European islands may not be the lush, palm tree-flanked, tropical paradises of the Caribbean or Pacific, but they are equally beautiful with their charming seaside villages, dramatic topography, and spectacular beaches.
It's hard to pick a favorite, but somehow Condé Nast Traveler readers managed to for the 2013 Readers' Choice Awards. A lot of popular islands like Mykonos and Capri made the list, but a lot of lesser known islands also ranked high.
1. Santorini, Greece
"There is no place like Santorini, in the whole world" say our readers, who love the "whitewashed buildings, wonderful beaches and views to die for." Their best memories are of the caldera vistas, the black-sand beach and the "crystal clear water," but they also cast their votes for the island's great shopping" and "awesome food." One reader said to "stroll the streets, walk the stairs down to the sea level and just revel in the beauty and friendliness of the people on this charming island." Another added, "It's also a great place for first-time divers due to the calm seas."
2. Elba & Tuscan Archipelago, Italy
With "world-class restaurants tucked into little villages that you would never expect," Elba takes good food seriously. Our readers went on culinary cruises, which were "a real treat somewhat off the normal tourist path." Visit the hill town of Marciana Alta for "food to die for" and Zero Gradi for its gelato.
3. Capri, Italy
The "classy resorts," "outstanding food, people, and views," and lure of the famed Blue Grotto sea cave earned Capri a place in our readers hearts. "We fell in love with it!" gushed one visitor. Though some lament that the island is "very expensive," they still consider Capri a "shopping mecca" with a "beautiful but very posh" feel. "Walking around Capri I felt like I had walked into the middle of a fashion shoot for Prada, where the scenery and the people looked equally magnificent."
4. Stockholm Archipelago, Sweden
This archipelago (comprised of thousands of small islands in the Baltic Sea) earned its highest subcategory rating for atmosphere, and its "naturally beautiful" setting, a popular cruise itinerary, makes it easy to see why. Other readers noted that the eponymous city and its surrounding islands are "a nice bit of Europe" that are "perfect for singles or families." Food is a big draw here, too: Local chefs, with their organic farming and sustainable agriculture, have turned this area into Europe's surging culinary star.
5. Crete, Greece
Crete impressed our readers with its "gorgeous, fascinating art and architecture" and "great archaeological sites that you need more than a day to visit." The city of Heraklion stood out for its "stunning harbor, old Venetian walls, and impressive museum," as well as for its cuisine: "the freshest food I have ever tasted." Outside the city, the island offers diverse activities: beaches, hiking, climbing, and "a very up-and-coming wine region."
For more of Europe's most beautiful islands and overall ratings, check out the full list.
More from Condé Nast Traveler