Off the Beaten Path: Europe's Unknown Island Destinations
LONDON, August 28, 2009
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An hour or so northwest of Sicily are the stunningly beautiful Aeolian Islands. Lipari, the largest of the chain, is generally the most crowded -- primarily with summer tourists who flock to its gorgeous beaches -- but is also the most interesting, historically.
Perched high on a cliff-top above the harbor is an ancient citadel, built in the 1500s, which still dominates the main town. If you're looking for a respite from the sand and sun, check out Diana District Archaeological Park, with its Greek and Roman ruins. Lipari can also serve as a perfect jumping-off point to explore the smaller, less crowded islands in the archipelago where you will find, among other things, active volcanoes, castles, thermal resorts and volcanic-black beaches.
6. Ile de Porquerolles, France
Step off the ferry onto the tiny island of Porquerolles, off the coast of Provence, and you'll wonder how such a short boat ride got you from Southern France to the Caribbean. Rent bikes near the harbor and take off among the vineyards, olive trees and fruit trees, or wander along a path towards one of the island's quiet, unspoiled beaches. If you're looking for pristine white sand with perfectly clear water, head north. To the south, steep cliffs plunge down into the sea – standing on top of them will afford you a 360-degree view of the island and the Mediterranean beyond. Be sure to treat yourself to an ice cream cone in town before heading back to the ferry.
7. Isle of Lewis, Scotland
The Isle of Lewis is perhaps best known for its Callanish Standing Stones – rock formations that rival Stonehenge – which are certainly worth a look. The island is relatively flat, and a collection of beautiful sandy beaches dot its rugged coastline. Head inland, and let yourself get lost wandering Lewis' tiny winding roads. It's also a perfect destination for anyone who loves to fish, bike, hike, canoe or go bird watching.
8. Isle of Man
Nestled between England and Ireland in the Irish Sea, the Isle of Man is big enough to have something for everyone, yet still boasts plenty of hidden-away spots for those looking to escape from it all. Come for the history, the beaches, the trails, the vintage railways, the fishing or the motorcycle racing. Adventurous travelers can also opt to go rock climbing, or swim with the sharks. This is one place where you can still walk for miles through gorgeous, untouched countryside, often without meeting another soul.
9. Faroe Islands, Denmark
Named the world's most appealing islands in 2007 by National Geographic Traveler, the Faroe Islands, located halfway between Iceland and Norway, are worth the trip. Here you'll find that nature rules. More than 300 species of birds make their home on the islands, and if you're patient, you are likely to spot a seal poking its head out of the water. To the east, grassy hills slope down to the sea; to the west, soaring cliffs rise into the air. At no point on any of the 18 islands are you more than three miles from the ocean.