From Greece to Spain, passing through Italy and Tunisia, discover the Mediterranean islands in which to spend your holidays this year
Sun, sea, sand, culture, nature and lots of relaxation. You just can’t beat the islands of the Mediterranean when it comes to summer holidays. From the smallest islets to actual countries, these floating magnets preserve natural wonders and priceless artistic and cultural heritages. Whether you’re looking for an adventure, idling by the sea or immersing yourself in the culture of your next destination, the Med won’t disappoint. But with such a wide choice, where do you start?
We looked at the amount of activities on the island, the number of Blue Flag beaches, the average cost for a week’s holiday, the number of hours of sunshine, the average water temperature and, as a bonus point, the presence of one or more UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Take a look at the below to find out the full ranking.
|Island||Country||Things to do||Blue Flag Beaches||Budget||Hours of sun||Temp. of the water||UNESCO sites||Total score|
|Limnos or Lemnos||Greece||1.33||4.03||93.86||73.72||11.68||0||15.7|
|Euboea or Evia||Greece||1.71||0.81||84.93||49.03||44.67||0||14.04|
The top 15 positions
15. Lipari, Italy
It’s an hot start to our ranking with the volcanic Italian island of Lipari. Lipari, which is one of the volcanic Aeolian Islands, is located north of Sicily, and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. Among the most popular activities in Lipari are boat trips to the islands, each with its own personality. On Lipari, however, there’s no better way to appreciate its beauty than to climb up to the Belvedere Quattrocchi, located 4km from Lipari town. Plus, there are many hiking trails and cultural attractions, such as the Aeolian Archaeological Museum and the Cathedral of San Bartolomeo. Finally, the island boasts beautiful beaches, such as Acquacalda, which lies in the shadow of the white pumice Porticello mountain in the background, and Canneto, which ideal for families. Both beaches are Blue Flag.
14. Kos, Greece
One of seven Greek islands to make our list, Kos has more than 365 hours of sunshine per month in summer and water temperature of 24°C. It’s a very pleasant place to spend your holidays. Among the most beautiful beaches is Agios Fokas, which also boasts natural hot springs. History lovers will get their fill at the Asclepieion, an important archaeological site just a 10-minute drive from Kos town. Also worth a visit is the ancient Agora, where excavations have unearthed temples, baths and the market. And the excellent local gastronomy deserves a look in, too. Try the unique-to-Kos posia cheese, which is ripened in wine sludge, and make sure to visit one of the island’s vineyards. A highly recommended experience.
13. Lefkada, Greece
Although Lefkada is easily accessible from mainland Greece, it has managed to stay off the radar. That’s why it’s the perfect place to relax and enjoy the slow pace of Greek island life. The water temperature in summer averages 25°C, and the sun shines most of the time. Sounds great, doesn’t it? But there’s more, much more. There are hundreds of things to do in Lefkada. Highly recommended is an excursion to the Dimosari Falls, imposing walls of water where you feel light years away from everything and everyone. Lefkada is also an ideal base from which to go island hopping. Meganisi, Skorpios and Madouri are all within easy reach by sailboat.
12. Ibiza, Spain
With 300 days of sunshine per year and water temperatures that exceed 24°C in summer, Ibiza is the ideal place to enjoy a Mediterranean holiday. The island has beautiful Blue Flag beaches such as Es Figueral or Cala Llenya. But there’s more to Ibiza than sunkissed strands and coves – the party island’s biodiversity and culture have been recognised by UNESCO. The Phoenician archaeological site of Sa Caleta, the necropolis of Puig des Molins and the walls of Dalt Vila are just some of the attractions that tell the story of Ibiza. And, as if that were not enough, the sunsets are epic, especially when admired from the water, during a boat cruise.
11. Corfu, Greece
This Greek island in the Ionian Sea combines beautiful beaches, a varied history and a cosmopolitan capital. Corfu city presents a mix of styles – Venetian, French and British – which has earned it the honour of UNESCO World Heritage Site. In fact, it’s the only non-classical or non-religious UNESCO site in Greece. Corfu’s north coast is very diverse, with sandy beaches and luxuriant coves surrounded by high cliffs. Utter bliss, if you like a nice swim. Other must-see attractions include the Paleokastritsa Monastery, the Achilleion Palace – the summer home of tragic Empress Sisi – and excursions to mainland Greece and Albania. With more than 10 hours of sunshine per day and numerous Blue Flag beaches, Corfu is the ideal holiday destination.
