Italy, from the Dolomites mountain range to the islands of Sardinia and Scilly, and the beautiful lake district in the north, means Italy is arguably more beautiful than Spain.Where is the best country in Europe to live? ›
|RANKING||Country||Quality of life score (Higher is better)|
Overall, Europe has a lower cost of living due to lower healthcare expenses, a weakening euro currency, and low inflation. Europeans, however, tend to pay more of their income to taxes, and average wages tend to be lower than in America.
Can US citizens move to Europe? Yes, Americans can move to Europe. There are a variety of options available, with Golden Visas, Digital Nomad Visas, and other residency schemes available.What is the most American city in Europe? ›
Originally Answered: What is the most 'American' city in Europe? There is no american city in europe but can likely find Kaiserslautern in germany Germany. It's the location of many American military bases, and over the decades it's become very Americanized.What country are Americans moving to? ›
40% opt for the Western hemisphere — Canada, Central and South America. 26% move to Europe. 14% head to East Asia and the Pacific — think Australia and New Zealand as well as China and Japan. 14% head to the Middle East.Is life better in Europe or America? ›
Quality of life: European countries offer shorter working weeks, longer holidays, and a greater focus on work-life balance. This emphasis on quality of life is one of the biggest advantages that Europe has over the US.Where is the cheapest place to live in Europe? ›
Canada is one of the most welcoming countries to immigrate to. It is also one of the easiest because it has a vast landmass and a small population. Canada covers several programs for immigrants to move to attract new residents.How can I move to Europe from USA without a job? ›
- Enroll in a university program. ...
- Work as a freelancer remotely. ...
- Find a job in your country first that can be done remotely. ...
- Go as a visitor while living off of your savings. ...
- Join a volunteering abroad program. ...
- Visit on a tourist visa and use a home swap service.
- Move to Europe as a Student. ...
- Create a Job by Working for Yourself. ...
- Take a Gap Year with Savings. ...
- Trade Work for Accommodation. ...
- Get a Job Where You're From that Has International Opportunities.
|Archipelago||Greater Sunda Islands|
|Area||748,168 km2 (288,869 sq mi)|
|Highest elevation||13,435 ft (4095 m)|
Europe is in the temperature zone, but there are many tropical areas, including the Canary Islands, the Madeira Islands, Cyprus, Malta, and Greece.
Elba, off the coast of Tuscany, was divided among three different Italian principalities until 1800.What is the largest island with no population? ›
Devon Island in the Arctic is the largest uninhabited island on Earth, and for good reason. With a polar-desert climate and barren, rocky terrain, which is frequently veiled in fog, this desolate landmass is hardly welcoming.What is the island that never existed? ›
A phantom island is a purported island which was included on maps for a period of time, but was later found not to exist.What is the largest island that no one lives? ›
Devon Island is the largest uninhabited island in the world. Located in Baffin Bay, Canada, Devon Island is the largest uninhabited island in the world. With an area of 21,331 square miles, it is also the 27th largest island in the world —its area is just slightly smaller than Croatia!What is the biggest island that the US owns? ›
Website worldatlas.com claims that out of all countries on the planet, Sweden has the most islands with 221,800, the majority of which are uninhabited. Even the capital of Stockholm is built across a 14-island archipelago with more than 50 bridges.Who owns the most island? ›
On top of the list is Sweden, closely followed by Norway, which have over 200,000 islands each within their borders. “Sweden has 221,831 islands, about 24,000 of which are open to the public. Though Sweden is the country with the most islands in the world, less than 1,000 of them are inhabited,” World Atlas said.What island is very remote? ›
Tristan da Cunha
It's the world's most remote inhabited island chain – so precariously occupied that when a volcanic vent erupted in 1961, the whole population was evacuated to England.
With a population of no more than 50, Pitcairn Island is the most remote island in the world, located 3,240 miles (5,215 km) from the coast of New Zealand. The island is inhabited by the descendants of sailors from the HMS Bounty, a Royal Navy vessel that was the scene of a mutiny in 1789.What is the most remote town in Europe? ›
This is where you can find the remotest town in Europe. Kirkenes is north of Iceland and east of Estonia, nearer to St Petersburg than it is to Oslo. The closest city is Murmansk, Russia.
The European Union (EU) counts nine outermost regions, which are geographically very distant from the European continent. These are French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, Reunion Island and Saint-Martin (France), Azores and Madeira (Portugal), and the Canary Islands (Spain).What is the most isolated island to vacation? ›
Rapa Nui, Chile. Rapa Nui, also known as Easter Island, is as far away as one can get from the rest of the world. According to UNESCO, it is “the most remote inhabited island on the planet,” and sits some 2,300 miles from the coast of Chile.What is the most remote and beautiful island in the world? ›
Located 2,088 km (roughly 1,300 miles) from Pitcairn Island and 3,767 km (2,340 miles) from Santiago, Chile, the government that administers it, Easter Island may be the most-isolated place on the planet.What's the most isolated country in the world? ›
#1 Nauru. With its nearest neighbor (Kiribati's Banaba Island) located almost 300 kilometers away, the island-nation of Nauru is by far the most remote country on Earth.What is the secret island in the Atlantic Ocean? ›
Tristan da Cunha (/ˌtrɪstən də ˈkuːn(j)ə/), colloquially Tristan, is a remote group of volcanic islands in the South Atlantic Ocean.What is the most remote habitable place on Earth? ›
Tristan Da Cunha, South Atlantic Ocean
The volcanic island of Tristan Da Cunha in the South Atlantic Ocean has the honor of being the most remote point on Earth inhabited by humans.
Hawaii is the most isolated archipelago in the world. Image courtesy of Google Earth. Figure 3. The Hawaii Hotspot.Which American city feels the most European? ›
New Orleans, Louisiana
Settled by the French, turned over to the Spaniards, then passing back through French hands before landing in America's lap, New Orleans might be the most outwardly European city in the nation.
- There's no doubt that New Orleans is full of an eclectic assortment of qualities that adds to its unique charm. ...
- Today, the Big Easy retains much of its French and Spanish roots.
Munich is also one of the quietest cities in Europe and in the world. The Bavarian capital and surroundings offers travellers unforgettable moments. Book your stay at the best price in Munich and your best activities for a quiet and relaxing city break in one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.
- France – 89.4 million visitors. ...
- Spain – 82.7 million visitors. ...
- Italy – 62.1 million visitors. ...
- Turkey – 45.7 million visitors. ...
- Germany – 38.8 million visitors. ...
- United Kingdom – 36.3 million visitors. ...
- Austria – 30.8 million visitors. ...
- Greece – 30.1 million visitors.
Ireland. Countless global reports have continually dubbed the people of Ireland as some of the friendliest and most welcoming to visitors in the world, and our readers feel the same; voting it into the top spot for the friendliest countries in Europe.What is the most rural place in Europe? ›
Rural population, percent - Country rankings
The average for 2021 based on 47 countries was 27.34 percent. The highest value was in Liechtenstein: 85.53 percent and the lowest value was in Gibraltar: 0 percent. The indicator is available from 1960 to 2021.