There are many places that compete for the title of the sunniest island in Europe. But in reality, many of them mislead tourists and people who may want to potentially move there.
In this article I’ll identify the sunniest island in Europe, a place that’s objectively the sunniest on the entire continent.
When Sunny Weather Is a Marketing Slogan
Many European islands promote themselves as the sunniest island in Europe to attract tourists. They give vague promises of “300 days of sun a year” or similar slogans.
After all, most people who vacation on islands in the Mediterranean, the Adriatic, the Ionian Sea, the Aegean Sea, or any other warm region of Europe, are looking for reliable sunshine. Particularly for people from colder, cloudier countries like the United Kingdom or Germany, a sunny climate is one of the most important factors to decide where to vacation.
Since many such tourist destinations share the same characteristics (like narrow streets with old stone houses, a crystal clear sea along with some of the best beaches in the world, rich history, olive groves, World Heritage Sites, etc.), they need to compete with something extra: like the guarantee of no rain during your beach vacation.
Because of that, some of the places that deem themselves to be the sunniest are only sunny in the summer, during the peak tourist season (and often, they aren’t really as sunny as the portray themselves). But outside of it, despite mild winters, these islands may be much cloudier and more rainy.
Adriatic Coast: Sunny in the Summer But Not the Sunniest Year Round
For example, many Croatian islands feature a climate that’s sunny in the summer but not necessarily year round. They get little rain between June and August but the situation is different during the colder months.
Hvar and nearby Pakleni islands in the Adriatic Sea are one such example. The area gets 7 days of rain in June and 4-5 in July and August. That’s little but it still rains in the summer. You may still be so unlucky as to have a couple of days of rain during your vacation.
Between November and April it rains 9-11 days a month. Rainfall amounts are also up to four times higher in the winter. If you want to live on the island of Hvar or any other nearby islands, you need to be prepared that outside of the summer it’s not going to be sunny all the time.
While this may not be important for those who are only looking for a vacation spot in the peak season, it’s certainly a factor for those who want to retire to a sunny European island or those who want to visit outside the summer.
Hvar is simply NOT the sunniest island in Europe and it’s nowhere near close to being one.
Here’s the Sunniest European Island
The most accurate way to find the sunniest place is to look at the number of annual sunshine hours and their breakdown month by month. This way, we know exactly how sunny the place is every month of the year. We may also compare our target destination to our home country to see how much sunnier it is.
Out of all the islands in Europe, there’s one island that’s noticeably sunnier than others. It’s the island nation of Cyprus. It’s geographically located in Asia but politically, culturally, and economically it belongs to Europe and is an European Union member state.
While the entire island is sunny, some parts of it are even sunnier. Limassol in particular is the sunniest city in Cyprus. Located on the coast, about an hour from the nation’s capital Nicosia, it records 3,416.6 sunshine hours a year.
To put this into perspective, London gets 1,674.8 sunshine hours, Berlin gets 1,758.6 and even a sunny city like Barcelona gets only 2,524 sunshine hours.
On average, between June and August Cyprus is virtually rain-free. That’s the difference between a true sunny destination and one like the Croatian islands that still get up to a few days of rain in the summer.
But even outside the summer, Cyprus is still very sunny. It does get up to 9 days of rain in December and January but it has only five months with more than 5 days of rain a month.
Compared to Hvar town which gets ten such months, for the majority of the year Cyprus is as close to a rain-free island as is possible in Europe (there are mainland areas in Europe that are almost rain-free year round like Almería in Spain with at most 3 days of rain in the rainiest month).
The closest sunshine-wise islands in Europe to Cyprus are Crete (its southern part) and Rhodes. They get over 3,100 sunshine hours a year, with some data indicating even up to 3,250 hours of sunshine in southern Crete which is close to the amount of sunshine that Limassol gets.
The Sunniest Island in Europe Compared to Other Sunny Islands
The number of sunshine hours per year in Limassol is almost 700 hours higher than in previously mentioned Hvar town. But let’s leave the poor Hvar island aside and compare Cyprus to other popular European islands that market themselves as the sunniest in Europe.
Malta in particular is one such island. While it’s undoubtedly sunny with 3,054 sunshine hours recorded on average in Valletta, the capital of the country, it still gets almost 400 fewer sunshine hours than Cyprus. It’s hardly the sunniest island destination in Europe. It does get almost rain-free summers but apart from June to August it rains more often than in Cyprus.
Another popular island is Sicily. I couldn’t find sunshine data for Palermo but I found data for Catania, the second largest city of the island. It records 3,129.9 sunshine hours a year. Surprisingly, it’s sunnier than Malta but still about 300 hours behind Cyprus. Like Malta, June to August is almost rain-free but the rest of the year it rains more often.
What about another Italian island, Sardinia? Cagliari, its capital, gets only 2,726 sunshine hours. That’s much less than any of the previous destinations.
What about the favorite island of French tourists, Corsica? Ajaccio, its capital, gets 2,801.7 sunshine hours. Still sunny but nowhere near as sunny as Cyprus.
How about one of the most well-known Spanish islands, Mallorca? Sorry, Palma de Mallorca gets only 2,893 sunshine hours and is still very much behind Cyprus.
So if not the Balearic islands, then maybe the Canary Islands, the closest islands Europe has to a tropical climate, would fare better? The driest and sunniest destinations like Arrecife on Lanzarote get 3,092.6 hours of sunshine. That’s one of the best results so far but still far behind Cyprus.
There are two advantages of Lanzarote over Cyprus, though. In December and January it gets slightly more sunshine hours than Cyprus. And while it’s cloudy more often than Cyprus, it gets four times less rain, with at most 3 days of rain in the wettest month.
In the end, there’s no island in Europe, apart from Crete and Rhodes, that gets close to the number of sunshine hours to Cyprus. If you want the sunniest island in Europe, Cyprus is your best choice.
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