With Europe poised to welcome back vaccinated American visitors after nearly a year of closed borders, several tiny islands are boosting their appeal to tourists by promoting themselves as ‘COVID-free’ islands. To do so, the entire population of these European vacation islands got fully vaccinated en masse. So far, the smallest islands in Greece and Italy are leading the charge, but many more European islands could follow suit. Let’s take a look at some of the best postcard-worthy islands in Europe that have already vaccinated 100 percent of their residents, (or will have achieved this goal very soon).
Aeolian Islands, Italy
Italy’s ‘virus czar’ announced a rapid mass vaccination program of all adults living in the Aeolian Islands is set to begin this month, and it will be completed by summer. The volcanic archipelago just north of Sicily has a population of around 15,419 and normally attracts around 600,000 visitors annually. UNESCO World Heritage Site status, sweet homegrown DOC wine, natural displays from the active volcano, and a spa at the natural hot springs are just a few of the attractions that draw visitors to this set of islands, located just north of Sicily.
With soaring cliffs, Roman ruins, and a famous Blue Grotto, Capri has been a resort ever since the Roman era (and we all know the Romans knew how to live it up!). You may recognize some of the scenery from Dolce & Gabbana adverts, or maybe from ‘The Bay of Naples’, starring Clark Gable and Sophia Loren. Capri was Italy’s first ‘COVID-free’ island, with all its residents being fully vaccinated by early May. Even the Capri tourism workers who live off the island are getting vaccinated before returning to work.
Corvo is the Azores’ smallest and most remote island and it was the world’s first island to be 100% vaccinated against COVID. With just 430 residents, it achieved herd immunity back in March. The Azores may be geographically isolated from continental Europe (it’s in the middle of the North Atlantic), but this group of islands is an autonomous region of Portugal. The dramatic scenery of Corvo, the ‘Island of the Crow’, is dominated by a volcanic crater. On the outer slope of the emerald green crater, huddled alongside the pebble beach, are the terracotta roofs of the island’s only town.
Almost all of the 250 residents of this island close to Rhodes have been vaccinated so far, with the program on track to be completed in time for tourists to return this summer. Tourism sustains Halki for up to eight months of the year, but it still hasn’t been touched by the type of mass tourism that Greek islands are typically known for (think big hotel chains and noisy clubs). Instead, you can enjoy views of rolling hills, fishing boats, whitewashed villas, casual seafront tavernas, and a medieval hilltop castle.
After featuring in the Neapolitan Novels book series, this volcanic island in the Bay of Naples has become more popular than ever. Ischia aims to have completed vaccinating all its inhabitants by the end of May 2021. Now that word is out about Ischia’s imminent COVID-free status, hotel owners say they are already getting lots of early bookings for vacations and weddings.
Many of Greece’s smallest islands are already well ahead of the game when it comes to herd immunity. The peaceful small island of Kea is another example. Kea is currently completing its island-wide vaccination program. With quiet beaches, undulating hills and crystal-clear water, this tranquil island is a tempting alternative to some of the country’s more boisterous ‘party islands’.
A rapid mass vaccination of all residents over 18 years old has kicked off in Linosa and surrounding small islands in the area. Lying in a remote part of the Mediterranean sea between Italy and Tunisia, Linosa epitomizes getting away from it all. The entire island and the surrounding waters are a Nature Reserve where you can find endemic plants, nesting marine birds, and even endangered Caretta Caretta turtles.
Like Capri, Procida has already vaccinated every single islander. You may recognize Procida from scenes in ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’. Although Procida may currently be less well known than Capri, that’s soon to change, as it’s been nominated Italy’s Capital of Culture 2022. See the candy-colored houses and quiet beaches now, before the masses move in.
Skiathos officials are expecting to have all 6,600 residents vaccinated any day now, with seasonal workers living off the island next in line. Lying in the vermillion blue northwest Aegean Sea, Skiathos is already well known amongst Europeans for its beautiful beaches and lively nightlife. While it doesn’t have the village atmosphere of some of the other islands, if you’re a night owl you’ll love the bars, restaurants, all-night clubs and buzzing atmosphere. It also has traditional whitewashed villas, pine forests and 60 glittering beaches for your dose of zen.
Ustica’s mayor is feeling very optimistic about tourist season and recently declared now that everyone living there is fully vaccinated, “Ustica is COVID-free, and our territory is truly safe”. Hoteliers, diving instructors and restaurateurs are standing by to welcome back visitors. The island is dominated by the black peak of an extinct volcano. Its craggy peak gives way to idyllic woods, fields, and small farms. The walls of the houses in the town center are decorated with colorful murals and the crystal-clear coves beckon swimmers and divers to explore.
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