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Idyllic island walking holidays

Island walking holidays

There’s something about a journey from mainland to island that brings out a childlike excitement on our travels. So often they are isolated from the norm, secluded and serene with a backdrop of tight-knit communities and commitment to sustainability. Islanders have often been stewards of conservation and sustainability long before many of us were aware of the words, simply as a way to survive and keep their place of beauty alive. Beauty that you can seek out on our carefully-crafted island walking holidays, from challenging ones like Corsica to heavenly Hellenic ones like Kythira. Jump on board, and we’ll transport you to many more island walking holidays below. 

Aeolian Islands, Italy 

Also known as the Lipari Islands, after the largest of the seven main islands in this archipelago, they are scattered like a broken necklace of jewels across the Tyrrhenian Sea, just north of Sicily. Spend a week walking on four of these volcanic islands, dipping in and out of beaches or up to Monte Guardia (369m) on Lipari. Vulcano is similarly voluptuous as you discover walking through the lunar landscape of gran cratere, and Salina is steep and stupendous, in the shadow of two extinct volcanoes, Monte dei Porri (860m) and Monte Fossa delle Felci (962m). Stromboli is far from extinct with guided walks to its crater, or to the lava flow field known as the Sciara di Fuoco, meaning stream of fire. And if that doesn’t light your island-loving fire, you finish your trip on Sicily, with a trek up Mount Etna. 

The village of Ginostra, Stromboli.

Dalmatian Islands, Croatia

It’s apt that Dalmatian dogs hail from Croatia, with the Dalmatian coast dotted with hundreds of beauty spots. Hike the Dalmatian island of Hvar for highlife mixed with very real fishing communities, or Korčula for its ancient walled town juxtaposed with pine forests and secret coves. Mljet’s natural marvels have merited national park status, such as its two seawater lakes enveloped by walking and cycling trails, while Brac boasts the Adriatic’s highest peak, Mount St. Vid (780m). 

Golden Isles of the Riviera

Don’t wait for summer to start exploring the Riviera, with our walking holiday amongst its Golden Isles of Port Cros and Porquerolles available from as early as March and as late as November. This really is a pristine Provençal paradise, where you are based in the mainland town of Le Lavandou from where you take quick boat trips out to Port Cros, France’s smallest national park with cork forests, lemon and olive groves, or Porquerolles, another national park boasting steep cliffs and secluded coves, accessible only by walkers and where silence is golden. 

Île de Porquerolles – pourquoi pas?

Walking on the Island of Elba

Although the Island of Elba might be famous for harbouring Napoleon in 1814 during his exile, not many people think of escaping there after city breaks in Siena, Florence or Pisa, just a few hours away by train to the port town of Piombino. The largest island in the National Park of the Tuscan Archipelago, it’s a walker’s empire. Hike in the shadow of Monte Capanne (1,019m) or along its ridge, and follow ancient trails inland to traditional villages such as San Piero in Campo, passing traditional stone shepherds’ huts, or caprili along the way. There’s a fitting finale along Monte Fonza ridge, at 804m, with superb panoramic views of the island and beyond. And of course, there are no shortage of beaches to self-exile at. 

Canary Islands, Spain

Hiking trails on the Canaries take you into the sweet secret spots of these islands that are often underrated for sustainable adventures. Spots that are also protected by national parks, so you know just how precious they are. If you thought the Canaries were all about raucous resorts, you will think again when you go walking through the likes of Mount Teide in Tenerife, Garajonay on La Gomera, or Caldera de Taburiente on La Palma, just some of the Canary Islands’ national parks with trails that are made for natural adventures. Read our more detailed guide on the Canary Islands.

Walking on La Palma, just one of many Canary Island hiking havens.

Balearic Islands, Spain

The archipelago is made up of four main islands, namely Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza, and Formentera, located in the Balearic Sea, the name given to the part of the Mediterranean that separates the Balearics from the Spanish mainland. Think a few hours east of Valencia or south of Barcelona, and you come to one of these island idylls. For walking in the Balearics, our tours take you to the islands of Menorca and Mallorca, where the landscapes proffer a mega-mix of mountain and coastal trails, dunes and wetlands. See our more detailed blog, Ultimate guide to walking the Balearics.

Sweden’s archipelagos

Sweden is an archipelagic arcadia, and you can choose between the Stockholm one or the Bohuslän Archipelago in the west of the country for non-stop island hopping, saunas and sea swimming. In the Stockholm archipelago, there are over 24,000 islands and islets stretching out into the Baltic Sea, all within a hiking heartbeat of Stockholm. Our carefully crafted walking holidays in the Stockholm archipelago open up a natural sea world for you, during summer, or you can opt for our quieter autumn or spring tours. In the Bohuslän region, hop between the likes of the glamorous Marstrand and Koön Islands, or much quieter Bohus Malmön, famous for its pink granite rocks and turquoise swimming lagoons. 

