Island Destinations Rated: Mediterranean
Introduction Africa Caribbean Region East & Southeast Asia
Indian Ocean Region Mediterranean North & West Europe
North America Pacific/Australia/NZ South America
Panelists exchanged comments, which were kept anonymous to maintain survey neutrality during the rating process. These lightly edited excerpts offer a glimpse of panelists' varied points of view and the reasoning behind each score. They are not the views of the National Geographic Society.
"Overwhelmed by tourists, but still beautiful. Most visitors there for the shops and celebrities rather than history and unique local flora, but the built heritage is well maintained, and local flora benefits from tourists keeping to the main roads and footpaths."
"Overcrowded with totally insensitive tourists marching through on their day trips. Capri is overrated and is fast losing its original draw."
"The storied island is fraying at the edges."
"Stone paths, pedestrian ways, small local buses, and new structures following architectural standards of the past have helped maintain and improve parts of the island. High cost of everything ensures that visitors are not seeking the cheap and easy."
"Magnificent renaissance setting. Beautiful architecture. But the large numbers of visitors have alienated many residents. The island is gaining a reputation for rudeness and unpleasantness associated with large numbers of arrogantly-behaving northern Europeans."
"The Venetian architecture and cultural patrimony of Corfu's historical center was excellently restored and in beautiful shape. Some of Corfu's loveliest inlets and grottos were buzzing with water taxis sputtering fumes everywhere."
"Old town Kekyra is focused on hip and cosmopolitan. The ancient buildings lining tiny alleyways are crammed with tavernas, shops, and nightclubs—all of which are crammed with tourists. The focus is on dollars, not heritage."
Back to Top
"A great destination! People are interesting and friendly, food outstanding, history, scenic beaches, etc. Good infrastructure—love the train routes through the mountains and along the beaches."
"This island has sustainable tourism. Somehow the pride of Corsicans has led them to protect their island."
"Wide range, from beach resorts to walking holidays inland. Tourism seems to be integrated with the community, and there is strong emphasis on the independent traveler. Development down the east coast of the island and in the northwest is more commercial and needs to be controlled."
"Astonishing. Blue sea, high mountains, excellent archaeological sites and historic monuments (Minoan, Roman, Venetian, etc.), traditional villages and churches, and good museums."
"The mass-tourism North and the wild, distinctive South are two different destinations."
"The north coast has been ruined—high rise, high density development that is totally out of character with the Cretan way of life. Plans to develop the unspoiled south side would be a complete travesty."
"The still-lively mountain villages, historic Chania, remote Orthodox monasteries stuffed with iconic treasures, forested canyons of birds and fascinating geology, and 2,000-meter-plus [6,562-foot] snow-capped mountains. A treat."
"One must look hard for the island's amazing past, which figures into crucial epochs that include the rise of civilization and the Second World War, beneath the Euro-vacation clutter."
Back to Top
Cyprus, Greek side
"Cyprus is very pleasant: safe, quiet, full of history. It still keeps local flavor despite modern development. Archaeological sites are well preserved, traditional wine and food are available, medieval architecture and many 19th-century houses have been restored. Good museums in Nicosia but in the old center too many houses are ruined and deserted. Traditional crafts are in danger. In local workshops, you see only old people."
"Large tourism ghettos in ribbon developments along most of the coastline offer typical package-tourist environments. Early developments of 1970s and '80s show worst excesses of concrete-block style. More recent resorts reflect local architectural styles (low-rise whitewashed dwellings), but second home development adds pressure. Away from tourist areas, towns and villages are Greek communities with indigenous Venetian, Turkish, Roman, and Greek architecture."
"Overdeveloped! Its popularity as a second home destination for northern Europeans has significantly impacted cultural continuity on the island. Even local crafts have been reduced to cheap souvenirs."
"Cyprus has a poor sustainability record with its drive, until recently, on the mass middle/lower market. The onset of budget airline arrivals from the U.K. has not helped. Aphrodite Hills, however, has shown another approach more in keeping with local sense of place."
Cyprus, Turkish side
"Northern Cyprus is expanding its tourism economy very fast, and may inherit problems relating to carrying capacity that have started to plague its southern neighbor. Spectacular architectural and heritage sites."
"Landscape splendid, mountains and beaches. Population now almost entirely Turkish Cypriot and from Turkish mainland, all Muslim."
"Unprecedented scale of villa development by overseas investors in a style which does not reflect the local tradition."
"Still relatively unspoiled. Socially and culturally very different from the Greek side. Local people trying to make a fast buck need to be more sensitive to the tourist."
Back to Top
"Hvar town hosts hectic mainstream tourism during July/August, which leaves the other historic town, Starigrad, largely unscathed. The rest of the year there is more authentic, relaxed tourism that local people definitely prefer. Both old towns are in good historic shape, authentically presented. Not much countryside tourism, but some memorable hikes in canyons lead to quaint declining villages."
"Feeling the pressure of secondary home buying. Not sure what restrictions are in place, but could very easily lose its storybook appeal."
"Future looks fairly positive, mainly due to historical control by local islanders and community governments."
"The Med as it once was? Maybe, but slipping year by year."
Hydra (Ídra), Greece
"A good example of a small island that preserves local heritage and fisherman activities. It appeals mainly to those who want to discover the traditional and authentic essence of the Greek way of life."
"Continually under the onslaught of tourists. It has weathered these pressures in a proactive manner and remains competitive."
