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.
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
4. Páros, Greece
3. Azores, Portugal
2. Crete, Greece
1. Mílos, Greece
Source: Travel & Leisure