European Island Finder
  1. T+L

European Island Finder

What’s your pleasure: a deserted beach or a tanned throng? The soothing warmth of the Mediterranean or the Baltic’s bracing chill? T+L’s selective guide gives you all of the above.

Greece: Santorini

Whitewashed buildings, blue-domed
churches, fiery sunsets. If this is starting to sound familiar, it’s because Santorini is what Jung would have called the archetypal island, the one we
all share in our collective unconscious. Santorini, however, is not the place to delve into psychological theory. Here the pleasures are of the flesh—vineyard-hopping; hiking; swimming off a black-sand beach—and of the senses. Indeed, the main activity on Santorini is gazing: at the horizon as you float in the pool at Perivolas, the minimalist-chic resort in the village of Oia; at a fiery sunset from the deck chair you had the foresight to reserve at Franco’s Bar, in Fira; at the moon’s reflection in the sea from
a table at Oia’s Ambrosia Restaurant. From the moment first-time visitors step off the boat, climb off the donkey, or exit the funicular, Santorini feels familiar. That is what makes the island so romantic. Like true love, when you find it, you realize it was exactly what you were waiting for. —Eleni Gage


France: Corsica

There are two Corsicas: the glamorous, sun-blasted island of seaside resorts and boldface names, and the misty, steep land of the mountains. Porto-Vecchio and Bonifacio are part of the first Corsica—mauve Mediterranean waters filled with winking and nodding yachts, white-sand beaches, plentiful restaurants, and fish that’s bracingly fresh, like a slap in the face that returns you to consciousness (try it at a seaside table at Catina Grill, in Bonifacio). Yet no matter how white and soft the sand, how temperate the sea, and how warm and steady the sun, the reality of the mountains is never far away. In the heart of the island are innumerable waterfalls and rock pools, raging rivers that look
like molten aluminum, and the interior’s most photographed natural wonder, the Col de Bavella, an expanse of otherworldly granite needles with no apparent evolutionary purpose save the triggering of fear and trembling. But Corsica is no
place to be wimpy, not a place to be prim or shy. It’s a place to get drenched, it’s a place to be exhausted, it’s a place to be just
a little less civilized than you normally are. —Scott Spencer


Italy: Sardinia

Sardinia is the ur-beach
vacation spot for Italians, who are the masters of seaside lounging. The second-largest island in the Mediterranean, it’s small enough to drive across in half a day, large enough to provide some mystery, if that’s what you’re looking for. But you’ll always be close to a beach and a hotel and a tanned Italian enjoying them. Destination No. 1 for Sardinian vacationers is the Maddalena Archipelago, northeast of the main island. It consists of seven mostly uninhabited islands: an encyclopedia of blues—azure to midnight—and a dictionary of beaches. At Spargi there’s a giant rock that looks like a bulldog—you can climb up and dive from it—and Manto della Madonna has some of the clearest water in the Mediterranean. To be honest, the beaches all kind of blend together, each more perfect than the last. The 45-room Coluccia Hotel & Beach Club, in the small
town of Santa Teresa di Gallura, is ideal for couples
who crave undisturbed together time and can handle tough decisions, such as whether to sunbathe by the free-form pool, take a boat to Maddalena Island for a lobster lunch at La Grotta restaurant, or build sandcastles beside the sea.
Devin Friedman


Croatia: Hvar

Hvar is the latest of the famous
international playgrounds, heir to that noble lineage running from Cannes and Capri through St. Bart’s
and South Beach. It’s so relentlessly gorgeous it makes your eyes ache: the harbor edged with bougainvillea, the exquisitely aged Renaissance façades, the nonstop parade of caramelized torsos. You could spend a month in tiny Hvar Town and never tire of the daily routine. At the morning market, Claudia Cardinale look-alikes rub shoulders with black-cloaked biddies shopping for figs. As the sun climbs higher, breakfast seamlessly merges with lunch (try the buttery spaghetti with lobster at Macondo). At twilight the crowd congregates at Carpe Diem,
a club whose cushioned stools are occupied by couples paying
with Credit Suisse platinum cards. If you left your mega-yacht
in St.-Tropez, hole up at the swank Adriana Hvar Spa Hotel,
whose best rooms overlook the marina. —Peter Jon Lindberg


