01 Formentera, Spain
Unlike its Balearic neighbour Ibiza, Formentera is blissfully devoid of mass tourism, with just a clutch of chichi hotels, chilled-out nightlife and some of the Med’s clearest waters; the vibe is hippie meets low-key luxe. Strip off on one of its white-sand beaches, wallow in the natural mud baths found in its centre, and pad about the tiny, uninhabited island of Espalmador, separated from Formentera by a sandbank.
02 Egadi Islands, Italy
With bountiful beaches that would make the Caribbean blush, this alluring archipelago off the coast of Sicily is an escapist’s dream. Slip on your flippers and dive Favignana’s sea caves and grottoes, unwind amid the rocky landscape of Levanzo and indulge in some serious relaxation over fantastically fresh fish and a gelato — or three — on the laid-back island of Marettimo.
03 Vis, Croatia
The furthest-flung of the 1,200 or so Adriatic islands in the Dalmatian archipelago, Vis has bucketloads of remote island charm. Almost-deserted beaches? Check. Roads blissfully free from traffic? Check. Vineyard-strewn landscapes with intoxicating scents of rosemary, pine and lavender? Check. Its local food culture is out of this world too.
04 Bozcaada, Turkey
This Turkish retreat in the Aegean is slowly gaining a reputation among foodies-in-the-know for its 2,000-year-old wine-making tradition. After a day dangling your feet in its balmy waters and nosying around the town centre, round off your evening at the harbour with a bottle — those from the Corvus winery are some of the country’s most revered.
05 Ithaca, Greece
Switch off your phone and tablet — you won’t give a hoot about the outside world while pottering around this sleepy island, anchored between mainland Greece and Kefalonia. The mythical home of Homer’s Odysseus, its fringed by pristine beaches only accessible by boat, backed by lush hills and mountains which conceal wild walks, and topped by Pernarakia, an abandoned monastery with spellbinding views.
Published in the October 2014 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)