British holidaymakers are eyeing up the potential travel ‘green list’ – the destinations to which Britons will be permitted to travel this summer without facing quarantine on their return, which could, initially, reach 30.
Malta, Israel and Gibraltar have all been placed under the spotlight in recent weeks due to their swift vaccine roll outs: immunisation rates are among the key criteria in the Government’s ‘traffic light’ system for the resumption of travel. Despite not typically featuring among our most-favourite holiday spots, they could be overrun with UK travellers this summer season.
With this in mind, we have selected some island alternatives for your post-lockdown break, from the most tranquil Canary to a British Overseas Territory where you can lounge on pink-sand beaches. Each could be green-listed under the “islands policy” that is set to be incorporated into the traffic lights system.
Discover a slice of calm: La Graciosa
With no cars, no flights and very few visitors, La Graciosa is the quietest Canary by far. The only way in is via a 30-minute ferry ride (€26 return; lineasromero.com). Cross the wave-rocked strait of El Río from Lanzarote, and your choice on arrival is simple: to bike or not to bike. If you choose to hire two wheels, you will get out to remote Playa de las Conchas faster, but what’s the rush? Stick to your feet and take your time instead, circling the island on dusty beach-back trails, and clambering up Montaña Bermeja for the view down its paprika-coloured slopes to the white sands and turquoise waters beyond. Book into at Casa Lola, an ex-fishermen’s house with seafront terrace and two bedrooms (Sleeps four; airbnb.co.uk). See our full guide to which Canary Island is perfect for you.
Venture to one of Madeira’s other isles: Porto Santo
Porto Santo is the obvious antidote to the misconception that Madeira is a one-off outcrop. It sports one of the finest beaches you’ll find anywhere, superb walking and a dramatic Seve Ballesteros-designed golf course. There is a sprinkling of watersport activities available and some low-key bars, but the puffy white sands never get too busy. The whole scene is topped off perfectly by the rugged rocky outcrops down at Ponta da Calheta, which haunt the horizon to the south.
Make sure you head to Vila Baleira: the beating heart of the town is the palm fringed Largo de Pelhourinho, where you will find the old town hall and the graceful Nossa Senhora da Piedade church. The present incarnation of the church dates back to the 17th century. Follow Via Cristovao Columbo and nearby you will find a house Columbus is said to have lived in with his wife. The house is now a modest museum that sheds light on the life of that most famous of explorers. If you want to discover the rest of the island, a bike can easily spirit you around this dramatic isle of rugged coastline and striking volcanoes.
Swim in salt-whipped waters: Formentera
As soon as you kick off your flip-flops, step on to the warm white sand and gaze into the gently rippling transparent water that surrounds Formentera, you’ll understand why the tiny island just south of Ibiza is so often compared to the Caribbean. Maya Boyd writes: “British prog rockers King Crimson wrote Formentera Lady in 1971, but little has changed on the most untouched of the Balearics, a salt-whipped hinterland of plunging cliffs, vast underwater caves and a network of salt pans that dates back to the island’s tenure as a Roman stronghold.”
Some parts of Migjorn beach, which curves around the south of the island, get busy in summer, but you can always find a quiet spot. Take your snorkel and mask to Ses Platgetes, a string of tiny coves protected by pines, with boat shacks and places where the freshest fish is always on the grill. See our guide to the best Balearic Island hotels.
Wander through traditional villages: Tinos
A 15-minute ferry ride from Mykonos, Tinos is very different from its overcrowded and glamorous neighbour. Hiking, rather than partying, is the big draw, and the island’s mountainous interior conceals forgotten hamlets, lofty chapels and hundreds of beautiful dovecotes (pigeon houses), all linked by a network of walking trails. Most spectacular of all is its northeast corner, beyond the villages of Falatados and Volax. Thousands of granite boulders scatter the landscape, lending it an appearance more like Arizona than the Aegean. Xinara House, designed and owned by a British couple, offers modern digs in the heart of traditional Tinos. Read more about the island’s highlights, and see our pick of the best hotels on Tinos.
Seek out a little holiday romance: Symi
Two million tourists visit Rhodes in a good year – it’s one of the busiest and liveliest of Greece’s holiday islands. But only a small fraction of those take the one-hour ferry over to neighbouring Symi (one of the small isles Greece has prioritised in its vaccine roll-out) and nearly all those that do go just for a day trip. Telegraph Travel’s Nick Trend sees it as a strong contender for Greece’s most romantic island: “It has a wonderfully picturesque harbour town, crowded with pastel-coloured houses which stack up on the slopes around the port, and lots of tempting tavernas. In the evenings you’ll have it all to yourself, and during the day there are lots of pretty beaches that you walk to or reach by boat.” Among our favourite places to stay is the Old Markets hotel, by the harbour. It has been carefully restored from the old agora – or trading centre – and now offers 10 very comfortable rooms from about £210 a night.
