The glittering French Riviera, pretty Amalfi Coast and party-mad Ibiza. With shimmering seas, sun-dappled vistas and photogenic old towns, it’s easy to see why these Mediterranean hotspots feature in travel guides and itineraries the world over. However, the downside of these much-loved places is that, at times, they get insanely overcrowded. But not to worry. We’ve created a list of lesser-known gems for those who prefer their slices of Mediterranean paradise to be a little more idyllic.
Diminutive Procida is the kind of place that, once discovered, you keep to yourself. The smallest island in the Bay of Naples boasts the same enticements as Capri and Positano: a cascade of pastel-hued houses, waterside trattorias and narrow streets draped with pink bougainvillea. However, what it luckily doesn’t boast are the same madding summer crowds. Pretty Procida has somehow flown beneath the tourists’ radar, which means you’ll have the island’s lemon groves and dreamy turquoise-coloured coves all to yourself.
Few people know Cartagena is insanely old and one of Spain’s most historically fascinating cities. It abounds in ancient cultural riches, like the Roman Theatre Museum, a necropolis and the Batteries of Castillitos. Its diverse architectural and culinary attractions will leave you overawed as you stroll along Cartagena’s narrow streets. Discovering quaint tapas bars serving piping-hot croquetas de jamón and local artisanal beer is an undeniable highlight.
For an adrenalin -fuelled afternoon head to Mar Menor, Spain’s largest lagoon. Its high salinity aids flotation and makes it the perfect place to kayak, ski or kite-surf.
This tiny fishing village along the French Riviera seems tailor-designed for slow living. You could spend hours blissing-out on its pretty beach, sipping coffee on charming waterfront terraces and appraising wooden boats in the idyllic harbour. When you’re ready to stretch your legs, saunter around the village’s 14th century old town. Here, narrow roads interspersed with stairways offer seductive glimpses of the Mediterranean. Plenty of backstreet bistros dot the area. Bag an outside table to feast on the local anglers’ catch and sip the palest rosé.
Hydra is blissfully devoid of car traffic. Nor will a scooter whizz past you or the sound of any kind of motor disrupt your thoughts. Because of Hydra’s no-motorized-wheel rule, overdevelopment has been impossible. Thank goodness. Cobbled lanes, donkeys, pebble beaches and deep turquoise waters are the only delights you’ll find here. There is deliciously little to do on Hydra, except snooze, swim and gaze out over the glittering Myrtoan Sea. Oh, and sip frozen daquiris at trendy cliff bar Hydronetta, of course.
Postcard sandy shores, salt lakes and pebble beaches abound here, as do tranquil olive groves, vineyards and dense forests. The island’s biggest draw is its protected national park where you can stroll, hike, swim, sunbathe and kayak in lush surroundings while Peregrine Falcons swoop overhead. Although Mljet is Croatia’s greenest and arguably most beautiful island, it’s anything but crowded. Most tourists head to the Pomena area, so the rest of the island remains deliciously quiet and beautifully unspoilt.