Europe is awash with stunning island retreats. As the likes of Tenerife, Ibiza and Corfu get ever more overcrowded, we go in search of some of the lesser-known gems...
Europe's secret islands
Facing Dubrovnik on the Dalmatian coast, this natural paradise is said to be the Calypso of Greek legend, where Odysseus was seduced into spending seven years of his life. You won't find many people here. There's only one hotel on the whole island and a population of just over 1,000 people. Mljet's attractions are of the natural variety, with a stunningly distinctive limestone coastline, forest-clad gorges and solitary bays.
The North Sea's biggest island, Sylt was once an exclusive resort enjoyed by German society's glitterati, but these days it's just as popular among backpackers. Its unusual combination of trendy fashion outlets, gourmet restaurants and distinctive thatched cottages provides an intriguing backdrop to its prime draw - mile after mile of flat, sandy beaches, including one that stretches an incredible 40 kilometres.
From the little ferry port of La Savina, surrounded on all sides by salt lakes, to the bumpy roads and bucolic villages, Formentera really couldn't be more different to its nearest neighbour, Ibiza. The smallest, least famous and most southerly of the Balearics, it has a special vibe all of its own, with eerie pine woods, long strips of unblemished white sand and lonely lighthouses perched on rocky cliffs.
Wonderfully unspoilt, Giglio is located just off the shore of Tuscany. A population of just 1,500 means the island is 90 reliance on wind power for electricity make it a great - and very green - spot in which to escape the city in the summertime. With regular ferries from Aarhus on the mainland, it's not at all difficult to reach.
No secret among Swedes, who in summer flock here for camping and boating trips, Gotland's chief attraction is the UNESCO-protected seaside city of Visby, whose cutting edge fashion boutiques, trendy harbour-front eateries and colourful maritime history are a big draw. The rest of the island is perfect for cycling jaunts, with medieval churches and ancient burial grounds dotting a seemingly infinite expanse of gorgeous woodland.
From the native tailless cat to the throwback 1950s villages and omnipresent kicking-legged emblem, the Isle of Man is irrepressibly odd. With the barren mountains around Snaefell and the beaches of Port Erin, the island also has some of Britain's best scenery. And let's face it, an island where the Chief Minister double-shifts as a hardware shop assistant must be worth a visit.
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