Off the Beaten Path: Europe's Unknown Island Destinations

You've heard of Sicily and Capri, Santorini and Ibiza. The only problem is, so has everybody else. If you're looking for that perfect getaway far from throngs of other tourists, there are thousands of European islands hiding in plain view, just waiting to be explored. From the pristine white beaches of the Mediterranean to the glaciers of the Arctic, here are 10 island gems that are off the beaten path.

1. Brijuni, Croatia

Famous for their scenic beauty, the Brijuni (or Brioni) islands, off the west coast of Croatia, are both a resort and a national park. Still relatively undisturbed, the islands are home to miles of spectacular coastline, and lush fields, complete with an incredible diversity of flora and fauna from around the world.

Beyond the beaches, you will find plenty here to explore, including a zoo, pheasant farm, safari park and many archaeological sites. These islands were once the favorite vacation spot of President Josip Tito of Yugoslavia, and the place where he preferred to entertain world leaders and the occasional celebrity. Among those known to have been guests on the islands are Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

2. Formentera, Spain

Just four miles off the coast of Spain's party island, Ibiza, lies a much quieter, less-trafficked sliver of Mediterranean paradise. With its long stretches of unspoiled, white sandy beaches and sparkling turquoise water, Formentera feels more like the Caribbean than Europe.

If you manage, somehow, to get sick of the beaches, take a stroll into the village of Sant Francesc, to wander its tiny cluster of streets, visit the handful of sights and peruse the daily souvenir market. To the modest, beware: Most of the beaches here are unofficially clothing optional.

3. Kalymnos, Greece

Though the Greek Isles have long been a popular summertime destination, only recently did Kalymnos really begin to open itself up to tourists. Known primarily for sponge fishing, the island is now becoming famous for its spectacular rock climbing. Kalymnos is picturesque at every turn – brightly colored houses line the hillside above the harbor, where fishing boats bob in the sea.

Take the time to thoroughly explore the island, and you'll come across groves of fruit trees, caves, radioactive springs and, of course, the kind of gorgeous beaches that you would expect to find on any trip to the Greek isles.

4. Elba, Italy

Elba, or Isola d'Elba, if you want to start exercising your Italian, is the largest island in the Tuscan archipelago, and is located just an hour by boat from the mainland. With a perimeter of just over 90 miles, Elba boasts an impressive diversity of scenery and places to explore -- tiny, picturesque fishing villages, small towns perched on rocky hilltops, lush green valleys, ancient castles, plunging cliffs and sandy beaches overlooking a clear blue-green sea.

For a view of the mainland and other nearby islands, make the two-hour climb up Mount Capanne, or catch the Cabinovia, which will whisk you up to the top in less than 20 minutes. History buffs, take note: It was here that Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled by the Allied governments in May of 1814. Less than nine months later, he escaped, small army in tow, and returned to France.

5. Lipari, Italy

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