Looking for a sunny, relaxing European experience? Set your sights on a Mediterranean tour for a taste of island life. Whether you’re looking for Greek islands (think: whitewashed villages and waterfront tavernas), Spanish islands (calm harbors and crystal-clear water), or Portuguese islands (tea plantations, lake-filled calderas), the Mediterranean Sea is home to plenty of idyllic options. Read on to learn about six Mediterranean islands you need to visit in 2024.
Where is the Mediterranean Sea?
If you peek at a Mediterranean islands map, you’ll see that the Mediterranean Sea is touched by 22 countries, and is bordered by Europe to the north, Africa to the south, and Asia to the east. Historically, countless cultures and civilizations have founded themselves by the Mediterranean because the sea serves as a source of food and transportation. Thanks to its location between three continents, trade routes have also flourished here. As a result, the Mediterranean boasts incredible history and diverse cultures. No wonder why a Mediterranean tour is one of the most sought-after travel experiences.
1. Kefalonia, Greece
No trip to Greece is complete without a visit to its iconic islands, and Kefalonia should be at the top of your list if natural beauty is what you’re after. This Mediterranean Sea island is located just west of the mainland, and is one of Greece’s most undiscovered destinations. Here, you’ll find everything from vineyards and olive groves to rugged coves, limestone cliffs, and sandy beaches.
Kefalonia is still largely under-the-radar, which means traveling to the island during the summer will offer fewer crowds compared to more popular Mediterranean islands. On our 12-day Greece’s Ionian Islands: Athens, Kefalonia & Corfu tour, you’ll spend three nights in Kefalonia—a perfect amount of time to discover all there is to love about this Greek island. On tour, you’ll take a boat ride on subterranean Melissani Lake, dig into an olive oil tasting with one of Kefalonia’s most famous producers, and sample the island’s best grape varietals (such as citrusy, acidic robola). Discovering great wines is just one of the perks of our Mediterranean tours.
Where to stay on Kefalonia
We love the sea-facing address of Kefalonia Bay Palace, a pretty boutique hotel located just on the edge of the charming village of Agia Efimia. That means various beaches, bustling seafood restaurants, and Drogarati Cave are close by.
2. Kos, Greece
Islands of the Mediterranean come in all shapes and sizes. This is even more true in Greece, where there are so many that they had to be organized by geography. The Dodecanese Islands are located in the east, close to Turkey. One of the up-and-coming Greek islands there is Kos, home to some of the prettiest beaches in Greece—which makes summer the best time to take advantage of being on the water. Want to island hop on our 11-day Greek Dodecanese Islands: Kos & Rhodes tour? Use your free day on Kos to add our Kalymnos, Plati & Pserimos: Island Cruise & Lunch excursion.
However, there’s even more to Kos than beachy scenery. A trip to Greece should also include plenty of history and some amazing food, too. Over 5,000 years of Ottoman, Roman, and Venetian history can be found layered on top of each other in Kos. Your Tour Director will lead a sightseeing adventure that will include the healing temple in Asklepios, Loggia Mosque, one of Kos’ two Ottoman-era mosques, and the 14th-century Neratzia Castle. Wrap up your history lesson by sampling one of Kos’ most famous exports: honey. About 200 tons of it is produced there annually and you’ll learn all about the history and production of this prized nectar when you visit a family-owned facility for a tasting.
Where to stay on Kos
Named after the island’s most famous son, Kipriotis Hippocrates is a popular hotel located in the beach town of Psalidi. Bright, colorful interiors give every room a fun atmosphere, and the exhaustive list of amenities (there’s a pool, restaurant, and spa) means you’ll never run out of things to do.
3. Sicily, Italy
If you’re wondering, “What is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea?” look no farther than Sicily. This Mediterranean isle has a little bit of everything: history that goes back hundreds of years, ocean views around every corner, and outdoor cafes aplenty. Plus, the food scene is worth writing home about—the cannoli alone are worth the flight. “Sicily is a land of incredible street food, where taste and freshness can be enjoyed on the go,” said staffer and Italy native Giada in our solo traveler’s guide to Sicily.
For an iconic Sicilian food experience, be sure to taste arancini while you explore on our Sicily for Solo Travelers tour. These fried rice balls are often filled with meat ragu or ham and cheese, and can be found almost anywhere on this Mediterranean island. If a sweet treat is what you’re after, you can’t go wrong with granita con brioche, which is a sort of Italian ice served on sweet bread in the summer. The most important thing to know about Sicilian cuisine is that anything you try is guaranteed to be fresh, local, and seasonal.
Where to stay on Sicily
Take in views of the ocean and Mount Etna from the Excelsior Palace Hotel Taormina. This historic spot is just steps from the city center in Taormina, and is the perfect jumping off point for a free day at the beach or an afternoon of shopping.
4. Mykonos, Greece
If you love glamorous islands of the Mediterranean, then you need to book a trip to Mykonos. This buzzy destination is consistently one of our can’t-miss Greek islands, and is where countless beach parties and events are hosted nearly every weekend in the summer. If you’re interested in seeing what this Mediterranean island has to offer beyond its social scene, check it out in September and October, when the slower pace of life creates its own kind of island magic—and makes for an unforgettable Mediterranean tour.
