6 Islands That Might Surprise You

So we all know Ibiza is the party island for 20-somethings and that Mallorca’s Palma airport is packed in peak summer with package deal tourists, but with a little extra local inside info,  you may want to reconsider some of the most popular European Islands for your next get-away-from-it-all getaway!

We show you the parts of these islands some holidaymakers never get to see…

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Ibiza

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The charge: Whilst the population remains low at only 11,000, the island is bombarded with 4 million tourists each year looking for a good time attracted by its dusk to dawn party scene. In the mornings you’ll find hungover clubbers on the beaches sporting bright pink sunburn.

The defence: To the locals Ibiza is known as the Island of Pine trees. Surprisingly, half of the island is covered in a carpet of unspoilt woods, especially in the northeast.  Take a car and follow the winding roads through lines of almond trees and fig groves. Or if you’ve brought your walking boots or can rent a bike, join the hikers and cyclists enjoying the fresh “green” air – it’s not surprising that there are more than a few peaceful yoga retreats in the north.

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Mallorca

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The charge: The first place I think of if someone mentions “party” and “Mallorca” in the same sentence is…yep!…Magaluf.  Sun, sea and a LOT of partying. As a result, huge numbers of garish high-rise hotels have popped up all along parts of the coast.

The defence: The beautiful historical centre of Palma seems worlds away from the south coast’s high-rise hotels – and it’s one of the prettiest capitals of any European island.  Lose yourself in the twisting lanes, medieval architecture and the tree-lined boulevards. If you don’t fancy staying in the city, head out to the beautiful countryside full of charming villages and orchards and nearby pebble beaches.

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Lanzarote

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The charge: You’ll have to get up early to get a sun bed.

The defence: Locally, it is known as the Isla de los Volcanoes which isn’t far from the truth as you’ll find a mighty 300 volcanic cones across the island! This unique terrain is beautiful, strange and far from what is expected when you picture Lanzarote. Hire a car and drive across the small island and you’ll never quite know whether you’re there, in Africa, Hawaii or the moon – its arid, ash-strewn landscape is quite “other wordly”! At lunchtime stop for a glass of wine grown from black, lava soil (some of the island’s wines are award-winning).

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Rhodes

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The charge: Busy in peak season, with brash families taking over the island.

The defence: Rhodes does get really busy but the key word here is ‘big’. Simply explore a bit further than the well-known resorts like Faliraki and you’ll feel like you’ve discovered a whole new island.

Head to the world Heritage-listed old town and you’ll find yourself lost in the maze of old streets or amazed by the medieval fortifications. Once you’ve had enough of the sites take a trip to your own private beach (well, so deserted you’ll feel like it is!)

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Cyprus

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The charge: Cyprus has been described as ‘Brits abroad in the sunshine, with lots of expats mingling with the rest of the fake tanned, happy hour drinking tourists.

The defence: This island offers a beautiful blend of western European culture whilst looking towards the shores of Turkey, Lebanon and Syria giving it a hint of the exotic. Many parts of the island have a magical feel, steeped in history, with quiet beaches.

The western region has some lovely remote beaches such as Lara Beach and small villages with snaking streets and fig trees and there’s so much more explore – you’ll get a lot out of renting a car if you have a couple of days spare for island sightseeing.

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Crete

The charge: Mass tourism from the Brits have battered the character out of this Island leaving it covered in grey concrete and tacky souvenir shops.

The defence: An island actually full of history and stories, this is the birthplace of the king of the Greek gods, Zeus. Away from the high-rise hotels you’ll find mountains sliced by gorges and hills rolling with herbs and orchards.  And Crete-meets-Venice town Chania is one of the most picturesque little towns you’ll ever capture on your iPhone.

For some history, visit the town of Rethymno in the west, which is home to a spectacular fortress surrounded by Venetian and Ottoman houses in the old quarter. Here the locals are still very proud of their island and this sense of nationalism radiates.

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