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By Laura Fowler, Travel Writer for the Telegraph

Featured in the Telegraph on 08 June 2023. Copy by Laura Fowler, holiday suggestions recommended by the Sunvil team.

Any secret worth knowing does not stay secret for long. In this age of social media, a destination can go from under-the-radar gem to over-touristed hotspot in a trice, particularly when that destination is a Mediterranean island. It’s hard to believe that just over a decade ago, Santorini was still little known, before direct flights and influencers made it one of the most photographed, crowded places in Europe.

Are there any islands left in the Mediterranean which aren’t overcrowded and overtouristed and overpriced, especially in summer? You have to wonder: if an island is still a secret then surely, when Europe’s shores are so highly coveted by so many, is it really worth knowing?  

And yet, and yet. Ask an Italian where they go on holiday, or where in-the-know Athenians spend summer. There are around 10,000 islands in the Mediterranean – 6,000 of which are Greek. Much as we love our favourites – Mallorca, Ibiza, Corfu, Mykonos – there is something to be said for looking beyond them, to the small and obscure and offbeat.

Perhaps they are obscure simply due to geography: there’s no airport, so you have to make the extra effort, take a ferry, decipher unfathomable timetables. Perhaps they lack sandy beaches, or a fancy hotel, or nightlife – off-putting for some. And sometimes the reason is sociological, which only adds to its curious allure – the Italian island recently vacated by military troops, for example, or the Greek island long populated by seafarers who jealously guarded their wives from the temptations of strangers while they were away at sea, by keeping outsiders firmly out. 

These are the gems to dig out. Yes, getting there might require a little extra effort, but the journey is part of the adventure, and the rewards are gratifying – your own wild and beautiful shores, unspoiled fishing villages where life rambles slow and carefree, on an island that feels like your own personal discovery, disconnected from the real world. 

Here are the secret islands worth knowing, and keeping to yourself.

Meganisi

Timeless beauty in the Ionians

Sleepy Meganisi is an Ionian island from a bygone era – one imagines the Corfu that Gerald Durrell fell in love with, only in miniature. Promontories of cypress, olive and Jerusalem pine greenly coddle fjords of Ionian blue, glassy as a millpond, where underwater grottoes glow and sailing boats are moored off white-pebble beaches.

Aristotle Onassis was no stranger to Meganisi’s charms – he married Jackie Kennedy on neighbouring Skorpios, which he owned (and which is currently being turned into a luxury private-island resort). Yet Meganisi has resisted any infiltrations of glamour, plodding along at its own slow pace. Cows amble along the beaches; long-haired goats mingle with sun-worshippers on the rock platforms beside the sea.

In the quintessentially Greek hillside villages of Spartochori and Katomeri, pink bougainvillaea winds over colourful doors and windows; while the harbour of cute Vathi is as bustling as things ever get – charter boats moor at the jetty, their crews come ashore for lunch at waterside tavernas serving the freshest fish and bright salads, blue-painted chairs and parasols set out on the crazy-paved quay.

There are no fancy restaurants, no nightlife. Very little to do at all, in fact, which is exactly why families with younger children love it, and those seeking an escape from the frenetic pace of the real world.

Sunvil holiday package: Stay at the Rose Garden Apartments in Vathy from £609 per person for a week (two sharing). The price includes seven nights studio accommodation (self-catering), return flights, 20kg hold luggage and transfers. Departing June 18, 2023.

Vathy, Meganissi Vathy, Meganissi

Rab

The best beaches on the Croatian Coast

It’s a mystery why Rab is not – yet – one of the Mediterranean’s most-wanted islands. She’s a beauty, her ancient town a jumble of houses and belltowers clustered upon a peninsula, the terracotta roofs a pleasing contrast to the sea-green Adriatic, while the rest of the island is a geopark evergreen-carpeted in holm oaks. But the biggest draw of all are Rab’s show-stopping beaches – great, long crescents of pale gold sand disappearing into scoops of emerald water. 

Walk or cycle the trails crisscrossing its interior to popular Rajska (Paradise) and the mile-long Sahara, or find your own favourite among dozens of coves. Pack your swimmers or just a towel – clothing is optional, thanks to King Edward VIII, who in 1936 went skinnydipping with Wallis Simpson off their yacht at Kandarola beach, sparking the trend for naturism in Croatia.

Sunvil holiday package: Stay at the Arbiana Heritage Hotel in Rab Town from £1,855 per person for a week (two sharing). The price includes seven nights accommodation in a Deluxe Seaview Room with Balcony (bed & breakfast), return flights, 20kg hold luggage and transfers. Departing July 15, 2023.

Arbiana Heritage Hotel Arbiana Heritage Hotel

Andros

Affluent Cyclades enclave without the glitz

The Greek shipowners who built their mansions on Andros in the early 20th century blessed this Cyclades gem with an affluence that enabled it, for a long time, to cock a snook to outsiders. 

It still feels like early days for tourism. Unlike Santorini and Mykonos, the headline acts of the Cyclades whose direct flights bring ever-growing crowds to their ever-glitzier hotels, Andros’s charms are quieter and slower, and remain largely the preserve of shipping magnates and the cognoscenti of Athens, two hours away by boat.

No wonder they want to keep it on the down-low. Unique to this archipelago, Andros has a lush mountainous interior where rivers spring from the ground bringing verdant life – lush forests, orchards, citrus groves – as they cascade through the hillsides into pools deep enough to swim in. The Andros Route trail runs through it, 60 miles; you can walk the island top to toe in 10 days. Otherwise, hire a 4x4 to explore; the roads peter out into rough tracks before they reach the beaches, which are stunning: isolated, uncultivated, sunlounger-free shores of fine, pale sand (another rarity in the Cyclades) and the most unbelievably blue sea.

Its main town of Chora is unexpectedly grand with its neoclassical city hall and houses with doric-columned porticos, and its various cultural spaces include a progressive Museum of Contemporary Art and an open-air amphitheatre that hosts arts performances in August. 

Sunvil holiday package: Stay at the Chrissi Akti Hotel from £783 per person for a week (two sharing). The price includes seven nights accommodation (bed & breakfast), return flights, 20kg hold luggage and transfers

Chrissi Akti Hotel Chrissi Akti Hotel

Agistri

Easygoing family-holiday find near Athens

Hydra is the poster girl for the Saronic Islands, a superstar hangout since the 1960s when its tumble of pale houses captivated Leonard Cohen and his artsy cohort. En route to Hydra from Athens, meanwhile, the fellow Saronic island of Agistri remains little visited by celebrities or British holidaymakers, despite being less than an hour from Piraeus. Instead of a photogenic harbour and boutique hotels, it lures with beaches and its easygoing way of life. 

In the village of Skala, waterside tavernas are strung with fishing nets and octopus drying in the sunshine, and a blue-domed church presides behind a curve of sand shelving into iridescent shallows. 

Sunvil holiday package: Stay at the Oasis Scala Beach Hotel in Skala for a week from £840 per person (two sharing). The price includes seven nights accommodation (bed & breakfast), return flights, 20kg hold luggage and transfers.

Agistri Agistri
The Sunvil Family

By The Sunvil Family

9th June 2023



The Sunvil Family
The Sunvil Family
The Sunvil Family

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