"Hydra takes preservation seriously and has maintained a village scale and architectural forms that feel very authentic. Since no cars are allowed, the island has retained its original streetscape. Easy to access by ferry from Piraeus, so it's tremendously popular and has a thriving nightlife. Most of the hotels are small, thankfully."
Back to Top
"Ibiza is not Spanish anymore. Or Balaeric. It is a colony of Europe and, at times, seems more a colony of British ravers. Half the island is still 'natural.' The other half has been lost completely to the party circuit."
"Ibiza cannot get rid of the vicious circle it went through a few years ago. Booze, partying, and drugs are a big part of an increasingly sleazy scene."
"Culture and environment take a back seat to development. Little to no consideration for ecological, social, or cultural preservation."
"Some might argue that Ibiza has been despoiled, but a closer inspection reveals much that is still appealing: centuries-old defense towers and churches; walks from beach to beach on largely unspoiled stretches with rocky outcrops; and beautiful views of Es Vedra rock off the southwest coast."
"Development along the coast near Palma much like other mass tourism locales. No connection to local culture, aesthetically bland if not offensive. In smaller villages, the built and natural environment is more positive. Local residents seem engaged in sustainable practices."
"Dominated by international franchise hotels. Felt like England or Germany at times. Aesthetic appeal and local cuisine outstanding in less developed areas."
"Not a lot of authenticity left: tourists everywhere; jobs taken by Spanish mainlanders; and many expatriates. However, having recognized the problems and working on remedies, Mallorca is on the right track."
"Despite Mallorca's reputation for high-density mass tourism, the old capital of Palma retains charm and character, with a superb Gothic cathedral. Mallorca is repositioning itself to attract cultural and green tourists, who will contribute more and have a less damaging impact."
Back to Top
Malta (all islands)
"The Maltese display tremendous pride in their country, and take great care to share their history and culture with visitors. Native handicrafts are promoted and encouraged, and archeological sites treated with respect. The area overlooked is the surrounding waters. In Valetta I saw a sudden downpour wash motor oil, plastic debris, and other trash into the Mediterranean, where it sat for days."
"Some 7,000 years of history on 316 square kilometers [122 square miles] is unbeatable—but the islands seem oriented to mass tourism, which is less appreciative of its unique attributes."
"Problems of overdevelopment. Natural environment gone. Society has had many impacts from outside, but remains very Maltese, with own language and Catholic heritage. Valletta is a marvelous walled city with fine limestone buildings, many from 17-18th centuries; Medina is wonderful, too. Some tourism development of low quality, especially Sliema. Gozo is quieter and less dense."
"Development is definitely encroaching on Mykonos' character, especially once one leaves the historic town and starts driving around to the places where day-to-day commercial life takes place. Lots of big new houses. The town conveys character/heritage via the windmills, the links to Zeus and Apollo, Little Venice, and a pretty good museum, which help counter the intense nightlife and beach culture."
"The old town retains its distinctive Cycladic architecture and plan. The beaches are very crowded June-September and resorts like Platys Yialos have lost all semblance of Greek character."
"Developed to the maximum, but it is what it is—a Greek resort destination island. Its strength rests in its human-made and historical assets."
Back to Top
"Villages perched along the rim of the island have maintained an extraordinary aesthetic appeal."
"The cave hotels in the crater wall are a wonderful adaptation of traditional housing, modified for tourism."
"Santorini must be protected. Rampant illegal construction in its countryside will change the island's ecosystem. Low-quality architectural imitations of traditional buildings create a fake built environment. Huge buses transporting cruise boat passengers make it dangerous and annoying for pedestrians."
"Big emphasis on shopping and dining, but the well-presented archaeology, relaxed outer villages, local cuisine, and dramatic geological story—so visible as a backdrop—are highlights. Over-active cruise ship tourism threatens all fronts, requiring monitoring by local tourism officials. Greek National Tourism will not do it!"
"Stunning visually—and this can disguise environmental issues. Greek society evolved to deal with the dry climate in the absence of hundreds of thousands of visitors now placing additional demands on natural resources."
"A rocky and mountainous interior dotted with remote mountain villages which preserve a rich and diverse cultural heritage. Miles of distinctive, unspoiled rocky coastline, with coves, caves, and long sandy beaches."
"A rich, unusual local culture. I particularly enjoyed the Ferragosto celebrations in Olbia. The local wine, cuisine, and handcrafts are all worth exploring."
"Countryside littered with debris. Poor transport networks and underdevelopment of tourist facilities. Aesthetic and cultural integrity of the island is good and needs to be protected."
Back to Top
"Remarkable for its natural landscape, azure ocean, and historic and archaeological sites from Greek, Roman, and Norman periods, as well as for its baroque art and architecture. Its resort towns are charming and full of life, while the more remote islands offer secluded vacation spots."
"An island of considerable contrasts, with terrain-altering human habitation going back thousands of years. You can find a petrochemical plant standing next to an ancient amphitheater."
"Loads of history and traditions to be discovered. Diverse landscape, good food, nice beaches. Overall, extremely rich heritage. Tourism is well-managed. They have a nice quality of life, but constantly contending with crime issues, from pickpockets to more serious things. Poverty in degraded urban areas is also a problem."
"Tourism impacts are dwarfed by the activity of Mt. Etna."
Back to Top
More Traveler's Places Rated