6 Secret European islands

BY Richard Mellor

1st Jan 2015 Travel

6 Secret European islands

Bored of Corfu and Corsica? Unsated by Sicily or Sardinia? Indifferent to Ibiza? Here are six under-the-radar European islands just begging to be explored...

Othonoi, Greece

Othonoi, Greece

Even the most grizzled Greek island-hopper is unlikely to have heard of Othonoi. The country’s westernmost isle can only be reached via a four-hour long journey on a ferry that departs from Corfu Town thrice-weekly. It’s a languid home to Venetian castle ruins, a cave where Ulysses was supposedly held captive and beautiful sandy shores, plus 600 inhabitants and thousands of olive trees. There’s one hotel, one ATM – pray it’s not out of service – and a whopping two tavernas.


Bornholm, Denmark

Bornholm Denmark

Located some 130 miles off the mainland, Bornholm is a fabled holiday island for Danes; a place of red-roofed fishing villages, beech forests and sandbars. Tourists are starting to catch on too, after a new organic food market launched this month.  Already present and ethically correct are liquorice producers, Harvey Nichols suppliers and the original Kadeau restaurant – its sister establishment being one of Copenhagen’s voguest venues. There are daily flights from the capital. 


Pantelleria, Italy


Nearer to Africa than Sicily or Italy, beautiful Pantelleria is called home by one Giorgio Armani. It is ringed by 47 mini-volcanoes and consequently has hot springs, and boutique resorts attracting the wealthy Italian jet set. Then there’s the agriculture: the world’s best capers are found here as is its trendiest winemaker, Serragghia, which uses local zibibbo grapes to make the rosé-like Fanino. Fly to Pantelleria direct from Rome, Milan, Palermo or Trapani.


Bozcaada, Turkey

Bozcaada, Turkey

Plenty of well-to-do Istanbulites know about Bozcaada, but few others do (even in spite of the state-of-the-art winery ran by famed architect Resit Soley there). Shrouded in bougainvillea and linked by cobbled streets, the idyllic isle sits off the north-west coast of Turkey, half an hour by regular ferry from Istanbul. Expect vineyards, a grand old castle, uncrowded pebbly beaches, cute hotels and designer pansiyons (villas).


Cavallo, France


Rumoured to be both the venue of Catherine Deneuve’s wedding and sometime home to Princess Caroline of Monaco, Cavallo is a jigsaw-shaped islet fringed by ten wild, sandy beaches and transparent waters.  It’s French-owned but chiefly populated by Italians, hence the two pizzerias open over summer. To get there, fly to Figari on Corsica, drive to Piantarella, leave the car (golf carts are Cavallo’s main mode of transport), catch a ferry. If that sounds exhausting, don’t worry: the Hotel & Spa des Pecheurs awaits your arrival.


Herm, UK

Herm Island UK

At 1.5 miles long by half a mile wide it may be teeny tiny, but this car-free Channel Island speck sure packs a beachy punch with six Caribbean-like coves plus endless rock pools for littluns to explore. In keeping with this rustic vibe, bedrooms at The White House hotel have no televisions, phones or clocks in the rooms.  Keep an eye on the time, though: high tea is served at 5.15pm sharp each day  right after after the day-trippers have departed on 20-minute ferries back to Guernsey.