6 of the World’s Best Islands
More Than Merely Tropical Escapes
“The islands.” Those two words conjure up images of palm trees and coconut, sun-kissed sand and turquoise waters, couples strolling hand in hand and surfers catches waves. You can find those sights and experiences in isles, keys, atolls and archipelagos all over the globe. Here’s the thing, though. The world’s best islands to visit have so much more to offer.
Here is a list of some of the world’s most fascinating islands to visit. Some hew to the traditional tropical escape and others provide different adventures. Read on to discover what your next island getaway could be!
Nevis (Lesser Antilles, Caribbean)
Want to relax on the beach, soak in some rays and sip fruity drinks with paper umbrellas protruding from your glass? You can certainly do so on Nevis, a tiny Caribbean island of about 36 square miles that is dominated by a cloud-topped peak. The Four Seasons has a resort here, which includes an expansive golf course. Numerous other hotels and guest houses stake out the beach too.
However, little Nevis offers more than beach houses. You can hire a private guide and trek through the jungle in search of ruined sugar plantations. Better yet, stay on the grounds of a converted one or dine in what might be the Caribbean’s oldest wooden building. You can visit Alexander Hamilton’s birthplace, watch a horse race by the ocean, or hunt for sea glass on the windward side of the island.
The Lofoten Islands (Norway)
The Lofoten Islands are the polar opposite of a tropical getaway. Situated north of the Arctic Circle, this archipelago serves up a number of striking contrasts, from the seemingly never-ending midnight sunny summers to breathtaking displays of the northern lights during the winter. There are also ragged crags, postcard-perfect fishing villages, and placid inlets and bays that slide from indigo to silver depending on the time of the year.
You will not lack unique activities. In addition to spying out the aurora borealis, consider a kayaking expedition, or think about booking a tour to the Moskstraumen (the Maelstrom), one of the world’s strongest tidal currents. Examine millennia-old cave paintings in Kollhellaren Cave, tour the longest known Viking longhouse, walk Utakleiv Beach (which The Times dubbed the world’s most romantic beach) and sample whale meat and dried cod.
Jeju Island (South Korea)
South Koreans know all about Jeju Island, the largest isle in the Asian nation and by far one of its most frequented vacation destinations. However, it is not even a blip on most radars for North Americans. This is a shame because this craggy, volcanic isle has so much to offer.
Like many island escapes, you sun yourself on the beach, swim in the water and even examine otherworldly corals. While you are doing so, you might notice the haeneyo, female free divers who are mostly in their sixties. Once you tire of the coast, hike up Hallasan, a mountain that is also a Unesco World Heritage site. If you enjoy stretching your legs but would prefer something a little less strenuous, Jeju features an interlocking series of paths known as the Olle trails.
You do not have to exercise to enjoy your time on Jeju Island either. Visit the Jeju Folk Village, which takes you back to 19 century. Drive up Dokkaebi Road, a route that will make a car seem to float uphill if you put it in neutral. Then, chill out in the soaring lava tubes of Manjanggul Cave.
Isla Navarino (Chile)
Much like the Lofoton Islands, you will find an end of the earth experience on Chile’s Isla Navario. Considered part of Antarctica, it is not a place to travel to if you are looking for high-end hotels and plenty of pampering. Rather, Isla Navarino offers experiences for outdoor types, ecotourists and nature enthusiasts.
Sure, you could hang out at Puerto Williams, which dubs itself “the southernmost town in the world” and has collected lots of history in the Museo Martín Gusinde, but it makes more sense to find a guide and plan a hike. Do not try to strike out on your own because it is easy to end up in over your head in this gorgeous wilderness that is mostly devoid of human life. Local guides can also take you fly fishing and plenty of anglers flock to the island to see if they can land some trout. Omora Ethnobotanical Park serves up an otherworldly glimpse into a slow-growing forest filled with gnarled, fairy-like trees.
Lord Howe Island (Australia)
Talk about idyllic isolation. Located about 350m from mainland Australia, Lord Howe Island only allows a maximum of 400 guests on the isle each and every night. Why? Due to its unique biodiversity, Lord Howe Island is considered a Unesco World Heritage property. This means that conservationist impetus can also provide you with a perfectly placid getaway.
You will find plenty of opportunity to simply lay around on the beach if you so desire, but consider hiring a small plane to fly you over Ball’s Pyramid, an extinct volcano that protrudes like a monstrous tooth from the ocean, rising some nearly 2,000 feet above the waves. Climb up Mount Gower, which provides you with a panorama of the entire island. Charter a boat to take you fishing, stroll through rainforests, or explore nearby reefs on a scuba adventure. There is even a nine-hole golf course that operates on the honor system.
Vancouver Island (Canada)
Who would have thought you would find the best resort in the Great White North on an island in the frigid Pacific waters? Indeed, many travel pundits would argue that Vancouver Island’s The Wickaninnish Inn is Canada’s top boutique hotel. It is between the ocean and towering stands of moss-covered trees, but even if you do not indulge at the inn’s spas or partake in its gourmet cuisine, Vancouver Island has plenty of things for you to do.
Indeed, some would say that camping out in the elements in Strathcona Park is the best way to experience the island. You could also sip wine at one of the multiple vineyards, munch on artesian cheese, or fill your mug with traditional British hard cider. (Food is a big deal on Vancouver Island.) Lace up your boots and hike up Mt. Pike, which provides a perfect panorama of the island and mainland Canada itself. Families will love the B.C. Forest Discovery Centre, which not only lets you peek into the area’s logging past, it also has a functioning steam train to ride. Then, there are multiple beaches good for swimming, kayaking, or simply strolling hand in hand with someone you love.