On our nine-day A Week in Greece: Athens, Mykonos & Santorini tour, the two nights spent on Mykonos offer a look at all the things that make the island special. Visit the iconic windmills on a tour of the maze-like Old Town, and stroll through Little Venice, where colorful, sun-drenched mansions look like they’re hanging right over the ocean. The entire second day is free for the taking, which means you can head directly to the beach clubs. If that’s not your speed, we offer a wonderful excursion to Delos, a Mediterranean island that’s full of mythological history and was once considered one of Greece’s most sacred spots.
Where to stay on Mykonos
You’ll love the creative vibe at Pelican Bay Art Hotel, a boutique property with a prime location. Perched in Platis Yialos, the hotel is only a short walk away from many of Mykonos’ most famous beaches as well as the beautifully atmospheric Old Town.
Check out these tours
5. Mallorca, Spain
The Balearic island of Mallorca is so much more than the home of Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal—it’s famous for its stunning mix of pristine beaches, rich history, and rugged countryside. When you visit on our 10-day Spain’s Balearic Islands: Menorca & Mallorca tour, you’ll find that there is no end to the number of jaw-dropping experiences you can encounter—which is why it’s become one of our most exciting Mediterranean tours and why Mallorca is one of our favorite destinations in Spain.
During your stay in Palma, the island’s capital city, you can admire historic architectural wonders during the day, and then spend the evening sipping Spanish wines in bustling bars. You’ll also get to check out Mallorca’s unique network of underground caves in Cuevas del Drach, and sail across one of the world’s largest underground lakes: Lake Martel. There’s also a free day, which you can spend hiking. This Mediterranean island is home to two different mountain ranges, which are beloved trekking destinations. If you’re a foodie, don’t miss our optional Mallorca Olive Oil Tasting & Farmhouse Wine Dinner excursion. You’ll sample everything from local olive oil, wine, cheese, and sobrassada, a Mallorcan sausage.
Our favorite time to visit Mallorca is September, which is when this Mediterranean island stages a number of exciting fairs celebrating everything from crafts and crops to wine and history. If you visit during the end of harvest, you might witness a curious piece of tradition, when locals enter grape-throwing competitions. Mind the splatter!
Where to stay on Mallorca
Because Mallorca is a pretty big Spanish island, finding the right accommodations can come down to location. That’s why our travelers rave about Grupotel Aguait Resort & Spa. It’s an adults-only hotel that’s within walking distance of a beach, restaurants, bars, and cafes, all of which come with stunning seaside views.
6. Santorini, Greece
If visions of picturesque calderas and white-washed buildings flood your imagination when dreaming about a trip to Greece, put Santorini on your bucket list. In addition to its gorgeous, postcard-worthy landscapes, you can add amazing seafood, ancient cliffside architecture, and some of Europe’s best sunsets to the list of things that make this Mediterranean island stand out. It’s undoubtedly one of the best places to go in Greece.
Most people who visit Santorini choose to go during the peak summer season. Our 12-day Italy, the Adriatic & Greek Islands Cruise is offered from May to October, and we love Santorini in May and June when crowds aren’t super heavy. That’s also the ideal time to visit the island’s unique wineries. In spring, the vineyards will be lush and green—making it the perfect time for a wine tasting. Islands of the Mediterranean don’t get more iconic than Santorini.
Where to stay on Santorini
One of the best ways to experience a Mediterranean tour is by staying in charming, sea-facing hotels. During our trips to Santorini, one of our top hotels is Aegean Plaza Hotel, nestled in the quaint village of Kamari. Travelers love its friendly staff, elegant, beachy interiors, and location, which is just minutes away from the beach.
7. São Miguel, Portugal
Looking for a Portuguese island that remains one of Europe’s best-kept secrets? São Miguel is just the ticket. Though technically not an island of the Mediterranean, its natural wonders earn it a spot on this list. This island sits 900 miles west of Lisbon on the Atlantic, but the lifestyle mirrors that of the Mediterranean.
On our 14-day Grand Tour of Portugal: From Proto to Lisbon, you’ll have the opportunity to extend your trip for three nights on São Miguel. Taking this extension is a great way to round out a fabulous trip to Portugal. Because São Miguel is not in the Mediterranean, you’re in for a very different island experience. For example, did you know that thousands of pineapples are grown here in greenhouses? Or that São Miguel is home to the only scalable tea plantation in all of Europe? For a unique culinary experience, you have to try cozido das Furnas—a meat stew cooked underground by the island’s volcanic heat.
Cap off the unique food and drink experiences here by enjoying the thing that really makes this Portuguese island stand out: its natural beauty. There are lush fields dotted with dairy cows, highways lined with colorful hydrangeas, twin lakes where one side is blue while the other end is green, and much more.
Where to stay on São Miguel
A stylish hotel located near the historic capital city of Ponta Delgada, VIP Executive Azores Hotel offers much more than just a great address. This family-friendly hotel is also chock-full of convenient and sought-after amenities that make for a great stay, including two restaurants and both indoor and outdoor pools.