Western Mediterranean travel guide

The Mediterranean Sea, the last surviving arm of the prehistoric Tethys Sea, is known as a cradle of world civilisation, with the Egyptian, Greek, Phoenician and Roman Empires springing up on its shorelines. Three of the world’s great religions have histories and sacred places linked to the Holy Land that borders this sea. With an incredible diversity of countries and cultures bordering its shores, from the southern European states to northern Africa and the Near East, where to begin when exploring this amazing sea?

I recommend starting with the islands. The major ones are worth a week of discovery in their own right: the Balearics have an ill-deserved reputation as solely being the haunt of 18-30 clubbers but in fact feature some of the most spectacular and unspoilt scenery in the region. Ibiza Town, or Eivissa, is a gem of a town. Equally seductive is the archipelago of Malta, Gozo and Comino.The capital city of Valletta is a World Heritage Site and its ramparts and bastions command an impressive view of what is undoubtedly the finest harbour in the Mediterranean. Visit the Upper Barrakka Gardens for splendid views of the Three Cities and watch the cannon fire a salute at noon. A resort such as Bugibba or Qawra is recommended as a base from which to explore the northern islands of Gozo, with its distinctive rural ambience, and even tiny Camino with its Blue Lagoon.

Jewel of the central Mediterranean is undoubtedly Sicily, with its fiery volcano of Etna and the beautiful cities of Taormina and Syracuse. From the ancient and mysterious temples at Agrigento to the volcanic island of Volcano, Sicily and its islands are a magnificent tourist destination. Then travel north to the remote, wild and utterly compelling island of Sardinia and its northern French cousin, Corsica, famous as the birthplace and destination of the exile of Napoleon Bonaparte.

In summary, the western Mediterranean is full of an enticing, captivating and truly historic selection of great islands that could keep even the most dedicated island-hopper occupied for months. The beauty and majesty of what the Romans called “mare nostrum”, or “our sea”, is as powerful today as ever.