Sweden: Gotland

Gotland looks pretty and wholesome—rose-covered cottages; Gothic churches; green pastures—but this is Sweden’s island of hidden hedonism. Every July a wave of hip young Stockholmers transforms the sleepy medieval town of Visby into that rarest of things: a Unesco World Heritage site with a kicking party scene. Within its 13th-century walls, restaurants serving cutting-edge Nordic cuisine sit alongside old-fashioned bakeries selling cinnamon buns. Lazy days are spent on blond beaches surrounded by blond people; long summer twilights strolling Visby’s cobblestoned streets (stop for a glass
of rosé under the evening sky at café-bar Vinäger). Dinner might
be a classic fish dish in the simple white-tiled room at Bakfickan,
or a riff on modern Swedish cuisine—grilled Baltic turbot with browned butter, beets, and horseradish, say—on the terrace
of 50 Kvadrat. Later, take your pick of the summer-only clubs, such as Gutekällaren, which pulls in big Swedish musical
acts. The best hotels are away from Visby. Fabriken Furillen, in the northeast, pairs luxury (Hästens beds; Bang & Olufsen electronics) with a starkly beautiful postindustrial setting. Or head south to the eight-room Djupvik Hotel. With its white chaise longues lined up by the pool, it looks as if it stopped in Gotland en route to some Greek isle and decided to stay. —Stephen Whitlock


Portugal: Azores

It’s a mystery to me how the nine islands of the Azores, warmed by the Gulf Stream, have eluded travelers. Flung out into the mid-Atlantic, far from their parent country of Portugal, the islands retain an old-world authenticity that is hard to find elsewhere in the world. Having spent summers there as a child, I recall a landscape striped with vineyards and carpeted in wildflowers, and a people who welcome everyone—not just a local girl like me—as their own. On my trips back, I like to rent a bike and explore the lush island of São Miguel like it’s my first time. I’ll fill my flask with mineral-rich spring water that flows from aquifers belowground, then stop along the route at the Furnas, a popular natural hot spring, or at the rustic Ribeira Quente beach. In my basket are fresh sardines to grill at one of the roadside picnic areas.

But São Miguel isn’t all just bucolic countryside. Ponta Delgada has a raucous nightlife scene during summer, especially when the Senhor Santo Cristo Festa is on. To make the most of it, start your evening with an
ice cream cone from a parlor on the marina, then catch the
huge procession in honor of the statue of Christ discovered in the bay by fishermen in 1522.
Nelly Furtado


Estonia: Muhu

Until 1991, Muhu, a small island in the Baltic sea, was part of the “border zone” between the Soviet Union and the rest of the world. No one—not even Estonians—could travel to the area without a visa. Even since it became part of the European Union, the island has seen few visitors. We
can thank that isolation for the loveliness of Pädaste Manor hotel, whose origins go back to the 16th century. It is one
of the few manor houses in Estonia that wasn’t neglected and crowded out by corn silos and apartment blocks during the Soviet era. Staying at Pädaste, you can project yourself into a fantasy in which it is your own ancestral estate. The series of low stone cottages and a main house are arranged around a beautiful quad, and thick old trees sway high above the lawn, which is intersected by paths that lead to a gate and the shore of the Baltic. At the hotel’s Sea House restaurant, get into the carnivorous, hunter-gatherer vibe by ordering the roasted and dried ostrich or the moose carpaccio—like pork but smokier and gamier. The landscape seems like a Dutch Renaissance painting, with its iridescent green grass, pale light, and calm if slightly ominous water in the distance. The stillness of it all is especially striking during sunset, the distant shore dark with trees, the streaks of pink light playing on the water. —Thomas Beller