10. Zante, Greece
Italian-accented Zante boasts one of the world’s most-photographed beaches. And it’s not because of the fine sand or tropical palm trees. Hard-to-reach Navagio beach is hemmed in by high cliffs, which means access is possible only by sea. The pearly pebbles and azure waters are idyllic, for sure. But it’s the rusting hulk of a shipwrecked freighter that makes this cove so photogenic. Limnionas, Keri and Marathonisi are other beaches that are worth a visit. Among the island’s villages, Kampi is one of the best places to watch the sunset, while on Bochali Hill in the capital, Zante town, there’s a ruined Venetian castle that was of great importance in medieval times. Also worth a gander in the capital is the Church of St Dionysius, dedicated to the protector of the island.
9. Djerba, Tunisia
Storytellers as diverse as Homer and George Lucas have drawn inspiration from Djerba. This desert-like island of whitewashed villages and white sand beaches was a pirate’s lair. It’s also the largest island in North Africa, though barely 2km off the mainland. Houmt Souk is the island’s Insta-perfect capital – its white homes with blue doors and windows, narrow streets, traditional souks, mosques and restaurants all waiting to be snapped. It’s an absolute must-visit. And it goes without saying that the island’s fantastic beaches deserve a special mention. Fine talcum powder sand lolled by cream-topped waves…. for miles and miles of coastline. With more than 17km of uninterrupted strand, Sidi Mehrez is undoubtedly the main attraction, while other standouts include La Seguia, Sidi Yati and El Hachen.
8. Kefalonia, Greece
Floating in the Ionian Sea, west of mainland Greece, Kefalonia is known for its dreamy beaches, natural pools, luxuriant nature and laidback atmosphere. With more than 40 beaches spread over 250km of coastline, Kefalonia is the perfect destination for those looking for a peaceful holiday. Among the unmissable beaches are those of Kimmila, Foki, Emplisi, Vouti and Myrtos, regularly nominated as among the most beautiful in all Greece. But, beyond beach life, Kefalonia has much more to offer, starting with the picturesque fishing villages, including Assos with its romantic, ruined Venetian castle. It once covered an entire headland, surrounded by 2km of walls. To get to the castle, which is 170m above sea level, you can climb steps. The views of the isthmus, village and coastline are worth the trip alone.
In the middle of the Mediterranean, between Sicily and Africa, lies the fascinating island of Malta. Valletta, its baroque-accented capital, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Thanks to the number of harbours and the settlements that grew around them, the city amazes with its historic charm and its imposing fortresses. In the centre of the island, the fortified city of Mdina will take you on a journey through the ages. And to complete the historical discoveries, a visit to one of the so-called Three Cities is a must. Birgu, Bormla and Senglea are ancient, fortified harbour towns that formed the backdrop of numerous sea battles. And then let yourself be seduced by the warm waters and the bright sun of Malta’s coast. Blue Lagoon, Golden Bay and Paradise Bay are just some of the most popular bathing spots.
6. Majorca, Spain
The largest of the Balearic Islands, Mallorca stands out for the number of activities to do, with attractions to satisfy every type of traveller. Nature lovers will appreciate the spectacular Drach Caves and the rugged charm of the Tramuntana Mountains, whose cultural landscape is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are also many pretty mountain and valley towns to visit. Alcudia, Pollença, Valldemossa, Deià and Sóller are among the most famous. If you’re travelling with children, the island’s waterparks, such as Western Water Park or Aqualand El Arenal, are inevitable stops. And as for beaches, Majorca has more than 300 beaches and coves – you’re spoilt for choice.
5. Rhodes, Greece
Located in the southeastern Aegean, the largest of the Dodecanese islands proudly ranks fifth in our list. With the historic centre of Rhodes town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the archaeological site of Kamiros and its string of 15th-century castles, Rhodes has a winning hand. And if you love water sports, you’re spoilt for choice, jet-skiing, scuba diving or kitesurfing are just some of the activities you can enjoy in 25°C waters… when not basking on enchanting beaches. Among the most popular excursions, a boat trip to the island of Symi is an exciting experience. You can visit the famous waterfront Panormitis Monastery, which is hidden in a sheltered and remoted cove. If you’re in the mood for some for 100% relaxation, then the Kalithea Thermal Baths are a well-deserved holiday treat. Located 9km from Rhodes town, they are particularly renowned for the healing and therapeutic properties of their waters.
