One can be forgiven for thinking cruising the Mediterranean is all about seeing the Coliseum and wandering La Rambla, but in fact a treasure trove of unique islands populate many cruise itineraries, each with their own unique culture, history and scenery.

Island life in the Med can be a relaxing break between days of touring ancient relics, cathedrals, medieval towns, bustling marketplaces and sun-drenched ports, often providing days of respite when sandwiched between major ports of call like Nice and Naples.

Nearly every country bordering the region has at least one island which features in itineraries from most cruise lines. For example, Spain sees vessels call on nearly a daily basis into the stunning islands of Ibiza and Palma De Mallorca.

Both of these islands are part of the Balearic chain of islands and invite passengers onto its tantalizing beaches and sandy coves offset by pine clad hills and mountains. History buffs aren’t left behind with Roman and Moorish ruins dotted around both islands.

If your taste lends itself more toward baguettes and cheese over tapas and sangria, the French isle of Corsica might be more your speed. Located south of the Cote d’Azur, this patch of mountainous paradise is home to the seaside city of Ajaccio and features what appears to be an endless seafront boulevard lined by restaurants and cafes. Expect to indulge in the island’s wide selection of treats from local providores, while a cruise around the Bay of Calvi provides a unique perspective of Corsica’s dramatic coastline.

Moving further around the Med to Italy, the island of Sardinia is renowned for its “Nuraghe”.

In the capital, Cagliari, you’ll find sites and streets dating back to the 13th century amid plenty of opportunities to indulge in local delicacies such as some of the freshest seafood treats you’ll find anywhere in Europe. Sardinia also provides interesting historical insight into the continual evolution of migration and power across the Med, with many shore excursions visiting sites from each of the island’s historical influences.

Sardinia isn’t the only Italian island with calls from almost every major cruise line. Sicily, located off the south-west coast of Italy, sees vessels call into both the main port city of Messina or tendering passengers ashore to the famed city of Taormina.

Passengers calling on the island can visit famed sites such as Mount Etna, one of Italy’s famed historical volcanoes and the tallest in Europe. During a call to the island, guests can also experience the “Valle dei Templi” or Valley of the Temples, which is the world’s largest archaeological site and home to some of the finest examples of Greek art and architecture you’ll find outside of Greece.

But historical monuments aren’t everybody’s cup of tea and Sicily – also affectionately known as “God’s Kitchen” provides many opportunities for you to learn to create famed local dishes including Arancini and Cannoli – great skills you can take home with you.

As a former British colony, the island of Malta sits in a unique position as the Eastern-most point which still features on many Western Mediterranean voyages. The capital Valletta is a walled city dating back to a settlement of The Knights of Saint John in the 1500s and is one of the few remaining fortified cities in this part of Europe.

The city’s historical skyline provides a dramatic and somewhat imposing welcome, so make sure you’re awake to see it and your ship docking within the city centre.

Considering the diverse tourist attractions and sites on offer, such as the Megalithic Temples and some of the oldest freestanding structures in the world, the Maltese capital is quite diminutive. Downtown Valletta has received a listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, ensuring the preservation of the diverse skyline. Eastern and African influences can be seen throughout Valletta, with architecture, art and culture all combining to provide a unique experience unlike any other island in the Med.

No matter where in the Med you go, experiencing the unique way of life the islands of the region offers is something no cruiser should miss.