10 Dreamy Island Destinations to Discover in Northern Europe
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10 Dreamy European Islands
Maybe you’ve been to Corsica or Sardinia, but Northern Europe offers just as many off-the-beaten-path isles. Here are 10 of our favorites, which cover everything from over-the-top foodie experiences to whiskey tastings.
The list of things to do in Ærø is nearly as long as the island’s maritime history. Despite its tiny size (about 88.1 square kilometers) it’s an important Danish landmark—the town of Marstal, for example, is the second largest shipping port in the country, after Copenhagen.
Don’t miss the town of Aeroeskoebing; it dates back to the Middle Ages and its residents have implemented a number of plans to preserve the charming houses and cobblestone streets. Walk straight through town to Vesterstrand, and you’ll come across beach huts—each one unique in color and design, but united in size.
Together, Inishmore, Inishmaan, and Inisheer make up the Aran Islands—a scenic trio on the west coast of Ireland. Fly or ferry into the islands by way of Galway or Doolin (stop by the Cliffs of Moher on your way), and you’ll discover Celtic churches, miles of picturesque stone walls, dramatic cliffs, and plenty of peace and quiet. Inishmore, the largest of the three, is a hot spot for bicycling, snorkeling, sailing, and diving.
Neoclassical architecture meets white cliffs, sandy beaches, and one of the largest national parks in Germany on Rügen Island. Check out the chalk cliffs of Jasmund National Park, the view from Naturerbre Zentrum (a tall building, similar to a spiral staircase, that takes you well above the treetops), and chill-out on the Baltic Sea in a wicker beach chair.
Surfing, scuba diving, and glacial fjords? Welcome to Norway’sLofoten Islands, where the natural landscape is as rich as the food, and the summer’s midnight sun is as gorgeous as the winter’s northern lights. On the Southern isle of Moskenesøy you can stay in the small fishing village of Reine. Rent a rorbuer (an old fishing cottage), visit villages on the local ferry, or hike up Reinebringen to take in the view.
This summer, Gotland Island is the makeshift home of one of Stockholm’s buzziest restaurants, Agrikultur, which has set up shop at the Fabriken Furillen hotel for the summer. Chefs Filip Fastén and Joel Åhlin are bringing their delicious Nordic comfort food (think pickled cucumber, grilled iceberg lettuce, and fried capers with an artful twist) to the island. Book soon as they are heading back to the mainland on August 31st.
Yes, this is in Great Britain. Just south of the coast of Cornwall, in the Isles of Scilly, life is all about that island time. We love the beaches on St. Martin’s, the tropics of Tresco (the island boasts more than 20,000 plant species, many of which you would never see growing in mainland Britain), and the solitude of Bryher island (with 80 year-round residents).
This island’s Pädaste Manor hotel is worth a trip to Muhu alone. Its walls date back to the 15th century, and overlook gardens, the waters of at Pädaste Bay, and a protected park that is home to more than 23 different orchid species. For centuries, neighboring countries in Scandinavia have headed to Estonia for their spa treatments that incorporate seawater hot tubs, goat milk–butter massages, and salt body scrubs.
All 640 acres of Ramsey Island are dedicated to the area’s natural wildlife—in particular, the birds of St. David’s peninsula and St. Brides Bay (yes, there are puffins). From the seat of a boat, expect plenty of glimpses of nesting seabirds, wild porpoises, or lounging seals.
Given its location, it’s all too easy to overlook the Channel Islands on your way to London or Paris. Yet it boasts killer music festivals and great farmer’s markets. You can even call one big castle home for your stay.
Skye brings beautiful rugged landscape, waterfalls, crazy rocks, scallop diving and freshly picked mushrooms (of all sorts), swimming in euphorically cold water, and, perhaps mostly notably, a peaty fiery scotch.
Talisker distillery, which dates back to the 1830s, makes a number of whiskies that have won international awards. Their secret is the traditional copper tubes and oak casks used in the Loch Harport distillery. Enjoy with otherworldly, Iceland-like views.