The Top 15 Islands in Europe
European culture, history, and food only get better when paired with the relaxation quotient of an island. The spectacular coastlines of the best islands in Europe — five of which were also voted among the 15 best islands in the world — showcase a wide range of terrains, from craggy volcanic cliffs to feather-soft sand.
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, Travel + Leisure asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated islands according to their activities and sights, natural attractions and beaches, food, friendliness, and overall value.
Related: The World's Best Awards 2019
Greece rules this list with four islands: Santorini, Páros (last year’s No. 1 pick), Crete, and this year’s winner. Crete (No. 2), the largest of the Greek islands, offers the most diverse attractions. Rent a car and drive its winding mountain roads, passing seemingly endless olive groves and stopping in tiny villages where local grocers sell just-picked figs and freshly gathered eggs — before arriving at one of its many magical beaches. The island’s Minoan history and natural beauty make every day an adventure of visitors’ choosing. The decidedly less-wild Santorini (No. 5), famous for its sunsets and whitewashed buildings, has several five-star hotels, while diminutive Páros — cruise ships can’t enter its harbor — offers an intimate chance to explore off the beaten path.
Four of Italy’s islands made this list, including the lesser-known, UNESCO-protected Lipari and the Aeolian Islands (No. 10). The archipelago, located 50 miles off the northern coast of Sicily, feels isolated in the best way possible — all the better to explore its vineyards, lemon groves, dormant volcanoes, archeological sites, and lovely beaches.
Whether you’re looking for excitement or to disconnect, each of these islands offers a chance for a deep exhale — and all have food, accommodations, histories, and vistas you will remember long after you return home.
15. Orkney Islands, Scotland
13. Skye and the Hebrides, Scotland
12. Mallorca, Spain
11. Ischia, Italy
10. Lipari and the Aeolian Islands, Italy
9. Sardinia, Italy
8. Madeira, Portugal
7. Hvar and the Dalmatian Islands, Croatia
6. Sicily, Italy
5. Santorini, Greece
WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 88.53
4. Páros, Greece
3. Azores, Portugal
2. Crete, Greece
1. Mílos, Greece
One of the Cyclades, Mílos is known as the place where the famed Venus de Milo statue was discovered. But visitors today still find their own treasures while exploring this 58-square-mile island. Stroll its cobblestoned streets, hike volcanic craters, wander through ruins, or stretch out on the groomed white-sand beaches overlooking turquoise waters. Even the largest town, Adamantas, which has two museums and a multitude of boutique hotels, remains largely free of the crowds prevalent on the other Greek isles. And, as one fan pointed out, “it’s very affordable.” For embodying the finest qualities that European islands have to offer, T+L readers attest that one can do no better.
See all of our readers' favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2019.