White sandy beaches, perfect sunsets and crystal blue water. When picturing the ideal holiday destination, the island escape is usually what we imagine. But far from heading to the Caribbean or the Maldives, the mediterranean has some of the most stunning destinations in the world.
This list is not designed to be definitive, or all-inclusive, but instead to inspire you perhaps to expand your options and explore a little more of what the med has to offer.
If you want real luxury, you won’t do much better than Sardinia.
Sardinia’s beaches have long been prized by the rich and famous, Berlusconi’s gaudy 68-room mega-villa springs to mind, but there’s good reason. Unlike many beaches, and especially those on the Italian mainland, beaches on Sardinia are relatively untouched - with large patches open to the public rather than overtaken by hotels and restaurants.
You will see your fair share of yachts, and like on Capri, there are local shopping options to cater for the very deepest pockets. While many hotels and villas can reach eye-watering price tags, there are plenty of options so shop around.
Alternatively, there’s Cavallo. A small island near Corsica, it shares Sardinia’s untouched beaches and discrete luxury. There are only a dozen or so beaches and a couple of places to eat, but if you want your own hidden slice of luxury, this is one of the better kept secrets in the region.
If you desire a culture hit to accompany your luxury escape, you’re spoilt for choice in Sicily. From incredibly well preserved Roman mosaics to ancient Greek and Phoenician ruins, you’ll find some of the most extensive surviving examples from antiquity. Bringing it more up to date are the great middle age cathedrals of Cefalu and Monreale, the Chapel of Palermo, and the preserved baroque architecture you can find in towns like Catania and Noto.
With golden sandy beaches and many towns all different in character, Mallorca is an island with many sides. Taking the tram into the mountains, or finding one of the quieter beaches are two of many secrets this well-known island has to offer. Perhaps lesser known are the many stunning villas, both near to the sea and the many yachts, and more inland, surrounded by old farmland. There are many old towns worth visiting, and spots with a wide range of fresh seafood every day.
For nightlife in the mediterranean, there can obviously be only one winner. But as well as many many beautiful villas available to rent in season, the Old Town offers a different taste to the island. Quite literally so in fact, as there are actually many fine restaurants to sample a little way away from the strip of San Antonio.
A little south of Ibiza sits Formentera. Lesser known than its sister island, Formentera’s famous gentle transparent seas may trick you into thinking you’ve left Europe. The island has grown in popularity in recent years, so bear this in mind if you want somewhere secluded, but for views like these, and the ubiquitous and delicious daily catch fresh from the grill make it worthwhile.
Santorini has to be seen to be believed, and make sure to bring your sunglasses. The endless rows of immaculate alabaster buildings, all perched carefully like pearls along the mountainside, is the definition of romantic. Forget a city break in Paris or Rome, Santorini at dusk, for example at Oia or Thirasia is the thing dreams are made of.
For another side of the famous island, head to the Turkish north for a real taste of mediterranean history. Here you’ll find Roman ruins alongside Byzantine and Venetian castles. On the Greek side island, you’ll find more Roman ruins in Pathos and ancient wall paintings, to give you a cultural fix in-between relaxing back at the villa.
For something a little different, head to the unspoilt northern coast of Zakynthos to escape the busier sides of island life. You could also visit the mountainous west of the island for stunning views and a different taste on what has become an overdeveloped holiday destination in other parts of the island.