Spain: Formentera

Formentera, the sleepy
little sister of Ibiza, is caught
in an endearing 1970’s time warp.
Its counterculture vibe is so laid back you’ll be grateful that it has resisted development for so long. Though the 10-mile-long, bone-shaped stretch of white sand
and crystalline shallows is just a quick boat ride away from Ibiza, Formentera has no clubs, no traffic, no glitz. All you need to be a part of the “action” is a swimsuit and a rented scooter to zip around the narrow lanes. Swim, snorkel, nap: that’s the mantra. Between those lazy activities, visitors gather at local landmark Restaurante Juan y Andrea, a tented sprawl of wooden tables set beside the glassy Mediterranean, where stylish Spaniards sample giant prawns a la plancha or
platters of lobster paella. Sunset worship is another ritual, a mellow affair at the ramshackle-glam Blue Bar, on Playa Mitjorn, where the caipirinhas are strong and the tapas spectacular. On Sundays, Jade Jagger types trawl the flea market at La Mola in search
of handmade silver and bronze jewelry by native islander Enric Majoral. For less tumbledown luxury, stay at one of 28 sand-colored rooms at newly revamped Gecko Beach Club, overlooking the turquoise shallows at Playa Mitjorn. —Lanie Goodman



Getting There

Olympic Air and
Aegean Airlines both fly
the 45-minute hop to Santorini from Athens.

Stay

Perivolas Oia; 30-22860/71308; perivolas.gr; doubles
from $579.

Eat

Ambrosia Restaurant Order the grilled octopus in fava purée. Oia; 30-22860/71413; restaurant-ambrosia.com; dinner for two $135.

Franco’s Bar Fira; 30-22860/24428; francos.gr; drinks for
two $28.

Expert

T+L A-List agent Christos Stergiou can arrange
private wine tastings, sailing trips, and other unique experiences. 800/817-7098; info@truegreece.com.



Getting There

Air France and Air Corsica fly
from Nice—less than an hour away—to the island’s four airports.

Stay

Great Value A Pignata Family-owned hotel and restaurant
in a restored farmhouse in the mountains above Porto-Vecchio. Route du Pianu, Levie; 33-4/95-
78-41-90; apignata.com; doubles from $138.

Grand Hôtel de Cala Rossa The aesthetic here is Perfectionism: the knowledge of what will be
most pleasing and functional to
the hotel’s deep-pocketed guests. Porto-Vecchio; 33-4/95-71-61-51;
cala-rossa.com; doubles from
$400, including breakfast.

Eat

Cantina Grill 3 Quai Banda
del Ferro, Bonifacio; 33-4/95-70-49-86; cantinagrill.fr; lunch for
two $56.

Le Calenzana (Chez Michel) Simple Corsican cuisine, including the
house specialty, lamb cooked in a wood-burning oven, in a picturesque mountain village. 7 Cours St.-Blaise, Calenzana; 33-4/95-62-70-25;
dinner for two $49.

Expert

Claudia Gordon, with Betty Maclean Travel, is a Corsica specialist who can arrange vineyard visits, rental homes, and yacht charters. 800/865-8111 or 239/513-0333; claudia@bettymacleantravel.com; consulting fee from $200.



Getting There

Alitalia flies the hour or so
from both Milan and Venice
to the Olbia–Costa Smeralda
airport. Santa Teresa di
Gallura is an hour away by car.

Stay

Coluccia Hotel & Beach
Club
Località Conca Verde,
Santa Teresa di Gallura;
39-0789/758-004; lacoluccia.eu; doubles from $358;
open May–September.

Hotel Cala di Volpe The
most famous and most
exclusive hotel on the island.
Porto Cervo, Costa Smeralda;
800-325-3589 or 39-0789/976-111; starwoodhotels.com;
doubles from $1,102; open
May–October.

Eat

Da Tonino Superb waterfront
dining on Tavolara Island,
a limestone massif offshore
from Olbia. 39-0798/40022;
lunch for two $69;
open May–September.

Ristorante La Grotta Maddalena Island; 39-0789/737-228; lagrotta.it;
lunch for two $167;
open June–September.

Expert

Italy specialist Margot
Cushing
knows Sardinia well
and can help tailor a trip
to the island. 800/808-6237
or 212/784-0259; margot.cushing@frosch.com;
consulting fee from $300.



Getting There

Fly to Split, on the
mainland, then
take the one-hour
catamaran trip to
Hvar (jadrolinija.hr).

Stay

Adriana Hvar Spa
Hotel
Fabrika;
385-21/750-200;
suncanihvar.com;
doubles from $275.

Eat

Macondo Groda;
385-21/742-850;
lunch for two $80;
open April–October.

Drink

Carpe Diem Riva;
385-21/742-369;
carpe-diem-hvar.com; drinks for
two $25; open
May–September.

