Whether you are a Mediterranean sun seeker or an Alpine downhill enthusiast looking to bookend your ski getaway, a few days on a European island is a wonderful spot for relaxation during a well-deserved winter break.
Winter is the off-season for most Mediterranean destinations, making it easy to secure reservations with a view at your new favorite restaurant. The weather is temperate, averaging in the mid 50s, and it is warm enough to walk along the beach and enjoy the sunshine.
Below is a list of some of my favorite European islands for your bucket list day dreaming. They are listed in no particular order.
1. Capri, Italy
Famed Capri, a stunning island in the Bay of Naples, is known to attract the rich and famous. Capri offers luxurious five-star hotels, high-street shopping, and exquisite restaurants with hard-to-get reservations.
The island’s rugged landscape is marked by a myriad of coves along the coastline. A must-see when visiting is the iconic Blue Grotto. Accessible only by boat, the low dark cavern entrance opens to a cave where the sea is a brilliant electric blue.
2. Elba, Italy
The charm of Elba is her beautiful beaches. Some counts put the total at over 100 sandy jewels. A little off the touristy map, Elba is a favored spot with Italians from the Tuscany region.
One stop to explore on Elba is the Capoliveri Mines. The Calamita Mine along the Costa dei Gabbiana was mined for magnetite. It was dug as a wide-open pit and offers a fun spot to explore.
If you enjoy being a tourist in a non-tourist destination, Elba is an excellent option.
3. Sicily, Italy
Sicily, the largest of the Mediterranean Islands, is filled with tons of activities to keep busy vacationers occupied. Known for its excellent seafood cuisine, you can dine on expertly prepared catch of the day at the wonderful local restaurants. Additionally, Sicily’s wine region has become an important piece of its agrotourism. Wine tasting events at vineyards on the slopes of Mount Etna are a popular pastime.
Plan a hike up Mount Etna over the volcanic soil for an other worldly experience. Also plan a visit to the ruins of an ancient Greek theater at Teatro Antico di Taormina — perfect for history lovers.
4. Corsica, France
Corsica is a picturesque island with a rich history. A popular island destination, it is known for its beautiful azure coastal beaches and rugged mountain peaks.
Hikers from around the world have Corsica’s GR20 hiking trail — over 100 miles of difficult topography that rewards trekkers with captivating views — on their bucket list. There are also more accessible hikes for the less intrepid vacationer that may fit your style and experience.
Corsica is the birthplace of French Emperor Napoléon Bonaparte. You can visit his ancestral home, Mason Bonaparte, in the capital city of Ajaccio.
5. Ibiza, Spain
Hip and chic, Ibiza is renowned for its vibrant nightlife. Head to Ibiza Town for iconic European nightclub action. The island is frequented by celebrities looking for a party hotspot; it is the place to see and be seen.
6. Menorca, Spain
A low-key, toes-in-the-sand vacation destination, Menorca is a beach lover’s paradise. This island gem has stunning turquoise waters that are crystal clear. Scuba divers love exploring the rich marine life floating along the island shores.
When on Menorca, you must visit the Xoriguer Gin Distillery, home to Mahón Gin. A mixture of British and Dutch techniques and flavors, it is the main ingredient in the island’s signature drink. The Pomada is a mix of gin and a zesty lemonade — perfectly refreshing on a sunny beach day.
Beautiful Malta is home to historical sites from a long list of ruling kingdoms. The Romans, Moors, British, French, and others occupied this charming little island. The capital, Valletta, is an ancient walled city perfect for getting lost. Wander to the top of the city center where you will find the Upper Barrakka Gardens offering a stunning, panoramic view.
8. Mykonos, Greece
Mykonos is a must-see island destination in Europe. Planted in the Aegean Sea, it is Mediterranean party central. Beach bars, dance clubs, and private parties go all night in this beautiful island paradise.
White-washed structures against brilliant blue shores evoke a sense of calming sameness. At night, when the stars pop out against the dark blue sky, you can easily feel a sense of wonder in this beloved place.
Of course, the beaches are superb. Paradise Beach is a sunbather’s haven during the day and a party-till-you-drop spot after the sun goes down.
Best Winter Sun Destinations
There are so many wonderful European islands to visit, you could spend a lifetime of vacations exploring them all. The busiest and most popular islands are the spots to see and be seen because they are stunning, have the best accommodations, and attract highly talented chefs. If you love the beach, history, food, and the European vacation style, then visiting one of these island paradises on your winter break is perfect for your next getaway.