Côte d’Azur too hectic? Try peaceful Porquerolles, one of the Îsles d’Hyères islands that lie just a ferry-hop away from Hyères on the French mainland. With no cars allowed, the only way to get around this densely wooded island is on foot or bike, and the only sound is the crackle of fragrant pine needles under your wheels. The best beaches, such as Plage d’Argent, hug the north coast. They’re busy during high season, but once the daytrippers have left, peace reigns again. Right in the heart of the village, Hôtel Résidence Les Mèdes offers rooms and apartments.
From £138 per night, hotel-les-medes.fr
Tranquility is hard to find on the Costa Blanca. So head to Tabarca, 22 miles off Alicante, and you’ll discover an island whose waters are so clear, it was declared the country’s first marine reserve. A 50-minute ferry ride brings you to this car-free paradise. Spend a few days snorkelling, eating fish stew at one of the beach shacks, then walk around the fortified walls that encircle the town.
Hotel Isla Tabarca has rooms B&B from £78, hotelislatabarca.com
Rich in Greek and Turkish heritage, Bozcaada, off Turkey’s west coast, is where Istanbulus go to escape the summer heat. From its beaches, the Achaeans launched the ships that delivered the Trojan horse. Today, Greek and Turkish cultures harmoniously coexist, with mosques alongside orthodox churches. The island, a short ferry crossing from Çanakkale port, offers beach-facing tavernas, a vineyard-covered hinterland and a lively port town. Set on a hillside overlooking the castle, Ela Tenedos Hotel has sea-view rooms.
Rooms B&B from £38, elatenedosotel.com
La Graciosa, Canary Islands
Three miles north of Lanzarote, tiny La Graciosa offers an altogether different Canary Island scene: no cars, no noise and no crowds. Here, you’ll find an idyllic marine reserve with sandy lanes, low-key restaurants, wild sand dunes and pristine beaches. Get around the island by hiking or renting a bike from the whitewashed port village of Caleta de Sebo. Spend your days watching fishermen mending nets at La Laja, or try the wilder emerald waters of Las Conchas in the north. Within walking distance of Caleta’s restaurants, Evita Beach Apartamentos has sea-facing apartments.
From £192 per night, booking.com
Forget glitzy Mykonos and catch the 30-minute high-speed ferry to Syros instead, where you’ll find a perfect blend of liveliness and rural peace. Ermoupoli, Syros’s seaside capital, is buzzy but tourist-free. Neoclassical houses rise in tiers from the shores. Greeks linger over lengthy taverna lunches here, and the scenery is varied – a wild interior, freckled with olive groves and orchards, along with deserted low-key beaches, many only accessible by boat. The new eco art hotel Aristide has nine stylish rooms, alongside regular artists’ residences.
Rooms B&B, including transfers, from £204, hotelaristide.com
Tiny Cabrera, six miles south of Mallorca, has a checkered past, from Berber pirates and Spanish soldiers to French soldiers of war. Today, nature reigns: this national park is a haven for Caspian gulls, cormorants and lizards. Mix wildlife-spotting with swims in empty coves. Add a scramble around its crumbly hilltop medieval castle, then dine at Cabrera’s cantina in Es Port and, for a cheap overnight stay, try the island’s lodging house.
Cabrera hostel has 12 rooms from £42 per night, sleeping two, hostalcabrera.es. Boats depart from Colonia de Sant Jordi on Mallorca, excursionsacabrera.es
It may take an arduous four-and-a-quarter hour ferry crossing from Split to reach Lastovo, but this chunky Croatian island is so different from its touristy sister, you’ll be glad you made the effort. Spend your time dawdling through pine forests, admiring the island’s Venetian-style houses, then exploring some of its 38 churches or swimming in the transparent waters off Skrivena Luka Bay. There’s just one hotel – the aptly named Solitudo, whose sea-facing restaurant serves up delicious Dalmatian-style spiny lobster.
Rooms B&B from £57, hotel-solitudo.com
Just 15 minutes by ferry from Mykonos is Tinos, an unsung Cycladic Island with a fertile hinterland dotted with windmills and Venetian-style dovecotes, stunning villages and tourist-free beaches. Pilgrims regularly flock to Tinos to venerate the healing icon at Panagia Evangelistria and it’s the church that has kept the island free from over-development. There are pretty, sleepy villages such as Kardiani and Volax, but a livelier scene, too, with the tavernas and craft shops at Pyrgos.
Agali Bay Hotel has rooms B&B from £69, including free transfers from the port, agalibay.com
Ile de Batz, France
Parisians adore the Île de Ré, but there’s another island off the Atlantic coast that is less expensive, less chic yet similarly appealing. Only 10 minutes from Roscoff, and just two miles in length from east to west, Île de Batz is low-key and perfect for families. Hire bikes at the port, then head for the white sands of Grève Blanche. Afterwards, climb the 198 steps of the island’s lighthouse for panoramic views of the Breton coast. There’s a water-sports center and pony rides at the Écuries de Batz. Les Herbes Folles by the port has rooms with sea views.
Doubles, room only, from £64, hotel-iledebatz.com
Sicily’s Taormina offers old-school glamour, but it can get crowded with tourists, so why not head instead for the tiny Aeolian Island of Filicudi? Here, visitors can enjoy walks along ancient mule tracks, or a more energetic climb to the top of Fossa Felci, the island’s volcanic crater. Feast on pizzas from Da Nino, a trattoria overlooking the sea which also offers simple rooms that are great value for an overnight stay. The direct ferry crossing from Milazzo, in southern Sicily, takes two hours and 20 minutes.
Da Nino has B&B seaview rooms with balconies from £42, filicudieolie.it