Head to the ‘Hawaii of the Atlantic’: The Azores
From 900 to 1,200 miles (1,400-2,000km) west of the Iberian Peninsula, the Azores have long been “hidden”. Though rather closer to home than the gold slivers of the Caribbean, they were overlooked until the 14th century and uninhabited until the 15th century – they were claimed by Portuguese settlers in 1432, only 60 years before Columbus stumbled upon the New World.
In some ways, the islands have developed little since. Even now they lack the mass-tourism hot spots of the Canary Islands. But they share something crucial with their Atlantic siblings. They are visibly volcanic, born of tectonic frustration at the point where three continental plates – the Eurasian, the African and the North American – meet.
They are, effectively, the Hawaii of the Atlantic: lost in deep seas, steep-sided, beautiful, wild. This is not to say the weather matches the glow of Pacific America – cloud and rain dog the Azores as much as sunshine. But such climactic inconsistency only adds to the aesthetic. Every day is different.
Learn the art of relaxation: Saint Helena
The island, on which Napoleon died (his last residence, Longwood House, is now a museum), is also home to dramatic cliffs, hiking trails and bird-watching opportunities. The climate is mild for much of the year, with temperatures hovering between 20C and 27C, and while English is the main language, the island’s cuisine has Malay and Chinese influences.
Just 10 miles long and with a population of 4,534 at the 2016 census, St Helena is the second oldest remaining British Overseas Territory after Bermuda. It was discovered by the Portuguese in 1502 and was colonised by Britain in 1658 on the orders of Oliver Cromwell.
Emma Thompson, visiting in 2017, described its charisma: “Seen from the sky, Saint Helena has an emerald interior of mist-laced, fern-filled forests, with a candy-coloured clutch of buildings squeezed into a 1,000ft-deep ravine – the capital, Jamestown. Isolation crafts the island’s charm, nothing is rushed.”
Flit between a glut of beaches: Anguilla
This laid-back little British Overseas Territory has arguably the best beaches of any single Caribbean island. There are 33 in all, many boasting the softest and whitest sands imaginable; Shoal Bay East, which has a few enticing beach bars, is the most popular. As well as the beaches, tourists are attracted by a handful of extremely luxurious hotels such as Malliouhana, Cap Juluca and Four Seasons Anguilla, a plethora of lavish, ultra-modern villas, and many upmarket restaurants. That said, there are some appealing, affordable places to stay, and some good, no-frills places to eat such as roadside grills. It is also drier than most Caribbean islands, so summer rain will be less of an issue. Please note: Anguilla is in a two-week lockdown after a small cluster of cases were identified on island. It plans to reopen without quarantine requirements to fully-vaccinated visitors this summer.
Hike along the edge-of-the-world: El Hierro
Before Columbus set sail westwards, El Hierro was the edge of the known world and the island retains an end-of-the-road feel to this day. Stroll through the highland flower meadows and dense El Pinar pine forest, swim in the rock pools at La Maceta and feast on seafood at sleepy La Restinga – you will soon slip into island time. Don’t head back before taking a hike among the wind-battered juniper trees at El Sabinar, bludgeoned by the powerful westerlies to form eerie bent-over shapes unlike anything you will have ever seen. You can find some of the best places to stay on the island here.
Discover a remote little-Britain, with pink-sand beaches: Bermuda
This British Overseas Territory is properly ‘out there’ in the middle of the Atlantic, not far off 700 miles from the nearest land (Cape Hatteras, North Carolina), The crescent-shaped chain of 181 islets, rocky outcrops and islands is said to have been discovered by shipwrecked English sailors in 1609, and nods to its past are found in the form of old British pubs and traditional English afternoon teas served in many of its hotels.
Referred to locally as “The Rock”, Bermuda’s isolation might be becoming its strong suit – with its fresh salty air, brisk winds, and yet a delightfully mild climate allowing for outdoor living. We long to breathe deeply, mask-free again, and there might be few better places than this fishhook-shaped archipelago, clustered together in a tortile chain of islands connected by causeways and dinky bridges. Looking out across the Atlantic expanse from its striking jagged coastline, fringed with pink-sand beaches, it really does feel a long way from the crowds, the congestion, the crisis. There’s even a neighbourhood called Faraway, in case you were in doubt. Take a look at our guide of the best hotels in Bermuda.
Michelle Jana Chan / Telegraph Travel