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The best islands in Europe for getting away from almost everyone

There are more puffins than people here, but human visitors are richly rewarded.

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(CNN) — From legendary nightlife hotspots to volcanic outposts far off the continent’s mainland, Europe has islands in spades. But for every Mykonos, Ibiza or Santorini, there’s someplace lesser known and equally lovely to escape to where you can ditch the crowds and get closer to nature.

Here are some of the best islands in Europe for getting away from almost everyone:

Schiermonnikoog, the Netherlands

The Netherlands is better known for canals, dikes and tropical Dutch Caribbean Islands like Bonaire and Curaçao than the sandspun isles along the country’s North Sea coast. But one of Europe’s most peaceful island escapes awaits on Schiermonnikoog in the West Frisian Islands, located off the Netherlands’ northern coast across a shallow inlet of the North Sea called the Wadden Sea.

Home to just 950 people and a lone town, Schier, as locals call their island, is primarily national parkland, covered in dunes and forests and with some of Europe’s most pristine beaches.

“Besides the beautiful nature and the vastness of it, there is not much to do on the island. And that is precisely the charm,” says Annemarieke Romeijn, who has a holiday home on Schiermonnikoog and has been visiting all her life.

Only residents are allowed to drive cars on the island, which you can get to from the mainland Dutch village of Lauwersoog by hopping a 45-minute ferry. Once there, visitors can spend their time hunting for pieces of amber washed ashore on the island’s wide white sand beaches, take kitesurfing lessons along natural sandbanks and cycle and hike the island’s miles of lonely trails.

Heimaey, Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland

There are more puffins than people here, but human visitors are richly rewarded.

Thor/Adobe Stock

Home to more puffins than people, the island of Heimaey in the Vestmannaeyjar (Westman Islands) off Iceland’s south coast looks straight from a story book, with emerald green cliffs dotted with sheep, a sweeping black sand beach and sea caves yawning from its rugged coastline.
“The view alone coming into Heimaey takes your breath away,” says Eyrún Aníta Gylfadóttir of Hotel Ranga, a hotel on mainland Iceland that regularly sends guests on day trips by ferry to the Westman Islands, a 40-minute crossing. “The harbor is…

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