4. Sardinia, Italy
Sardinia manages to blend nature and activities in a harmonious way. The island boasts a medley of paradisiacal beaches bordered by dense Mediterranean scrubland. The jewels in its crown are on the north coast, where you’ll find spectacular coves and clean waters at Santa Teresa Gallura, Aglientu and Palau. But it is also worth exploring the less-visited south of the island, if only to wander around the history-steeped capital, Cagliari. Between a trek on the Devil’s Saddle and the panoramic views from the bastion, it is easy to fall in love with it. Finally, the countryside is a treasure trove of traditions and historical sites. Do not miss the archaeological site of Su Nuraxi di Barumini, a Nuragic civilisation settlement that’s now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Franks, Venetians and Ottomans all loved Cyprus so much that they decided to stay. Also known as the island of love, it’s no surprise to find it near the top of our ranking. Here, there’s no shortage of activities to do while the archaeological sites are dotted throughout the island. The city of Paphos, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is full of small treasures. Among them, the emblematic Petra tou Romioú, or ‘Aphrodite’s Rock’, where legend has it, the goddess of love was born. And with 365 hours of sunshine per month in summer and warm waters averaging 26°C, Cyprus is the ideal destination for a beach holiday. With a rich architectural heritage, a pristine coastline and mountains covered in dense vegetation, the island of Cyprus does not disappoint.
2. Crete, Greece
The largest of the Greek islands is the perfect destination for nature, history or adventure lovers. Archaeological sites of the ancient Minoan civilisation can be found scattered throughout the island. The most famous is the Palace of Knossos, a few kilometres outside Heraklion, the capital. While off the beaten, on the east coast, are ruins of the Palace of Zakros. Among the most popular activities, a trek in the 13km-long Samaria Gorge is a must. It connects the village of Omalos to the seaside hamlet of Agia Roumeli. And then there are the beaches, with an impressive number of them awarded that coveted Blue Flag. This corner of the Mediterranean really has nothing to envy the Caribbean.
1. Sicily, Italy
With an unbeatable mix of culture, history, natural beauty, dreamlike beaches and spectacular sunshine, Sicily sits at the top of the pile. Surprisingly, its victory was something of a cinch. Boasting an immense artistic heritage, the island is home to eye-popping UNESCO-listed sites, such as the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento and the Arab-Norman Palermo circuit. Meanwhile, the island’s beaches are famed and appreciated by locals and visitors alike. Despite the high quality, special mentions go out to Marina di Ragusa in the south, which has been awarded yet another Blue Flag this year, and Spiaggia Lampare in the northern village of Tusa, for its wild charm. And for the more adventurous, do not miss rafting in the Alcantara Gorge or an excursion to Mount Etna volcano.
Have a look at our experiences:
To compose the ranking, Mediterranean islands with a population of more than 5,000 inhabitants (56 islands) were considered. Each island was assigned a score from 0 to 100 for each of the six factors analysed, using the normalisation formula:
Score = (x-min(x))/(max(x)-min(x))*100
Subsequently, all the islands were ranked according to the total score. Since some factors were considered more important than others, each of them was assigned a different weight to calculate the total score, using the weighted average formula. Thus, the number of things to do had a weight of 35%, the number of Blue Flag beaches of 30%, the cost of 10%, average summer month hours of sunshine was 10%, the average summer water temperature during was 10% and the number of UNESCO World Heritage sites was 5%.
* Contributing factors:
– Things to do: the number of things to do on each island. Source: TripAdvisor
– Blue Flag Beaches: the number of Blue Flag recognised beaches on each island. Source: blueflag.global
– Budget: the average budget of one person for seven days on each island, excluding flights. In this category, the island with the lowest average budget won the best score. Via: ChampionTraveler
– Hours of sunshine: the average number of hours of sunshine per month in the capital of each island during the summer season. Source: https://www.worldweatheronline.com/
– Water temperature: the average water temperature during the summer months. Source: https://www.seatemperatu.re/
– UNESCO World Heritage Sites: The number of sites recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site on each island. Source: https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/