A magnet for sun worshippers in spring and summer, the islands that dot the Mediterranean actually offer far more than gorgeous beaches lapped by translucent water. Dramatic mountainous landscapes, rugged coastal stretches and nature reserves that attract birds and wildlife easily explain their popularity with hikers.
I’ve handpicked several of the Mediterranean islands, and walks, which I know best and have come to love over the years. So, leave the mainland behind and head for one of these jewels in the Med for your next walking holiday.
You’ll have no problem finding a good hiking trail in Sardinia, the second largest island in the Mediterranean. Worlds away from the glitzy Costa Smeralda, Sardinia’s mountainous interior is a haven for serious walkers, while the coast also offers a great selection of trails for all levels.
Natural highlights include the soaring peaks and age-old forests of the Gennargentu National Park and views of the coastline and the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Orosei. Towns and villages such as Orgosolo and Aritzo are ideal for a gentle stroll.
All that walking will undoubtedly work up an appetite. Tuck into delicious local goat and sheep’s milk cheese, and meats such as farm-raised lamb and suckling pig (porceddu), flavoured with wild thyme, rosemary and myrtle.
Few places match up to Corsica’s away-from-it-all atmosphere and pristine landscape. Like Sardinia, its aquamarine seas and attractive coastal towns appeal to sunseekers in July and August, but inland is a completely different story.
The interior of the island is traversed by the GR20 hiking trail which passes through granite cliffs, mountain passes and pine forests and is one of Europe’s top long-distance hiking routes.
Fortunately, however, hiking in Corsica doesn’t need to be as hard core as you’d think. You can still get a taste of these top trails – our Island of Corsica tour actually includes a small stretch of the famous G20 and Mare e Monte long distance hikes. However, it also makes time for a short sunset walk through the UNESCO World Heritage Calanques de Piana granite rock formations and a hike through stunning alpine scenery to the glacial lake, Lac Melu.
The island of Elba offers over 80 beaches and hideaway coves and a mountainous interior covered with woody vegetation inhabited by wild boar and mouflon (wild sheep). Rather conveniently, the island is a mere 40-minute hop by ferry from Piombino on Italy’s mainland, which means you can easily work in a few days here as part of a longer trip to central Italy.
Next down in size from neighbouring Corsica and Sardinia, Elba is the largest island of the Tuscan Archipelago. Choose from a selection of trails but if you’re looking for hikes with views, the climb to the island’s highest point, Monte Capanne, is the top spot for truly epic vistas over the whole archipelago.
You can still spot archaeological traces of the island’s early Etruscan and Roman inhabitants, although most people, of course, immediately associate Elba with Napoleon. Discover the island’s history as you climb winding stone mule tracks and walk through ancient forests and medieval hamlets, past caves, fortresses and Napoleonic residences.
Temperatures stay pleasantly warm in Sicily during the months of September and October and are ideal for hiking. The principal mountain ranges of the Madonie and the Nebrodi in the north of the island offer some wonderful hiking as well as the opportunity to peer behind doors in some of the ancient hilltop villages, such as Gangi and the twin villages of Petralia Soprana and Petralia Sottana in the Madonie.
Alternatively, head to the island’s southeast where the Vendicari Nature Reserve is a paradise for bird watchers. This narrow strip of coastline, not far from the baroque city of Noto, is where thousands of migrating birds – flamingos, egrets and slender-billed gulls – stop en route for warmer climes.
Of course, you don’t need to be a bird watcher to appreciate the beauty of the area. The Reserve’s 1,335 hectares of marshland carpeted by rosemary and juniper bushes and traversed by boardwalks and sandy trails is a truly delightful spot for a gentle stroll.
Last on my list for now is the Balearic island of Mallorca. You won’t be surprised to learn of the existence of a somewhat daunting 84-mile long-distance trail along a dry-stone route and through the Tramuntana mountain range. Fortunately, however, there are plenty of less challenging options.
The pretty coastal town of Sóller is a good base for hiking, with numerous trails starting locally. Hike along old bridle paths past pretty coves and villages such as Fornalutx and Biniaraix. From Biniaraix, a four-hour hike takes in a full circuit of the Barranc de Biniaraix gorge.
Alternatively, for great views of the Tramuntana Mountains on a clear day, the Cami de s’Archiduc is a popular hike from Valdemossa along a path that dates back to the late 19th century.
Have you ever hiked on any of these Mediterranean islands? What did you most enjoy about it? Would you recommend a hiking holiday on any other island in the Mediterranean?