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7 surprisingly tropical European islands

White sand beaches, aquamarine seas and a few fruity cocktails complete with little umbrellas all contribute to making these European islands both surprisingly tropical and a must-see.

Zakynthos Island in Greece

Navagio Beach on Zakynthos Island

Navagio Beach on Zakynthos Island

The island’s Mediterranean climate and plenty of rainfall have covered Zakynthos in lush, near-tropical vegetation. Verdant clifftops vibrantly contrast with the white rocks encircling the island’s instantly recognisable Navagio Beach. Despite being known as ‘Shipwreck Bay’ – due to a tumultuous history – visitors today will find Navagio a peaceful oasis of golden sand and aquamarine sea. Stay nearby at Eden Villas, or go slightly further afield and base yourself at Kymothoe Elite, which has its own private beach and a shuttle to Navagio.

Porquerolles in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France

Boats at Plage Notre Dame on Porquerolles

Boats at Plage Notre Dame on Porquerolles

Porquerolles was purchased in 1912 by Belgian explorer François Joseph Fournier as a gift for his wife and Fournier went on to plant 500 acres of vineyards here. Over 100 years later, these vineyards are still going strong and producing Vin des Côtes de Provence. Serene, relatively unpopulated beaches surround Porquerolles, and the eucalyptus and pine tree-lined Plage Notre Dame is frequently dubbed one of best beaches on the Riviera. Hotel Residence Les Medes is only a 20-minute drive away and includes self-catered facilities.

Gozo in Malta

The Blue Hole on Gozo

The Blue Hole on Gozo

Despite being the second-largest island on the Maltese archipelago, travellers tend to bypass Gozo in favour of its bigger neighbour; which is their loss as the mesmerising sunsets and unique architecture of Gozo make it a wonderful spot for your next island getaway. Architectural highlights include the rotunda at Xewkija, the Ggantija temples and the Ta’ Pinu Basilica. For active visitors, diving is especially popular off the west coast of the island at the Blue Hole. If you’re planning to dive then it’s a good idea to stay nearby at Shanti Ghar Gozo B&B.

Madeira in Portugal

Sea views at Ponta de Sao Lourenco, Madeira

Sea views at Ponta de Sao Lourenco, Madeira

The variety of terrain and landscape on Madeira make it possible to fit multiple holidays into one trip; with mountain climbing one day and lounging on the beach the next. You’ll find it especially difficult to tear yourself away from Ponta de São Lourenço peninsula – most of the sandy bays here are only accessible via kayak but it’s worth the extra workout in order to go marine diving and spend a few hours sunbathing in near complete seclusion. Speaking of which, The Quinta do Lorde Resort has its own marina and a private beach.

Elba in Tuscany, Italy

Spiaggia di Forno on Elba

Spiaggia di Forno on Elba

Elba is famously the island that Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled to and, nine months later, escaped from. A course of action you will struggle to understand when you first catch sight of Elba’s white sand beaches (all 70 of them) and clear blue skies. Not sure where to stat? Spiaggia di Forno is particularly popular, with plenty of opportunities for diving and Biodola is a wonderful spot to spend a sunny day. You can stay less than 1-minute walk from the beach at Hotel Hermitage.

Islands of Ksamil in Albania

The Islands of Ksamil in the Ionian Sea

The Islands of Ksamil in the Ionian Sea

Close to the Albanian town of Ksamil in the Ionian Sea, the Islands of Ksamil can only be reached by boat and make for a scenic day trip. Some of the islands are connected by a raised sandback and all of them are surrounded by flowing forests of seagrass. Meanwhile on land, evergreen forests perch above crystal clear waters and offer shade from the midday sun. Your best option is to stay on the mainland, and if you choose Mustafaraj Apartments Ksamil you’ll be less than 1-minute walk from the beach.

Mljet in Croatia

The island of Mljet in Dalmatia

The island of Mljet in Dalmatia

The greenest of Croatia’s islands, Mljet is a visual and sensory delight. Dark green Mediterranean woodland is dotted with sun-baked olive orchards and vineyards. Only a short ferry ride from Dubrovnik, Mljet’s secluded atmosphere takes on almost spiritual proportions courtesy of the Benedictine Monastery of Saint May, perched atop the islet at Big Lake. Visiting an island within an island is novelty enough, but the views and hospitality found there make it a vital stop off. Admire the turquoise seas from the coastal Apartments Slavica.