Let’s say it out loud: islands are the best! And the Mediterranean has some of the most beautiful destinations to visit this summer, with long sandy beaches, hidden coves with crystal-clear waters, mouthwatering local culinary delights, and easygoing atmospheres.
Incomparable natural beauty
When strolling around the magnificent Old Town of Corfu, you have to constantly remind yourself that you’re indeed in Greece. Over its history, this island has been ruled by several different empires, and all of them have left their mark on the cityscape. Narrow Venetian streets and towering citadels, elegant French gardens, British-style palaces, spellbinding ruins dating back to Homeric times, and all of it with an Ionian Greek flair. This island is the gift that keeps on giving for lovers of history and culture.
After the obligatory exploration of all the must-sees such as the Old Fortress and iconic Spianada Square, dig a little deeper inside the thrilling cultural side of the town for a genuine Corfu experience. The Archaeological Museum of Corfu provides a fascinating trip into the past, the Museum of Asian Art of Corfu combines a superb collection with splendid British-built palatial interiors, and the Casa Parlante Museum opens a window onto aristocratic life in the 19th century.
Then, of course, there’s Corfu as an idyllic beach destination. Although popular with package holiday-goers, the island is far from the busiest place in the Mediterranean. Everyone can find something for themselves here, and there are plenty of Blue Flag beaches, quiet fishing villages, and attractive harbour towns. The landscapes are dramatic, with mountains in the north, an abundance of olive groves, and wineries around the island.
How about a tranquil escape with long walks and savouring local food? Paleokastritsa in the western part of the island is perfect for that. Barbati in the east boasts a long Blue Flag beach and astounding mountain vistas. Head to Liapades if you’re into stunning coves and hidden beaches. To go fully remote, there’s the fantastic double beach at Porto Timoni. You’re sure to find a coastline that’s ideal for you!
Naturally, the cinematic allure of Corfu has beckoned filmmakers for decades. For example, the 1981 James Bond instalment For Your Eyes Only was shot here, and so was the long-running British series The Durrells.
A true taste of life
As the largest of the Greek islands, Crete is a stunning affair. It gives you a true taste of life that’s filled with turquoise waters, thrilling landscapes, friendly people, and a rich history. Also the birthplace of the captivating Minoan civilisation, Crete is a picture-perfect Greek escape that’s all yours to explore.
First come the cities. Heraklion is a mecca for ancient history buffs. Although the Minoan Palace of Knossos is a popular attraction, it’s nevertheless worth a visit for the scale of its ancient architecture. Knossos is also steeped in legend – according to Greek mythology, this was the site of the labyrinth where the Minotaur was held upon the orders of King Minos. The creature was eventually defeated by the hero Theseus. Even without the fables, the site is an impressive visit that provides a fascinating look at how the Minoans lived.
With more than a thousand kilometres of coastline, Crete is definitely one of the most precious European beach destinations. The island’s size also means more choice, with everything from big tourist resorts to traditional villages with few people around. It’s the latter that gives visitors the opportunity to encounter the authentic soul of the island complete with exceptional Mediterranean cuisine, improvised songs called mantinades, and unspoiled nature. Have the pleasure of a true Greek break by booking a stone house in scenic Sfakia, mountainous Anogia, or remote Palaiochora.
And then there’s the wine. A surprising fact for many visitors is that Crete is a great destination for oenophiles and produces some of the best wines in Greece. Vineyards dot the landscape in the northern part of the island near historic Chania. Be sure to take a tasting tour of the local wineries that grow the Romeiko variety of grape, which serves as the basis for red Marouvas wine, an essential local try. Head to the Manousakis Winery for scenic tastings on a terrace. Another great pick near Chania is the Dourakis Winery in the foothills of the White Mountains.
Experience the diversity
Adriatic perfection awaits in Krk, the biggest of the Croatian islands and one of the most easily reachable, too. By flying to Rijeka International Airport, you’re arriving directly on Krk, because the airport is located on the island. After that, it’s all white karst rocks, pine-shaded bays, azure waters, and windswept towns that are part-Venice, part-Austro-Hungary, but always pretty and welcoming.
Excellent road infrastructure and connection to the mainland by a mighty bridge allow you to really be in two places at the same time. On one hand, you can experience all the pleasures of island life as you savour the slow travel from village to village and visiting new beaches every day. On the other hand, you can always opt for the vibrancy of Rijeka, which is an important Croatian port boasting wide avenues and terraced restaurants. It’s the perfect combination for a diversified holiday.
Krk town is the crown jewel of the island – a miniature Dubrovnik minus the crowds. Its narrow streets all end at the sea, the coffee shops are located on tiny squares, and medieval walls encircle the historical core of the town. On the other side of the island you’ll find Vrbnik, which is a smaller, Croatian answer to the perched villages of Cinque Terre in Italy. There’s a special treat, too, because the town is home to the narrowest street in the country. Klančić is only 40 centimetres wide and is definitely a cute thing to see.
Rejoice, foodies! With an abundance of fresh produce, varied local cuisine, and affordability, Krk is a quintessential gastronomic destination. Start with the olive oil, which is home-grown on the island and forms the basis for everything else. Then you have fantastic cheeses, such as presnac made from sheep’s milk. Krčki pršut, a Croatian prosciutto-like smoked ham, is a must-try. And so are the mouthwatering seafood dishes, such as sardine-and-potato casserole and grilled calamari. Krk is a feast, and you’re definitely invited!
As for taking a dip in crystalline waters, head to Oprna Bay nestled among the gentle rocky hills, lounge on the pebbles of the long Baška Beach with some of the cleanest water around, and catch the sun’s rays at the striking Kozica Cove.
Full of discoveries
One of the most intriguing of all the Italian destinations, Sardinia is in a league of its own when it comes to the beauty of nature, the whiteness of the sandy beaches, the might of the snow-covered mountain peaks, and the unforgettable flavour of the local food. It boasts everything you’d expect from a Mediterranean retreat and then ups the expectations by delivering more. Sardinia has its own regional language, a distinct culture, and lots of authenticity throughout.
Olbia, a gateway to splendid northeastern Sardinia, is where one holidays in style. The towns around here – such as Porto Cervo, Liscia di Vacca, and Golfo Pevero – are Sardinia’s answer to the French Riviera, with equally stunning looks, an abundance of yachts in picturesque bays, high society drawn to chic beach clubs, and an elegant lightness in the air. Don’t miss Palau up north, which has a quaint promenade and a boatlink to the spectacular Maddalena archipelago, another must-visit.
Also, let’s not forget that Sardinia isbig. The second-largest island in the Mediterranean even has hundreds of kilometres of railway tracks. And this is where it gets magical. A trenino verde, or ‘green train’, is one of those attractions that are hidden in plain sight, but once you’ve found it, it’s an amazing reward. The historical trains run on five different routes, and the scenery from the windows is hands-down gorgeous. The trains slowly pass through the Sardinian wilderness, traditional villages, and lush forests. They’re a traveller’s dream.
If you feel you need a break, why not try something different for accommodation? Sardinia has you covered with a wide array of agriturismo properties scattered around the island. Find them next to the sea, amongst the fields, overlooking mountains, or in the shade of trees. Renting one will give you the tranquillity of the countryside and lots of fresh air.
For big-city life, there’s always colourful Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia, which sports cinematic looks, a cosy medieval labyrinth in the Old Town, a seaside promenade dotted with palm trees and luxurious hotels, and an excellent choice of restaurants serving tempting seafood dishes.
Read more about authentic travel experiences in Baltic Outlook.
Text by Pavlo Fedykovych