Expert

Let A-List agent Andrea Sertoli help plan your
Dalmatian itinerary;
he can charter
boats, locate private
beaches, and
identify the handful
of good hotels.
800/877-1755;
andrea@selectitaly.com; consulting
fee from $100.



Getting There

Swedish airlines Skyways and
Gotlandsflyg fly
to Gotland from Stockholm; the trip takes 45 minutes.

Stay

Djupvik Hotel 233 Eksta Bopparve,
Klintehamn;
46-498/244-272;
djupvikhotel.com; doubles from
$350, including
breakfast.

Fabriken Furillen Lärbro; 46-498/223-040; furillen.nu;
doubles from
$270; open
April–September.

Eat

Bakfickan 1 Stora
Torget, Visby;
46-498/271-807;
bakfickan-visby.nu; dinner for
two $70; closed
February.

50 Kvadrat 15 S:T
Hansplan, Visby;
46-498/278-380;
50kvadrat.se;
dinner for two $317;
open mid April–
mid September.

Drink

Gutekällaren 3 Lilla Torggränd,
Visby; 46-498/210-043; gutekallaren.com; drinks for
two $32; open June–August.

Vinäger 4 Hästgatan, Visby; 46-498/211-168;
drinks for two $13; open May–August.

Expert

Carol Arklind,
one of T+L’s A-List agents, has
suggestions for
day trips around
Gotland by bike.
858/551-4000;
arktravel@cadencetravel.com; consulting
fee from $150.



Getting There

The São Miguel airport is about
two miles from the center of Ponta Delgada. There is daily service
from Lisbon, about two hours away,
on TAP Portugal and SATA; the
latter also has nonstop flights from Boston and Oakland, California.

Stay

Great Value Casa do Monte A stately pink mansion on a
hill overlooking the Atlantic that’s
been in the same family for
three centuries. Santo António
Além Capelas; 351/296-298-144;
virtualazores.com/monte; doubles
from $63.

Great Value Quinta da Mó Roosters awaken you at dawn
at this former farm with four
houses set in tranquil gardens
within walking distance of the
Furnas. Furnas; 351/917-800-281; quintadamo.com; doubles
from $187, two-night minimum.

Eat

O Gato Mia Of course you have
to try the bacalhau (salt cod)
at this creekside favorite, but the
fresh octopus salad is also delicious. Ribeira Grande; 351/296-479-420; ogatomia.com; dinner for two $55.

Expert

Nuno Tavares, a travel agent specializing in Portugal, was born
in the Azores and can set up
tours, activities, and meals at off-the-radar local restaurants. 351/213-904-208; nuno.tavares@toursforyou.pt; consulting fee from $150.



Getting There

There are no direct flights from
the United States to Tallinn, Estonia, but you can connect on Finnair, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, and others. The drive to Muhu takes 2 1/2 hours from Tallinn, followed by a 20-minute ferry crossing (laevakompanii.ee)

Stay

Pädaste Manor Muhu; 011-372/454-8800; padaste.ee; doubles from $267; dinner for two
$158; open March–October.

Expert

Mariana Fisher at Exeter International, an agency specializing in Eastern Europe,
is savvy about the Baltics
and particularly fond of Muhu. 813/251-5355; mariana@exeterinternational.com;
consulting fee from $200.



Getting There

You’ll find frequent flights to Ibiza from
Barcelona, Madrid,
and cities throughout Europe. From
there, the ferry to
Formentera takes about 30 minutes
(balearia.com).

Stay

Great Value Gecko Beach Club 34/97-132-8024; geckobeachclub.com; doubles from $216.

Eat

Restaurante Juan y Andrea Playa Illetas;
34/97-118-7130;
juanyandrea.com;
lunch for two $139.

Drink

Blue Bar Playa
Mitjorn
; 34/66-675-8190; bluebarformentera.com;
drinks for two $30.

10.7 Formerly called Vista y Sol, the pioneering beachside bar and restaurant is still stylish. Playa Migjorn; 34/97-132-8485; 10punto7.com;
drinks for two $28.

Expert

Virginia Irurita,
a Spain specialist
and T+L A-List
agent, arranges
tours and has tips
on the best beaches
and restaurants.
34/61-654-1626; virginia@madeforspain.com; consulting fee from $137.

Sponsored Content
More from T+L
Advertisement
Advertisement