Corsica, France 

The island of Corsica’s famous GR20 long-distance walking trail is hiking heaven for many, and a challenging one at that, considered to be one of Europe’s toughest but most terrific long-distance trails. If you want to explore Corsica but seek something a little more gentle with more prolific pauses à la plage, check out our South-western Corsica walking holiday, with a mix of maritime and mountains, and some dramatically beautiful coastline treks between Ajaccio to Bonifacio. As well as some colossal cliff top views on these treks you also dip down into beaches at Barracci, Paraguan and Cupabia, to name but a few. 

Corsica. This is hot hiking.

Isle of Skye, Scotland 

The Isle of Skye is the largest island of the Inner Hebrides archipelago, and a bit like a microcosm of the mainland’s natural highlights, with its lochs, rugged peninsulas and valleys wrapped around the foothills of its mountainous interior. The Skye Trail covers most of the island’s length and passes through the best hiking areas of the island, including the Black and Red Cuillin, Trotternish Ridge and Loch Coruisk. On Skye’s Coast to Coast walking holiday you’re based in two traditional B&Bs, with different walks on the doorstep of each. These include some on the main coast to coast trail from Loch Coruisk to Sligachan through the Cuillin Mountains, but also walks to the totally magical fairy pools and the island’s iconic Old Man of Storr rocky pinnacle.  

Cape Verde

Explore this tropical Atlantic archipelago that was once described by Charles Darwin as a “glory of tropical vegetation”, particularly glorious in October and November, when temperatures are between 22-28C. Combine Creole culture with a glorious climate and community camaraderie on the islands of São Vicente, Santo Antão and Fogo, all boasting their own natural heritage highlights in a seascape of voluptuous volcanoes. Although it’s a self-guided walking holiday, the trip includes a guided hike up Mount Pico (2,892m), a simmering volcano that last erupted in 2014. 

Walking on the island of Santo Antão, one of Cape Verde’s archipelagic adventures.

The Greek Islands

Walking on the Cyclades and Dodecanese islands

It’s hard to know where to start with walking holidays in the Greek Islands, but breaking them down into archipelagos is helpful. The Cyclades and Dodecanese are two archipelagos with a meze of maritime trails, ancient Greek heritage and beaches, then more beaches. Walking in the Cyclades opens up spectacular trails such as the volcanic caldera on Santorini, the islands’ highest peak of Mount Zas (1,000m) on Naxos, as well as its stunning 52km Naxos Strada trail, or the ancient kalderimi paths of Andros and Tinos, or the much beloved Amorgos. You can also combine the wonderful chaos of Athens with a blissful escape on the island of Kea, the Cyclades island that is closest to Greece’s capital, boasting an array of wonderful walking trails. 

Corfu and the Ionian Islands

The Corfu Trail is one of the best walking holidays in the Ionian Islands, a 200km adventure into the heart of the archipelago’s second largest island. Walk it in segments or do the whole thing in two weeks, reading its most famous resident’s work, Gerald Durrell, along the way. You can also visit his beloved home area at Kalami. Another Greek gem is Kythira Island, the southernmost Ionian island, tucked off the Peloponnese Peninsula which is just over an hour by ferry. 

Hiking holidays in Crete

Walking holidays in Crete cover all compass points of this mountainous island, the largest in Greece. Heading north to south through the White Mountains and stupendous Samaria Gorge is an epic Cretan adventure. Or an eastern walking holiday leads you through the Sitìa Geopark and some of Crete’s best beaches. 

For other Greek island idylls, check out our walking holidays on Karpathos in the Dodacanese archipelago, Aegina, one of the sublime Saronic islands just an hour by ferry from Athens, or its neighbouring islands of Poros and Hydra

Singing the blues on Karpathos, one of many glorious in the Dodacanese archipelago.

Ireland’s islands

Ireland’s islands are like extra emeralds sprinkled around its shores, many with small, traditional island communities that depend on tourism to survive. You can visit several of these islands on our cycling and walking holidays in Ireland, so please do ensure that you spend some money locally when you are there. They are unique places to visit and it’s vital that we try and sustain them as best we can. They include Bere Island on our Beara Way holidays, Great Blasket Island while cycling or walking the Dingle Way, or Rathlin Island on our Causeway Coast walking holiday

Like all of our walking holidays, these island adventures tap into small communities and take you off the beaten path. If combining culture, community and natural heritage is important to you on your walking holidays, you may also enjoy our blogs on Bigging up our Balkan holidays and Lesser-known lake districts in Europe