Would you rather be sat where you are right now, or on some small island far, far away? It’s a no-brainer, right?
Sailing away from the mainland towards a speck of rock in the distance and the promise of laid-back island life is about as different from the daily grind and the crowded pollution of city life as you can get.
Take five and try one of these memorable islands out for size:
What to know… Samos is actually closer to Turkey, lying 2km from the Turkish mainland. In the North Aegean group of islands, it’s bigger than its neighbours Patmos, Icaria and Fournoi. Claim to fame? It was the birthplace of mathematician Pythagoras.
Don’t miss… freshly-baked baklava at bargain prices, a hike to the secluded Megalo Seitani beach (pictured at the top – don’t forget your water!) and scenic sunset drives to the ends of the island.
Getting there… Ferries run 3-4 times weekly from Athens’s Piraeus port to Karlovassi and Vathy on Samos. Blue Star Ferries early bird fares start from €20 one way.
Staying there… Pantheon apartments are situated in the pretty little fishing village of Ormos, south west on the island, close to the beach (and all that baklava).
What to know… Ischia, in the Bay of Naples, starred in The Talented Mr Ripley. Though its director Anthony Minghella called Ischia and nearby Procida the ‘less admired sisters of glamorous Capri’, I’d take Ischia’s laid-back charm over Dolce & Gabbana any day.
Don’t miss… a night time dip – drink in hand – at the Sorgeto hot springs, a wander around the oasis of La Mortella gardens, or take your pick of wonderful beaches and fantastic swimming spots such as Chiaia beach.
Getting there… the most frequent sailings from Naples are with Caremar, taking 90 minutes. Return tickets start at €31.20 for a return on foot.
Staying there… Paolo’s panoramic apartment in the north western town of Forio lives up to its name, you can almost see the sunbathers stretched out on Chiaia beach.
What to know… Mull is the second largest island in the inner Hebrides, nicknamed Eagle Island for the white-tailed and golden eagles successfully reintroduced there.
Don’t miss… a wildlife tour of the island (so many eagles!) with Pam and Arthur from Discover Mull, fish and chips on the pier of Tobermory’s colourful harbour, stargazing.
Getting there… Caledonian MacBrayne ferries have a monopoly on the Hebrides – choose island hopping with a Hopscotch ticket or a return car journey from Oban on the mainland to Craignure port will cost £33.
Staying there… On a quiet stretch of road west of Tobermory, Clachan Cottage has stunning sunset views over Loch Cuin, just the right level of remote but accessible.
The Stockholm Archipelago
What to know… For those times when you just can’t decide on one, the Stockholm Archipelago has 30,000 islands! Bustling Vaxholm is the unofficial capital, with defences built in the 1500s by King Gustav Vasa (they’ve lasted a bit longer than his sunken ship.)
Don’t miss… exploring the islands by bike. Tour quiet island Svartsö, sampling the local drinking water at Storträsk lake, or challenge yourself on steep forest paths. Visit Utö Bageri for its famous bread or chill on Vaxholm, grabbing lunch at Boulangerie.
Getting around… Waxholmsbolaget ferries will take you to most major islands, and you can pay by card or use a regular travelcard. Don’t get left behind on the jetty – some have signposts that captains look out for, or if it’s dark, use a flashlight.
Isla de la Plata from Puerto López, Ecuador
What to know… Colloquially known as the Poor Man’s Galapagos, Ecuador’s Isla de la Plata is a little easier to get to, only 20 miles from the coast. The island teems with remarkable birds including red and blue-footed boobies and albatrosses.
Don’t miss… a chance to witness majestic migrating humpback whales around the island from June – September. If venturing from Puerto López, keep your eyes peeled for vultures on the beaches making the most of the fresh catches of fish brought in on boats.
Getting there… This uninhabited ‘Island of Silver’ is best reached from Puerto López, where there are many operators – have a wander and don’t be afraid to barter. You can choose to day trip to the island or go wildlife watching off its coast, with optional extras including snorkelling.