You don’t necessarily need to travel to the Caribbean, Hawaii, or the Seychelles to find you own slice of paradise. Here are four European destinations that you probably haven’t heard about that exude exoticness.
If you pick the right time of year, and also get some luck with the weather, then you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’ve found utopia when setting foot on Iona. This island in the Inner Hebrides is just 3 miles long and one mile wide, and has a coastline dotted with beaches that often awaken spiritual experiences. When the sun shines, the powdery white sand and crystalline waters shimmer like a scene typical of the Caribbean and Mediterranean. Check out the postcard-perfect images of Port Bàn and Traigh Ban, on the north coast. Enjoy views of Mull from Martyr’s Bay, clamber over the pebbles of St. Columbus Bay and watch spouting caves at the Bay at the Back of the Ocean. All of Iona’s beaches are accessible by foot, which is great news because visitors aren’t allowed to bring their own transport.
It’s only an hour away from Split, but the nonchalant atmosphere and time-honored townscape of Omiš make this one-time pirate town feel world’s away from Croatia’s second city. Omiš is part of the spectacular Dalmatian Coast, a region that can easily be explored on self-drive and sailing vacations. Imposing rock formations rise up behind the town’s beaches, which look out over the Adriatic Sea toward the island of Brač. Hike to the clifftop Starigrad Fortress, where panoramic views of the sea and countryside await. A stroll along the town’s Roman alleyways, home to street vendors and seafood taverns, is a quintessential evening activity. If adventure is on the cards then head into the emerald green Omiš hinterland for everything from canyoning to fishing and whitewater rafting.
Situated south of Corfu, Paxi is the smallest chain of islands in Greece’s Ionian Islands. According to Greek mythology, Paxos, the larger island, was created by Poseidon in an attempt to impress the goddess Amphitrite. From the dramatic cliffs to the sweeping olive groves, whitewashed fishing villages and sparkling waters, every corner of the island looks as if it has been painted by the hand of an Old Master. Soak up the Venetian flare of Gaois, watch magnificent sunsets from the Lakka marina, and bathe in the calm turquoise waters of Kipiadi. Jump on a boat to the sister island Antipaxos to discover superb snorkeling, sea caves, and arguably the finest beaches in the Ionian Sea. Drink in the views of Voutoumi Beach from a hilltop tavern with a glass of the island’s signature red wine in hand.
Bathed in sunshine off the southernmost tip of France's Côte d’Azur, Porquerolles (Île de Porquerolles) showcases a beguiling Provencal landscape that is near impossible to find on the mainland. Limestone cliffs loom over isolated coves and long sweeps of soft sand around the coastline while eucalyptus forests and lush vineyards spread across a rustic interior. It’s hard not to be drawn to the beaches, such as Plage Notre-Dame and Place Noire du Langoustier, and the nostalgic charm of the island’s eponymous main town. But drag yourself away from the coast to around a dozen old forts. The views are unsurpassable from Fort du Grand Langoustier and Fort St. Agatha and at times all you’ll hear is the sound of waves and cicadas.