With millions of people enjoying holidays in the Med every year, it’s hard to believe that there are any unspoilt places left. But, surprisingly, there are parts of the Mediterranean that remain remarkably free of tourist development.
And it’s not because they’re not great places to visit either. The Mediterranean’s quieter islands have fantastic beaches, clean sea and, best of all, peace and quiet. So if you want to get away from the crowds and see what the Med was like before we all went there on holiday, here are five unspoilt islands to try.
Sicily may be just a ferry trip from Naples, but this island is very much its own place. Pushed and pulled between various warring factions throughout its history, Sicily is the Med’s melting pot. Each of the occupying forces has left its mark on the island’s culture, cuisine and architecture.
There’s so much to see and do (and eat) on the island, that it’s hard to do it justice in a few hundred words, but some of the highlights of a holiday here include the ruins at Agrigento and Syracuse, the quaint town of Modica, and the beaches of Mondello, Scopello and San Vito (amongst others). And of course there’s thundering Mount Etna, which is always rumbling, puffing smoke and threatening to blow her top.
If deserted beaches and crystal clear water are what you’re looking for then head to Gavdos. Sitting just off the southern coast of Crete, this is the Med’s most southerly island and, as a result, one of its least touristy.
Aside from swimming and sunbathing, you can enjoy kayaking trips around the island or hikes through the inland pine forests. There are also a couple of small archaeological sites too. Bring food and water if you explore the island, as shops and cafes are pretty thin on the ground. Gavdos is short on accommodation too. Most visitors bring tents and camp near the beach, but you can rent rooms as well.
Île Sainte-Marguerite, France
Only 20 minutes by boat from Cannes, the small island of Île Sainte-Marguerite is a million miles away from the glamour and glitz of the Cannes Film Festival. Or at least for the moment, as F1 team owner, Vijay Mallaya, recently bought the island’s luxury estate, Le Grand Jardin.
Most visitors come to the island to see Fort Royal and the cell where the mysterious Man in the Iron Mask was imprisoned. The fort also houses a youth hostel and the Museum of the Sea. Other attractions include beaches and walks through the pine and eucalyptus woodland that covers the island.
Throughout history Croatia’s greenest island has never been noted for much, which is perhaps why Mljet island remains so unspoilt. Most of the island is covered in Mediterranean pine forest, with small villages, vineyards and fields accounting for the rest.
Places worth visiting include the harbourside villages of Polar and Pomena and the beaches of Saplunara Bay. On the western side of the island is Mljet National Park, which contains two saltwater lakes, Malo Jezero and Veliko Jezero. There is a small island in the middle of the larger lake (Veliko Jezero), which houses a 12th century church and a Benedictine monastery.
Illa de Tagomago, Spain
One of the Med’s few private islands, Illa de Tagomago lies less than a kilometer away from the east coast of Ibiza, one of the world’s most famous party islands. With just one place to stay, a high-end, 5-bedroom, luxury villa, you’re guaranteed the place to yourself. If you can afford the $20,000 a night rental.
Lucky residents can enjoy yoga, a variety of watersports, swimming in the enormous pool or walks across the island. Alternatively, simply lie back and enjoy the view from one of the many strategically placed daybeds and sunloungers. When life gets too slow, the hustle and bustle of Ibiza’s vibrant nightlife is just a short helicopter or boat ride away.