The i-escape blog / Michael Cullen

By Michael Cullen, Director

We’re always on the hunt for beautiful, little-known boltholes beyond the crowds, with creature comforts, fab food and smiling service guaranteed. These 5 idyllic European islands should hit the spot: harder to reach, but worth every effort.

 Sveti Klement, Croatia

the i-escape blog | 5 secret European islands you probably haven't heard of | Sveti Klement, Pakleni Islands, Croatia

Where? This semi-inhabited car-free island, shaped like a twelve-fingered hand, lies 50km from Split and a 15-minute boat ride from bustling Hvar. And yet it feels a world away.

Why? For sheltered turquoise coves fringed with green pines and a few fish taverns; total silence and solitude; few beaches, but crystal-clear seas for swimming and snorkelling.

Stay: Nearest to civilisation is Palmizana (above, on the right) with a deep inlet where boats anchor for lunch and swim, and a lovely boho-chic hotel-restaurant. A short sail further is Vlaka bay: a few cottages, some fields and the delightful Fisherman’s House for grilled seafood, sea kayaks and simple comfy rooms. Still too busy for you? Towards the far tip of the island you’ll find a stunning eco-house with 4 bedrooms, a sleek living-dining-kitchen, tons of outdoor space, and a friendly boatman to take you shopping and watersporting. Perfect for a family-style Robinson-Crusoe adventure.


 Salina, Italy

the i-escape blog | 5 secret European islands you probably haven't heard of | Salina, Aeolian Islands, Italy

Where? In the Aeolian Islands, north of Sicily, to which it is connected by ferry (around 2 hours from Milazzo port).

Why? For eye-popping volcanic landscapes, black-sand beaches, verdant orchards and terraces, delicious wines and granita, and glimpses of sparking Stromboli at night.

Stay: the top-dollar pick is Capofaro, a stunning boutique resort in a working vineyard with an old lighthouse, a huge decked pool, pampering spa treatments, superb Mediterranean cuisine, and 27 whitewashed rooms and suites. More affordable, but still super-welcoming and stylish, is Hotel Signum, tucked above the languid village of Malfa, with a big pool, fragrant gardens, inspiring sea views and a black-sand beach just below.


 Andros, Greece

the i-escape blog | 5 secret European islands you probably haven't heard of | Onar, Andros, Cyclades Islands, Greece

Where? The northernmost – and one of the largest – of the Cyclades islands, it is 100 km or a 2-hour ferry ride from Athens: strangely overlooked given its promixity to the capital, but the lack of an airport has kept it pristine.

Why? For unspoiled sandy beaches (especially along the rugged east coast), ancient terraced valleys with freshwater streams, fishing villages and mountain hamlets, cliffside monasteries and a handsome Neoclassical capital town.

Stay: There are plenty of guesthouses along the west coast, but we prefer to head over the watershed and down to the remote and idyllic beach of Achlas. Here, tucked among oleander groves, lies a cluster of stone-built cottages (sleeping 2-5) called Onar – an ancient word for ‘dream’- which we think is very fitting. Pure reverie.


 La Palma, Canary Islands

the i-escape blog | 5 secret European islands you probably haven't heard of | La Palma, Canary IslandsWhere? The outermost of the Canary Islands, 500km off west Africa in the Atlantic, La Palma has a small airport (Madrid 3 hours, London 4.5 hrs) – but thankfully none of the mass resorts or turnstyle flights of Tenerife et al.

Why? A volcanic eruption caused tragedy and devastation on La Palma in 2021, but among the rubble emerged opportunity. Volcano tours are now the island’s top tourist attraction, taking you up close to the wild and dramatic scene of the eruption. Go on ridgewalks, discover newly formed beaches and natural pools, and see how the lava has helped vineyards to flourish.

Stay: A few small resorts have sprung up along the west coast, but we prefer the pretty inland villages of El Paso and Los Canarios. Here you can book a graceful 3-bedroom house for the price of a boxy bedroom in Bognor. Our favourites are The Old Music School and Casa Los Geranios, the former with a heated pool, the latter with a separate 1-bedroom suite in case you want to bring the grandparents.


 Colonsay, Scotland

the i-escape blog | 5 secret European islands you probably haven't heard of | Colonsay, Hebrides Islands, Scotland

Where? Midway between Islay and Mull in the Scottish Hebrides, this 15-square-mile island is connected by ferry (2.5 hours) and occasional flights to Oban, on Scotland’s west coast.

Why? For windswept watery horizons, beautiful blond beaches, spectacular sailing and sea kayaking, bird watching and trout fishing; plus a ruined priory, a brewery and a golf course. Of course.

Stay: there’s only one hotel on the island, fittingly named The Colonsay – so no need to pick and choose. No need to worry either: it’s an utterly charming country house with a fine seafood restaurant, a sociable bar (the hub of the island), a cosy library-cum-living room, and 9 arts-and-craftsy bedrooms.

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