Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Top 5 Mediterranean Islands that you must not miss


The Mediterranean is always among the top dream destination of anyone who loves to travel. The islands here are very diversed in terms of languages, social customs, flavors, religion, architecture, and other practices. They have rich history, beautiful waters, very warm people, and amazing mythology in common though.



The islands are surrounded by turquoise waters and great scenery anywhere you look. It is place where you will wish time can slow down or even stop or even get stuck in one the paradise islands.

The options for a Mediterranean holiday are endless and it can be quite challenging to pick your Mediterranean destination. We line up some of the best Mediterranean islands you can go to to experience the culture, beauty, and uniqueness of the region.

Malta



Malta consists of seven islands just off the eastern part of Tunisia and southern portion of Sicily. It is considered as one of the smallest nations in the world but has one of the biggest population. Malta, Comino, and Gozo are the only islands that are inhabited. Comino actually takes its name from cumin which once grew abundantly there. The small island of Comno is tagged as a nature reserve and a sanctuary for birds.

Gozo has an area of 41.6 miles but its small size does not reflect its rich history and mythology. Literary experts say that Gozo is actually the island of Calypso in the Odyssey by Homer. The island has around 22 churches. One famous landmark is the Ggantija which is a prehistoric structure considered as among the oldest in the globe. Do not miss the cathedral in Victoria which is Gozo’s capital.

Malta which literally means safe haven has been populated since 5200 BC. The reign of different foreign powers can on Malta can be seen on the diversity of the structures and arts in the island. The capital of Malta is recognized as a world heritage site of UNESCO and where you can find the Hypogeum which is a temple underground, Museum of Archeology, and Barakka Gardens. Head out the capital and go to the old city Mdina popular for its narrow streets and beautiful architecture. You can also visit the small fishing village of Marsaxlokk to experience how life is so simple yet fulfilling for the locals.

The island of Malta has its own international airport serving flights to and from major cities of Europe. From Malta you can hop onto a ferry to get to Gozo. The capital has a good bus service but your best choice will be to rent a car to go around the island.

Stromboli




Stromboli is actually a volcanic island located near Sicily. It is classified as an active volcano and it has been erupting for around 20,000 years. You can find two settlements here. Ginostra is in the southwestern portion of the island while Stromboli, a group of villages, is on its northeaster shore. Most of the structures here are whitewashed and a perfect constrast against the black volcanic sand and the blue waters. Hiking is the best way to explore Stromboli as the roads are too small for cars.

You can arrange for activities like diving, snorkeling, or just relax on the stunning black beaches around the island. The seafood is a another good treat Stromboli has to offer but there are only a few restaurants on the island. Some of the well known establishments you can go to are L’ Osservatorio, Ai Gechi, and Il Cannetto. You can actually watch the volcanic eruptions happening while dining in one of these restaurants. The scene is even more amazing at night since there are no street lights in Stromboli which makes you appreciate the natural fireworks of the active volcano. You can hire a boat to see the eruptions from a different perspective or go on a walking tour to go up the slopes to watch the lava in close range.

From Milazzo, Messina, Reggio Calabria, Palermo, or Naples you can take a hydrofoil or a ferry to Stromboli.

Crete



Crete is an island in the south Agean Sea known for its mountains, river valleys, stunning plateaus, open plains, and gorges. You might know Crete as part of Greece but it was not until 1913. The different rulers that conquered Crete paved the way for the diversity of architectural styles, customs, and religion. In Heraklion, the capital of Crete, you will find museums of natural history, Minoan Palace, Agios Titos which is an old Byzantine church, and a Venetian fortress.

Visit the Gorge of Samaria to discover the wildlife in Crete. If you are into bird watching, you can go to Aghia or Kournas. Another great adventure is to explore some caves on the island of Crete, and u have around 3,500 caves to choose from. At its southwest coast, you can go whale watching. You can also arrange a trip to Chrissi Island where you can see Minoan ruins, beautiful beaches and the St. Nicholas chapel.

Aside from the long list of possible things to do in Crete, the island is also known for good varieties of cheese, seafood, olive oil, and wines.

Pantelleria



This is another volcanic island just near Tunisia and Sicily. It has gone thru several foreign rulers like the Arabs who gave the island its name. Pantelleria actually means daughter of the wind. The island has gone thru a lot being inhabited now for almost 35,00 years and suffering a good deal of damages as Allied Forces did a bombing raid in 1943. The island today continues to thrive and it is known the world over for its capers and zibbibi grapes.

If you are heading to Pantelleria, make sure to try their pesto pantesco with a bruschetta or pasta, their dessert wine called musktao, and amber passito. Other gastronomic delights include mint raviolis, lobster, fish couscous, jelly made from yellow grapes, sea urchins, spicy vegetable stew.

Among the best desitnation in Pantelleria is the Specchio di Venere or Mirror of Venus which is a blue lake surrounded by white sand and hot springs. You can also relax at the Bagno Asciuto which is a rock sauna in Montagna Grande.

You will not run out of choices in terms of looking for the best hot springs where you can enjoy the fresh air and soothing warm water. You can go to Cala di Levante or Cala di Tramontana. At Cala di Levante, you can enjoy the hot spring and literally cool off by jumping off to the cold sea waters below.


If you are leaned towards historic sites, you can visit the Neolithic Sesi, an old dome shaped structure with chambers where dead bodies are placed. You can also go to the Cave of Calypso.

From Sicily, you can get to Pantelleria via a ferry ride.

Salina



This island is considered as among the greenest of the Aeolian Islands of Sicily. If you have seen the movie Il Postino, it was shot on the Pollara beach of Salina where you can see narrow streets, whitewashed homes, cliffs, lush green, and spectacular views. Salina is famous for its Malvasia wine, grapes, capers, and fresh seafood. You can time your visit for the wine festival every October or caper festival every June. Sample the best flavors of Salina by dining at Da Afreda, Cucinotta Rita, or Portobello.

Salina has Monte dei Porri and Monte Fossa delle Felci which are inactive volcanoes now setup as a nature reserves where you can hike and see breath taking views of the surrounding sea. Every August, the villagers celebrate the feast day of Assumption.

Activities here include swimming, hiking, diving, or visiting local wineries. You can get to Salina from the ports of Naples via hydrofoil or ferry and dock at the ports of Rinella or Santa Marina.