Springtime getaways: 7 top islands in Europe

Aaah, spring! Isn’t it just lovely? 😀 Temperatures are rising, trees and plants are in bloom and the grey from winter makes room for an abundant explosion of color and scents from all kinds of flowers!

Autumn is my favorite season, but spring is right after it, it’s a very tight call. Why do I love it so much, but don’t consider it to be my most favorite season? Well, there is this thing called ‘hay fever’. Trees don’t bother me at all, but those grasses… Damn, they can really mess up a nice walk or having a drink on a sunny terrace! Runny nose, sore throat, itchy eyes… And not just for one day, if you’re really unlucky, you can have these symptoms for months. Usually beginning in May and lasting up to early July. You get out of bed after a good night’s sleep, yet you feel like you are so tired you can drop down on the floor. You do everything you can to make it better: don’t open the windows unless it’s raining, very early in the morning or very late in the evening, don’t drink alcohol, wear sunglasses, use nose sprays and so on. But you can never really avoid it.

Unless! And here is my golden travel tip: you can go to a place where you have all the wonders of spring, but without the side effects. It’s warm, but no too hot. It’s sunny. There is a sea breeze all the time. I’m talking about ISLANDS! Even if it’s just for one week, an island getaway is the best way to enjoy this wonderful season, hay fever or not.

Here is my island top 7 in Europe, they are not only great destinations because of their climate, but also because they have historic background, often due to their location, and Mother Nature has blessed them with an abundance of flowers, plants, trees, beaches and a blue to green sea. Let’s go! 😉

  1. Tenerife (Canary Islands, Spain)

Haa, Tenerife! This island, together with its smaller neighbors Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, La Palma and Lanzarote, enjoys one of the world’s best climates which is why it is often described as the ‘Island of eternal spring’. With an average temperature of 21°C and a variety in landscapes, you can go there if you want to take in the sunlight, go hiking, visit the volcano El Teide in the center of the island and enjoy the Spanish cuisine. It’s not just a great spring destination, you can go there from early spring to November (and even after that). I’ve been there in September 2014 and whenever things get hectic and stressy, my boyfriend and I say to each other: “It’s time to go back to Tenerife!” We had an amazing time here. Interesting fact: we were filmed at the El Teide for a Belgian tv-program about magic. The ‘power of the volcano’ made keys melt in my hand. 😉 More climate info here.

 

  1. Madeira (Portugal)

400 km north from Tenerife, you can find the  “Island of Flowers” or “Garden of the Atlantic” as it is lovingly called. Renowned for its sub-tropical weather, picturesque landscapes and great hiking tours, this Portuguese island has grown to be a favorite destination for nature lovers. Typical for Madeira are the levadas. A levada is an irrigation channel or aqueduct created out of the necessity of bringing large amounts of water from the west and northwest of the island to the drier southeast. An idea brought to Portugal by the Moors. Today they provide a remarkable network of walking paths. Some walks are easy and relaxing, taking you through beautiful countryside while other tours are on narrow, crumbling ledges. The best known Levada walking tours are marked according to international hiking guidelines (PR 1 – PR 19). At the entrance of each path is a panel that informs of traveling distances. More climate info here.

 

  1. Rhodes (Greece)

Having fond memories of a holiday (including a quad trip) to this island, Rhodes just had to be in my list. The largest of the Dodecanese islands in terms of land mass was once famous worldwide for the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Nowadays, its Medieval Old Town (which has been declared a World Heritage Site), great climate, beautiful nature and yes, parties, is what draws people to the island, which is the most visited destination in Greece after Crete (that one just didn’t make this list, but is also a great spring destination). The interior of the island is mountainous and covered with forests of pine and cypress and citrus fruit, grapes, vegetables, olives are grown. With its rocky shores, it’s not the typical beach destination, but the island does have strips of beaches. And oh, the food! Greek cuisine must be my all time favorite, followed by the Spanish and Vietnamese cuisine.

This island is amazing, but I would recommend visiting every single Greek island, as they are all unique in their own way. Going island hopping in Greece is high on my bucket list!

 

  1. Cyprus

Some like it hotter! And because of its location (to the south of Turkey and close to North Africa) that’s what you will get with Cyprus in the Summer months. In Spring however (April, May and June) temperatures range between 21 and 29°C, not too hot to explore the island’s treasures and warm enough to enjoy its beaches. Due to the amount of different civilizations that have ruled here, it has a wealth of fascinating places, so culture lovers will find Cyprus very interesting for its intriguing blend of traditions and historical sites. More climate info here.

 

  1. Malta

Another island that has it all! I’m looking forward going there in May 2017 (at the time of writing this article, just 3 weeks to go!). In Malta’s capital, Valletta, you have artistic and religious treasures, a harbor that makes other Mediterranean harbors jealous and every bus on the islands departs here, so it’s fairly easy to explore the island by public transportation. There are not many ‘real’ beaches, but the beaches Malta does have (such as Golden Sands) are peaceful, idyllic and have tranquil bays with sea temperatures higher than anywhere else in Europe. Unfortunately, a storm in March 2017 destroyed the Azure Window, the most famous landmark of sister island Gozo, but there are still many other places/towns to visit and the Maltese government promised to protect the island better. More climate info here.

Check out the article I wrote about my trip to Malta (in Dutch)!

 

  1. Corsica (France)

L’Île de Beauté or The Isle of Beauty is a hiker’s paradise located southeast of the French mainland, 170 km from the Côte d’Azur, and at least 11 km north of the Italian island of Sardinia. Due to the historical ties with Italy, Corsica still shows many elements of the Italian culture, while in fact being part of the French territory since 1769. A chain of mountains make up two-thirds of the island, making it the most mountainous island in the Mediterranean. It’s also the fourth largest island in the Mediterranean after Sicily, Sardinia and Cyprus.
Why the hiker’s paradise? About 40% (3.500 km2 or 1.400 square miles of the total surface area of 8.680 km2 or 3.350 square miles) of the island is dedicated to a huge nature reserve called Parc Naturel Régional De Corse and the famous GR20, one of Europe’s most notable hiking trails, runs through Corsica. There’s a Mediterranean climate with hot summers and moderate, dry winters, but due to the mountainous nature temparatures vary on the island. The bests months to visit Corsica in Spring are May and June, as March and April can be rainy. More info about getting around here.

 

  1. Sicily (Italy)

And last but not least: Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. During Roman times, the island was turned into an agricultural region. That’s the reason why the central and southwest part of the island are much drier, due to the man-made deforestation. Luckily,  the north has 3 important nature reserves: The Riserva naturale dello zingaro, The Nebrodi Mountains Regional Park and the Bosco della Ficuzza’s Natural Reserve near Palermo. The slopes of Mount Etna, the most famous landmark of the island, are also home to the world’s oldest and largest chestnut tree: The Hundred Horse Chestnut (Castagno dei Cento Cavalli) in Sant’Alfio. If you’re lucky, you might even see the summit of Mount Etna capped in snow when you go in early Spring. And the beaches? In 2015 six Sicilian beaches were awarded the Blue Flag for their waters being among Europe’s cleanest: Porto Paolo (Menfi), Pozzallo and Ispica (Ragusa), Fiumefreddo-Cottone (Catania), Spiaggia Bianca (Lipari) and Marina di Ragusa. More info about the best beaches here.

 

Of course there are many more beautiful islands in Europe and in the world, but you can start with these 7. 🙂

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Islandic greetings 😉

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